DRP News Bulletin

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

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

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

Delhi 4 key steps to a clean river by March 2023 CM chaired a review meeting on implementation of an action plan to clean up the Yamuna and reduce pollution levels by 90% by March 2023. During the meeting, DJB presented a detailed action plan on reusing around 400 MGD treated wastewater. Currently, only 90 MGD wastewater is being reutilised out of 525 MGD treated in the city. A senior DJB official said the board would use modern technology to treat around 150 MGD wastewater coming from Haryana and UP using natural wetlands and aeration method.

“Wastewater in our drains will be tapped and taken to STPs. Third, steps will be taken to improve the quality of the existing STPs, including upgrading all the equipment and using innovative processes,” the official said. As the fourth component, DJB plans to collect all the sludge and septage from the septic tanks across Delhi and reuse them in biogas plants to generate electricity and gas.

A govt official said, “An action plan to reuse 436 MGD water has been presented by DJB before the CM. This water will be reused in waterbodies, lakes, irrigation, gardening, forests, groundwater recharge”. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/4-key-steps-to-a-clean-yamuna-by-march-2023/articleshow/79290782.cms  (19 Nov. 2020)

SC registers suo motu case on “Remediation of Polluted Rivers” in India A Bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian while issuing notice in the plea by Delhi Jal Board also registered the suo motu case to examine and remedy the larger issue of pollution of rivers.

“We direct registration of suo moto writ petition (civil) with regard to ‘Remediation of polluted rivers’. We deem it appropriate at this stage to start with the issue of contamination of river Yamuna,” the Court ordered.

Notice was issued in this regard to the States of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi and UP and to Secretary, MoEF, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Govt of India & CPCB. https://www.barandbench.com/news/litigation/supreme-court-registers-suo-motu-case-remediation-polluted-rivers-begins-task-with-river-yamuna  (13 Jan. 2021)

The court pointed out that Article 243W of the Constitution vests municipalities and local authorities with the performance of functions and implementation of schemes as may be entrusted to them, including those in relation to the matters listed in Twelfth Schedule — Item 6 of the Schedule includes “public health, sanitation conservancy and solid waste management”.

For a river of its size (1376 km) Yamuna has surprisingly a small founder basin (violet in the map).
Dotted lines show the Upper Yamuna River Basin. Kafila/Manoj Misra

In the 2017 Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti v. Union of India case, it was directed that “norms for generating funds, for setting up and/or operating the ‘Common Effluent Treatment Plant’ as well as ‘Sewage Treatment Plants’ shall be finalised, on or before 31.03.2017, so as to be implemented from the next financial year of that date. It was directed that for the purpose of setting up these plants, the state govt will prioritise such cities, towns and villages, which discharge industrial pollutants and sewer directly in rivers and water bodies”, the court said. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/sc-initiates-process-to-clean-rivers-polluted-by-untreated-sewage-7145519/  (14 Jan. 2021)

Unfortunately, Judiciary has very poor track record in achieving any impact of such litigation on the state of the rivers, as is evident from the way SC failed in MC Mehta case of Ganga case after over three decades and Yamuna suo moto case after 24 years, handing them to NGT a few years ago.

YAMUNA Can Delhi experience blue river once again  Simple answer is to ensure the restoration of the ‘physicality’ and ‘hydrology’ of the river as it existed then. But that is easier said than done for a number of changes both reversible and irreversible have taken place in the river since 1940-50. https://kafila.online/2021/01/13/can-delhi-experience-blue-yamuna-once-again-dilli-hai-jiska-naam-viii-manoj-misra/  (13 Jan. 2021)

HYDRO POWER PROJECTS

NGT Every HEP under obligation to release minimum water downstream The National Green Tribunal has directed state pollution control boards to ensure the release of minimum water downstream by hydroelectric projects, saying business or commercial interests cannot override the requirement of maintaining riverine ecology. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said every hydroelectric project (HEP) irrespective of the date of its commission is under an obligation to release minimum water downstream. “This is a mandate of ‘Sustainable Development’ which is part of the right to life. Accordingly, the tribunal directed compliance by all the HEPs, including in States of Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal (North Region), Assam and Jammu & Kashmir,” the bench said.

– The tribunal junked the submission of the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) seeking exemption from releasing water to maintain 15 per cent e-flow (the quantity and timing of water that is essential for the river to perform its ecological functions) during the lean period.

– The green panel noted that the Ministry of Jal Shakti has not filed any report even though a period of nine months has passed since its direction. The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by Himachal Pradesh resident Vijay Kumar seeking enforcement of requirement of releasing minimum water downstream by the HEPs in the state. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/every-hydroelectric-project-under-obligation-to-release-minimum-water-downstream-ngt-196968  (11 Jan. 2021)

Arunachal Pradesh NEEPCO synchronizes unit-3 of Kameng HEP  The North Eastern Electric Power Corp (NEEPCO) has synchronized the 150 MW unit-3 of the Kameng Hydro Project on 14 January, 2021. The fourth unit of the 150 MW is planned to be synchronized by the end of this month, informed a NEEPCO. NEEPCO had commissioned 2 units totalling 300 MW during June-July 2020. https://arunachaltimes.in/index.php/2021/01/16/neepco-synchronizes-unit-3-of-kameng-hydel-project/ (16 Jan 2021)

Budget wish list 2 While Arunachal is producing surplus electricity, power supply is still erratic with voltage fluctuations & frequent failures. The main reason for this is inadequate transmission. Since there is strong opposition to big hydro projects, emphasis may be shifted to small/medium hydro projects. https://arunachaltimes.in/index.php/2021/01/17/budget-wish-list-2/  (17 Jan. 2021)

Sikkim NHPC to take over Rangit-IV project NHPC has signed Definitive Agreement for implementation of the Approved Resolution Plan (ARP) for takeover of 120 MW Rangit-IV HE Project of bankrupt Jalpower Corp Ltd. https://www.dailyexcelsior.com/nhpc-signs-definitive-agreement-to-takeover-project-in-sikkim/ (14 Jan. 2021)

MoEF Agenda for the meeting of EAC for River Valley Projects to be held on Jan 20 2021: 1. Kundah Pumped Storage HEP (4×125 MW) in tehsil Udhagamandalam, District The Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu by Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corp for Env Clearance

2. Expansion of Tubachi-Babaleshwara Lift Irrigation Scheme (CCA: 52,700ha) in Bagalkot District of Karnataka by Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Ltd., Gov of Karnataka – ToR http://environmentclearance.nic.in/writereaddata/Form-1A/Agenda/14012021QP59DODNFinalAgenda_6thEAC_RiverValleyHydro.pdf 

MNRE IREDA signs MoU to support NHPC for 5 years Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Ltd. (IREDA), under the administrative control of Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE), have signed a MoU with NHPC Ltd., the PSU under Ministry of Power. Under the MoU, IREDA will undertake Techno-Financial due diligence of Renewable energy and Energy Efficiency & conservation projects for NHPC. IREDA will assist NHPC in developing an action plan to create & acquire Renewable Energy projects for the next 5 years.

CMD, IREDA said: “The MoU with NHPC is the second one by IREDA in last one month. IREDA has signed an MoU with SJVN Ltd. in Dec 2020.” https://www.indiainfoline.com/article/news-top-story/ireda-signs-mou-to-support-nhpc-in-green-energy-projects-for-5-years-121011100051_1.html  (11 Jan. 2021)

World Bank as hydro lobby Extremely shocking publication by the World Bank devoted to glorify hydropower: Independent Evaluation Group. 2020. Renewable Energy : Evaluation of the World Bank Group’s Support for Electricity from Renewable Energy Resources, 2000-2017. World Bank. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/34640; http://hdl.handle.net/10986/34640

IRRIGATION

Rajasthan Farmers to hold a Mahapanchayat to demand water Farmers of over 150 villages would on Jan. 17 hold a mahapanchayat at Siddha Dham on the banks of dried out Gambhiri River in Kanjoli village in Karauli to demand bringing water from Chambal River to Gambhiri through Panchna dam. The catchment of Gambhiri River in Karauli is severely water-stressed. Overexploitation has led to groundwater depletion to deterioration of water quality over the years leading to diseases and birth defects in the area.

State govt led by CM Ashok Gehlot has been trying hard to convince the union govt to declare Eastern Rajasthan Canal Project (ERCP) with its estimated cost of Rs 41000 crore as a national project and to provide fund but Modi govt have been unresponsive. Its more like a pipedream.

Jagar dam in Hindaun and Gambhiri River had been the lifeline of Todabhim, Shri Mahavirji and Hindaun area in Karauli district. “The proposed solution is that Chambal water should be filled in Panchna dam and should be released in Gambhiri and second proposal is to divert water from Nadauti-Gangapur city pipeline coming from Chambal to Gambhiri river catchment.” Vijay Singh Bainsala Gurjar leader spearheading the campaign said. https://www.timesnownews.com/india/article/rajasthan-cannot-wait-for-ercp-we-are-thirsty-and-dying-today-says-gurjar-leader-vijay-bainsala/708175  (17 Jan. 2021)

URBAN RIVERS

Cooum Saving river: a citizen’s ambition K. Mugundhan’s an ITES professional aim is to save the unpolluted stretches of the river as it meanders through Tiruvallur dist before entering Chennai and flowing into its most polluted stretch. He shares a special bond with the river that flows behind his house at Anaikattucherry, a village near Pattabiram, where he played and caught fish in his childhood. But his worries started with the slow destruction of the river because of sand mining and pollution.

Mr. Mugundhan’s first attempt to protect the river started five years ago when a local body in Thirumazhisai decided to lay a pipeline to let treated sewage into the clean portion. “This part of the river is healthy, and several families depend on the Cooum for drinking water and agriculture. We fought to divert the pipeline to the polluted stretch downstream near Thiruverkadu,” he said. But his fight continues as several individuals continue to litter the Cooum and try to release sewage.

