DRP News Bulletin

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

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

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

Bihar Vessel takes 5 days to reach Patna from Varanasi The much-hyped Inland Water Transport connecting Patna to Kolkata and Varanasi through the river Ganga is proving to be a big flop. The Inland Waterways Authority of India vessel MV RN Tagore which sailed from Varanasi on Dec 29 with a container of fertiliser reached Patna’s Gaighat terminal on Jan. 3, 2021 night. The vessel took nearly five days to reach Patna from Varanasi due to problems it encountered along the route. Usually, a truck loaded with cargo takes 24 hours to reach Kolkata from Varanasi by road and a goods train completes the same journey in 13-15 hours. Keeping the reality in mind, private companies, including those from the logistics sector, are not keen on using the vessels. The situation is evident with hardly a few vessels operational on the route from Varanasi to Kolkata via Patna, contrary to the government’s tail claims.

“If it takes more time to transport cargo than while using road transport or the railway. Why will traders will opt for?” asked an IWAI official who wished to remain anonymous. “It is not a good idea to develop and promote Inland Water Transport on this route via the river Ganga; there are delays and it is a time-taking process, which is not at all a healthy sign,” the official added. “There are seven pipa bridges in the river Ganga between Varanasi and Patna which take a lot of time to get past. The pipa bridge opens for a vessel after it has reached the spot, wasting about three to four hours in the process since the vessel is made to wait,” another official said. Other technical reasons have also contributed to the vessels hardly being on time. https://www.newsclick.in/bihar-vessel-5-day-reach-patna-varanasi-casts-doubts-water-transport-project  (04 Jan. 2021)

HYDRO POWER PROJECTS

Sikkim Setting aside HC order SC allows tenders for Teesta HEP In a surprising move, the Supreme Court allowed NHPC and its subsidiary Lanco Teesta Hydro Power Ltd to process bids to for the stalled for years 500 MW Teesta-VI Hydroelectric Project, on Teesta river in Sikkim. Partially setting aside Dec 11 Sikkim High Court order which had asked all parties to maintain status quo, the top court asked NHPC and Lanco to proceed with the tender but finalise it only with the court’s nod. The CJI led bench asked Sikkim High Court to decide the case on its merits in a month’s time, after Lanco and NHPC argued that the Rs. 5748 crore project of national importance was stalled since the status quo order prohibited any fresh tendering. Leading a 3-judge bench, CJI Bobde observed this project of national importance is of commercial importance to NHPC.  It is not clear what makes this project a national project. This is an economically unviable project with huge adverse impacts on the river, people and environment. If it was such an important project, why was it allowed to remain stalled for years?

– The project was acquired by NHPC in July 2019. In March 2020, Gammon Engineering and Contractors (GEPCL) had secured the contract to execute the remainder of the civil works package, but couldn’t furnish the required performance bank guarantee of over Rs. 62.42 crore. NHPC claimed that after it refused to give any further extensions to GECPL and annulled the Letter of Acceptance, Gammon wrongly took advantage of the Nov 12 decision by the Union Finance Ministry which reduced Performance Security from existing 5 to 10%; to 3% of the value of the contract, for all existing contracts.

– Based on the Union Finance Ministry’s decision, GECPL sought approval to submit a Performance Bank Guarantee of 3% of the contract value, Rs. 37.45 crore, based on which NHPC doubted GECPL’s financial capability to execute the Rs. 1248.44 crore. GECPL then moved HC against fresh tendering by NHPC, claiming that annulment of contract by NHPC was arbitrary and unconstitutional. While the single judge bench dismissed GECPL’s plea for stay, a 2-judge bench asked all parties to maintain the status quo.  https://www.timesnownews.com/business-economy/companies/article/nhpc-can-process-tenders-for-teesta-river-hydroelectric-project-supreme-court/702867  (04 Jan. 2021)

NCLT approves NHPC’s Rs 165 crore plan for insolvent Jal Hydro Corp The National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) has approved NHPC’s Rs 165 cr resolution plan (upfront payment of that amount) for taking over Jalpower Corp, an official statement said on Jan 7, 2021. JPCL was executing Rs 943.2 Cr 120-mw Rangit Stage-IV Hydroelectric Project in Sikkim. The company is currently undergoing Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process which was initiated on April 9, 2019 vide an order of NCLT. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/nclt-approves-nhpcs-rs-165-crore-resolution-plan-for-jalpower-corp/80163959  (08 Jan. 2021)

Teesta stage V dam site at Dikchu. A series of landslides in last monsoon caused significant damages to villagers living adjacent to dam. Tanmoy Bhaduri/ Gaon Connection.

Lepchas reignite their protest against the 520MW HEP The recently elected Sikkim Krantikari Morcha party had promised to set right the overexploitation of natural resources by the previous government. But, the Lepchas allege the government has gone silent on the matter. Since last June, they have launched fresh protests against the project. https://en.gaonconnection.com/turbulence-along-the-teesta-the-lepchas-of-dzongu-valley-in-sikkim-reignite-their-protest-against-the-520-mw-hydropower-project/  (11 Jan. 2021)

Ladakh Govt clears 8 SHPs on Indus The govt has cleared 8 hydropower projects of total 144 MW on the Indus river and its tributaries in Ladakh, the highest so far, sources in the Jal Shakti Ministry said on Jan. 7, 2021. At present, there are several small projects, with a collective capacity of 113 MW on Indus in Ladakh. https://www.livemint.com/news/india/government-clears-8-hydropower-projects-on-indus-in-ladakh/amp-11610021883418.html  (07 Jan. 2021)

Arunachal Pradesh Govt forms committees to look into grievances Deputy CM Chowna Mein on Jan. 8 chaired two meetings separately, regarding the 23 mw Keyi hydro project on the Keyi river under Pistana circle of Lower Subansiri district and the 14.5 mw Pareng project under Sagalee subdivision in Papum pare district, along with all the stakeholders.

Assuring to look into the grievances of the project affected people of these two HEPs, the DCM said that there is shortage of power in the state. “There is no scope of denying the people’s rights,” Mein said, and asked the private power developers to maintain transparency and win the confidence of the local people.

During the meetings, two committees were formed to look into the grievances of project affected people. The committee for the Keyi HEP was formed under the chairmanship of Education Minister Taba Tedir. The committee for the Pareng HEP will be headed by former CM Nabam Tuki as its chairman. Besides Tedir and Tuki, Agriculture Minister Tage Taki, advisor to power minister, Balo Raja, Power Commissioner Prashant Lokhande, Lower Subansiri DC Swetika Sachan, Papum Pare DC Pige Ligu, Deputy Land Managament Director Techi Hitlar & the project affected people were present. https://arunachaltimes.in/index.php/2021/01/09/hydropower-projects-will-enhance-states-economy-says-mein/  (09 Jan. 2021)

MoEF Minutes of the EAC meeting for River Valley Projects held on Dec 30, 2020, decisions:

1. Rongnichu HEP (115 MW) by Madhya Bharat Power CorpLtd for Env Clearance: APPROVED

2. Ujh Multipurpose (196 MW) Project in Kathua Dist of Jammu &Kashmir by J&K State Power Development Corp for Env Clearance: More info Sought and yet APPROVED.

3. Sunni Dam HEP in (382 MW) in Shimla & Mandi Dists of Himachal Pradesh by SVJN for Env Clearance: APPROVED http://environmentclearance.nic.in/writereaddata/Form-1A/Minutes/07012021PT7OZFAMApproved_5th_EACMeeting_Hydro_MOM30December.pdf 

DAMS

Madhya Pradesh बसनिया एवं राघवपुर बांध से डिंडोरी के 61 गांव प्रभावित होंगे मध्यप्रदेश के नर्मदा घाटी में 29 बांध प्रस्तावित है।3 मार्च 2016 को मुख्यमंत्री शिवराज सिंह चौहान ने विधानसभा में  विधायक जितेंद्र गहलोत द्वारा पूछे गये सवाल के जवाब में बताया कि तवा,बारना,कोलार,सूक्ता,मटियारी,मान,जोबट,पुनासा,अपर बेदा एवं महेश्वर परियोजना का कार्य पूर्ण हो गया है।रानी अबंतिबाई (बरगी),इंदिरा सागर,ओंकारेशवर,लोअर गोई,हालोन एवं अपर नर्मदा बांध परियोजना का कार्य प्रगति है।शेष 13 परियोजनाओ की जानकारी में बताया गया है कि राघवपुर,रोसरा,बसनिया एवं अपर बुढनेर को नये भू अर्जन अधिनियम से लागत में वृद्धि होने,अधिक डूब क्षेत्र होने,डूब क्षेत्र में वन भूमि आने से असाध्य होने के कारण निरस्त की गई है।

9 जून 2020 को मध्यप्रदेश सरकार की जारी प्रेस विज्ञप्ति में बताया गया है कि प्रदेश को आबंटित नर्मदा जल का पुर्ण उपयोग करने के लिए सरकार की नर्मदा बेसिन प्रोजेक्टस कंपनी और पावर फाइनेंस कॉर्पोरेशन,नई दिल्ली के मध्य 20 हजार करोड़ रूपये का अनुबंध हस्ताक्षरित किया गया है।दावा किया गया है कि विभिन्न बांध परियोजनाओ से डिंडोरी,मंडला,नरसिंहपुर,होशंगाबाद,सिहोर,देवास,खंडवा एवं हरदा जिलों में 5 लाख हैक्टेयर क्षेत्र में सिंचाई सुविधा निर्मित होगी और 225 मेगावाट जल विद्युत का उत्पादन होगा।  प्राप्त जानकारी के अनुसार बसनिया और राघवपुर बांध की प्रशासकीय स्वीकृति 1 अप्रेल 2017 को दिया गया है। जबकि रोसरा बांध की विस्तृत परियोजना रिपोर्ट शासन स्तर पर लंबित है।इन स्वीकृत दो बांधों से डिंडोरी के 61 एवं मंडला के 18 गांव प्रभावित होंगे।बसनिया बांध से कुल 6343 हैक्टेयर जमीन डूब में आयेगी।जिसमें 2443 हैक्टेयर निजी भूमि,1793 हैक्टर शासकीय भूमि और 2107 हैक्टेयर वन भूमि शामिल है।प्रशासकीय स्वीकृति के समय इसकी लागत 2728.02 करोड़ रूपये थी।राघवपुर बांध से से कुल 4600 हैक्टेयर जमीन डूब में आयेगी।जिसमें 2636हैक्टेयर निजी भूमि,1952 हैक्टर शासकीय भूमि और 11.99 हैक्टर वन भूमि शामिल है।

प्रशासकीय स्वीकृति के समय इसकी लागत 1061.18 करोड़ रूपये थी। बसनिया बांध ग्राम – ओढारी,तहसील-घुघरी ,जिला-मंडला और राघवपुर बांध ग्राम- मारवारी,तहसील – शहपुरा,जिला- डिंडोरी में बनाया जाना प्रस्तावित है।नर्मदा जल विवाद न्यायाधिकरण के अनुसार नर्मदा नदी में उपलब्ध 28 एमएएफ पानी में से 18.25 एमएएफ पानी मध्यप्रदेश के हिस्से में आया है।वर्ष 1975 के गणना अनुसार नर्मदा नदी में बहने वाली पानी की उपलब्धता 28 एमएएफ मापा गया था।परन्तु नर्मदा नियंत्रण प्राधिकरण ने वर्ष 1980 से नर्मदा में प्रतिवर्ष जल उपलब्धता की गणना की है।2009- 10 तक के गणना अनुसार नर्मदा कछार में 21.72 एमएएफ जल उपलब्ध था।निश्चित प्रतिशत बंटवारे के अनुसार 2009- 10 में मध्यप्रदेश को उपयोग हेतु 14.16 एमएएफ जल का हिस्सा उपलब्ध था न कि 18.25 एमएएफ पानी।अतः पानी की उपलब्धता के आधार पर ही कोई परियोजना निर्माण करने के लिए मंजूर किया जाना चाहिए।

राज कुमार सिन्हा, हरी मरावी, श्याम कुमारी ध्रुवे https://www.facebook.com/sandrp.in/posts/4127011590659816  (06 Jan. 2021)

