DRP News Bulletin

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

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

The report talks about increasing need for decommissioning of such old dams, but the dam lobby in India hates the D word. It shows how difficult is any attempt to push scientific decisions against the ideologically bent lobby at the helm.

So this timely warning from the UN report – the attempt by the misleading Nature report cited below in pushing for dams helping downstream areas in flood moderation notwithstanding – is even more urgently relevant today then it ever was. It is also high time that India stop pushing more such destructive dams, as the UN report says the global trend is towards building less and less of new big dams.

UN Report Aging dams pose emerging risks By 2050, more than half the global population will live downstream from tens of thousands of large dams near or past their intended lifespan, according to a UN report released on Jan 22, 2021. Most of the world’s nearly 59,000 big dams—constructed between 1930 and 1970—were designed to last 50 to 100 years, according to research from the UN University’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health. “This is an emerging global risk that we are not yet paying attention to,” co-author and Institute director Vladimir Smakhtin said.

Lead author Duminda Perera, a researcher at the University of Ottawa and McMaster University, said that the changing rainfall pattern with global warming not only increases the risk of reservoirs overflowing but also accelerates the build up of sediment, which affects dam safety, reduces water storage capacity, and lowers energy production in hydroelectric dams and make them far more expensive to maintain.

“There won’t be another dam-building revolution, so the average age of dams is getting older,” said Perera. “Due to new energy sources coming online—solar, wind—a lot of planned hydroelectric dams will probably not ever be built.” A global fleet of nearly 60,000 ageing dams also highlights the challenge of dismantling—or “decommissioning”—those that are no longer safe or functional. Over 40% are in China 16% in US and 15% in India-Japan-Korea combined.

The map with average age of dam shown in the article does not seem very accurate, since the average age of Indian dam is shows around 2 years, which is clearly wrong. https://phys.org/news/2021-01-world-ageing-big-pose-emerging.html   (22 Jan. 2021)
Full UN report: https://inweh.unu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Ageing-Water-Storage-Infrastructure-An-Emerging-Global-Risk.pdf  

Increasing trend of decommissioning dams The report predicts an increase in “decommissioning”—a phenomenon gaining pace in the USA and Europe—as economic and practical limitations prevent aging dams from being upgraded or if their original use is now obsolete. Worldwide, the huge volume of water stored behind large dams is estimated at 7,000 to 8,300 cubic kilometers.

“Underlined is the fact that the rising frequency and severity of flooding and other extreme environmental events can overwhelm a dam’s design limits and accelerate a dam’s aging process. Decisions about decommissioning, therefore, need to be taken in the context of a changing climate.”

China has 23,841 large dams (40% of the world’s total of 58700). And 32,716 large dams (55% of the world’s total) are found in just four Asian countries: China, India, Japan, and the Republic of Korea—a majority of which will reach the 50-year threshold relatively soon. (https://phys.org/news/2021-01-aging-pose-threat.html 22 Jan 2021)

The UN report shows how erroneous this report dated January 18, 2021 is in claiming that dams protect the downstream area from flooding. The report is based on a number of unfounded assumptions. (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-20704-0 18 Jan 2021)

EPW Interactive chart and discourse on multipurpose river valley projects in India. https://www.epw.in/engage/debate-kits/price-of-development-hydel-power-projects

HYDRO POWER PROJECTS

Arunachal Pradesh Kameng HEP gets fully commissioned The North Eastern Electric Power Corp (NEEPCO) on Jan 19, 2021 successfully synchronized the fourth unit of 150 MW of the 600 MW Kameng Hydro Power Plant with the grid in the West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh. The plant will also supply power to Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Nepal. https://nenow.in/north-east-news/arunachal-pradesh/arunachal-pradesh-kameng-hydro-power-plant-gets-fully-commissioned.html  (19 Jan. 2021) 

Uttarakhand Trailer of Ladenge Jeetenge: A Documentary on Dams In June of 2013, the state of Uttarakhand was inundated with floods. Unplanned development with disregard for the effect of construction on the ecologically sensitive landscape further exacerbated the scale of destruction.

One community that was gravely affected were residents of Pouri, Uttarakhand. However, they stood resilient in the face of destruction and brought to justice those who worsened their misery. ‘Ladenge Jeetenge’ tells the story of their courage and resilience. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AX2Zt4oA6_A&feature=youtu.be  (20 Jan. 2021)

Jammu & Kashmir Cabinet approves Rs. 5281.94 cr for 850 MW Ratle HE  The Union Cabinet has given its approval for the investment of Rs.5281.94 crore for 850 MW Ratle Hydro Electric (HE) Project on river Chenab, in Kishtwar district, by a new Joint Venture Company (JVC) to be incorporated between National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) and Jammu & Kashmir State Power Development Corporation Ltd (JKSPDC) with equity contribution of 51% and 49% respectively.