He started the Unpolluted Cooum River Protection Committee and campaigned through social media to ‘Save unpolluted part of Cooum’, and more recently ‘Let’s drink from Cooum’ to create awareness among people in other parts of the city. “A walk along the river bank for me is like returning to my grandmother’s unconditional love. Our ties with waterbodies have been cut off. I wanted to pass on this joy to children and help them build a healthy relationship with the river,” he said. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/saving-cooum-a-citizens-ambition/article33584420.ece  (16 Jan. 2021)

Gomti 26 में से 22 सहायक नदियां सूखीं  अंधाधुंध जल दोहन और नदी तट विकास के नाम पर बनाई डायफ्रॉम वॉल ने गोमती नदी का पूरा रिवर सिस्टम ही बिगाड़ दिया है। नदी के भूगर्भ जल से पोषित होने से जहां पानी का बहाव कम हो गया है, वहीं गोमती की 26 सहायक नदियों में से 22 सूख गई हैं। खतरनाक हो चुकी स्थिति का अंदाजा इससे ही लगाया जा सकता है कि अन्य चार सहायक नदियों में भी आंशिक रूप से ही बहाव बचा है। ऐसे में गोमती का प्रवाह बने रहने पर ही संकट मंडरा रहा है। इसका खुलासा बीबीएयू के पर्यावरण विभाग के प्रोफेसर डॉ. वेंकटेश दत्ता के अध्ययन में हुआ है। यह शोध इंडियन जर्नल ऑफ ईकोलॉजी में प्रकाशित हुआ है।

प्रोफेसर डॉ. वेंकटेश दत्ता का कहना है कि सहायक नदियों के खत्म होने से जहां बड़ा संकट खड़ा हुआ है, वहीं 1984 से 2015 के बीच भूगर्भ जल स्तर पांच मीटर से और नीचे 18 मीटर पर पहुंच गया है। इसमें सबसे अधिक गिरावट वर्ष 2005 से 2015 के बीच हुई है। यह अनुपात करीब 47 प्रतिशत है। यह बताता है किस तरह हमारे इंजीनियर केवल दोहन का विज्ञान अपना रहे हैं। जितना पानी निकाला जा रहा है, उससे कम हम रीचार्ज कर पा रहे हैं। इसकी वजह यह है कि हमारी पास मौजूद भूजल रीचार्ज क्षमता से अधिक पानी का दोहन किया जा रहा है। https://www.amarujala.com/lucknow/22-of-gomti-s-tributtaries-dried-lucknow-news-lko5595484144  (13 Jan. 2021)

Uttarakhand Govt aims to rejuvenate 13 rivers Khoh, Malan, Gandak, Garudganga, Hewal, Yakshavati, Suswa, Pilkhar, Nandhaur, Kalyani, Bhela, Dhela and Bindal will be revived along the lines of Rispna. A Rs 90 Cr proposal has been prepared. This budget will be spent from the Campa fund. The Forest Dept has sent this proposal for approval to the Center, from where it has received in-principle approval.

The plantations will be carried out from the point of origin of these rivers till their border in Uttarakhand. Water storage will also be done in many ways including check dams. The drains falling in the rivers are also to be closed so that they can get water again as before. In phase-2, tourism will be promoted. https://uttarakhandnewsnetwork.com/2021/01/uttarakhand-government-aims-to-rejuvenate-13-rivers-in-the-state/ (14 Jan 2021) https://www.livehindustan.com/uttarakhand/story-uttarakhand-government-forest-minister-dr-harak-singh-rawat-said-that-13-rivers-to-be-rejuvenate-like-rispana-3742422.html (13 Jan 2021)

Indore नदियों को पुनर्जीवित करने में  3 साल में 500 करोड़ रुपये हुए खर्च  शहर की जीवनरेखा मानी जाने वाली सरस्वती नदी, जो वर्षो पहले नाले में तब्दील हो चुकी थी, वह अब लगभग साफ हो गई है। इसी तरह कान्ह (खान) नदी सहित शहर के छह बड़े नालों का कायापलट का काम भी जोर-शोर से हो रहा है। पहले गंदे पानी से बजबजाते नाले अब कहीं सूखने लगे हैं, तो कहीं नालों में गंदे पानी की आवक 80 प्रतिशत तक घट चुकी है। इस महत्वपूर्ण परियोजना पर इंदौर नगर निगम बीते तीन साल में 500 करोड़ रुपये खर्च कर चुका है।

इन नदियों में मिलने वाले करीब 5500 बड़े तथा 1800 घरेलू व छोटे नालों को बंद करने का कार्य भी पूर्णता की ओर है। इन नदियों में बहने वाला गंदा पानी पाइप लाइन के जरिये शहर के 7 STP में भेजा जा रहा है। प्रतिदिन 312 एमएलडी पानी को उपचारित करके इन नदियों में बहाया जा रहा है। निगम ने शहर के करीब 135 किमी लंबे नदी-नालों में गंदे पानी की आवक रोकने का बीड़ा उठाया है। केंद्र सरकार की अमृत योजना के तहत 220 करोड़ रुपये खर्च कर सीवरेज नेटवर्क का विस्तार करने, शहर में 7 STP बनाने के कार्य हुए हैं। इसके चलते सरस्वती नदी में बदबूरहित उपचारित पानी बहने लगा है। इसी के तहत इंदौर ने सात सीवरेज प्लांट के जरिये 397.50 एमएलडी पानी प्रतिदिन उपचारित करने की क्षमता हासिल कर ली है। https://www.jagran.com/news/national-indore-is-reviving-the-rivers-that-have-been-converted-into-dirty-drains-21265122.html  (12 Jan. 2021)

RIVERS

Eco-friendly helmets of floodplain farmers in Yamuna Nagar. (Manoj Misra)

How floodplain farms of the Palaziye grow our summer fruit Studies inform that farming in floodplains variously called Khadar, Kacchar, Char, Diara, Taal and Doab lands is a legitimate traditional in post monsoon and is reported from Punjab, Haryana, UP, Bihar, Bengal, Assam, Gujarat, Rajasthan, MP and parts of Maharastra and Andhra Pradesh.

It is extremely sad that over the last decade or so another economic activity in the riverbed and floodplains with a much greater and graver ecological footprint, carried out often illegally with a ‘devil may care’ attitude has infiltrated all over. It is at the Palaziye’s expense. https://turnslow.com/floodplain-farms-of-the-palaziye/  (12 Jan. 2021)

GANGA Documentary Moving Upstream Trailer ‘Moving Upstream: Ganga’ was filmed over 6 months on a 3000 km walk along River Ganga, part of Veditum India Foundation’s Moving Upstream project. The walk took place between June 2016 and April 2017, starting from Ganga Sagar in W Bengal and finishing at Gangotri in Uttarakhand.

Walking introduced a gentle and much needed pause to the clutter that otherwise surrounds the very politicised topic of the Ganga. This documentary attempts to amplify the voices and concerns of the riparian community, woven together through the medium of the walk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ak283B__Ns&feature=youtu.be  (08 Jan. 2021)

RIVER BIODIVERSITY

Report An encounter with the elusive Gangetic dolphin After a chance sighting, writer Nimesh Ved explores how India’s endangered river dolphin is faring in Uttar Pradesh, and asks how the inland waterways project will affect it.  https://www.thethirdpole.net/2021/01/15/an-encounter-with-the-elusive-gangetic-dolphin-in-northern-india/  (15 Jan. 2021)

Uttar Pradesh मारी गई डॉल्फिन थी गर्भवती ? डाउन टू अर्थ ने 8 जनवरी को अपनी रिपोर्ट में क्षेत्रीय वन अधिकारी और नवाबगंज थाना प्रभारी दोनों से बात की थी, लेकिन दोनों अधिकारियों ने यह नहीं बताया था कि डॉल्फिन गर्भवती थी। ग्राम प्रधान मनोज कुमार सिंह ने डाउन टू अर्थ को बताया कि उनके पास एक फोटो है, उसमें डॉल्फिन और छोटे डॉल्फिन का शव नजर आ रहा है। यह फोटो 31 दिसम्बर को मारी गई डॉल्फिन के पोस्टमॉर्टम के समय का है। डॉल्फिन और उसके बच्चे के शव के साथ वाली फोटो पुलिस विभाग में भी कुछ लोगों के पास मौजूद है। https://www.downtoearth.org.in/hindistory/wildlife-biodiversity/biodiversity/rare-gangatic-dolphin-murdered-in-uttar-pradesh-75042  (13 Jan. 2021)

FISH, FISHERIES, FISHERFOLKS

Tamil Nadu Indian island radio station leading climate conversations With its unique blend of gossip, jokes and songs mixed with serious global issues, Kadal Osai has built a devoted audience.

Started by businessman Armstrong Fernando, himself from a fishing family, Kadal Osai (“the sound of the ocean” in Tamil) began in August 2016 with just a few hours of transmission daily, before going full-time in 2019. Alongside updates on weather, marine affairs and fish prices, advice on safe and sustainable fishing and the preservation of coral reefs, the station also conducts on and off-air workshops on the climate crisis and biodiversity.

“It has become increasingly difficult to predict and interpret water levels in the ocean, cyclone formations, and potential fishing zones. The erratic weather patterns have led to an unprecedented rise in sea levels as well as the height of the waves, thus affecting many seaweed cultivating sites,” says Rajan. “In such a scenario, tapping into the traditional knowledge of the fishing community, remains a rich source of learning.” Understanding this need to share knowledge with the next generation, Kadal Osai invites experienced fishers to talk with experts about the effects of over-exploitation on marine resources, and the importance of integrating traditional and modern fishing methods. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/jan/07/making-waves-the-hit-indian-island-radio-station-leading-climate-conversations  (07 Jan. 2021)

Illegal, Unnecessary Adani Port Proposal Makes it to Public Hearing Stage Nityanand Jayaraman deep-dives into the proposal and its ramifications: Adani Ports and SEZ’s subsidiary Marine Infrastructure Development Pvt Ltd has submitted a 3 volume “Draft Comprehensive EIA-EMP Report on Proposed Revised Master Plan Development of Kattupalli Port.” The current application is for environmental clearance for a Rs 4,000 crore port and harbour project that is part of a Rs. 53,400 crore masterplan. It additionally contains port back industries, an industrial area and associated infrastructure.