Hindi report on impact of Ganjal Morand dam on tribal community. https://www.facebook.com/sandrp.in/posts/4126676697359972

Largest floating solar project to be built on Omkareshwar dam The world’s largest 600 MW floating solar project is going to be built on the Omkareshwar reservoir on the Narmada river in Khandwa district at a cost of Rs 3,000 crores with investments from the International Finance Corp, World Bank and Power Grid. The pre-feasibility of the project has been completed. The project is likely to be commissioned by 2022-23. Solar panels will float on the surface of the water in the reservoir over 2000 ha area. When the water level of the dam changes, it will automatically adjust upwards and downwards. https://www.dailypioneer.com/2021/state-editions/largest-floating-solar-project-to-be-built-on-omkareshwar-dam.html  (05 Jan. 2021)

Telangana Mid Manair project oustees stage protest in Sircilla  Mid Manair project land oustees staged a rasta roko at Agraharam on the outskirts of Sircilla on Jan 8, 2021, demanding suitable compensation. The demonstrators refused to withdraw their protest till the district collector called on them and gave an assurance on compensation. They wanted the government to provide compensation to MM oustees on par with Mallannasagar.  https://telanganatoday.com/mid-manair-project-oustees-stage-protest-in-sircilla  (08 Jan. 2021)

INTERLINKING OF RIVERS

IRRIGATION

Uttar Pradesh नहर टूटने से हर साल बह जाती है लाखों की फसल संत कबीर नगर जिले में सरयू नहर के किनारे स्थित लगभग आधा दर्जन गांवों के सैकड़ों किसान परिवारों के सिर पर मुसीबतों का पहाड़ टूट पड़ा है। नहर की दीवार टूटने से सैकड़ों एकड़ खेत में पानी भर गया है जिस कारण कारण लाखों की फसल बर्बाद हो गई है। ग्रामीणों का कहना है कि हर साल हर फसली सीजन में ऐसा होता है, फिर भी प्रशासन इस पर कोई ध्यान नहीं दे रहा। https://www.gaonconnection.com/read/saryu-canal-breach-in-sant-kabir-nagar-uttar-pradesh-farmers-hit-hard-by-its-backlog-water-ground-report-48508  (05 Jan. 2021)

दस दिन बाद भी महरौनी तक नहीं पहुंचा नहर का पानी ललितपुर में जामनी बांध से निकली दाईं नहर से विभाजित महरौनी रजबहा नहर 25 दिसंबर को खोली गई थी लेकिन 10 दिन बीत जाने के बाद भी पानी महरौनी तक नहीं पहुंच सका है। किसानों द्वारा बोई गई फसलें सिंचाई के अभाव में सूखने लगी हैं। किसानों ने सिंचाई विभाग के आला अधिकारियों पर लापरवाही का आरोप लगाते हुए जिलाधिकारी से नहर का पानी टेल तक पहुंचाने की मांग की है। https://www.amarujala.com/uttar-pradesh/lalitpur/water-not-reached-mahroni-farmer-troubled-lalitpur-news-jhs185125677  (04 Jan. 2021) 

पानी छोड़ते ही टूटी नहर, खेत जलमग्न About breach in Andhripur canal in Pratapgarh flooding crop lands on Dec. 15. 2020. The villagers plugged the broken canal with the help of JCB after informing the officials of the irrigation department, but no official of the department reached the spot. Farmers allege that there has been irregularity in cleaning the canal. Half the canal was cleaned and released. The canal is broken when water pressure is high due to non-cleaning area not moving further. https://www.livehindustan.com/uttar-pradesh/pratapgarh-kunda/story-canal-broken-as-soon-as-water-is-released-3685187.html  (15 Dec. 2020)

Gujarat Narmada SubMinor Canal overflows, damages large no of farms in eight villages in Thasra Taluka in Nandiad in Central Gujarat. https://www.gujaratsamachar.com/news/madhya-gujarat/narmada-sub-minor-canal-flooded-without-cleaning-waterlogging-in-farms  (06 Jan. 2021)

URBAN RIVERS

A view of Bhavani river. The Hindu

Bhavani; Coimbatore 7 check dams to be constructed across river The WRD, Bhavani Basic Circle, has floated tender for constructing seven check dams across the River Bhavani at Kombupallam Odai of Kottuveerapalayam village in Sathyamangalam taluk at ₹ 1.57 crore; at Narayana Kombupallam Odai in Athani village in Anthiyur taluk at ₹ 1.57 crore; at Alathukombai village in Sathyamangalam taluk at ₹ 21.13 crore; at Arakkankottaikarai village of Gobichettipalayam taluk at ₹ 15.29 crore; at Vaniputhur village at Kasipalayam in Gobichettipalayam taluk at ₹ 18.94 crore; Kuppandampalayam village in Anthiyur taluk at ₹ 18.61 crore and at another at the same village at ₹ 2.71 crore. Officials said tender documents would be accepted till 3 p.m. on February 2 and the documents would be opened at 3.30 p.m. Upon issuing the work order, the contractors had to complete the works within 12 months, they added. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Coimbatore/seven-check-dams-to-be-constructed-across-river-bhavani/article33496407.ece  (04 Jan. 2021)

Krishna; Vijaywada Govt to rebuild temples razed for RFD The state govt has decided to reconstruct temples demolished during Krishna Pushkaram by previous TDP govt as part of road-widening and ghat improvement programme. CM YS Jagan Mohan Reddy will lay the foundation stone on January 8 for the reconstruction of eight major temples on the banks of Krishna River in the city. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/vijayawada/andhra-pradesh-to-rebuild-temples-razed-for-river-development/articleshow/80145325.cms  (7 Jan. 2021)

RIVERS

Prof Birj Gopal at IRW 2019.

Obituary Brij Gopal: A tireless advocate for India’s rivers YJA Convener Manoj Misra pays tribute to late Prof Brij Gopal:- Professor Brij Gopal was an eminent and internationally acclaimed river ecologist who passed away suddenly January 4, 2021, at a bus stop in Delhi.  After retiring from JNU, Gopal established the Centre for Inland Waters in South Asia at a small village called Peera on the outskirts of Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh. His dream was to set it up as a state-of-the-art research facility on freshwater systems. As fate had destined, he was returning from Peera when the end came. He was an influential voice at the annual India Rivers Week events that some of us organised together and was serving on a number of official and court-constituted expert committees. With a research experience of over 50 years, his vast scholarship never permitted him to suffer unscientific theories or chatter. A penchant for calling a spade a spade could never endear him to the establishment. India has lost a great mind and a lot of us in the conservation arena, our mentor. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/water/brij-gopal-a-tireless-advocate-for-india-s-rivers-74974  (08 Jan. 2021)

Professor Brij Gopal (76), conceptualised the river regulation zone (RRZ) on the lines of the coastal regulation zone (CRZ) which would offer legal protection to river floodplains from various activities which can be detrimental to river health and ecology. Though the concept was discussed as early as 2002 and former environment minister Jairam Ramesh and later present environment minister Prakash Javadekar assured that RRZ will be implemented to secure floodplains from concretisation, the policy is yet to take off.

-Many researchers, scientists and environmentalists remembered Gopal as someone who was honest in his criticism of river and wetland policies. In Sept 2020, after govt reports showed that water quality had improved following lockdown, he said, “The reason Yamuna is in better quality is because industries are closed. This will not last more than a few months unless the government has a strategy for industries after Covid-19 pandemic. What we are seeing today is a natural consequence of less effluents and better dilution due to monsoon.” He called for long term conservation of floodplains and rivers through legal interventions.  https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/ecologist-architect-of-river-regulation-zone-prof-brij-gopal-passes-away-at-76/story-EszE8fERvn7iIJGmfjDDmM.html  (05 Jan. 2021)

J&K Volunteers strive to save the Tawi Friends of River Tawi (FORT), a movement formed by several environmental groups spearheaded by Climate Front Jammu has been conducting cleaning up activity on the banks of Tawi river.

The Tawi is a transboundary river and major tributary of the Chenab, which flows from India to Pakistan. It originates at the Kailash Kund glacier in the district of Doda and passes through Jammu. Over the years, its water quality has deteriorated due to the dumping of waste and discharge of the city’s sewerage into it. In addition, climate change has reduced its water flow.

Researchers from Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi studied the problem of solid waste management in Jammu in 2016-17. They concluded there is a lack of expertise at JMC, absence of treatment facilities or landfills, and no waste segregation due to a lack of awareness among the population. In addition to solid waste, untreated sewage pollutes the Tawi as it runs through Jammu. In 2018, an action plan from the River Rejuvenation Committee of Jammu and Kashmir said that the city discharges 75 MLD of untreated sewage water into the river.

The action plan stated that the 3 existing STPs in Jammu be made functional. This was scheduled to be completed by December 2019. However, data for November 2020 from the pollution control board of J&K shows that not much has been done. Of the 5 municipal STPs in Jammu, 3 do not comply with required standards. An additional STP in Jammu is still under construction – delayed by almost a year.

Construction waste, plastics, textiles and other solid waste along the Tawi river in Jammu [image by: Tapasya Tofuss/ The Third Pole]

“The STPs can’t function properly since the drainage system has less water and more waste in the form of plastic,” said Bhushan Parimoo, a Jammu-based environmentalist and chairman of Environment Awareness Forum, an NGO based in Jammu and Kashmir. He added that the stretch between Panjtirthi and Bhagwati Nagar in Jammu, downstream of Gujjar Nagar, is the main culprit of a lot of pollution in the Tawi. Parimoo also commented that the authorities involved lack vision and have no in-depth ideas on how to protect the river.

According to Parimoo, as a tributary of the Chenab, the Tawi is not considered significant by the IWT. But, he added, “Pollution and the environment were not a concern when the treaty was signed. As such, a discourse on pollution of the Tawi does not feature much in the politics of water distribution between the two nations. But the health of rivers is an important concern, be there any politics around it or not.”

The small group of environmental activists in Jammu faces hurdles like lack of local support, no help from authorities, and need for more research. Salmeen, one of the volunteers, said, “We want to start a research team and get in touch with people who have previously worked on issues concerning the pollution of the Tawi. We are planning to connect with the local population and also approach authorities to carry afforestation in this stretch. It will take time but we are trying our best to highlight the issue and raise awareness.” https://www.thethirdpole.net/2021/01/08/volunteers-in-jammu-strive-to-save-the-tawi-river/ (8 Jan 2021)

GANGA Char Dham Govt members are against reducing road width  On 2 Dec, the SC bench led by Justice R.F. Nariman had directed the HPC to convene a meeting to consider the affidavits submitted by the defence and road ministries within two weeks and submit its report. The apex court had on 8 Sept 2020 ordered that the road width on the entire Char Dham route should be 5.5 metres, according to the standards laid down by the MoRTH’ March 2018 circular. But in its joint report submitted to the SC last week, the 21 members of the HPC said, “This is impractical as it is not possible to grow trees on the excavated parts.” They also said the HPC should now focus on monitoring the activities of the project being implemented by the road transport and highways ministry.

The minority group comprising HPC chairman Ravi Chopra and two other members have, however, expressed their dissent and given their views separately in the same report.  This group also said keeping the road width on the entire stretch of the project, including strategic roads, at 10 metres will have a “long term impact on the fragile Himalayan terrain and the sensitive Himalayan ecosystem”. The SC is likely to hear the matter on 18 January.  https://theprint.in/india/split-in-sc-panel-on-char-dham-project-21-of-26-members-are-against-reducing-road-width/579680/  (5 Jan. 2021)

YAMUNA Delhi CPCB seeks solution to high ammonia content in within 1 month CPCB convened a meeting on Jan 4, with the officials of Delhi and Haryana to discuss the recurring issue of increase in Ammoniacal Nitrogen in the Yamuna and short and long term remedial actions required. It was agreed at the meeting to constitute a joint surveillance squad comprising DJB, DPCC, Irrigation and Flood Control Departments of Delhi and Haryana. The group will review the current monitoring protocol and requirement of strengthening monitoring mechanism, analyse past data and carry out field surveys to identify hotspots of high ammonia. The study group has been asked to submit its report within a month.