– SUBSIDIES FOR UNVIABLE PROJECT: Government of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, to make the Project viable, will extend exemption from levy of Water Usage Charges for 10 years after commissioning of the project, reimbursement of State’s share of GST (i.e. SGST) and waiver of free power to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir in a decremental manner, i.e., the free power to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir would be 1% in the 1st year after commissioning of the Project and rising @1% per year to 12% in the 12th year. https://www.pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1690421  (20 Jan. 2021)

MoEF Minutes of the FAC meeting held on Dec 22, 2021. Key decisions:

1. Use of 680.1 ha (instead of 1100 ha.) of Forest land in favour of M/s JKSPDC for construction of Ujh Multipurpose HEP in District Kathua, J&K. APPROVED

2. Use of 13.24 ha of forest land for Shahpurkandi Dam under forest division and District Kathua, J&K. APPROVED http://forestsclearance.nic.in/writereaddata/FAC_Minutes/111181233121111515_1610947481346.pdf 

The project will involve the loss of about 680ha of forest land with a large share—609.1ha—in Billawar Forest Division, and over 200,000 trees according to project documents on environment ministry’s Parivesh website. The project will involve the displacement of around 8,648 persons and the gross area under submergence is likely to be 34.50sqkm. Documents on Parivesh website dated suggest that the FAC had noted that there was marked difference in the number of trees enumerated for felling which was 296,000 in the online proposal and 338,000 as confirmed by the field officers during the site visit. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/strategically-important-ujh-hydroelectric-project-in-j-k-gets-forest-panel-nod-101611311984941.html  (23 Jan. 2021)

IRRIGATION

MoEF Meeting of FAC to be held on Jan 27, 2021, Some relevant agenda:

1. COLLECTION OF MINOR MINERAL FROM CHANDRABHAGA RIVER, NARENDRANAGAR FOREST DIVISION: 190 Ha.

2. DIVERSION OF 72.00 HA. OF FOREST LAND FOR PATPADI TANK PROJECT, WATER RESOURCES DEPT, DEWAS DIST MADHYA PRADESH http://forestsclearance.nic.in/AgendaDetail.aspx?id=249!dis1

URBAN RIVERS

Mutha; Pune Activists ask suspension of metro work on riverbed Environmentalists and civic activists on Monday (Jan. 18) cited a report that warned of a possible increase in flood levels, and demanded that the Metro work on the Mutha riverbed be stopped.

The report, prepared by the Central Water and Power Research Station (CWPRS), stated that the Metro piers coming up at the riverbed may cause the river’s flood level to rise by 2.5 feet and the area submerged to increase by 183 feet.

“We have been demanding that the Metro not be constructed on the riverbed as it may cause damage, but the authorities did not pay us any heed. Now, our stand has been vindicated,” Rajya Sabha member Vandana Chavan said at a news briefing on Monday (Jan. 18). “MahaMetro (Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation Limited) should explain how it is going to correct this major mistake,” she added. Sarang Yadvadkar, an environmentalist, said the Metro alignment should be “as per the development plan and not on the riverbed”. Activists further claimed MahaMetro submitted incorrect data about the river and its width to the NGT.

– They said MahaMetro must now provide a scientific and acceptable solution, modifying the Metro alignment, to undo the increase in the flood level. “MahaMetro must bear the entire cost of the modification. All the encroachments on the riverbed must be removed immediately and no construction must be allowed inside blue flood line under any pretext,” they said. Anu Aga, director of Thermax and a petitioner, issued a statement demanding that the piers be removed.

– The elevated Metro route is coming up on a 1.45km stretch of the riverbed. Around 60 pillars are being raised on this stretch to support the Metro viaduct. Even before work began on this stretch, environmental activists had opposed the construction and moved the NGT against the project. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/activists-seek-suspension-of-metro-work-on-riverbed/articleshow/80337200.cms  (19 Jan. 2021)

Vrishabhavathi; Bengaluru Garden city, Stygian stream The story of a farm’s rise and fall, as decades of pollution turned the Vrishabhavathi river black.