Set to come up on wetlands and ecologically fragile sand dunes on the Kattupalli Barrier island near the Pulicat Wildlife Sanctuary, the company’s proposal for a megaport is illegal on several counts. By falsifying vital information and suppressing other critical facts, it has managed to get its proposal past the EAC.

The Tamil Nadu SPCB’s announcement to hold a public hearing for the project on Jan 22, 2021, has triggered massive outrage among local communities, environmentalists and political parties. The DMK, MDMK, Tamilnadu Vazhvurimai Katchi, Naam Tamilar Katchi, Tamil Nadu Manithaneya Makkal Katchi and the left parties have already condemned the project citing illegalities, threat to livelihoods, increased flood risk and the threat to the sanctuary. https://science.thewire.in/environment/illegal-and-unnecessary-but-adani-port-proposal-makes-it-to-public-hearing-stage/  (16 Jan. 2021)

Goa Traditional fishermen agree to River Sal desilting with conditions The Assolna Velim Cavelossim Betul Traditional Fishermen Association on Jan 10, 2021 agreed to proposed 2nd phase of desilting River Sal’s 6-km stretch provided the officials adhere to certain conditions.

Remmy asserted that the desilting should not be more than one-metre deep while Milagres demanded that the same be carried out only at certain places. Anthony Silva alias Brain Box spoke on the third phase of desilting which will include Assolna and opined that the villagers will get about two months before the work commences. He asked them to form small ward-wise committees to monitor the desilting as and when it is done. EIA will have to be done before any dredging. The second condition was that all sewerage and urban effluents dumped in the river Sal be stopped forthwith. “Otherwise there is no point in desilting as the same will return and the river will get silted again,” he explained. The third condition was that no casino or marina be allowed on the banks of River Sal and pointed out that the desilting is proposed not so much for the benefit of the fishermen but to have passenger vessels moving in the river. A villager will be on the vessel during the desilting which will be done as per his instructions as he will be monitoring it, he said adding that they are trying to get the company to pay him for spending time on the vessel. https://www.heraldgoa.in/Goa/Traditional-fishermen-agree-to-River-Sal-desilting-with-conditions/169628  (11 Jan. 2021)

Metal pollution in aquaculture farms A study of aquaculture farms across 10 States, which account for the bulk of India’s production, has found “hazardous” levels of metals such as lead and cadmium in all of them. Profligate use of antibiotics and insecticides for cultivation and the threat of anti-microbial resistance have contributed making aquaculture a “ticking time bomb,” according to the authors of the study commissioned by the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) and All Creatures Great and Small (ACGS).

FIAPO and ACGS studied about 250 fish and shrimp farms across the nine highest producing States and one Union Territory. This included fresh and brackish water farms in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Gujarat, W Bengal & Orissa, and freshwater farms in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh & Assam. The objective was to assess the condition of fish & shrimp farms in India & their impacts on animal welfare, public health & environmental hazard.

All of the fish & shrimp farms had toxic levels of lead and cadmium, & all the shrimp farms visited were releasing this toxic waste water directly into the nearby canals or estuaries. None of the fish farms had outlets for this water because of which dirty water was being recirculated, posing a grave threat to fish and human health. The unhygienic conditions led to frequent disease outbreaks at half the farms visited, and which caused significant commercial losses. “At several instances, farmers were found to be selling these diseased fish and shrimps at the local market to minimise their losses. 65% of the fish farms had poor DO levels, which means fish were struggling to survive with high mortality rates. Banned fish species like Red-bellied Pirrahna and Catfish are farmed intensively in several states accompanied by heavy antibiotic use,” the authors note in their report.

Varda Mehrotra, executive director of FIAPO said in a statement, “How we see fishes is extremely problematic. There needs to be a central and state level regulatory framework for freshwater & brackish water aquaculture, and the Aquaculture Authority needs to be empowered to work directly with Animal Welfare Board of India and MoEF to strictly enforce aquaculture specific laws. Fishes deserve the same level of legal protection as other animals. Considering the amount of antibiotics used and the water quality, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India should be empowered to not just regulate the end product, but the conditions in which the fishes are grown.” https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/study-finds-metal-pollution-in-aquaculture-farms/article33580769.ece  (15 Jan. 2021)

Odisha Women take the help of technology to improve yield The farmer-scientist interface initiated by the Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture has yielded significant results as nearly 10,000 women in rural Odisha, are practising aquaculture as a source of income. https://en.gaonconnection.com/fishing-for-profits-women-who-have-taken-up-aquaculture-as-a-means-of-livelihood-in-odisha-take-the-help-of-technology-to-improve-their-yield/ (6 Jan 2021)

Jharkhand Boat fisherwomen of Ranchi Story of how women in Ranchi have taken up risky boat fishing work a male dominated occupation to earn livelihoods. https://en.gaonconnection.com/she-is-a-mother-who-courts-choppy-waves-everyday-just-for-her-children/  (9 May 2020)

SAND MINING

Karnataka 11 dead as minibus hits sand tipper near Dharwad A school reunion trip to Goa ended in tragedy when 13 persons died and 8 were injured after their minibus collided with a sand-laden tipper on Pune-Bengaluru national highway bypass at Itigatti Cross on the outskirts of Dharwad on Jan. 15, 2021. Dharwad superintendent of police said that former students of Davanagere’s Saint Paul Convent School were heading to Goa for a 3-day holiday. 9 among the dead were women and included a professor at a Davanagere medical college.

Police said accident occurred around 7.30am. The vehicle was mangled due to the impact of the collision and police took nearly four hours to extricate the bodies and rescue the survivors. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hubballi/11-dead-as-minibus-hits-tipper-near-dharwad/articleshow/80295444.cms  (16 Jan. 2021)

Dharwad Sub-urban Police Inspector said the minibus collided into the tipper truck as there was not enough room on the road.  The 32-km Hubballi-Dharwad bypass is a single lane located along NH 48 between Bengaluru and Pune. The residents of Dharwad had been complaining of the bypass being dangerous as the stretch is narrow and that it was not being used as a one-way. The road widening work had been delayed for the last few months due to differences between the contractors & govt. Dharwad Rural Police have registered a case & stated that the sand tipper drove on the next lane in a bid to overtake a vehicle, was over-speeding and lost control. The drivers of both vehicles have also died, police said.  https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/10-women-travelling-goa-vacation-die-accident-karnataka-141526; https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/karnataka/2021/jan/15/dharwad-road-mishap11-former-students-of-st-pauls-convent-lose-their-lives-in-accident-2250606.html; https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/reunion-plan-of-school-alumni-turns-tragic/article33581484.ece; https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/karnataka/2021/jan/15/dharwad-mishap-deceased-women-were-school-friends-had-planned-day-outing-in-goa-2250486.html (15 Jan 2021); https://indianexpress.com/article/india/karnataka-13-dead-after-minibus-collides-with-truck-7148199/  (17 Jan. 2021)

– 8 people (6 women, 2 children) were killed, 2 injured after an overloaded sand truck overturned on a car at Deviganj X under Kadhadham PS on Dec. 1, 2020 night in Kaushambi, Uttar Pradesh. https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/8-killed-as-sand-laden-truck-overturns-on-suv-in-uttar-pradesh-2332907  (2 Dec. 2020)

Madhya Pradesh Against forest dept action, minister frees illegal mining vehicles Despite all the assurances of the state govt, illegal sand mining continues. In the latest incident the Tourism and Culture Minister Usha Thakur is accused of freeing the vehicles involved in illegal mining from the possession of the forest dept. When forest official approached the police station to file a case against the minister, the police did not register a case.

A JCB machine, tractor trolley, some other equipment involved in illegal sand mining were seized and kept in Badgonda forest outpost. Forest Dept officials had registered a case under the Forest Act. But the Forest Dept alleged that on the night of Jan 11 2021, Minister Thakur and his supporters forced into the check post and forcibly took away the JCB and tractor trolley. https://khabar.ndtv.com/video/show/des-ki-baat/illegal-mining-continues-in-madhya-pradesh-tourism-minister-usha-thakur-has-been-accused-of-allegati-572169  (13 Jan. 2021)

Maharashtra Sangli admin proposes mining at 13 locations The Sangli dist administration has proposed mining of sand from 13 locations on the beds of five rivers — Agrani, Nandani, Man, Korda & Bor — which flow through rainfall-deficient tehsils. Five of the proposed sand mining sites are on the Agrani riverbed alone.

Incidentally, it took nearly two decades of sustained efforts by the local residents, NGOs and the administration to rejuvenate the Agrani river, which has started flowing properly once again. These efforts were also recognised by a national award recently. Now, despite opposition from local residents, the administration has moved the sand mining proposal. The tehsils along which the five rivers flow get 450-500 mm annual average rainfall — much less than the district average of 700 mm.

As per the proposal, 43 depots will be set up at 13 locations by the sand miners. According to the survey report, the GSDA has recommended mining of 12,500 brass (1 brass equals 4,500kg) of sand from these depots. The maximum depth of mining (1.54 m) will be at the Man river site in Atpadi tehsil, while the minimum (0.7m) will be at the Korada river in the severely water deficient Jat tehsil. In case of the Agrani river, the depth of mining has been fixed at 1m at all the five locations from where 4,500 brass of sand will be mined.