“High ammoniacal nitrogen in the Yamuna is mainly a result of untreated waste water from industries in Panipat and Sonepat. We don’t need a high level group to understand this. The industries need to be checked from releasing untreated waste. The government is only trying to buy time by setting up study groups. The other obvious problem is there is no water in Yamuna so only polluted water is entering the river and it has no way of getting diluted,” said Manoj Misra, convenor, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan. https://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi-news/pollution-watchdog-cpcb-seeks-solution-to-high-ammonia-content-in-yamuna-within-1-month/story-J4SPebi2OGgD71niln6t8O.html  (06 Jan. 2021)

Govt plans seaplane service Yamuna riverfront The shipping and waterways ministry has issued an expression of interest (EoI) for the Sagarmala Seaplane Service (SSPS) for having this service to connect several places like — Delhi’s Yamuna riverfront and Ayodhya, Tehri, Srinagar (Uttarakhand) and Chandigarh; Mumbai to Shirdi, Lonavala and Ganpatipule; Surat to Dwarka, Mandvi and Kandla; and within the archipelagos of Andaman and Nicobar and Laskhadweep.

The ministry has sought response to the ambitious project from interested operators by January 22, 2021, for forming a special purpose vehicle (SPV) with Sagarmala Development Company Limited (SDCL) to undertake joint development and operation of SSPS. It says the EOI’s purpose is to “gauge the interest of the various companies in this project.” https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/govt-plans-seaplane-service-on-delhis-yamuna-riverfront-ayodhya-shirdi-other-routes-could-be-included/articleshow/80069641.cms  (02 Jan. 2021)

RIVERS BIODIVERSITY

Uttar Pradesh Video shows men beating dolphin to death Three youths have been arrested by the Pratapgarh Police for allegedly killing a Gangetic dolphin — an endangered mammal that is the national aquatic animal — last month. The accused were arrested on Thursday (Jan. 7) after a video of the incident went viral. In the clip, some people were seen beating the river dolphin to death using sticks and axes, while others were heard saying they would have a “big feast”.

District Forest Officer Varun Singh told The Indian Express, “It was an adult Gangetic dolphin and is an endangered species. This is for the first time that a dolphin has been found in the canal here. While they usually move in deep waters, we do not know how it entered the canal. We have also searched for other dolphins in the Sharda canal, but could not find any.” He added, “We are investigating the entire incident and will soon send a report to the government to ensure that such an incident is not repeated.” https://indianexpress.com/article/india/up-video-shows-men-beating-endangered-dolphin-to-death-7138726/  (09 Jan. 2021)

9 Gangetic dolphins spotted in Budaun’s stretch  As many as nine Gangetic dolphins were spotted at seven different areas in river Ganga. The dolphins were spotted on the stretch after a hiatus of 5 years. The sightings were made on the 130-kilometre stretch of the Ganga river in Budaun. The dolphins were spotted by a joint team of the biodiversity unit of the WWF-India and the forest department. The administration will be sending a report to the state government regarding the dolphin conservation project.

In 2015-2016, the presence of aquatic mammals was recorded at four locations in the Ganga stretch, The Times of India reported. Ever since, no surveys were conducted on the stretch. There are 36 dolphins in Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary that comprises of five districts. First time in India, Ganga dolphin safari launched at six sites; UP’s Bijnor district in list too

Shahnawaj Khan, project officer of biodiversity team, WWF India claimed that low level of river water and encroachment of floodplains play a threat to dolphins. Dolphins cannot breathe inside the water and must come to the surface from time to time to breathe. After the dolphins were spotted, fishermen were asked to be cautious. Khan said, “In case they are accidentally caught in a fisherman’s net, they cannot surface for air and unable to breathe, they can lose consciousness. In such conditions, it is extremely difficult to revive them. This is why dolphin rescue is quite difficult.” https://www.timesnownews.com/india/article/5-year-hiatus-over-9-gangetic-dolphins-spotted-in-budauns-ganga-stretch-uttar-pradesh/703231  (05 Jan. 2021)

Illegal fishing in protected stretch posing threat to dolphin, gharial & turtles Illegal fishing along 40-km river stretch between Balawali and Ganj area. Several fish markets are thriving in villages close to the Ganga. The rampant illegal fishing is threatening the biodiversity of the region, and derailing the attempts to save the endangered species, officials say. During the recent counting of dolphins in the Ganga stretch, the teams of the WWF seized five such nests in Bijnor.

Chief wildlife warden Sunil Pandey had recently pointed out the menace in Muzaffarnagar and Bijnor and had even directed DFOs of the two districts to constitute a task force to curb the illegal fishing activity. Muzaffarnagar police took the initiative and used recently-launched Jal Safari boats to increase patrolling in Haiderpur wetland, but Bijnor is yet to take a step.

“The illegal fishing is eating up the main food source of dolphin, gharial as well as of the endangered turtles,” a forest official said. Officials say that dolphins are generally not killed for meat, but the possibility of their getting trapped in these nets is high. “And often, the turtles caught in the net are dumped on the bank of the river near the barrage by the fishermen,” he said.

This year, 41 freshwater Gangetic dolphins were spotted in the region, six more than last year’s tally of 35. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/meerut/illegal-fishing-in-gangas-protected-stretch-posing-threat-to-dolphin-gharial-turtles/articleshow/79844640.cms  (22 Dec. 2020)

FISH, FISHERIES, FISHERFOLKS

Tamil Nadu State is not above the law, says NGT The State is not above the law if there are violations committed in a project implemented by it, the Southern Bench of the NGT has said. A violator has to face the consequences if any law is violated, it said, hearing a case against the construction of a fish landing centre of the Fisheries Department at Singithurai in Thoothukudi. The report of a joint committee, which was submitted to the NGT, pointed to the violations in the construction of the fish landing centre in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) area without the necessary clearance under the CRZ Notification, 2011, and also in the laying of a concrete road, which was prohibited in the location.

The Thoothukudi Collector submitted that the construction of the fish landing centre was not a prohibited activity, and the site was under CRZ-II. “There is no dispute on the fact that it is a permissible activity. The question is whether prior CRZ clearance has been obtained under the CRZ Notification, 2011, for the construction of the fish landing centre, and the committee’s report will go to show that it was constructed without the necessary clearance under the CRZ Notification, 2011,” the Bench said. If that was the case, “how the Collector, who is supposed to be the chairman of the District Coastal Zone Management Authority and who has to implement the provisions of the CRZ Notification, 2011, in letter and spirit and take action against the persons who are violating the provisions of the CRZ Notification, 2011, has allowed violation of CRZ,” the Bench asked.

It directed the State Coastal Zone Management Authority to submit an action-taken report on the basis of the recommendations made by the joint committee. If the State authorities were not taking action, the regional office of the MoEF in Chennai should look into the issue and take action. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/state-is-not-above-the-law-says-national-green-tribunal/article33541609.ece  (10 Jan. 2021)

EAC defers Pulicat lake wall proposal, seeks more details The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Environment Ministry has directed a sub-committee to visit the coastal stretch of Pulicat lake where the Dept of Fisheries has proposed 2 training walls for permanent stability for the bar mouth of the lake, and ascertain details about the impact of the project.

The EAC directed the sub-committee to also discuss the findings with a team from the National Institute of Ocean Technology, the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON), the Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management Authority and the Department of Fisheries. The Department of Fisheries proposed to construct two training walls on the north and south side of the lake at the bar mouth, which will provide access to fishermen throughout the year. It also proposed to dredge the channel after the construction of the wall.  https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/expert-appraisal-committee-defers-pulicat-lake-wall-proposal-seeks-more-details/article33515222.ece  (07 Jan. 2021)

Ennore-Pulicat wetlands lost 267 has since 2015: study A report by the Save Ennore Creek Campaign, released on Nov. 19 2020, has alleged that several public sector undertakings have encroached on 267 ha of the backwaters belonging to the Kosasthalaiyar river after the 2015 floods. The Chennai-based activists have sent a copy of the report, along with a letter, to the visiting Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

The letter asked the Union Minister to advise the Kamarajar Port to stop encroaching on the wetlands and ask the Centre to abandon any scheme in the region involving diversion of the wetlands. The port had encroached upon 46 ha the letter said, 81 ha had been lost to a coal ash dump for NTECL at Vallur and 40 to an oil storage terminal of Bharat Petroleum Corp.

More of the wetlands are likely to be lost for projects including an eight-fold expansion of the port at Kattupalli, which involved the creation of 2,000 acres of land inside the sea, and more than 1,000 acres of land by encroaching on the Ennore-Pulicat wetlands. Speaking at the event to release a copy of the report, Ennore fisherman Ravindran and G. Sundarrajan of Poovulagin Nanbargal said that if industrialisation was important, it should be carried out on dry land and not on waterbodies. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/ennore-pulicat-wetlands-lost-667-acres-since-2015-study/article33136656.ece  (20 Nov. 2020)

Rohan Chakravarty/ Green Humour on Adani dredges Pulicat to expand Kuttapalli Port.  https://www.thehindu.com/society/green-humour-by-rohan-chakravarty/article33520699.ece  (09 Jan. 2021)

Goa Traditional fishermen oppose Sal river desilting Traditional fishermen on Monday (Jan. 04) opposed desilting of the Sal until the government conducts a physical site inspection, along with them. The work would be undertaken only after taking the fishermen into confidence, assured ports minister Michael Lobo. Statting that the depth of the Sal has reduced at various stretches and the government wants to revive the river for fishing activities, Lobo said. “Dredging is not being done for coal handling, passenger boats, etc.” He also said the fisherman can go to NGT if they do not want dredging. Lobo told reporters that three years back, a six-kilometre stretch of the river, from Nuvem to Navelim, had been desilted. “This is the second phase in which another six-kilometre stretch would be cleaned up at the cost of around Rs 8 crore. In the third phase, another six kilometre stretch will be taken up,” he said. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/traditional-fishermen-oppose-sal-river-desilting-seek-inspection/articleshow/80104683.cms  (05 Jan. 2021)

Karnataka Traditional fishermen demand halt to sand extraction from rivers in CRZ The Moola Nadi Meenugarara Sangha (association of traditional river fishermen) on Jan 1, 2021 urged the authorities concerned to immediately stop riverbed sand extraction in CRZ areas in the guise of clearing sand dunes for fishing boat movement, as it is affecting traditional fishermen. Traditional Fishermen get into the river directly to lay nets and these methods were called Bolpubale, Rampani, among others. On the other hand, fisherwomen collect Maruvai (clam) from rivers. However, extensive sand extraction from riverbeds in CRZ in the recent past has been threatening traditional fishermen wherein riverbeds have become deep. Even women were finding it difficult to collect Maruvai.https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Mangalore/traditional-fishermen-demand-halt-to-sand-extraction-from-rivers-in-crz/article33475192.ece   (01 Jan. 2021)

Maharashtra Bandra locals take on fisheries dept over Chimbai shore destruction Four nature lovers have sent a legal notice to the state accusing it of causing permanent destruction of the rocky shore at Chimbai fishing village in Bandra and damaging the mangroves abutting the area. In their notice dated December 30, addressed to the Commissioner of Fisheries, Maria Thelma Suresh Poojary and three others have said that local fishermen are opposed to a government project to upgrade the existing jetty saying it makes their homes and fish-drying area vulnerable to flooding. The activists have already moved the Bombay High Court on the project and the case is scheduled to be heard soon. The project was erroneously granted the CRZ clearance dated 16.09.2019, says the notice.  https://origin.mid-day.com/mumbai/mumbai-news/article/bandra-locals-take-on-fisheries-dept-over-chimbai-shore-destruction-23154426  (04 Jan. 2021)

J&K Unsung women fishers of Wular lake Fisherwomen’s experiences and perspectives about their livelihoods based on the Wular lake. https://www.indiawaterportal.org/article/unsung-women-fishers-wular-lake-0  (02 Jan. 2021)

Report Mapping India’s indigenous land Indigenous fishermen in southern India have been taking care of their land generation after generation. And yet, they often don’t possess legal ownership. It leaves them open to land grabbing. But an activist is helping them secure their rights. https://www.dw.com/en/mapping-indias-indigenous-land/av-55580782  (13 Nov. 2020)

SAND MINING

SANDRP report points to increasing violence; calls for urgent need to regulate SANDRP report points to increasing violence by illegal sand miners and calls for urgent need to regulate riverbed mining SANDRP’s report on deaths caused by incidents relating to illegal sand mining and attacks on law enforcement agencies exposes the devastating impact of the operation on the lives and livelihoods of riverine communities and underlines the need for regulating the activity. https://frontline.thehindu.com/environment/sandrp-report-points-to-increasing-violence-by-illegal-sand-miners-and-calls-for-urgent-need-to-regulate-riverbed-mining/article33494043.ece  (15 Jan. 2021)

Jharkhand Sand mafia beats youth to death in Godda, two others injured  Members of the Sand Mafia beat to death a teenage boy in Devbandha under Motiya OP in Godda district. Police on Saturday (Jan. 9) said that on Friday (Jan. 8) night the members of sand mafia was mining the sand from the local river which was protested by the deceased and other members of the family.