Choked: The Vrishabhavathi river in Bengaluru.   Photo Credit: Sampath Kumar G.P. /The Hindu 

The industrial waste from this factory was released untreated into the uncomplaining Vrishabhavathi. The river flows on like it always has. The farmers have stopped working on the fields, repelled by the smell, their lives, the river.  https://www.thehindu.com/society/garden-city-stygian-stream/article33632726.ece  (23 Jan. 2021)

RIVERS

Report Water pollution ‘failing’ to get right attention in India: Social scientists to blame? By Soumi Roy Chowdhury, Devendra B Gupta, Sanjib Pohit Interesting perspective on failure governments, judiciary, cities and industries of controlling River Pollution: “Of course, river pollution also leads to livelihood loss, additional health cost of communities using the river water. However, these costs are rarely being considered by social scientists and brought to the policy-makers attentions. As a result, government is not forthcoming to allocate fund for cleaning river.

Social scientists, including health and water scientists, need to take up this challenging task of providing quantitative evidence in respect of job/income loss/health cost arsing due to water pollution so that the policy-makers cannot ask the question: Why allocate fund on cleaning river instead on infrastructural project?” But authors allow the governments to get away lightly. The equation of less funding is also reductionist, what about the money spent, is it being effectively used? Are the institutions on whom so much of resources are spent doing what they were supposed to?  https://www.counterview.net/2021/01/water-pollution-failing-to-get-right.html  (22 Jan. 2021)

West Bengal Citizens need to help rivers “It should be a people’s movement. Each and every state and district in the river’s catchment area and every citizen should be involved in this movement,” Kalyan Rudra, a Kolkata-based expert on rivers and water bodies and chairman of the West Bengal Pollution Control Board, said. A decentralised approach involving every citizen is needed to save India’s rivers from pollution, experts said on Jan 22, 2021, suggesting use of the Public Trust Doctrine — the tenet that the state holds some resources in trust for public use — against municipal councils and industries to stop them from soiling water bodies. https://www.hindustantimes.com/environment/citizens-need-to-help-save-rivers-101611360684106.html  (23 Jan. 2021)

Bihar Plan to change Koshi course could spell doom As CM Nitish Kumar announced that the state would change of the course of the mighty Koshi river in the state after ancient relics had been discovered in Bhagalpur district, environmentalists have raised an alarm over the potential damage changing the course of a river could do. The Koshi has a tumultuous history of flooding regularly. During the 2008 flood, around a million people were evacuated from their homes. More than 300,000 houses were destroyed and crops spread over at least 840,000 acres were damaged. The flooding was the worst seen the past in the past 50 years and it was declared as a ‘national calamity’ by the GoI. https://www.newsclick.in/its-river-road-plan-change-koshi-course-spell-doom-environment   (23 Dec. 2020)

Odisha As Jagatsinghpur rivers dry up, locals worry over govt inaction Even as major rivers are drying up and human encroachments are blocking their flow in the district, inaction by the State government and district administration to revive them is posing a grave challenge to sustainable development in the region. The four main rivers in the district including Mahanadi, Devi, Chitrotopla and Paika are witnessing water flow only for two to three months during the rainy season and are dry for the rest of the year. Depletion of groundwater level, disruption in flow due to construction of bridges and barrages and other human encroachments are believed to be contributing factors.

– Moreover, many rivers like Hansua, Alaka, Dhanua, Gobari, Budha and Balia are almost dead. While this phenomenon has ecological repercussions, livelihoods and drinking water availability.

– In 2018, locals led by social activist Ratanakar Nayak had demanded eviction of illegal encroachment of Alaka river from Birabarapatana in Biridi block to Bay of Bengal under Erasama block. They had demanded harvesting of rainwater, measures to rejuvenate the river and prevent further depletion of groundwater, evicting illegal constructions from both sides of the river and other solutions to the crisis. Following the protest, a six-member team of Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute (CIFRI), Kolkata had visited different areas of Biridi block to prepare techno-economic feasibility report (TEFR) and detailed project reports (DPR) to both Central and State governments for revival of the Alaka river. But, the reports are yet to be submitted. A year later, the Fisheries Directorate had again sought the CIFRI’s intervention for a DPR to mitigate the water crisis but the research institute is yet to give a response. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2021/jan/16/as-jagatsinghpur-rivers-dry-up-locals-worry-over-govt-inaction-2250774.html  (16 Jan. 2021)

GANGA Uttarakhand SC lists Char dham plea in last week of Jan. https://www.livelaw.in/news-updates/supreme-court-char-dham-yatra-road-project-reducing-the-road-width-168521  (18 Jan. 2021)

Moving upstream screened at Chitkara University The documentary, filmed over six months between June 2016 and April 2017 on slow river exploration journeys based on research projects and archives for fixing accountability, is a first-person account of a 3000-kilometre walk from Ganga Sagar in West Bengal till Gangotri in Uttarakhand. The project has documented the flow of the river and life of the riparian community living along Ganga. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/chandigarh-news/feature-film-on-ganga-screened-at-chitkara-university-101610903466657.html  (17 Jan. 2021)

Report Big Oil’s flagship plastic waste project sinks on the Ganges Renew Oceans published targets on its website to collect 45 tonnes of plastic trash from the Ganges in 2019 and 450 tonnes in 2020. Neither the Alliance nor Renew Oceans has published any information on their progress in reaching those targets. Four people involved in the project told Reuters it collected less than one tonne of waste from the Ganges before it closed in March last year after less than six months in operation.