Then, district collector Abhijeet Chaudhary had said that sand mining is being proposed to curb illegal sand mining. He had said that if the locals were willing to take the responsibility of stopping illegal mining, the administration will not auction the sites for sand mining. The GSDA study also claims the replenishment capacity of these rivers is more than the actual sand to be mined out. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolhapur/sangli-dist-admin-proposes-sand-mining-on-13-riverbed-locations/articleshow/80201963.cms  (11 Jan. 2021)

Rajasthan Task force, new policy soon: CM CM Ashok Gehlot on Jan. 9 2021 constituted a task force comprising officers of forest, mines and revenue depts headed by chief secretary for speedy disposal of issues related to mining sector. He said the state govt would work with full commitment, technology, transparency and investment-friendly policy to take the state forward in the mining sector.

Gehlot was discussing the possibilities of the mining sector in the state with Vedanta Resources Ltd chairman Anil Agarwal and other officials. He said soon the govt would come out with a mineral and mines policy to provide a favourable environment for investment in this sector. Gehlot said Rajasthan had more mineral wealth than any other state, but due to lack of proper exploitation, its share in revenue was very less. He said with the development of mining sector, employment opportunities as well as revenue generation would increase.

The CM said the govt’s endeavour was to complete the process of mines auction in a transparent manner through the digital platform. He said procedures related to lease allocation and auction would be effectively monitored at the level of the chief minister and chief secretary. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/task-force-under-chief-secretary-for-mines-development-new-mines-and-mineral-policy-sooncm/articleshow/80191976.cms (10 Jan 2021)

Punjab Mafia has field day in Ghanaur villages With majority of farmers from the Ghanaur area camping on Delhi borders in protest against farm laws, illegal mining of sand has become rampant here. The mining mafia, which enjoys political patronage, has dug up private land up to a depth of over 40 feet.

“We reported the matter to the dist administration and the mining dept in Nov, but to no avail. This is because the mining mafia enjoys political patronage,” a villager alleged. “I have a rice sheller in the village. Around 30-foot-deep pits created due to mining on the adjacent piece of land now pose a threat to my building,” said Vishavjeet Singh, who has also filed a complaint with the Shambhu police. “They are now threatening me for complaining,” he said.

“Despite repeated complaints against illegal mining, the dist administration has done nothing in that regard. Our complaints to the police have also fallen on deaf ears,” villagers said. “Two FIRs have been lodged over the past three months. I will verify if the mining mafia has become active again in these villages,” said Ghanaur DSP Jawinder Tiwana. “As one of the FIRs was registered in Oct 2020, I will seek a clarification in that regard from the SHO concerned,” he said. Shambhu SHO said that he was unaware of any illegal mining in the area. When asked if any complaint was pending in that regard, he feigned ignorance. When The Tribune said it had a copy of the complaint, he accepted a complaint was received. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/farmers-away-mining-mafia-has-field-day-in-ghanaur-villages-197134  (12 Jan. 2021)

Uttarakhand GMVN खनन से भरेगा सरकार का खाली खजाना राजस्व का घाटा पूरा करने के लिए अब जीएमवीएन की नजर खनन पर है। प्रदेश के विभिन्न 36 लॉटों के टेंडर मंगलवार को खोले जाएंगे। एक अक्टूबर से खनन का काम शुरू कर दिया जाएगा। विगत वर्षों में निगम चारधाम यात्रा, राफ्टिंग और अन्य खेल गतिविधियों से करोड़ों का राजस्व कमाता था, लेकिन इस बार कोरोना संक्रमण के चलते बाहरी प्रदेशों और विदेशों से आने वाले पर्यटकों पर सरकार ने रोक लगा दी। इसके चलते निगम की वित्तीय स्थिति काफी कमजोर हो गई है। यहां तक जिन पर्यटकों ने यात्रा के लिए अग्रिम बुकिंग की थी, उन्होंने भी बुकिंग का पैसा वापस मांग लिया। ऐसे में निगम को करीब पौने दो करोड़ रुपये पर्यटाकों को वापस लौटाने पड़े।

यह पहली बार जब खनन के टेंडर पांच साल के लिए दिए जाएंगे। इससे पहले निगम की ओर से एक-एक साल के लिए टेंडर जारी किए जा रहे थे, घाटा होने पर कई ठेकेदार खनन लॉट लेने के लिए आगे नहीं आए, ऐसे में कई लॉट खाली ही रह गए। ऐसे में निगम को भारी नुकसान उठाना पड़ा। इस बार सरकार ने नियमावली में बदलाव करके खनन के टेंडर एक साल के बजाए पांच साल के लिए देने की योजना बनाई है। निगम के जीएम टूरिज्म जतिंदर कुमार ने बताया कि आसन, भालदी, दुबड़ी, बंजारावाला, जाखन, झोठी, जुयालगढ़, ज्वालापुर, कालीराव, महेंद्रपुर, नैनगांव, सराना, श्रीपुर, सुद्धोवाला, सुंदाना, टौंस, यमुना सहित 36 लॉटों के टेंडर मंगलवार को जारी किए जाएंगे। एक अक्टूबर से खनन का काम शुरू हो जाएगा। https://www.jagran.com/uttarakhand/dehradun-city-tender-for-36-mining-lots-will-be-released-tomorrow-20748169.html  (15 Sept. 2020)

WETLANDS, LAKES, WATER BODIES

Goa A community movement saves a heritage lake For many years now, the waterbodies and mangroves of Goa have been under threat from encroachment by builders. Arturo D’Souza has been a key member of ‘Save Bondvol Lake’, a people’s movement to protect the century-old waterbody in the village of Santa Cruz in Goa. He filed a PIL in the High Court in 2017 and continued to lend his support to the movement. The movement to protect the lake is now close to fruition, with Bondvol lake, along with around 10 other lakes, set to be notified as “wetlands” that would give them a level of protection. https://india.mongabay.com/2021/01/a-community-movement-saves-a-goan-heritage-lake-and-brings-hope/  (11 Jan. 2021)

Maharashtra Govt forms panel to verify status of Uran wetlands The state govt set up a special committee on Jan. 6 2021 to verify the status of all wetlands in Uran identified under the National Wetland Inventory Atlas (NWIA), Maharashtra 2011. The committee was set under the direction of the Bombay HC appointed Konkan wetland grievance redressal and the state mangrove monitoring committee after the Raigad dist administration told the court that there were no wetland sites in Uran taluka.

The committee will be chaired by the sub-divisional officer and will include forest and Cidco (City and Industrial Development Corp) officials as members. An official from the state dept of environment and climate change will be appointed as the secretary. D Stalin of Vanashakti is a member of the panel. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/others/maharashtra-forms-panel-to-verify-status-of-uran-wetlands-101610286088854.html  (10 Jan. 2021)

West Bengal In the East Kolkata Wetlands the city’s waste is purified and turned into fish food. Now rapacious property developers are threatening its future.  https://www.economist.com/1843/2021/01/13/where-theres-muck-theres-brass-making-money-from-sewage-in-kolkata  (13 Jan. 2021)

WATER OPTIONS

Kerala Farmers reviving ‘kattas’ check dams A forgotten practice, kattas have found renewed utility due to drought and unavailability of water. A village Yethadukka in Kumbadaje of Kasaragod district played a significant role in reviving this tradition in early 2000. There are more than 20 kattas here, and among them, seven kattas have been constructed every year over the 50 years by farmers in the last week of Dec or first week of Jan. Two streams in Yethadukka witnessed this water management system.

“We usually remove these kattas in May and reconstruct them next Dec/ Jan. Each dam costs around one lakh rupees to build, which is split between 2-3 farmers. Each katta can irrigate more than 25 acres,” says Chandrashekhar Yethadukka, who was at the forefront of reviving the katta culture in Yethadukka.

Shree Padre, a renowned journalist and environmentalist, has also been pushing for the kattas revolution in Yethadukka. “It’s not like anybody can construct kattas, it requires skill. So now, farmers have brought in many innovations into the traditional structures,” he says. A small katta would require 100-man days to build. The biggest katta in Yethadukka was built in Berakadavu. It was built in 300-man days, and stored up to 12 crore litres water.

“Some people question why they should construct a katta every year when concrete check dams using cement can be built permanently. But when we look at Yethadukka, most of those concrete check dams have been poorly maintained and haven’t been useful over the years,” Shree Padre observes. He adds kattas are more environment-friendly.

“These temporary check dams play a major role in recharging water in open wells as well as in borewells. In 2019, we had a severe drought here in Padre hamlet of Yethadukka.  That is when we conducted a katta festival in our village, where many kattas were built then,” Shree Padre recounts. Following the footsteps of Yethadukka, under Kasaragod Development Package – a project for the development of the dist – officials had initiated Thadayana Utsavam (check dam festival) in the dist. Under it, 2,000 temporary and semi-permanent check dams were built in the district.

EP Rajmohan, special officer of Kasaragod Development Package, says that maintaining the existing check dams and constructing new temporary and semi-permanent ones is a great solution for Kasaragod’s groundwater depletion problem. “There are 12 rivers and more than 650 streams in the district. We already have around 1,000 structures including check dams and regulators on them. All of them have to be used and maintained properly to fight drought,” he says. He adds that as in Yethadukka, in other parts of the district too people who live near the streams should start constructing temporary check dams.

Though many farmers in the dist are for these environment-friendly structures, the state govt has not acknowledged or given kattas a priority. “The govt spent a lot of money to construct dams, cement check dams & regulators. Compared to those costs, kattas cost only a fraction, & that amount could be given to farmers every year to construct these,” argues Chandrasekhar.