The gang members got agitated and beat the boy Rajkumar (16) to death while two other members also sustained injuries and have been admitted at the Sadar Hospital. Villagers claimed that every night large number of tractors come to the bank of the river of take away the sand which is mined illegally with the support of local administration. SDPO Anand Mohan Singh said that a probe was on in the case as the family members have registered a named FIR. http://www.uniindia.com/sand-mafia-beats-youth-to-death-in-godda-two-others-injured/east/news/2287838.html  (09 Jan. 2021) 

दिव्यांग मातापिता के बेटे ने विरोध किया तो बेरहमी से मार डाला राजकुमार के चाचा नवल किशोर ने बताया कि नदी के किनारे उन लोगों की जमीन है। माफिया नदी से बालू निकाल रहे थे। उन लोगों की जमीन से होकर बालू जा रहा था। उन्हें मना किया गया कि बालू का उठाव नहीं करें। इस पर वे भड़क गए। इसके बाद लाठी-डंडा, गड़ासा एवं भाला लेकर आए और पिटाई करने लगे। राजकुमार को उन लोगों ने पीट कर मार डाला। गौतम, मृत्युंजय और मुकेश को भी पीटा।

हत्या के बाद घटनास्थल पर बदहवाश राजकुमार के स्वजन ( फोटो जागरण)।

राजकुमार के माता-पिता दिव्यांग हैं। पिता बबलू यादव की मानसिक स्थिति कमजोर है तो माता रीता देवी को कान से कम सुनाई पड़ता है। परिवार का बड़ा लड़का होने के नाते राजकुमार पर अधिक जवाबदेही थी। एक छोटा भाई है। राजकुमार ने बुधवार (Jan. 6) को माध्यमिक परीक्षा के लिए फॉर्म भरा था। माली हालत खराब होने के बावजूद वह पढऩा चाहता था। वह गांव में मजदूरी करता था। जो आमदनी होती थी, उससे पढ़ाई भी कर रहा था।  https://m.jagran.com/jharkhand/dhanbad-mafia-killed-teenager-in-godda-for-opposing-illegal-sand-mining-21254187.html  (09 Jan. 2021)

Uttar Pradesh Illegal mining in Yamuna: Rs 10.7 lakh fine recommended The UPPCB has recommended imposition of Rs 10.7 lakh environmental compensation on a Shamli-based mining firm in a case of illegal mining in the Yamuna, presently being heard by the principal bench of the NGT, New Delhi. Compensation has been recommended in compliance with the NGT orders dated July 15, 2020, in a petition filed by Yamuna Sewa Samiti president Kiran Pal Rana of Kanalsi village in Yamunanagar district.

The UPPCB report submitted before the NGT on Nov. 27, 2020, said, “An environmental compensation of Rs 10.70 lakh has been recommended against a mining unit Devansh India run by project proponent Kuldeep Singh of Udpur village in Shamli district . The environment clearance to this unit was granted by SEIAA in UP on Jan. 22, 2020. The mining lease was issued to the unit on March 4, 2020 for sand mining in an area of 24.92 hectare near Nangla Rai village, Kairana block, Shamli district UP.”

“Although the consent to establish (CTE) was granted to the unit by UPPCB on March 31, 2020, the consent to operate (CTO) is yet to be granted by the UP board in view of non-compliance of conditions of CTE and non-submission of compliance of EC within a prescribed time,” the report said. “The sand mining activity by this unit was done for 107 days from March 4, 2020 to March 23, 2020 and then from May 5, 2020 to July 31, 2020. Till date, the unit has not obtained CTO by the UPPCB. The unit is liable to pay environmental compensation for defiance of the norms,” the report further said.

“UPPCB inspection report hides more than it reveals about illegal sand mining on Yamuna river in Shamli district. While it was carried out at four places in Kairana area, the report mentions only one site. About 50 persons have died after falling into deep illegal sand mining pits in the past two years in the upper segment of Yamuna. Most of these were children and teenagers belonging to adjoining Panipat and Shamli district, but the report is totally silent on this,” said Bhim Singh Rawat of SANDRP. “Similarly, the report does not mention the ecological impacts of illegal bunds creation and diversion of Yamuna which had already seen two consecutive seasons of deficit rainfall,” Rawat added. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/gurgaon/illegal-mining-in-yamuna-up-pollution-board-recommends-rs-10-7l-penalty-on-shamli-based-firm/articleshow/80017274.cms  (30 Dec. 2020)

Illegal sand mining continues in the foothills of the Ghaghra river in Barabanki. The state has also witnessed most violent incidents and fatalities in past two years. Here in this new year, two locals are thrashed severely by illegal sand miners for videographing illegal sand mining the Ghaghra river. Both young men in critical condition are undergoing treatment in district hospital.  https://twitter.com/bstvlive/status/1346497778906664962?s=20  (05 Jan. 2021)

Karnataka ‘Act tough against illegal mining, sand extraction’ Minister for Mines and Geology C.C. Patil on Jan. 6) asked officials to act tough to prevent illegal mining and illegal sand extraction in Udupi district. He was speaking at a meeting of officials of the department in Karkala. Before allowing mining and sand extraction, officials have to carefully study documents concerned. They should not, however, deny permission for minor technical errors.

Udupi district was given a target of ₹ 24 crore royalty collection and so far, ₹ 16.29 crore was collected. He asked officials to reach the target by March.

Udupi MLA K. Raghupathi Bhat suggested synchronisation of GPS devices of sand extracting boats in CRZ area and sand transporting trucks to prevent illegal sand extraction in the district. Following a demand from legislators in the coastal area for a sand policy for the region given its unique geographical nature, the government was formulating one. Defects in the Maralu Mithra App were being rectified, he said.

The Minister directed officials to accord permission to extract sand for local use in 34 second and third grade sites where gram panchayats had given consent letters. Karkala MLA V. Sunil Kumar urged the Minister to permit inter-district sand transportation between Dakshina Kannada and Udupi district so that Karkala taluk gets sand from Belthangady and Moodbidri taluks of Dakshina Kannada. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Mangalore/act-tough-against-illegal-mining-sand-extraction/article33515078.ece  (07 Jan. 2021)

Illegal red stone, sand-mining to be curbed: minister Addressing reporters after a review meeting with officials of the Department of Mines and Geology, he said steps would be taken to prevent inter-state sand-smuggling. Dakshina Kannada district authorities have been directed to install CCTV cameras in border areas. Measures were being taken to extract sand from 30 identified blocks in the twin districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts in the next 15 days. A total of 104 people have been given permission to extract sand in the CRZ area and some more applications been under consideration, he said.. https://realty.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/allied-industries/illegal-red-stone-sand-mining-to-be-curbed-karnataka-minister/80156003  (07 Jan. 2021)

Kerala NGT to evaluate sand-mining scenario The NGT has decided to appoint an 8-member committee to check whether riverbed sand-mining in Kerala is being done in compliance with the sand-mining policy of the Union govt and various environmental laws. The Southern Bench of the tribunal recommended the formation of the committee after taking suo motu notice of media reports quoting a study that recommended that 3.03 million cubic metres (MCM) out of the 8.15 MCM accumulated in the Bharathapuzha river can be mined.

The Bench comprising Justice K. Ramakrishnan and expert member Saibal Dasgupta said that the court lacked clarity on the procedure adopted by the District Collectors while granting permission for mining the excess sand. It is also not known as to whether the district survey reports are prepared in a scientific manner as per the guidelines, it said.

The expert committee to be led by a senior officer of the MoEF has been entrusted with the task of finding out whether any monitoring is done to ascertain the quantity of sand to be mined, besides seeing whether the departments concerned have approved the mining plan. The committee is also directed to provide a status report on sand mining in riverbeds passing through the forests and eco-sensitive zones, including national parks and sanctuaries. It will probe whether permission is being granted in those buffer areas. The committee is also permitted to co-opt the District Collectors whenever inspection is carried out as part of the field study to find out whether they are following a uniform method in tune with the rules.

The committee is also directed to ascertain as to whether any action has been initiated by the authorities for conducting illegal mining in these areas, including excess mining than the permitted quantity, and what are all the safeguards provided for preventing such illegal activities. The Chief Secretary has to provide all required assistance to the committee. Kerala SEIAA will be the nodal agency for coordination. The committee has to submit its report before the tribunal by March 16. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/ngt-to-evaluate-sand-mining-scenario-in-state/article33537135.ece  (09 Jan. 2021)

Odisha ‘Outsider’ gets sand mining contract, tehsil office gheraoed Hundreds of people including women gheraoed Raghunathpur tehsil office on Jan. 4 protesting district administration’s award of sand mining contracts to an outsider. Accusing the administration of keeping them in dark, the agitators under the banner of Jagannath Workers’ Cooperative Society claimed that they were excluded from the tender process of Jaipur sand quarry.

“Many locals had bid for auction of the quarries but the tender box was opened in our absence. Though we are staging a dharna in front of the tehsil office for last four days, the officials concerned are expressing their helplessness over the matter. We want the administration to allow all stakeholders to participate in the process in a fair manner,” said the society’s secretary Yudhistir Sethy.

Under Raghunathpur tehsil, there are three sand quarries at Tarapur, Jaipur and Nuapada. The auction of Tarapur quarry was stopped after the contractor, who was awarded lease of the sand ghat for five years, went beyond the prescribed depth, thereby posing threat to the embankment. The revenue department auctioned the quarries at Nuapada and Jaipur on Dec. 14 last year. The contractor who bagged the mining rights of Jaipur quarry is an outsider and hence, there is resentment among the locals, sources said.

The agitators said the quarries were awarded to an outsider at a higher rate by ignoring the local bidders. The move has snatched livelihood of hundreds of people associated with the sand mining trade for the last 25 years, they alleged. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2021/jan/05/outsider-gets-sand-mining-tehsil-office-gheraoed-2245689.html  (05 Jan. 2021)

Punjab No check on illegal sand mining at Modhe village Residents of Modhe village near the international border have been worried due to illegal sand mining from a village pond. Irate residents alleged that JCB machines had been extracting sand from the pond for the last one month. They said illegal mining is done in the evening and then loaded in tractor-trailers. The residents said initially when the digging started, sarpanch had told them that the pond would be dug up to seven feet. “Now, sand has been extracted up to 25 ft from the pond. Who will be held accountable if a child or cattle falls into the pond?” asked Sarabjit Singh, a resident.

Sand mining goes on unabated at a pond at Modhe village near the internattional border. The Tribune

Local said they had filed two complaints with the Panchayat Department so far. The last complaint was filed five days ago. “No action has been taken by the department concerned to date. Residents of nearby houses fear that the deep pit will cause damage to foundations of their houses,” said locals. “The total area of the pond is approximately six kanals. Out of it, around three-and-a-half kanals had been dug up with JCB machines. The entire work is illegal and sand is being sold in the market,” said another resident, Kashmira Singh.