The Alliance and Renew Oceans declined comment on the amount of waste the project collected. Scientists estimate more than half a million tonnes of plastic trash enters the Ganges every year. There is no government data on how much of that is collected. Renew Oceans has not expanded operations beyond the pilot project in Varanasi, the Alliance said, in response to Reuters’ questions. Renew Oceans declined comment.

There is no centralized source for data on plastic waste pollution across the globe. But the data that is available suggests that even at full scale, those projects would only address a tiny fraction of the problem and still fall well short of the Alliance’s own targets of keeping millions of tonnes of plastic garbage out of the ocean. For instance, Indonesia and India both produce more than 3 million tonnes of plastic waste a year that is not collected or recycled, according to United Nations and national figures.

The plastics industry has been publicising its efforts to recycle and manage plastic waste, but it is spending vastly more on expanding production than recycling, which has been rendered uneconomic by the proliferation of cheap new plastic, Reuters reported in October. Chevron Phillips used footage of Renew Oceans’ workers collecting plastic on the Ganges in a video promoting its sustainability efforts in July, even though the project had stopped operations in March.

“These are some of the richest and most powerful companies on the planet, and what they’ve come up with are some small, community litter picking projects that make for nice photo opportunities,” said John Hocevar, Ocean Campaigns Director, Greenpeace USA. “There is no way to reduce plastic waste without reducing plastic production.” https://www.reuters.com/article/us-environment-plastic-insight/big-oils-flagship-plastic-waste-project-sinks-on-the-ganges-idUSKBN29N024  (08 Jan. 2021)

SANDRP Blog HOW CAN DELHI TACKLE HIGH AMMONIA CONTENT IN ITS DRINKING WATER? Since Delhi is the first town on the river Yamuna downstream of the barrage at Hathnikund (HKB) with all others like Yamunanagar, Karnal, Panipat and Sonepat located couple of kms away from the river proper, the entire stretch of river from HKB to Delhi should be designated as ‘drinking’ quality standard and not ‘bathing’ quality standard as is presently presumed. Once thus designated a lot in terms of pollution monitoring and abatement shall change for the better. This would require assessing upfront the extant assimilative capacity of the river and then setting an upper limit in terms of kind, quantity and quality of polluting matter and activities that can be allowed to enter the river or permitted close to it as efforts are made alongside to restore the river’s self rejuvenation capacities.

Dhanaura escape carrying pollutants from Yamunanagar to River March 2013 (Photo by Manoj Misra)

In other words this shall mean ensuring E flows in the river; review of consent to establish and operate of all polluting industries in the basin targeting a Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) regime; aggressive promotion of natural or organic farming to eliminate the scourge of non point entry as runoff into the river of nitrogenous fertilizers, insecticides and weedicides; highly restricted removal of sand from scientifically identified locations and controlling unregulated removal of ground water from the active floodplains. https://sandrp.in/2021/01/25/how-can-delhi-tackle-high-ammonia-content-in-its-drinking-water/  (25 Jan. 2021)

YAMUNA Delhi Centre says Delhi habitual offender Union government through additional solicitor general Aishwarya Bhati told the SC that “Delhi is the most habitual offender as far as cause of pollution of Yamuna river is concerned”.

Bhati was apparently quoting CPCB data which said that though Delhi generated 3,330 MLD of sewage, almost the entire quantity drained into the river untreated. The CPCB data showed that though there were 35 STPs in Delhi with a capacity to treat 2,715 MLD of sewage, only one STP was working and treated 90 MLD of sewage water. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/centre-to-sc-delhi-habitual-offender-in-polluting-yamuna/articleshow/80353764.cms  (20 Jan. 2021)

Going Down The Drain To Save Yamuna With pollution in the Yamuna being a huge cause for concern, which is not only a bane for aquatic life but also hampering water supply in the city, Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) is trying to focus not only on cleanliness in the waterbody, but also on smaller drains that eventually spew contaminated water into the river.

While DPCC uploads data of pollution in the Yamuna every month on its website, it also analyses monthly information about 24 major drains thereby allowing officials to make improvement plans and identify which drains are polluting the most through effluents and sewage. The information also helps DPCC identify where sewage may be possibly entering into the system.