Ganesha Naik, a farmer from Pallathadukka of Kasaragod, says that if the govt had offered a little help, many more farmers would make kattas. “We have been constructing kattas for several years. But small-scale farmers cannot afford to. Moreover, everyone doesn’t contribute monetarily as they have borewells in their compound. So, it becomes costly to bear the expense alone. If the govt provides some financial help, many others will also step in,” he says. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/how-kerala-farmers-are-reviving-age-old-practice-kattas-check-dams-141432  (13 Jan. 2021)

Madhya Pradesh Women revive ponds for water security in Bundelkhand In Chhatarpur dist, Ganga Rajput & Babita Rajput have led the women of their villages to successfully revive ponds. The ponds, which now help with water supply in the drought-prone villages, had gone dry and women, who were responsible for the household’s water, had to walk long distances in the heat to fetch water. https://india.mongabay.com/2021/01/women-revive-ponds-for-water-security-in-bundelkhand/  (13 Jan. 2021)

Visakhapatnam Residents reaping groundwater recharge benefits The 15 pits constructed since 2010 at the cost of Rs 7,000 each have recharged the groundwater levels of JRN colony and neighbours. Moreover, the harvesting pits save 7.45 lakh litres of water every year. K S R Murthy, a scientist and President of RWA, recently came up with a short booklet on how individuals and apartments can learn from traditional water-saving techniques. https://www.thebetterindia.com/231215/andhra-pradesh-vishakha-colony-rainwater-harvesting-save-water-india-gop94/  (27 June 2020)

GROUNDWATER

Arsenic contamination increasing cancer risks across 200 cities  Referred to as the largest poisoning of people in the history, arsenic contamination has become one of the major concerns for the people living in North India. Studies suggest that nearly 10 million people in India are exposed to groundwater contaminated with the cancer causing mineral and at least one million people have shown clinical manifestations. A study by Dr Ashok Ghosh, chairman of the Bihar SPCB and head of Research at Mahavir Cancer Institute and Research Center in Patna suggests that “out of 28 states in India, reports of Arsenic contamination have emerged from 17 states.” Arsenic contamination was first reported in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh. Later it was identified in the lower Ganga plain of West Bengal, Bangladesh, lower parts of Nepal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Assam.

“Currently around 200 dists in north India in the Gangetic plain is at risk of drinking water contaminated by arsenic,” the coordinator at the Inner Voice Foundation said. Around 10 lakh people have died in the last 25 years because of diseases caused by exposure to arsenic.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had stated in a report in 2019 that as of April 2018, 16,278 habitations across 9 dists in W Bengal, 18 in Assam, 11 in Bihar, 17 in UP, 17 in Punjab, 3 in Jharkhand & 2 in Karnataka were affected by arsenic. Recent studies suggest that groundwater contamination isn’t the only source of exposure for the Indian population. In many cases, the contamination is often linked to food intake, putting a larger population at risk. https://www.news18.com/news/india/1-million-dead-in-25-years-arsenic-contamination-is-increasing-cancer-risks-across-200-indian-cities-3267854.html  (11 Jan. 2021) 

URBAN WATER

Greater NOIDA Survey Finds 15 Apartments Have Defunct STPs The sewage department of Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority (GNIDA) has over the past three days unearthed and dismantled sewage exits from multiple residential complexes in Noida Extension. An inspection, carried out over the past three days, revealed that 15 residential apartments have dysfunctional STPs. GNIDA officials claim that all these apartments have flouted sewage treatment rules and many have been sending untreated crude sewage directly underground or releasing the same in the drains, which flow in to the Hindon river.

According to GNIDA, there are 57 builder apartments in Noida Extension where people are residing. Of these, around 13 have not installed STP systems and the rest do not have systems that can treat the entire waste. Officials of the GNIDA sewage dept said that they have found that the builders have concealed their STP exits and some of them have submerged their pipes right into the ground.

“There can be serious groundwater contamination very soon if this continues and we have dismantled all these pipelines… We have given an option to the builders where they can contribute for the construction of a large STP plant for the entire region. We can also provide the service at a reasonable rate to individual apartments,” the officials said. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/noida/survey-finds-15-apartments-have-defunct-sewage-plants/articleshow/80260060.cms  (14 Jan. 2021)

Hyderabad 20K litres of free drinking water supply inaugurated Speaking at the inaugural of the scheme to provide 20,000 litres of drinking water free that was promised before the GHMC elections, minister K.T. Rama Rao inaugurated the scheme at SPR Hills in Borabanda.

In Hyderabad, the state govt was supplying free drinking water to almost nine lakh families. He said the Water Board would divert water from the Godavari & Krishna rivers to provide drinking water to the city. “We have undertaken the Keshavpuram project as well as the Ring Main project around the Outer Ring Road so that there will be no shortage of drinking water till the year 2050,” Rama Rao said. The scheme will benefit about 97 per cent of the poor and middle-class families living in the city.

As announced by the govt, the free drinking water scheme will come into effect from the Dec bill issued in Jan. Those who consume over 20,000 litres of water will have to pay the bills to the extent of water they have used, similar to a Delhi scheme. For consumers to get free drinking water facility, they have to set up meters, except those living in slums. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/politics/120121/20000-lt-free-drinking-water-supply-inaugurated-in-hyderabad.html  (12 Jan. 2021)

Bengaluru Rejuvenated five years ago, Dore Kere now raises a stink Dore Kere lake in S Bangalore was rejuvenated five years ago, and is not stinking again, says this report. The STP set up is not functioning, but the officials are denying all this. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/rejuvenated-five-years-ago-dore-kere-now-raises-a-stink/articleshow/80274623.cms  (15 Jan. 2021)

HC Directs Revenue Secretary To Demonstrate Compliance In ESG Lakes PIL. https://esgindia.org/new/campaigns/lakes/karnataka-high-court-directs-revenue-secretary-to-demonstrate-compliance-in-esg-lakes-pil/  (17 Jan. 2021)

Chennai Analysis of Chennai’s water crisis, titled The Chennai Water Crisis: Insufficient Rainwater or Suboptimal Harnessing of Runoff? https://www2.atmos.umd.edu/~nigam/The.Chennai.Water.Crisis.Current.Science.10January2021.pdf

Delhi Women spearhead campaign to ensure access to clean water in slums. https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/india/women-spearhead-campaign-to-ensure-access-to-clean-water-in-delhi-slums  (20 Dec. 2020)

WATER POLLUTION

Himachal Pradesh Sewage action plan: Himachal walks different path Himachal Pradesh has proposed a sewage management action plan that contrasts models suggested by the central govt and international consultancies. Despite a concerted 4-year push from the Centre towards individual septic tank solutions, even in urban areas, HP plans to dig up even more ground to enlarge its piped underground networks. Himachal submitted its action plan earlier this month to the Central Monitoring Committee (CMC), which is overseeing compliance to a set of merged National Green Tribunal orders to make sewage 100 % treated by March 2021.

Over the past four years, states have been nudged towards Faecal Sludge and Septage Management (FSSM) — on-site, decentralised solutions such as septic tanks — following a major push from the Centre which came out with a FSSM policy in 2017. In July 2020, a National Mission for Clean Ganga webinar was also held for “mainstreaming” FSSM.

While Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have begun to lean towards FSSM in medium & small urban settings, others like Gujarat, W Bengal and Himachal have shown less inclination. Currently, the country has only 25 Faecal Sludge Treatment Plants (FSTPs), which treat sewage from septic tanks, but cities are building 400 more, according to a CMC report of Sept 2020. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/sewage-action-plan-himachal-walks-different-path-despite-centres-push-7148210/  (16 Jan. 2021)

POST MONSOON 2020

Tamil Nadu stops taking water from Mullaperiyar dam Tamil Nadu has temporarily stopped taking water from Mullaperiyar dam as heavy rain continues in the state. The action was taken as the water level at Vaigai dam in Theni district increased to the maximum level. Vaigai dam which has a maximum capacity of 71 feet touched 69.75 feet at present. As the natives close to the dam expressed concern over the increasing water level, the authority issued warning thrice.

Tamil Nadu government used to take 767 cubic feet water from Mullaperiyar. Using this water, the state produced 69- Megawatt power from two generators. The production of power also was interrupted as the government cancelled collecting water. On Sunday (Jan. 17), the water level in Mullaperiyar dam touched 130.65 feet. 2483 cubic feet water is flowing into the dam within a second. https://english.mathrubhumi.com/news/kerala/tamil-nadu-stops-taking-water-from-mullaperiyar-dam-amid-heavy-rain-1.5367516  (18 Jan. 2021)

Historic rainfall in Jan 2021, 1072% more than normal Tamil Nadu on an average, receives around 11.4 mm rainfall for the period between January 1 and January 15. However, based on the data of actual rainfall received across the state, Tamil Nadu has received an average rainfall of 133.6 mm for the period. Tiruppur dist has recorded almost 2000% more than normal rainfall during this period, receiving 102.8 mm against the normal rainfall of 4.9 mm. Similarly, Karur dist had 108.3 mm against the normal rainfall of 6 mm.

The Cauvery delta dists and south Tamil Nadu have been receiving heavy rainfall over the past week leading to several dams reaching their full reservoir levels. Thiruvarur & Tirunelveli dists recorded 354.5 mm rainfall. Nagapattinam received 290 mm and Cuddalore 281 mm. Thanjavur received 259.5 mm & Ramanathapuram 222.4.

According to private weather blogger Pradeep John, who goes by the name Tamil Nadu Weatherman on social media, Tirunelveli’s 317.5 mm till January 14 is the highest rainfall recorded in the district in the month of January in 120 years. Similarly, Thoothukudi’s 123.7 mm rainfall till January 14 is the eighth highest recorded in the rainfall history of 120 years in the district. Cuddalore district’s rainfall till January 14 is the second highest January-rains in the last 120 years and in Thiruvarur district, the amount of rainfall recorded in the period is second highest in the last 120 years.

In Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi districts, the major crops cultivated are paddy and banana. Agricultural fields along the Thamirabarani in both the districts have been inundated due to the river overflowing its banks. “We are in touch with the agriculture experts. They have told us that paddy crops can be revived if the water recedes in 3-5 days. We are waiting for it to happen. Only if the water goes down, we can assess the damage to crops here,” Senthilraj said.  https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/tn-receives-historic-rainfall-january-1072-more-normal-141568  (16 Jan. 2021)

Unseasonal rain batters Tirunelveli district The unseasonal, unprecedented rain in Tirunelveli district has badly affected normal life. To make things worse, heavy discharge of water from the overflowing dams triggered heavy flood in the Tamirabharani that entered the low-lying areas. After 29,000 cusecs of water was released from the Papanasam and Manimuthar dams on Jan 12, 2021 afternoon, the officials released 51,000 cusecs from these two dams late in the night. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/unseasonal-rain-batters-tirunelveli-district/article33569225.ece  (13 Jan. 2021)

In a press release, PR Pandian, president of the TN Coordination Committee of All Farmers Association said that 10 lakh acres of the samba crop in the delta region and 25 lakh acres across Tamil Nadu were submerged. Pandian had appealed to the govt to give the farmers Rs 30,000 an acre compensation. https://en.gaonconnection.com/a-haywire-harvest-for-the-paddy-farmers-of-tamil-nadu-this-years-pongal-is-going-to-be-less-sweet/ (14 Jan 2021)

Uttarakhand Gets its first doppler radar More than seven years after the deadly 2013 floods that killed more than 5,000 people, on Jan 15 2021 Uttarakhand got its first doppler weather radar. This radar, now functional at Mukhteshwar, about 300 km from the state capital Dehradun, will help forecast weather and predict extreme weather events, such as the 2013 cloud burst that led to unprecedented floods.

The Mukhteshwar radar, developed indigenously, was inaugurated during the IMD’s 146th foundation day celebrations. Two more doppler weather radars are expected to be installed in the state; one at Dhanoulti in Tehri district and another at Lansdowne in Pauri Garhwal. These three doppler radars are being set up under the Integrated Himalayan Meteorology programme of the Union ministry of earth sciences.

There are three types of radars: X-band, C-band, and S-band. The one installed in the premises of Central Institute of Temperate Horticulture, Mukhteshwar, 51 km off the lake city of Nainital, is a dual polarised X-band doppler radar. The other two radars coming up in Tehri and Pauri Garhwal districts are also X-band radars. These radars are used primarily for storm detection. They can generate data in real-time at an angle of 360 degrees covering 100 km. This is a dual polarised radar which can pick up the precipitation type — snow, hail, water content and intensity of rainfall.  The data generated from the doppler radar provides information such as wind speed, intensity of rain, etc. for weather events that may occur in the region in the next half-an-hour to three hours in advance.

The radar installed at Mukteshwar, costing Rs 10 crore, has been built indigenously by Hyderabad-based Astra Microwave Products Ltd. For the next 10 years, the firm will be responsible for providing timely assistance, both technical and hardware, including its overall maintenance. The real time data (GIS) generated by the radar will be available online for the disaster management authorities to access, who will then have to alert the community residing in area to evacuate or not travel during the specified time.

“But any such tool can only be useful when the warning system is coordinated. For example, during the 2013 floods, the prediction of an intensive rain spell was predicted but in an absence of outreach channels, the message could not be communicated to the community,” Anand Sharma, additional director general of IMD Delhi told Gaon Connection. “Without community participation even location-specific information or an early warning system may not be useful,” said Singh. https://en.gaonconnection.com/uttarakhand-gets-its-first-doppler-radar-to-predict-extreme-weather-events-two-more-radars-in-the-offing/  (17 Jan. 2021)

POST FLOOD 2020

MoU between IITG, Brahmaputra Board & CWC to understand the Brahmaputra River How to live with the Mahabahu (the Brahmaputra)? This single question has made the Brahmaputra Board, the CWC (Central Water Commission) and the IIT-Guwahati to get into a huddle for understanding the fury of this mighty river. It is also a means to find permanent ways for tackling of the floods and erosion caused by the river across Assam annually. The MoU signed on Dec 9, 2020 is for the mission to analyse the quality of water, sand and sediment of the river to seek solution to erosion.

The mission that set in motion on Dec 23, 2020 with a rafting expedition – ‘Brahmaputra Amantran Abhiyan’ (BAA) – from Tuting in Arunachal Pradesh will conclude on Jan 21, 2021 at Assameralga in Mankachar district on the Indo-Bangladesh border. The rafting team comprises personnel from the NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) and experts from the North East Space Application Centre, besides academics from IIT-Guwahati. The BAA entered Assam downstream of Pasighat on Dec 31, 2020. The IIT team also aims to ascertain “for what purposes the sand and sediment of the river base can be used. A prime objective is to ensure whether the sand and sediment of this river can be used for construction of the proposed national highways on both banks of the Brahmaputra,” said an engineer of the Brahmaputra Board. The expedition is marked by 30 halts – studded with riparian cultural nights by the local artistes. The team reached Tezpur on Jan 10, 2021 when the video of the theme song of the expedition composed by Dr Prof. Arup Kumar Sarma was released by the Secretary of the Union Ministry of Jalshakti, UP Singh. https://www.sentinelassam.com/topheadlines/mou-signed-between-iitg-brahmaputra-board-cwc-to-understand-the-fury-of-brahmaputra-river-520409  (11 Jan. 2021)

Ancient tree rings shed light on Brahmaputra’s flood risk Data from rings of ancient trees in 28 different sites in Tibet, Myanmar, Nepal, and Bhutan in the Brahmaputra River watershed reveal that most recent decades of discharge (1956–1986) are among the driest of the past 700 years. “That should be of concern to us because, in the present day, high discharge years are usually associated with flooding. So this means that we are likely underestimating the true flood risk in the river as we have only taken records during a dry period,” study’s lead author Mukund Palat Rao, Tree Ring Laboratory, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University said.

Anyone using the modern discharge record to estimate future flood hazards would be underestimating the danger by 24 to 38 percent, based solely on natural variations; human-driven warming would have to be added on top of that. “If the instruments say we should expect flooding toward the end of the century to come about every four and a half years, we are saying we should really expect flooding to come about every three years,” said Rao.

The rings show that there have been much wetter periods in the past, driven by natural oscillations that took place over decades or centuries. The researchers found a good match for a high discharge in 1787 C.E. “We know from historical documents that there was a major flood in 1787 C.E. that caused the Teesta river to change its course eastward from flowing into the Ganga to the Brahmatpura instead. It was unclear if this shift was earthquake driven or monsoon driven,” Rao said.

“We can’t say for sure, but our results suggest that 1787 was a very wet year. Though there still could have been an earthquake,” said Rao. https://india.mongabay.com/2021/01/ancient-tree-rings-shed-light-on-brahmaputras-flood-risk/  (14 Jan. 2021)

Tamil Nadu Dams overflow, high alert along Thamirabarani High alert has been sounded on the banks of the Thamirabarani River as 29,000 cusecs of water has been discharged into the river from Papanasam and Manimuthar reservoirs. The discharge that was around 5,100 cusecs on Jan. 12 morning was increased to 29,000 cusecs in the evening as both the reservoirs with a capacity of 5,500 mcft and 5,511 mcft started overflowing. Water was released from all the seven gates at Manimuthar. Papanasam and Manimuthar recorded 85 mm and 70 mm rainfall from 8 am to 4 pm on Jan. 12 as heavy rain lashed several parts of the dist. The dist recorded an average rainfall of 38.18 mm in 8 hrs and 19.6 mm in 24 hrs till Jan. 12 morning. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/tamil-nadu-dams-overflow-high-alert-along-thamirabarani/articleshow/80243959.cms  (13 Jan. 2021)

After 28 years, River Tambraparani at Kallidaikurichhi level forecast site in Tirunelveli has crossed previous HFL of 75 meter attained on Nov. 13, 1992 on Jan 12 at 12:00 hrs setting new HFL first 77.82 meter on Jan. 13 at 02:00 hrs and then 78.1 meter on Jan. 13 at 22:00 hrs.  On Jan. 12 it gained 2.01 meter within one hour from 73.08 meter below danger level at 12:00 hrs to 75.09 meter breaching HFL at 13:00 hrs & further increased to 75.79 meter at 14:00 hrs a rise of .70 meter within one hr, rising 2.71 m in two hrs. For 45 hrs river water level is flowing above old HFL. https://ffs.tamcnhp.com/main/hydrograph-detail/030-SRDCBE ; https://www.facebook.com/sandrp.in/posts/4148883561805952  (14 Jan. 2021)

ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE

Karnataka Chairman’s chair is hot seat at SPCB The state govt has been accused of violating the guidelines drafted for the appointment of chairman to the SPCB, considered to be one of the most sought-after positions among the political class and bureaucrats. It is learnt that Vijay Kumar Gogi, an IFS officer who was posted as interim chairman while holding the post of principal secretary at Forest Dept has not handed over the charge as KSPCB chief after getting transferred on Dec 16.

As per the guidelines, only two people – Additional Chief Secretary (Forest, Environment & Ecology Dept) or Principal Secretary (Ecology) are eligible to be appointed as chairman of the pollution control board until a full-time appointment is made. During the recent re-shuffle, Brijesh Kumar, an IFS officer, was posted as Principal Secretary (Ecology) at Forest, Environment and Ecology Dept in place of Vijay Kumar Gogi. While Gogi has handed in primary charge, it is learnt that he continues to hold the post of chairman at KSPCB, much to the surprise of officials in the SPCB & govt. https://bangaloremirror.indiatimes.com/bangalore/others/chairmans-chair-is-hot-seat-at-pollution-board/articleshow/80277122.cms  (15 Jan. 2020)

Report As World’s Deltas Sink, Rising Seas Are Far from Only Culprit By Vaishnavi Chandrashekhar Although climate change is often blamed for coastal inundation in places like India’s Bay of Bengal, other factors such as dam building and urbanization play an important role. Scientists say that more sustainable development policies can help blunt the impacts of rising seas.

– Dredging and protective walls for the local port also have altered the hydrodynamics of the estuary, increasing erosion of some islands, says Tuhin Ghosh, director of the School of Oceanographic Studies at Jadavpur University in Kolkata. And in Sagar, sand dunes near the temple have been levelled for a concrete road. “If you remove the natural barriers and flatten the land, of course the water will come further up,” says Ghosh. “Sea level rise is only part of the picture.”  https://e360.yale.edu/features/as-worlds-deltas-sink-rising-seas-are-far-from-only-culprit  (13 Jan. 2021)

Where is the DMF money meant for people living in mining areas going? by Mayank Aggarwal. Over Rs 400 billion have been collected in the fund so far but the implementation remains poor with civil society leaders and experts complaining that transparency in use of this fund and involvement of local communities is missing.