The residents demanded that the work should be stopped immediately and the administration must probe whether the sarpanch had taken any permission from the Panchayat Department. Another resident, Baljit Singh, said, “We have tried everything we could do to stop illegal mining. We cannot fight with sand mafia as these people are very strong. Senior officials should take stern action against those involved in this illegal act.” https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/amritsar/no-check-on-illegal-sand-mining-at-modhe-village-193477  (04 Jan. 2021)

Mohali: 2 arrested Majri police booked two persons for their alleged involvement in illegal sand mining Thursday (Jan. 7). The accused were said to be drivers of tipper trucks which were seized by police. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/mohali-illegal-sand-mining-2-truck-drivers-arrested-7137738/  (08 Jan. 2021)

WETLANDS, LAKES, WATER BODIES

SANDRP Blog Wetlands 2020: Positive developments There were many remarkable positive developments related to Wetlands in just concluded year 2020. This blog reports such developments from Pondicherry (revival of water bodies thanks to collector), Children artwork to save bird sanctuary and fisher-women’s cooking traditional dishes for Pulicat wetland in Tamil Nadu to several such actions from Bengal, Maharashtra, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka & Kashmir. https://sandrp.in/2021/01/06/wetlands-2020-positive-developments/  (6 Jan. 2021)

Maharashtra Wetlands Overview 2020 In 2020, Maharashtra has been very lively and have seen some interesting developments around wetlands, driven by initiatives by activists like D Stalin among many others, and at times supported by judiciary. Here we try and capture the key developments and their significance. https://sandrp.in/2021/01/05/maharashtra-wetlands-overview-2020/  (05 Jan. 2021)

Karnataka GREAT WORK BY ESG Karnataka High court ruled in Environment Support Group (ESG) lakes case (WP 817/2008) on 11 April 2012 that every district would have a lake protection cmt to entertain any complaint or proposal to protect and rehabilitate lakes and Raja kaluves for posterity – as biodiversity and livelihood rich wetlands.  In case the district Cmts failed to resolve the concern or dispute, a quasi judicial body at the state level headed by the Revenue Secretary along with Member Secretary of Karnataka State Legal Services Authority would attend to the grievance.

This was in response to Our prayer for a schema for participatory management, protection and rehabilitation of lakes and Raja kaluves across the state – there are 40000 lakes left (we may have lost over 10000 in the recent past).

Such an accessible decision making and conflict resolution forum at the local level would ensure cmtys would not rush to the High Court to resolve lake related disputes. Instead, such forums could help build a truly participatory process to build water, livelihood and ecological security. It would help build trust in each other for advancing a common cause – and in an inclusive manner. (Currently several urban lake conservation efforts are exclusive – responding essentially to middle class, elite and corporate imaginaries.)

To ensure that there is money for this unprecedented effort, in the case of Bangalore lakes at the very least, the Court extracted a commitment from the State Govt, BBMP and BDA that at least ₹50 crores each would be budgeted for the exercise. When Sadananda Gowda was CM And Finance Minister, such an allocation was made. If this budgetary allocation was sustained, we would have had about ₹ 1000 crores to support this remarkable community effort.)

Even though the Lake Protection Cmts were formed after ESG filed a contempt petition in 2013, by a rather reluctant Govt Order, these Cmts were not made functional.  Complaints could not be entertained as meetings were not held.

When Citizens Action Group filed a case for restoration of Raja kaluves and lakes in Bangalore (WP 38401/2014), as the matter progressed ESG and I (as part in person) intervened.  Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Abhay Oka accepted our interventions and looked into our grievance that the 2012 WP 817/2008 order was yet to be implemented.

Chief Justice Oka issued a series of orders to ensure these Cmts were set up and made functional.  He highlighted how the State was bound by Public Trust Doctrine to ensure lakes and Raja kaluves are protected for posterity and rehabilitated as commons.  He directed the State to provide widespread publicity to the existence of these decision making and conflict resolution fora, accessible to the wide public, and the result is what you see in today’s (Jan 7, 2021) advt.

ESG encourages everyone across the state to use these innovative instruments so we can restore all 40000 lakes and their interconnecting Raja kaluves, and perhaps build 1000s more to secure the futures of future generations. If we achieved that and ensured water guzzling human activities is made a thing of the past (by reforming urban, industrial and farming sectors)- it takes 2-3 years, then Karnataka would be the first water secure state based largely on surface flows and rainwater harvesting. Which means we would ensure no one has to struggle to access water, farms would be productive, animal husbandry would flourish (as when lakes dry up in summer they turn into grazing pastures), and millions of rural youth need not rush to cities for tiring jobs as taxi drivers. They can continue to be healthy and prosperous farmers.

For Bangalore, and other cities, implementing this order by engaging with Lake Protection Cmts would mean there is a high possibility of Ward Cmts organising lake and Raja Kaluve rejuvenation efforts (so that lake protection is an inclusive effort). In this way we could enjoy 840 kms of pollution free Raj kaluves as commons, replete with wooded areas and high biodiversity, and our city lakes would be spaces for watching birds, reflecting, de-stressing, even support livelihoods through urban gardening and fish farming, etc.

For more details on how to use the lake protection Cmts, see: https://esgindia.org/new/campaigns/lakes/saving-lakes-using-judicial-orders-issued-in-esg-pils/.

For details of the ongoing litigation: https://esgindia.org/new/education/karnataka-high-court-directs-state-to-ensure-karnataka-lakes-are-protected-per-2012-order-in-esg-pil/

(Hundreds of individuals and organisations have helped make this a reality.) https://www.facebook.com/sandrp.in/posts/4129804563713852

Despite order on restoration, lakes continue to be threatened Like old wine in a new bottle, the KTCDA has been approving the handing over of lakes to corporates, exactly like the way LDA leased lakes back in 2012. Churning out MoUs based on Detailed Project Reports lacking application of science and social praxis and delays in implementing earlier orders have been brought to the attention of the High court. Under the Public Trust Doctrine, lakes are common property resources. Those who are at the intersection of power, influence and finance have an advantage over those who protected and used the lakes.

Mostly, it is about monopolising control over these commons, dodging the law, the order of the court and thereby of capturing the few natural living resource-landscapes of cities. Besides taking control, which means they get to decide who can use them to fish, harvest lilies or watch birds, they also get to decide many administrative issues relating to the use and upkeep of lakes – aspects that were under the control of local communities and local government.

This obviously means preserving biodiversity for posterity and long-term water security will be in the hands of those with power and influence, and access to agency – the elite. Access to and availability of common property resources for the poor will not only decline, that right may go on to be annihilated. Efforts by state agencies seem to miss the point that public expenditure in the model of ‘lake development’ now pursued will only result in public money being poured down the drain, with no benefit in terms of protection of lake, their biodiversity and their capacity to support livelihoods, for now and into posterity. https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/main-article/despite-order-on-restoration-lakes-continue-to-be-threatened-936427.html  (08 Jan. 2020)

Saving the last remaining grassland habitat in Bengaluru region The Hesaraghatta lakebed in Karnataka spans an area of about 1912 acres. The 356 acres of grassland surrounding the lakebed is the last remaining grassland habitat in the Bengaluru region.

– A unique piece of land where biodiversity thrives, around 235 species of birds, 400 species of insects and 100 butterfly species have been spotted at these grasslands.

– While the Karnataka government mulls a film city in Hesaraghatta, conservationists propose the biodiversity-rich land be protected as a conservation reserve.

– Hesaraghatta tank is one of the two major water reservoirs of the Arkavathy river. Originating in the Nandi Hills, the river Arkavathy was once an important source of water for Bengaluru before the city switched to river Cauvery for all its water needs. Arkavathy river feeds a series of cascading tanks including Hesaraghatta. It is expected to get water from Yettinahole project. https://india.mongabay.com/2021/01/saving-the-last-remaining-grassland-habitat-in-bengaluru-region/  (06 Jan. 2021)

Telangana HC issues notices to authorities in lake encroachment case A two-judge panel of Chief Justice Hima Kohli and Justice MS Ramachandra Rao of the Telangana High Court ordered notices to the authorities in a PIL concerning the encroachment and pollution of Devuni Kunta Cheruvu in Asif Nagar, Hyderabad. The HC had taken suo moto cognisance of a letter addressed to the court by Dr Lubna Sarwath as a PIL. The petitioner complained that the guidelines as provided under the Telangana Water, Land and Trees Act, 2002, (WALTA), has not been adhered to by the authorities concerned. The provisions of the Act mandate appointment of locals as WALTA members who are to appear in the WALTA authority meetings. https://telanganatoday.com/telangana-hc-issues-notices-to-authorities-in-lake-encroachment-case  (08 Jan. 2021)

Manipur Vanishing Lamphelpat calls for concerted conservation efforts The historically significant Lamphelpat is staring at an uncertain future. This wetland in the urban area of Imphal West dist is about 19.22 sq km and “shrinking”, said experts. For many years, the famous Lamphelpat had been providing its abundant resources and services to the surrounding people. The wetland stores water drained from the Lamphel Reserve Forest and the Nambul River. It brought down the temperature and controlled or mitigated flood by storing the excess water from Nambul River.

Now all these have been affected by uncontrolled anthropogenic activities & negligence. With siltation, human encroachment & dumping of waste materials in the wetland, the Lamphelpat has lost its original glory. Siltation and dumping of waste materials have made it shallower every year and water plants and weeds have wholly covered the wetland suffocating it.

The Lamphelpat was also famous for Kombirei flower. Conserving the wetland would not only bring back this flower but also migratory birds. Conserving the wetland would also attract tourists, Dep Director of Directorate of Environment & Climate Change, Dr T Brajakumar said.

Meanwhile, sources at the Water Resources Dept said development of a 442 sq km water body in Lamphelpat area is in the pipeline. The project with an estimated cost of around Rs 650 crore would be implemented under the Ministry of Jal Shakti with funding from the World Bank. 80 percent of the cost will be borne by the Centre while the remaining 20 percent will be covered by the State Government.

The project aims at improving and enhancing supply of drinking water, flood control and eco-tourism. The planned water body would store excess water from Nambul River and water collected from various sources and catchment areas would be further treated for use in water supply schemes. The project is likely to start from April this year, said the sources. http://e-pao.net/epSubPageExtractor.asp?src=news_section.Top_Stories.Top_Stories_2021.Vanishing_Lamphelpat_calls_for_concerted_conservation_efforts_20210104  (04 Jan. 2021)

Study Pune wetlands near Sahyadri ranges flourishing with aquatic plants Wetlands located close to plateaus in and around Pune district have been found thriving with a variety of macrophytes, aquatic plants, showing considerable seasonal variations. A botanist couple – Savita and Sanjaykumar Rahangdale – undertook a nine-year-long study of wetlands in the district. They recorded 67 endemic taxa (group of organisms) and labelled four to be facing some degree of threat to their existence in the region.

The riverine wetlands within city limits of Pune were found to be increasingly flourishing with invasive weeds, like hyacinth – a common sight along the banks of Mula and Mutha rivers in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad. (Express Photo)

The angiosperm macrophytes facing danger in the district, covering a geographical area of 15,642 square metres, include Eriocaulon santapaui, which is labelled as ‘critically endangered’, whereas Iphigenia stellata, Eriocaulon richardianum and Dimeria hohenackeri are ‘endangered’ and Isachne bicolor and Utricularia albocaerulea are ‘vulnerable’. As many as 198 out of the 457 taxa in the region have been found not susceptible to any kind of existential crisis, at present.

Of the over two lakh wetlands in India, 23,046 are found in Maharashtra. Home to three rivers like Mula-Mutha, Neera and Ghod-Bhima along with numerous small and big reservoirs, Pune also has 11 wetlands. “The biodiversity in the four natural wetlands was much greater than the man-made ones. We need to maintain and preserve the wetlands, as they are important for maintaining the right balance of our ecosystem. Wetlands are responsible for purifying water before it occupies as groundwater,” said Rahangdale.