Experts advise that for the DMF mechanism to succeed, districts must focus on the delivery of services rather than a spree of creating only infrastructure, engage local partners for implementation and focus on livelihoods based on natural resources to improve the local economy. https://india.mongabay.com/2021/01/where-is-the-dmf-money-meant-for-people-living-in-mining-areas-going/  (14 Jan. 2021)

Opinion Underutilisation of ERF defeats the “Polluter Pays” principle by Tarika Jain In the nearly 30 years of its existence, it has become doubtful if the Fund has been achieving its purpose as accounts of underutilisation and indifference by the authorities keep surfacing.

The environmental jurisprudence in the country has attended to the victims, and gone beyond reparation to award punitive damages. However, the law can be of only so much use in the books if the relief is not reaching the victim and the environment not being actively restored. Right from the Central Govt to the local Collector, the authorities need to be held accountable for their inaction. Attention needs to be drawn to the effective monitoring of large volumes of public money lying untouched in the Fund.  https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/environmental-relief-fund-pollution-india-7142247/  (11 Jan. 2021)

Conservation in new avatars by Ashish Kothari Nature conservation approaches will work only if we move towards life-affirming ways of being and doing.  https://wsimag.com/economy-and-politics/64574-colonial-conservation-in-new-avatars  (13 Jan. 2021)

Uttarakhand should choose a more sustainable path by Ghazala Shahabuddin Apart from mitigating climate change, forest conservation can solve problems such as out-migration, under-employment and human-wildlife conflicts in the state. https://scroll.in/article/982140/why-uttarakhand-should-choose-a-more-sustainable-path-to-development-in-a-post-covid-world  (15 Jan. 2021)

Uttarakhand State may see forest fires round the year The state recorded 236 wildfire incidents between October 1, 2020 and January 4, 2021. Reserve forests in the Garwal region lost 129 hectares of forest cover (out of total 188 hectares) to 96 counts of fire incidents. Civil forests recorded 51 counts of wildfire incidents. Reserve forests in Kumaon region lost 89.52 hectares of forest cover to 64 counts of fire incidents; civil forest lost 44.35 hectares to 25 counts. The fires caused a loss of Rs 460,110 to the state.

Bikram Singh, director, Dehradun meteorological centre, said the city experienced low rainfall between October and December. “It was largely a dry monsoon. The city experienced 71 per cent deficit rain between October and December,” he said. The region usually records 60.5 millimetres of rainfall annually; it was merely 17.8 mm in 2020. In 2019, it recorded 114.2 mm rainfall; 25.5 mm in 2018; 21.3 mm in 2017 and 16.2 mm in 2016.

“The fire season would last an entire year. Forest fires are directly linked to soil moisture. The forest rivers are drying up,” forest hydrology expert JS Rawat said.  A weak monsoon subsequently leading to less moisture in the soil as well as insufficient snowfall this season aided fire spread, according to Vaibhav Singh, DFO, Rudraprayag. In such a situation, a tiny spark of fire can spread far and wide, he added. The Supreme Court January 4 heard a plea on Uttarakhand fires. The court will hear the matter again in a week. Uttarakhand has lost 44,000 hectares of forest cover since it became a state in 2000.   https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/climate-change/climate-crisis-uttarakhand-may-see-forest-fires-round-the-year-74926  (06 Jan. 2021)

In the period between October-December 2020, the state lost over 5,600 trees in around 235 wildfire incidents, and controlling these fires caused a loss of Rs 9.71 lakh to the exchequer. In all, maximum forest cover has been devastated in Pauri (115.6 hectares), Almora (61.5 hectares), Bageshwar (47.27 hectares), Uttarkashi (38.8 hectares), Pithoragarh (22.6 hectares) and Rudraprayag (8.5 hectares).

In the summer months last year, there were very few fire incidents as people didn’t venture into the forest due to Covid lockdown, and rains were scarce. All these factors together led to accumulation of a lot of dry biofuel – primarily pine needles on the forest floor leading to fires during winters,” said Man Singh, chief conservator of forests (forest fires), Uttarakhand.

Another DFO from the hills blamed migrants who have returned home from the cities for the increase in the fires. “We know of incidents wherein these unemployed migrants have gone inside the forest for leisure and lit campfires at different spots. This is sad and irresponsible,” said the DFO.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/winter-wildfires-in-uttarakhand-gut-5000-trees/articleshow/80108639.cms  (05 Jan. 2021)

2020 में अक्तूबर से दिसंबर तक जितनी घटनाएं वनाग्नि की दर्ज हुईं उतनी पहले कभी नहीं हुईं। पिछले साल गर्मियों में आग की महज 157 घटनाएं पूरे फायर सीजन यानी फरवरी से जून तक दर्ज की गईं। जिसमें करीब ढाई सौ हेक्टेयर जंगल जले। उसमें भी छोटे बड़े एक हजार से ज्यादा पेड़ ही जले थे। इसके अलावा विभाग को किसी घटना में ज्यादा दिक्कत नहीं हुई।

यूं तो सर्दियों में भी छोटी मोटी आग हर साल लगती थी। लेकिन पिछले साल सर्दियों में कई वजहों से आग की घटनाएं सबसे ज्यादा हुईं। इसका पिछला रिकार्ड उपलब्ध नहीं है, क्योंकि कभी इसकी जरूरत ही नहीं पड़ी। विभाग 15 फरवरी के बाद ही मानिटरिंग करता था। पहली बार अक्तूबर से मानिटरिंग शुरू की गई। इस बार तापमान बढ़ते ही घटनाएं और बढ़ने की आशंका के चलते तैयारियां शुरू कर दी हैं। https://www.livehindustan.com/uttarakhand/story-forest-fire-incidents-more-in-winter-than-summer-season-in-uttarakhand-forest-department-3733878.html  (09 Jan. 2021)

Himachal Pradesh Forest fires Himachal frequently witnesses forest fires during dry weather conditions. This month, a forest fire which started near Kullu raged for several days before being brought under control. Forest fires were also reported in Shimla and other parts of the state.

Forest fires are common every time a dry spell hits the state. Himachal witnessed unusually dry weather conditions last year from August to November, resulting in drought-like conditions. That period also saw a large number of forest fires – at least 500 fires were recorded from August till early November. Currently, the weather has been dry for the past week, resulting in some fires.

According to the forest department, forest fires cause an estimated loss of several crore rupees each year. From 2016-17 to 2019-20, the annual loss to the state due to forest fires has ranged from Rs 1.7 crore to Rs 3.5 crore. Around 1,200 to 2,500 forest fires were reported each year during this period affecting thousands of hectares. https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-why-forest-fires-are-common-in-himachal-pradesh-7145869/  (15 Jan. 2021)

Manipur Dzuko Valley wildfire brought under control The Dzuko valley wildfire reportedly started on December 29 and has engulfed a large area of the valley both in Nagaland and Manipur. In Manipur, the fire had completely destroyed the vegetations of Mt Iso, the highest peak in the state. To contain the fire, Manipur Government pressed into action as many as 200 firefighters, NDRF, SDRF, state police, villagers of Mao and four IAF helicopters equipped with bambi bucket. Two base camps had been opened to accommodate firefighters. https://indianexpress.com/article/north-east-india/manipur/manipur-dzuko-valley-wildfire-brought-under-control-7139848/  (09 Jan. 2021)

J&K Kashmir valley sees heaviest snowfall of season Entire Kashmir valley has received the heaviest snowfall of the season. A blanket of snow covers Doda, Rajouri, Poonch, Baramulla and Srinagar which experienced snowfall for 4th consecutive day and heaviest of all in the past 48 hours.

The prolonged wet spell has piled up a huge mound of snow at most places. The mid and higher reaches have piled up stacks of snow which may turn dangerous in clear weather conditions. A rise in day temperatures loosens the grip and snow mountains can roll down the slopes in the form of an avalanche.

Accumulated snow succumbs under its own weight and slides down the hill like a river of ice. This huge mass of ice drag trees, rocks and mud and carries the dangerous potential of burying underneath any structure resulting in loss of life and property. https://www.skymetweather.com/content/weather-news-and-analysis/kashmir-valley-receives-the-heaviest-snowfall-of-the-season-floats-avalanche-threat/  (08 Jan. 2021)

Madhya Pradesh Compensatory afforestation of projects in Andaman to be done in MP In a first, carbon sinks for developments projects in Andaman and Nicobar Islands will be created over 2,000 kilometres away in Madhya Pradesh with the help of the forest department, government officials in the state and the islands said. Though this would end the Union Territory’s predicament of where to do compensatory afforestation, it would also allow private participation in the government’s future forestation programmes in the country as per Niti Aayog’s plan, according to officials.