However, the riverine wetlands within city limits of Pune were found to be increasingly flourishing with invasive weeds, like hyacinth – a common sight along the banks of Mula and Mutha rivers in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad. “In the last decade itself, these invasive weeds have captured and expanded their area. This is mainly due to the rising pollution levels in the rivers,” the researcher said. “In addition to pollutants, unchecked encroachments into wetlands for settlements or other purposes, too, are posing serious threat to the aquatic plants here,” he said. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/pune-wetlands-sahyadri-ranges-aquatic-plants-7140988/  (10 Jan. 2021)

WATER OPTIONS

Odisha Farmer develops irrigation system from bamboo sticks, plastic bottles After seeing the poor irrigation conditions in and around his farmland, a farmer in Odisha has come up with a water lifting system made of bamboo pipes and plastic bottles, completely changing his agricultural practice. Mahur Tipiria, a resident of Badamtalia village in the Mayurbhanj district, devised this system in an effort to efficiently irrigate his farmland from the nearest water source – a river two kilometres away.

ANI image.

Tiparia’s nature-friendly device does not use electricity or a polluting generator set but just a common gravity trick. It’s specially structured system helps out neighbouring farmers in their fields as well. The bamboo is placed on a sloping structure as its wheels rotate with the water current, lifting water from the source. The water collected in the containers made out of used plastic water bottles. The water is then channelised through bamboo pipes towards farmlands.

Tipiria said that he finally came up with the irrigation system after several failed attempts to get help from the government. “I am a poor man and have no money. I had filed a petition after petition to government offices but no one came to help us. So I decided to develop this technique by myself with my own intelligence,” he said.  https://www.aninews.in/news/national/general-news/odisha-farmer-develops-irrigation-system-from-bamboo-sticks-plastic-bottles20210110091350/  (10 Jan. 2021)

Uttar Pradesh A birder involves community; authorities to protect Haiderpur wetland After the construction of the Madhya Ganga barrage in 1984, the Haiderpur wetland took shape upstream of the barrage and is now the largest in UP. Fed by the Ganga and Saloni rivers, the biodiversity-rich Haiderpur wetland is home to around 234 bird species as well as swamp deer, otters, turtles and more. Ashish Loya a former Wall Street professional and a passionate birder brought the wetland to the attention of the authorities and is now involving the local community to conserve the wetland. https://india.mongabay.com/2021/01/a-birder-involves-community-and-authorities-to-protect-haiderpur-wetland/  (06 Jan. 2021)

Assam Kaziranga restores wetlands to solve water crisis, man-animal conflict The World Heritage Site is developing the wetlands and harvesting rainwater. The dearth of water in winter often leads to human-animal conflicts on the park’s fringe areas, among others. The development of wetlands vis-à-vis conservation of water has reduced the conflicts significantly. The wetlands offer water not just to park animals but migratory birds as well.  The

Brahmaputra flows through the park which has around 190 plus wetlands. The park also has three major tributaries of the mighty river. After the last monsoon season, the park authorities had plugged the exit points of wetlands at Bagori, Agoratoli and Kohora ranges to harvest rainwater. Where plugging is not viable, they are building permanent structures.

The park authorities have plans to build similar structures in Bandordubi and Haldibari areas. In some places, earthen check dams were constructed. However, as they get washed away during monsoon, efforts are being made to replace them with permanent structures. https://www.newindianexpress.com/good-news/2020/dec/07/kaziranga-restores-wetlands-to-solve-water-crisis-man-animal-conflict-2232998.html  (07 Dec. 2020)

Rajasthan Disappearing traditional water harvesting structures Lack of community ownership and local governance are spelling doom for the once royal and resilient traditional water harvesting structures. https://www.indiawaterportal.org/article/fast-disappearing-traditional-water-harvesting-structures-rajasthan  (02 Jan. 2021)

GROUNDWATER

Haryana Groundwater near Panipat refinery unfit for drinking The groundwater in villages adjoining Indian Oil Corporation Limited refinery here has been found unfit for drinking, according to a survey by the Central Ground Water Board. The pH value of water was not found up to the mark at certain places while heavy metals — iron, fluoride and uranium — were found in excess of the prescribed limit at other places. The Public Health and Engineering Department now proposes to dig new borewells to provide clean drinking water. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/haryana/groundwater-near-panipat-refinery-unfit-for-drinking-196218  (10 Jan. 2021)

All villagers around Panipat refinery to undergo health check-up by June 30 Following the directions of the NGT, health check-up of all residents of six villages located around the Indian Oil Corp’s Panipat refinery will be conducted in the next six months to find out the impact on their health due to the pollution caused by the facility as alleged by the locals in their complaint to the agency. The decision was taken at a meeting of officials from CPCB, HSPCB and district administration on Wednesday. The villages in question are: Singhpura, Sithana, Dadlana, Bohli, Bal-Jattan and Kutana.

The villagers had filed a complaint with the NGT in 2018, alleging that the emission and liquid discharge from the refinery was polluting the air and ground water in the area, which was affecting their health. The complaint was filed by Singhpura sarpanch Satpal Singh Sarpanch. Taking note of the complaint, the NGT in 2018 formed a joint committee comprising the officials from the CPCB, HSPCB and district administration to find out the impact on human health and environment.

In its report, the inspection team highlighted that the issues being raised by the people were true to some extent. It cited a kutcha drain as a source of pollution, along with refinery that it found was discharging effluents in the forest. Officials from the state pollution control board said all the basic tests related to respiratory problems will be conducted by June 30, 2021. https://www.hindustantimes.com/chandigarh/all-villagers-around-panipat-refinery-to-undergo-health-check-up-by-june-30/story-0CMlCzFoUYdVZgjhiT9uHJ.html (7 Jan 2021)

URBAN WATER

Bengaluru Polluted lakes, poor waste management contaminating groundwater Due to rapid urbanisation and unplanned development, Bengaluru’s groundwater is getting increasingly contaminated. This issue requires urgent attention as approximately 40% of the city’s population depend on groundwater (borewells, open wells and tankers) for their daily water needs such as drinking, cooking and bathing. https://bengaluru.citizenmatters.in/bengaluru-groundwater-contamination-polluted-lakes-sewage-effluents-prevention-55632  (5 Jan. 2021)

The German ministry has also taken a decision not to make any further payments until clarification is received. (Photo | Express)

Chennai German govt freezes funds to ECR storm water drain project The controversial storm water drain project along East Coast Road has suffered another setback with the German Development Ministry ordering a fresh independent assessment over the applicability of CRZ rules and the project’s alleged impact on turtle nesting grounds. It is under this ministry that the German Development Bank, which is funding the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) storm water drain project, operates. The German ministry has also taken a decision not to make any further payments until clarification is received. https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/2021/jan/06/setback-to-ecr-storm-water-drain-project-in-chennai-as-german-government-freezes-funding-2246344.amp (6 Jan. 2021)

Metrowater builds walls to protect water conduit lines Metrowater is constructing walls along its sites at various points to protect infrastructure used to transport water to the Kilpauk treatment plant. The agency is carrying out the work along stretches vulnerable to encroachment. The three huge conduit lines, in place since the British period, form one of the oldest existing infrastructure to carry raw water from the Red Hills reservoir to the Kilpauk Water Works. It is from here that water is treated and distributed to various points such as Valluvar Kottam, Anna Poonga (Washermenpet), Kannapar Thidal (Choolai) and Triplicane. The project is expected to be finished by the end of January or early February. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/chennai-metrowater-builds-walls-to-protect-water-conduit-lines/article33532911.ece  (09 Jan. 2021)

Water Museum coming up at Kilpauk Kilpauk water works, the city’s first water treatment plant, will soon house a water museum on its sprawling premises. With several working models, installations and interactive games in place, the museum is being developed to create awareness on the city’s water supply infrastructure and importance of water conservation. Two interactive kiosks placed in the corners will provide detailed information about water treatment and supply network, including various water, sewage treatment facilities, reservoirs, means of harnessing rainwater and the city’s lithology. The facility has working models of rooftop rainwater harvesting system and recharge wells and rainy filters that are linked to underground sump. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/water-museum-coming-up-at-kilpauk/article33540151.ece  (10 Jan. 2021)

Surat City staring at thirsty days: Study A study by researchers of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Institute of Technology, Surat and Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai investigated the long-term changes in the flow of Tapi river and its and socio-environmental implications detected abrupt and gradual changes in the river’s flow between 1973 and 2013. The study “Impact of rainfall variability and anthropogenic activities on streamflow changes and water stress conditions across Tapi Basin in India” was recently published in the journal ‘Science of the Total Environment’.  The study divided the Tapi Basin into three parts — the upper Tapi basin consisting of regions upto Hathnur Dam; middle Tapi basin which included the region between Hathnur Dam to Ukai Dam and the lower Tapi basin which consists of the region below Ukai Dam including the Surat city area.

– “The flow of Tapi river exhibited predominantly decreasing trends across the basin, except in the upper reaches. The decreasing flow of the river is largely attributed to anthropogenic activities such as changes in the land use patterns, increase in agriculture area, construction of minor and medium hydraulic structures, decrease in forest cover, rapid urbanization, excessive groundwater extraction and streamflow regulations,” PL Patel, deputy director of SVNIT and co author said. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/surat/surat-staring-at-thirsty-days-study/articleshow/80158216.cms  (08 Jan. 2021)

Mumbai Plan for underwater eco-friendly wall dropped Brihanmumbai Municipal Corp (BMC) has dropped the plan of building the underwater wall of the Coastal Road using eco-friendly concrete blocks, which help the marine organisms settle and grow. The civic body abandoned the plan due to the COVID-19 lockdown since March and cost cutting. https://www.mid-day.com/articles/lockdown-and-cost-cutting-plan-for-underwater-eco-friendly-wall-dropped/23165243  (28 Dec. 2020)

WATER POLLUTION

Andhra Pradesh Decoding the mystery illness that struck Eluru Intensive agriculture, the growth of aquaculture and the agri processing industry, over the past 3-4 decades, have seen the large-scale use of a variety of agrochemicals and pesticides in coastal districts. The Krishna and East and West Godavari districts are very fertile lands and highly irrigated. Eluru lies in the lower region of the Krishna-Godavari Delta region. Experts from Nagarjuna University in Guntur point out that since it’s a low lying area, the chemicals that are applied in the upland region (especially Krishna and Khammam) get washed all over the place.

Farmer spraying pesticide on paddy in rabi season at Kanuru near Vijayawada of Andhra Pradesh. Photo by Ch.Vijaya Bhaskar/Mongabay India.

The best example to illustrate this phenomenon is the well-known Kolleru lake, about 15 kms from Eluru. The once expansive wetland stretching to about 245 sq kms has shrunk in size and turned into a ‘sink of pollutants’. The pesticides flowed and accumulated over the decades. Aquaculture (over a 1000 fish ponds) occupies nearly 40 % area. In addition, the construction has also taken a toll. Consequently, though a globally protected wetland under the Ramsar Convention, Kolleru flow reduced in size and is shorn of its famous Siberian Cranes.