Madhya Pradesh has about 1,000 degraded forest sites on over 40,000 hectares of land, where compensatory afforestation on behalf of Andaman and Nicobar islands will take place, MP forest officials said. For this, the Andaman and Nicobar Island administration will provide Rs1,480 crore to the MP government. In October 2020, the environment ministry had written a letter to Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan seeking their land for compensatory afforestation for development works in the island region. https://www.hindustantimes.com/environment/in-a-first-compensatory-afforestation-of-projects-in-andaman-to-be-done-in-mp/story-sJ4M5uBp5dURvxyO8y0lJN.html  (08 Jan. 2021)

Andaman Death of Large Number of Turtles Calls for Serious Investigation More than fifty turtles were found dead in in the North Andaman District on Sunday 10th Jan 2021. The dead turtles were washed away in the shores on a decaying condition and was noticed by the locals first. They were found in Kalipur Beach, Lamiya Bay in Diglipur and also at Karmatang Beach in Mayabunder. Speculations are that the deaths are a result of fishing net but the exact reason is not made clear by the concerned Wildlife Division in spite of post mortem conducted. http://www.andamanchronicle.net/index.php/20466-death-of-large-number-of-turtles-in-north-andaman-calls-for-serious-investigation  (13 Jan. 2021)

Andhra Pradesh LG Polymers evaded environmental clearance for years before Visakhapatnam tragedy https://caravanmagazine.in/environment/lg-polymers-evaded-environmental-clearance-for-years-before-visakhapatnam-tragedy  (14 Jan. 2021)

CLIMATE CHANGE

SANDRP Blog Paddy farming in times of climate change – field notes  Guest Article by Dr. Sreeja KG and Dr. Madhusoodhanan CG January 6, 2021– An unexpected turn of the weather in the afternoon. Rain clouds gathered from the east and a sudden outpour that lasted through the evening. Heady smells of slaked earth and a welcome respite to the day’s heat. The joy of the surprise shower overshadowed by the worry of harvested paddy in gunny sacks stacked on the field bunds. The paddy which had dried to the satisfaction of the procurement agency’s rigorous moisture tests, is now again wet. Drying it will be an added, unforeseen expense. https://sandrp.in/2021/01/14/paddy-farming-in-times-of-climate-change-field-notes/  (14 Jan. 2021)

Arunachal Pradesh Seijosa shows connect between shifting patterns, declining biodiversity The forest in Seijosa, one of the five administrative divisions of the Pakke-Kessang district  has an impressive diversity of mammals, birds, insects, reptiles, amphibians and fish, including the asian elephant, Bengal tiger, fishing cat, wild dog, Chinese pangolin, Blythe’s kingfisher, hornbills, ibisbill, white-winged wood duck and white rumped vulture. And climate change and subsequent habitat loss may wipe them off from the area.

-While data for Seijosa or Pakke-Kessang district is difficult to get, the 30-year (1989-2018) rainfall analysis for East Kameng district carried out by the IMD has showed that during the south-west monsoon season, overall rainfall over the district decreased and the number of dry days increased.

-The landscape modification in Seijosa was initially triggered by flooding in 2004 of Pakke river, which flows alongside Seijosa. The measurement infrastructure of the IMD got washed away in an intense flash flooding event in 2004 and has not been re-constructed since then.

-The flood laid waste to over 200 hectares of cropland where farmers mainly cultivated local varieties of rice. It caused a loss of Rs 100 crore to local people. Currently, cultivation of rice is limited to only 10 hectares cultivated by only eight individuals, highlighting the long-term impact of extreme climate events such as high rainfall and flash floods. Even in the leftover cropped area, the productivity of rice has fallen.

-The 2004 flood widened the river from a stream 25-30 metres wide to a one kilometre-wide river bed near Seijosa that now gets flooded whenever there is excess rainfall in area or upstream.

-Human interventions in the forests including unprecedented logging, sand and boulder mining in the area, road construction as well as plantations have aided their deterioration and decline. The river bed, for example, has been disturbed by unabated sand and boulder mining. Down to Earth saw the activity being carried out using heavy earth moving machinery while travelling along the riverbed.

-This was despite the ban on such machinery in forest areas by the divisional forest officer, Khellong. This was also when there is a state government designated quarry for mining purpose further upstream. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/climate-change/climate-change-in-north-east-arunachal-s-seijosa-shows-connect-between-shifting-patterns-declining-biodiversity-75016  (12 Jan. 2021)

Report Could Climate Change Lead to More Landslides? Scientists investigate whether warming temperatures and changing rainfall patterns could be triggering more landslides in mountainous areas.  https://eos.org/features/a-slippery-slope-could-climate-change-lead-to-more-landslides  (23 Nov. 2020)

NASA 2020 Tied for Warmest Year on Record Earth’s global average surface temperature in 2020 tied with 2016 for the warmest year on record, according to an analysis by NASA. Continuing the planet’s long-term warming trend, the globally averaged temperature in 2020 was 1.02 degrees Celsius warmer than the baseline 1951–1980 mean, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS).

– “The last seven years have been the warmest seven years on record, typifying the ongoing and dramatic warming trend,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. “With these trends, and as the human impact on the climate increases, we have to expect that records will continue to be broken.” https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/147794/2020-tied-for-warmest-year-on-record  (15 Jan. 2021) 

SOUTH ASIA

Sri Lanka Urban Wildlife Series: Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) https://fishingcats.lk/2021/01/16/urban-wildlife-series-eurasian-otter-lutra-lutra/  (16 Jan 2021)

Nepal Wildfires ravage mountains  A three month drought in central and eastern Nepal has sparked wildfires across the Himalaya which has shrouded the mountains in smoke, adding to the urban and crossborder pollution. The big forest fires in Pathibhara in eastern Nepal and below Mt Machapuchre in Kaski raged for a week, and spent themselves. But major fires are out of control in Manang, Rasuwa, Lamjung and Sindhupalchok, destroying huge tracts of high montane forest. The most serious and widespread are the fires in Manang Valley around Chame.

The vegetation on the slopes and undergrowth in the forests are tinder dry, and the authorities say they have caught fire accidentally because of people grazing livestock, or gathering firewood. The fire in Manang started as far back as 26 November, and has since spread into the Marsyangdi and Dudh Khola valleys. The fire has destroyed over 700 hectares of forest rich in endangered wildlife and Himalayan plant species. The effect of the fires is visible even in satellite images. This NASA image (pictured below) taken at noon on 12 January shows smoke shrouding the river valleys of the Marsyangdi, Budi Gandaki, Bhote Kosi, Sun Kosi and the Arun. https://www.nepalitimes.com/banner/wildfires-ravage-nepal-mountains/  (12 Jan. 2021)

Bagmati Jeevan Sangharsa- documentary.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOMw9eJjIy8&feature=youtu.be  (09 Jan. 2021)

Webinar The effects of using saline water The webinar discussed the impact saline water has on people’s health along the Bay of Bengal coast, where water is becoming increasingly salty due to rising sea levels. https://earthjournalism.net/video-highlight/the-effects-of-using-saline-water-in-the-bay-of-bengal-region  (20 Nov. 2020)

CHINA

Water choke The first sentence is useful, rest is known: “The name of Guo Kai, a Chinese technocrat, now arises suspicion among Indian policymakers.”  https://telanganatoday.com/chinas-water-choke  (16 Jan. 2021)

Greens slam plan to dam key lake on Yangtze river  Chinese conservationists have slated a plan to dam a key flood outlet for the Yangtze river, the Poyang lake, fearing a hammer blow for an already fragile ecosystem, a rest area for migratory birds and home of the endangered Yangtze river porpoise. The outcry comes after the Jiangxi provincial government earlier this month revived a project aimed at regulating water flows on the Poyang lake, China’s largest freshwater lake, which is increasingly prone to drought in winter. https://kfgo.com/2021/01/17/china-environmental-groups-slam-plan-to-dam-key-lake-on-yangtze-river/  (17 Jan. 2021)

ASIA

Largest study of rivers may help predict changes in region’s water cycle: Scientists  ‘Mega-droughts’ of the past have often simultaneously hit sites that are currently home to power production along Asian rivers, says the largest study of the continent’s river systems. The study, published in the journal Water Resources Research is co-authored by Nguyen Tan Thai Hung and Stefano Galelli from Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).

– Following two years of analysing tree rings to reconstruct the courses of streams in the continent, the scientists produced data on 813 years (from 1200 to 2012) of annual river discharge at 62 stations in 41 rivers flowing through 16 countries, including India.

– While earlier research had already found that droughts in Asian rivers are influenced by temperatures of the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans, the new study revealed that this ocean-river connection is not constant over time. According to the researchers, rivers in Asia were much less influenced by the oceans in the first half of the 20th century compared to the 50 years before, and 50 years after that period.  https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/national/largest-study-of-asias-rivers-may-help-predict-changes-in-regions-water-cycle-scientists  (31 Dec. 2020)

MEKONG Laos Building dams it doesn’t need?  Thailand’s economic slump during the coronavirus pandemic led to a drop in electricity demand, with officials estimating power reserves currently at 50% over total capacity. Despite the surplus, hydroelectric dams are still being developed next door in Laos, Thailand’s top provider of electricity.

Critics say the projects are not driven by real electricity demands but by profit-seeking energy stakeholders, including the Laotian government, which has ambitions for the country to become the “battery of Southeast Asia.” https://www.dw.com/en/why-is-laos-building-mekong-dams-it-doesnt-need/a-56231448  (15 Jan. 2021)

THE REST OF THE WORLD

USA National Landslide Preparedness Act In the week of Jan 11, 2021, the US President signed into law  the National Landslide Preparedness Act. This is a tremendous and very important step forwards, finally recognising at a federal level landslides as a significant hazard and establishing the means to start to improve their management. The congress gov website has a nice summary of the key provisions of the National Landslide Preparedness Act:-

The USGS shall, among other things

– develop and publish a national strategy for landslide hazards, risk reduction, and response in the United States (including territories);

– develop and maintain a publicly accessible national landslide hazard and risk inventory database;

– expand the early warning system for debris flow; and establish emergency response procedures for the rapid deployment of federal scientists, equipment, and services to areas impacted by a significant landslide event.

– The USGS may provide grants to research, map, assess, and collect data on landslide hazards.

– The National Science Foundation may provide grants to eligible entities for landslide research.

– The USGS shall establish the 3D Elevation Program and the 3D Elevation Federal Interagency Coordinating Committee, and (2) may make grants and enter into cooperative agreements to facilitate the improvement of nationwide coverage of 3D elevation data. https://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/2021/01/15/us-national-landslide-preparedness-act/  (15 Jan. 2021)

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

Also see: DRP News Bulletin 11 Jan. 2021 & DRP News Bulletin 04 Jan. 2021  

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

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