There is also speculation that the recent heavy rains and floods (Aug-Sep) in that region could have caused washing of these mining wastes into the river Thammileru which runs through Khammam, Krishna and West Godavari districts.  Most of the mining wastes contains heavy metals like lead, nickel, copper, mercury and cadmium. The present reports have already revealed some of these residues in samples. https://india.mongabay.com/2021/01/decoding-the-mystery-illness-that-struck-eluru/  (05 Jan. 2021)

WATER

On environmental challenges of 2021.  https://epaper.prabhatkhabar.com/2946495/RANCHI-City/City  (03 Jan. 2021)

POST MONSOON

Delhi January rain maximum in 21 years Delhi has already recorded 56.6mm rainfall in Jan 2021, the maximum for the month in 21 years, according to the India Meteorological Dept. On an average, Delhi records 21.7mm in Jan every year. It was 48.1 mm in Jan 2020, 54.1 mm Jan 2019 and 59.7mm in Jan 1999. The city had registered 69.8 mm rainfall in Jan 1995. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/january-rain-in-delhi-maximum-in-21-years-imd/articleshow/80139093.cms  (06 Jan. 2021)

Karnataka Unseasonal rain showers woes on farmers Hundreds of farmers in Mudigere taluk have lost their crops in the last four-five days due to heavy untimely rain. Many lost the beans kept for drying. Bapu Dinesh, also a coffee planter, said sudden rain washed away coffee beans spread on the drying yards. The farming community in Mudigere have already gone through difficult times in last two years. The area witnessed heavy rains and landslides in 2019 and 2020. A majority of paddy growers in the region cultivate the crop for consumption and not for the market. Now, they are forced to purchase rice from the local market. Unseasonal rain in the Malnad and coastal belt in the last week has hit processing of arecanut too. Once the harvested arecanut gets drenched, its prices fall, say farmers in the region. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/unseasonal-rain-showers-woes-on-karnataka-farmers/article33545053.ece  (10 Jan. 2021)

POST FLOOD

Report Should we bet more on historians than engineers to sort flooding? In recent years, there has been an increasing incidence of floods in the country. Policymakers and political representatives have difficulty seeing the drivers and lack a clear and shared sense of the ‘problem’. Prof Rohan D’Souza of Kyoto University, Japan threw light on these issues while speaking on the topic, ‘Should we bet more on historians and depend less on engineers to sort out India’s challenges with flooding?’. He was speaking at the Planet Talks series organised by Impact and Policy Research Institute, India Water Portal and TERI School of Advanced Studies. https://www.indiawaterportal.org/article/should-we-bet-more-historians-engineers-sort-flooding  (04 Jan. 2021)

Chennai Rains keep reservoirs filled to the brim As the city continued to receive rains on Jan. 7, reservoirs are brimming with the PWD releasing the excess water in phases. “We have been receiving an inflow of 2,500 cusecs at Chembarambakkam, of which 2,000 cusecs is being released. The storage level is now at 3,446 TMC (94 %). We are maintaining the water-level at 23 feet,” said a PWD official.

More water may be released if rains continue. The reservoir received 43 mm rainfall till Thursday evening. Similarly, Red Hills has been receiving an inflow of over 200 cusecs, and 300 cusecs is being released. As on Thursday evening, the storage at the reservoir stood at 3,251 TMC, against its capacity of 3,300 TMC. The water level is being maintained at 21 feet. https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/2021/jan/08/rains-keep-chennais-reservoirs-filled-to-the-brim-2247032.html  (08 Jan. 2021)

Shutters of Chembarambakkam, Red Hills reservoirs to be opened again With rains continuing, the shutters of Chembarambakkam and Red Hills reservoirs will be reopened after 1 pm on Jan. 5, 2021 to discharge minimal amounts of water. The WRD has initially planned to release 500 cusecs of water from these water bodies that have started receiving floodwater runoff from their catchment areas. It could be one of the rare instances for floodgates to be opened in January. The shutters of Poondi reservoir were already open for two days as it got inflow from catchment areas upstream and about 480 cusecs of water was being discharged into Kosasthalaiyar river. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/as-rain-continues-in-chennai-shutters-of-chembarambakkam-red-hills-reservoirs-to-be-opened-again/article33499670.ece  (05 Jan. 2020)

ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE

Assam Indigenous people demand new home after exclusion from national park The indigenous Misings have been left without a permanent settlement or access to any facilities for over 20 years. They are victims of forest conservation policies – while at the same time nearby forest areas are being opened up for industry, coal mining and oil exploration.

With women taking the lead, residents of Laika and Dodhia demonstrate outside the office of the deputy commissioner in Tinsukia [Image by: Gaurav Padun/The Third Pole]

About 2,000 men, women and children representing every household of Laika and Dodhia villages have staged their demonstrations since 21 December. The National Park is bounded by the Brahmaputra and Lohit rivers in the north and the hills of Arunachal Pradesh and the Dibru river in the south. Laika and Dodhia villages have a population of about 12,000 people, mostly from the Mising community who migrated from Dhemaji during the Assam earthquake of 1950. This disaster rendered them homeless due to the shifting course of the Brahmaputra river. https://www.thethirdpole.net/2021/01/11/indigenous-people-demand-new-home-after-exclusion-from-assam-national-park/  (11 Jan. 2021)

Kerala Poet Sugathakumari: She gave voice to the Silent Valley Celebrated Malayalam poet and Kerala’s pioneering environmental activist Sugathakumari, died on Dec. 23, 2020 due to post-COVID complications. She leaves behind a rich legacy of decades of engagement with poetry, environmental activism, charity works, and socio-cultural initiatives.

Sugathakumari played a key role in the Save Silent Valley Movement, among the earliest modern-day environmental movements in India. Photo by Rahana Habeeb/Mongabay India.

She played a significant role in the Save Silent Valley Movement, one of the earliest environment movements in modern Indian history. Sugathakumari, who was the first chairperson of the State Women’s Commission, was among the first people who initiated discussions on environmental feminism in Kerala. https://india.mongabay.com/2021/01/obituary-poet-sugathakumari-she-gave-voice-to-the-silent-valley/  (04 Jan. 2021)

3rd longest road tunnel project could destabilise a crucial portion of Western Ghats The proposed 6.8 km road tunnel project between Kozhikode and Wayanad districts in Kerala is facing widespread criticism as it could impact a crucial portion of the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats. One of the major criticisms of the project is that it is being undertaken without any studies to assess financial feasibility, environmental impact assessment, or sociological impact assessment, which is a requirement under the present rules. Environmentalists opposing the project say it could destroy the rich biodiversity of the sensitive region and impact traditional elephant corridors. https://india.mongabay.com/2020/12/how-indias-third-longest-road-tunnel-project-could-destabilise-a-crucial-portion-of-western-ghats/  (28 Dec. 2020)

Report Ropeways’ green image masks potential damage in Himalayas In Feb 2010, the then Ministry of Environment & Forests released an EIA guidance manual for ropeways. This lists a wide range of impacts including change in topography and drainage pattern, soil erosion and contamination, loss of forest cover, habitat fragmentation, blocking of migratory corridors, damage to historically important sites, exploitation of ground/surface water, emissions from vehicles and generators, impacts of vibration and waste generation.

The Third Pole Graphics.

Previous ropeways have had negative impacts in the Himalayas. Researchers found that one built in Nepal in 1998 destroyed the existing drainage corridor, causing heavy flooding and erosion in 1999 monsoon. In 2017 researchers inferred that the cable car “took a large piece of locals’ share in the economic profits leaving the village with the entire burden and few profits.” In the Jakhu ropeway in Himachal Pradesh, over 100 Deodar trees, some of which were over 200 years old, were cut down.  https://www.thethirdpole.net/2021/01/04/ropeways-green-image-masks-potential-damage-in-himalayas/ (4 Jan 2021)

Uttarakhand Unusual wildfires: Officials blame scanty rain, combustible material  Accumulation of combustible material due to restrictions on movement in forests because of the Covid-19 pandemic and lack of rainfall led to unusual forest fires this autumn and winter, officials said on Thursday (Dec. 7). Forest fires are generally reported from February to June. They peak in May and June. Despite the onset of winter, forest fires were reported in the state and have damaged over 350 hectares of forestland since October.

In Uttarakhand, 0.17% of the total forest cover comes under the extremely fire-prone, 1.60% under the very-highly prone, 9.32% under the highly-prone, 21.66% under the moderately prone, and 67.25% under less fire-prone categories. Over 44,554 hectares of the forest area has been damaged in fires since 2000. Uttarakhand forest department has 174 watchtowers and 1,437 station crews across the state to check the fires. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/unusual-wildfires-in-uttarakhand-officials-blame-scanty-rain-combustible-material/story-IO4cJxQ2BNWQxGNFMsymyN.html  (07 Jan. 2021)

Overview Green disputes kept NGT busy in 2020 amid coronavirus As of Nov 2020, the NGT, which marked 10th year of its establishment, had 5,073 matters to deal while it disposed of 2,372 cases leaving 2,701 for consideration, with 943 lying undecided at the principal bench at New Delhi.

Holding that public oriented schemes do require environment clearance, the NGT passed direction on such requirement for Purushothapatanam Lift Irrigation Scheme, Andhra Pradesh, which involved lifting of water from river Godavari.

The green panel slammed the MoEF for non-utilisation of over Rs 800 crore meant towards Environment Relief Fund for victims of accidents in the process of handling hazardous substances and directed that compensation needs to be provided to them on urgent basis through District Collectors.

The NGT said rivers in states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka were being unscrupulously exploited for sand mining without any regard for the environment and ordered that such projects be executed with due caution in accordance with mining plan.

On the issue of ground water extraction, the NGT said that water withdrawal cannot be at the cost of the environment and ignoring intra and inter-generational, sustainable development principles. https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/air-water-pollution-disputes-kept-ngt-busy-in-2020-amid-coronavirus-120123000431_1.html  (30 Dec. 2021)

Report COVID-19: Weak liquid waste management can worsen spread With COVID-19 pandemic raging, it is important to pay attention to processing of liquid waste generated during diagnosis, treatment, and quarantine of patients to curb the spread of the disease. Studies by WHO and CPCB suggest that presence of virus fragments in excreta increases the possibility of the infection reaching wastewater or liquid waste.

The risk of transmission of COVID-19 virus through sewerage systems is low. However, the virus might be transmitted to the people operating STP, although there is no such evidence yet. Continuous monitoring and testing of the common sewerage system of infected areas can indicate the scale of the problem. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/waste/covid-19-weak-liquid-waste-management-can-worsen-spread-74891  (04 Jan. 2021)

Gujarat Fascinating places in Kutch, from NYT, Jan 7, 2021, part 1 https://www.facebook.com/sandrp.in/posts/4132219023472406;
2: https://www.facebook.com/sandrp.in/posts/4132212166806425

CLIMATE CHANGE

IMD 2020 was eighth warmest year on record for India During the year, the annual average temperature in the country was 0.29° Celsius above normal (29-yr average from 1981-2010), said the report which looks at temperature and rainfall trends annually. Such temperature trends were reported despite the cooling effect of La Nina, a global weather pattern that prevailed in 2020 & is linked to substantially below normal temperatures in winter. In 2016, India recorded the warmest year when the mean land surface temperature was 0.71°C above normal.

India’s warming was, however, significantly lower than the global average. The global mean temperature rise during 2020 (Jan-Oct, as per the World Meteorological Organisation’s State of the Global Climate) was 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels. The annual rainfall over the country was 109% of the Long Period Average (LPA) calculated for the period of 1961-2010.

The IMD statement said 12 out of the 15 warmest years were reported between 2006 and 2020, and that the past decade (2011-2020) was the warmest decade on record. Last year, the mean monthly temperatures were warmer than the normal during all months except March and June. Average annual mean temperature during 1901-2020 showed an increasing trend of 0.62°C in that century, with an increasing trend in maximum temperature (0.99°C in 100 years) and a relatively lower increasing trend (0.24°C in100 years) in minimum temperature.

“2020 was one of the warmest years despite having a La Niña with cool waters in the east Pacific. La Niñas typically has a cooling effect on global temperatures, but this is now offset by global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, La Niña years now are warmer than years with El Niño events of the past. As for India, data shows that the increasing trend in temperatures is the largest during the post-monsoon season and this is reflected in the 2020 post-monsoon temperatures over India, despite a full-fledged La Nina,” said Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at the IITM, Pune. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/2020-was-eighth-warmest-year-on-record-for-india-imd/story-QsKv3x2dRal04LCrQz7G1M.html  (04 Jan. 2021)

SOUTH ASIA

India-China A new paradigm of water governance needed We need a new paradigm of water governance on the model of “multi-level cooperative and symmetric federalism” and address emerging challenges of water security and sustainability  based on principles on solidarity, shared values and equality. It goes beyond mere cross-frontier cooperation. For any transboundary agreement to work, it must involve the local people who depend on the waters.

Riparian treaties need to be re-organised to respect the integrity of the river basin. The way engineers and policymakers look at a river and a river basin must change. A river is a complete ecosystem, not merely an artificial canal with impounded reservoirs. A river must be seen in a “flow-habitat continuum” with a mosaic of flow regimes and not just as stock of flow volumes between a series of dams meant to satisfy human demands. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/water/china-s-brahmaputra-dam-a-new-paradigm-of-water-governance-needed-74925  (06 Jan. 2021)

Nepal Estimated cost of Upper Tamakoshi HEP crosses Rs 52 bl The estimated cost of the Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project (UTHP) has been projected to increase by an additional Rs 3 billion this year due to delays in the completion of the 456 MW hydropower project caused by the impact of lockdown and coronavirus, timely availability of related equipment and dilly-dallying by the contractor. The project work is to be completed by Feb end and the total cost estimated cost will be Rs 76 billion. It includes interest capitalization of Rs 24 billion. The actual construction cost alone is estimated to be Rs 52.29 billion, up from Rs 49.29 billion projected last year. It was originally expected to be commissioned in 2014. The delay in completion of the national pride project has been mainly blamed on the hassles created by the Indian contractor Texmaco Engineering and Railway Company. https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/estimated-cost-of-upper-tamakoshi-hydropower-project-crosses-rs-52-billion-due-to-delay-in-construction/  (04 Jan. 2021)

Bhutan Hydropower generation increased by 31% in 2020 Hydropower generation in Bhutan in 2020 saw a significant growth of 31.45 percent. Total generation from the six hydropower plants that are in operation increased to 11,364 million units (MU) in 2020 from 8,645 MU in the previous year, according to the Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC). The increase in the generation is attributed to better rainfalls and the commissioning (June 2019) of the Mangdechhu project.

As per DGPC, the country exported 9,121 MU of electricity worth more than Nu 27.042 billion (B) in 2020. The total domestic sale amounted to 2,108MU worth Nu 3.144B. https://kuenselonline.com/hydropower-generation-increased-by-31-percent-in-2020/ (7 Jan 2021)

Bangladesh Safe water costs 40 times more in coastal areas than cities Adverse financial, health impacts of salt water intrusion on local people in coastal areas which has been hastened by climate change and worsened manifold by local factors like commercial shrimp farming in Bangladesh. The crisis has also boosted potable water markets there. https://www.thethirdpole.net/2021/01/05/safe-water-costs-40-times-more-in-coastal-bangladesh-than-cities/  (05 Jan. 2021)

Opinion Floods are not acts of God Professor Daanish Mustafa The 2010 floods in Pakistan were an affirmation of my long-held view that river engineering really is about exchanging high-frequency, low-intensity events for low-frequency high-intensity events. In Pakistan, like many other regulated river basins, they have practically engineered away low and medium floods out of existence. In return, they’ve managed to make medium floods into high floods and high floods into not just disastrous, but catastrophic floods.

Tarbela Lake in the month of June seem from Siran River Valley between Haripur and Abbotabad (Photo courtesy: Dr. Hassan Abbas)

The political economy of water management, which privileges irrigation and power generation over-improved water supply and sanitation; flood control over adjusting to floods; mega-surface storage projects over groundwater storage and wetland restoration; reflects a masculinist view of the world. The concern with the integrity of fresh streams, the aquatic life, and human health that they sustain are primitive at worst and romantic at best, to the masculinist heroic thinking. I used to be a little on the defensive when accused of being a romantic. But more recently I have concluded that the only thing that gives meaning and joy to our lives is romance—why is it pejorative or impractical? Why not the romance of water? Is it because it is feminine? Or primitive?  If emotions and feelings make us human, to not have those for the basis of life—water, sounds like a call to be not human. https://soanas.org/what-have-i-learned-about-water/ 

ASIA

Many fishermen of eastern Bintan have to go to Kalimantan to catch some fish. (Photo: Kiki Siregar)

Indonesia Mining, climate change threaten livelihoods of Bintan’s fishing communities How previous mining upstream could have resulted in environmental degradation and sedimentation, therefore affecting water quality and fish stocks. Coupled with changing weather patterns due to climate change, fishermen in Bintan are finding it hard to make ends meet. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/climatechange/bintan-indonesia-environment-temperature-fishing-bauxite-mining-13830990  (05 Jan. 2021)

Vietnam Indian rice bought for first time in decades: Report Vietnam, the world’s third biggest exporter of rice, has started buying the grain from rival India for the first time in decades after local prices jumped to their highest in nine years amid limited domestic supplies, four industry officials told Reuters. The purchases highlight tightening supplies in Asia, which could lift rice prices in 2021 and even force traditional buyers of rice from Thailand and Vietnam to switch to India – the world’s biggest exporter of the grain.

Indian traders have been contracted to export 70,000 tonnes of 100% broken rice for January and February shipments at around $310 per tonne on a free-on-board (FOB) basis, the industry officials say.

Vietnam announced last year it would stockpile 270,000 tonnes of rice to ensure food availability amid coronavirus-driven supply chain disruptions worldwide. Traders in Vietnam said the rice from India had been stockpiled in government reserves since 2016-17 and its relatively cheap price reflected low quality. “The rice quality is so poor that it is not good for direct consumption for humans, but only for producing animal feeds and beer,” said a rice trader based in Ho Chi Minh City.

In December, the world’s biggest rice importer China started buying Indian rice for the first time in at least three decades due to tightening supplies from Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam and an offer of sharply discounted prices.

In 2020 India exported a record 14 million tonnes of rice, provisional data from the trade ministry showed.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/vietnam-buys-indian-rice-for-first-time-in-decades-report/articleshow/80108017.cms  (05 Jan. 2021)

MEKONG Lao Dams Lower Water Levels on a Scenic River Water levels lowered by seven dams along a stretch of the Nam Ou River in Laos are blocking boat travel in a scenic area popular with tourists, impacting tour and passenger boat operators and other local businesses, Lao sources say. Travel by water between Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoy towns is now impossible, a tour operator in Muang Ngoy told RFA’s Lao Service on Thursday, adding, “We haven’t been able to travel by boat between these two towns for a week now.”

A stretch of the Nam Ou River near Muang Ngoy in Laos is shown in a Dec. 28, 2020 photo. RFA

“The Nam Ou 3 Dam to the north of Muang Ngoy is holding water now because the rains have stopped, and the dam operators are worried that the dam won’t have enough water to generate power,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. So they’ve closed the dam’s gates,” he said.

Laos has built dozens of hydropower dams on the Mekong River and tributaries like the Nam Ou, with ultimate plans for scores more, hoping to export the electricity they generate to other countries in the region. Though the Lao govt sees power generation as a way to boost the country’s economy, the projects are controversial because of their environmental impact, displacement of villagers without adequate compensation, and questionable financial and power-demand arrangements. https://www.rfa.org/english/news/laos/water-12312020170851.html  (31 Dec. 2020)

THE REST OF THE WORLD

GERD Dam divides African nations The latest round of talks between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt occurred through video conference due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with South Africa observing the proceedings in its role as the current head of the African Union’s rotating council, in addition to other international observers. Despite previous talks, the point of contention hasn’t changed: Egypt and Sudan are concerned about the filling and the operation of the dam. Ethiopia continues to insist that the dam is required to meet the needs of its population and has said that downstream water supplies will not be adversely affected.

But this has done little to pacify both Egypt and Sudan, with Cairo saying that the dam would cut its water supplies — concerning for a country that depends on the Nile for approximately 97% of its drinking water and irrigation supplies. According to a DW report, Sudan believes that the dam will reduce flooding, but is concerned about the path forward if the negotiations end at a stalemate. Sudan’s Water Ministry announced in a statement that this week’s negotiations are crucial, “for the resumption of tripartite negotiations on Sunday, January 10 in the hope of concluding by the end of January.” https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/ethiopias-dam-on-river-nile-is-triggering-water-conflict-in-east-africa-7133441/  (06 Jan. 2021)

Serbia More garbage than water: Serbia promises clean-up of hydro reservoir Almost as far as the eye can see, trash spreads out over Serbia’s Potpecko Lake, lapping against the dam that crosses it. Built up over many years against a backdrop of rolling rural hills, the ocean of plastic now threatens to clog up the dam’s hydroelectric plant, a local activist says, and Serbian authorities have ordered an immediate clean-up. Activist Sinisa Lakovic estimates the pile of waste covers some 20,000 cubic metres, most of it from landfills upstream along the Lim river. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZMzGhkz2KU  (07 Jan. 2021)

“This is not a recent problem, but rather a problem of several decades, caused by the unsanitary landfills,” Sinisa, who lives in the nearby town of Priboj, told Reuters. “This is an ecological disaster,” added local resident Marko Karadzic.

Serbia and other Balkan countries, still recovering from the wars and economic turmoil of the 1990s, have done little to tackle environmental issues, in part due to a shortage of funds. Those standards will have to rise should the region hope to realise ambitions of joining the European Union, requiring investments in the billions of euros in Serbia alone, authorities in Brussels and Belgrade estimate. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-environment-serbia-dam/more-garbage-than-water-serbia-promises-clean-up-of-hydro-reservoir-idUSKBN29B1D7  (06 Jan. 2021)

Study Soil moisture exerts a negative feedback on surface water availability in drylands New Columbia Engineering study — first to investigate the long-term effect of soil moisture-atmosphere feedbacks in drylands — finds that soil moisture exerts a negative feedback on surface water availability in drylands, offsetting some of the expected decline.  https://scitechdaily.com/surprising-news-drylands-are-not-getting-drier-as-predicted-by-climate-scientists/  (04 Jan. 2021)

“Our work finds that soil moisture predictions and associated atmosphere feedbacks are highly variable and model dependent,” says Gentine. “This study underscores the urgent need to improve future soil moisture predictions and accurately represent soil moisture-atmosphere feedbacks in models, which are critical to providing reliable predictions of dryland water availability for better water resources management.” https://phys.org/news/2021-01-soil-moisture-exerts-negative-feedback.html  (04 Jan. 2021)

Report Human activity threatens peatlands This guest post is by: Prof Angela Gallego-Sala, a professor in ecosystems and biogeochemical cycles at the University of Exeter.

Dr Julie Loisel, an assistant professor in the geography department of Texas A&M University. We need a better understanding of the carbon dynamics of peatlands – particularly for tropical peatlands – to ensure sound land-use decisions and anticipate future changes in carbon sequestration of direct relevance to policy.

The take-home message from our paper is that peatlands are essential ecosystems – they provide us with water and hold vast amounts of carbon that we want to keep intact. We, therefore, have a responsibility to find ways of managing them that works for both humans and the planet. https://www.carbonbrief.org/guest-post-how-human-activity-threatens-the-worlds-carbon-rich-peatlands  (21 Dec. 2020)

Human-made materials now outweigh Earth’s entire biomass Research shows that human activity including production of concrete, metal, plastic, bricks and asphalt has brought the world to a crossover point where human-made mass – driven mostly by enhanced consumption and urban development – exceeds the overall living biomass on Earth.

On average, every person in the world is responsible for the creation of human-made matter equal to more than their bodyweight each week, the paper published in Nature says.

The research found that the stamp of humanity has been increasing in size rapidly since the beginning of the 20th century, doubling every 20 years. The researchers support a proposal to name the current epoch as Anthropocene, reflecting the abrupt and considerable impact of human activity. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/09/human-made-materials-now-outweigh-earths-entire-biomass-study  (09 Dec. 2020)

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

Also see: DRP News Bulletin 04 Jan. 2021 & DRP News Bulletin 28 Dec. 2020

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

2 thoughts on “DRP NB 11 Jan. 2021: Big question marks over viability of Ganga waterway

  1. Our Ganges isn’t like Chhao Phraya or Thames. The basic design of the rivers accommodates river transportation as they are linked with sea at both ends without dams or barrages being built on them to control the flow. Besides, the conservation effort of our mighty rivers aren’t not successful yet. All these hurried approaches in the name of development are going to topple besides bringing heavily polluted ecosystem around them. Instead, localised transportation of tourists for entertainment is fine as long as they don’t bring upon callous wayfarers who keep throwing away litter like garlands, flowers etc in the river water. Thai capital uses the river only for transportation. They don’t practice religious acts on riverbank like us. So does UK.
    Copying others blindsided isn’t any masterstroke. That needs proper and curative planning as well. Ministry may rethink about their PoA.

    Like

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