The latest drain analysis report released on December 30, 2020 showed Indrapuri drain to be the most polluted, contributing BOD of 190 mg/l and a TSS reading of 360 mg/l. The standard for TSS in drains is 100 mg/l. Sahibabad drain, meanwhile, had a BOD of 170 mg/l and a TSS concentration of 324 mg/l. Among the least polluting were the sweeper colony drain, with BOD of 40 mg/l, and Najafgarh drain, which had a BOD of 50 mg/l. Both drains recorded TSS below 100 mg/l. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/going-down-the-drain-to-save-yamuna/articleshow/80375532.cms  (21 Jan. 2021)

Uttar Pradesh By Arun Tiwari on how encroachment of land of Hindon and Yamuna in NOIDA is going to kill the river. Why is the SC not stopping this if it is concerned about the river? https://www.jagran.com/news/national-everyone-has-to-be-accountable-to-save-water-and-its-management-jagran-special-21283213.html  (18 Jan. 2021)

RIVERS BIODIVERSITY

Goa Ecologists seek public help in looking for Indian otters Through its initiative, Wild Otters is hoping to understand range and distribution, as well as the way the mammals are dealing with threats such as dam construction, sand mining, aquaculture, overfishing of their food supply, and water pollution. The mammals are even hunted for their skin and the pet trade. “For instance, we heard a story recently that an otter pup in Gujarat was sold,” says Kshitij Garg, director and chief of communications, Wild Otters. https://lifestyle.livemint.com/smart-living/environment/ecologists-seek-public-help-in-looking-for-indian-otters-111610774328859.html  (16 Jan. 2021)

FISH, FISHERIES, FISHERFOLKS

Tamil Nadu Public hearing on Adani’s revised master plan for Kattupalli port deferred The Thiruvallur district administration has postponed a public hearing on the revised masterplan submitted by Adani for development of Kattupalli port in order to avoid a gathering in the wake of the Covid pandemic. The company has applied for environmental clearance for a Rs 4,000-crore port and harbour project that is part of a Rs 53,400-crore masterplan. The Adani group had acquired 97 per cent stake in Kattupalli port, owned by Marine Infrastructure Developer Private Limited, from Larsen and Toubro for Rs 1,950 crore in 2018. https://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/public-hearing-on-adani-s-revised-master-plan-for-kattupalli-port-deferred-121011901498_1.html  (20 Jan. 2021)

Study Fish farms have filthy water contaminated by heavy metals The authors of the study warn that aside from the obvious animal welfare violations, the unregulated use of antibiotics in fish poses a threat to both human health (such medication can pass to fish-consumers, furthering antibiotic resistance) as well as the environment.  “Unclean ponds laden with growth-enhancing hormones lead to bloated and sickly fish that are low on nutritive value and loaded with antibiotics,” Koushik Raghavan, the lead investigator of the report, told News18. “The prophylactic use of antibiotics in fish farms can cause antimicrobial resistance in human beings and is a severe public health concern.”

-Such unhygienic conditions have led to frequent disease outbreaks at half the farms visited and caused significant commercial losses. In the past, contaminated fish have had to be disposed of on a large scale. But the authors note in the study that at several instances, farmers were found to be selling these diseased fish and shrimps at the local market to minimise their losses, furthering risking human contamination. https://theswaddle.com/fish-farms-across-india-have-filthy-water-contaminated-by-heavy-metals-probe-finds/  (20 Jan. 2021)

SAND MINING

Karnataka Blast in stone mine leaves six dead The Hunasodu village in Abbalagere taluk of Shivamogga district has witnessed a strong blast in a lorry carrying explosive gelatine sticks has killed six people. The incident happened around 10:20 pm on January 21 night near a stone quarry. The explosives is used in stone mining.

The Google Earth images show there are several stone quarries in areas in close human habitation. The sites are in Tunga river basin which flows about 7 km away in south of Shivamogga town.

Quoting CM, The News Minute report mentions that the mining activity was being carried out illegally.  The latest update on the issue says local people for long have been protesting against illegal stone mining there but in vain. As per the report there are more than 50 stone quarries owned by influential people with political back up.

The incident has also raised concerns about the safety of Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) reservoir amid the local people and activist who alleged illegal stone mining happening over 100 places around the dam in which explosive are also used extensively. The Raitha Sangha and Dalit activists have urged the government to ban alleged illegal mining in the area. The pollution has threatened farming and feared it would pose a threat to KRS reservoir. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/shivamogga-blast-killed-many-was-near-illegal-mining-site-141970  (22 Jan. 2021)

Pointing out that the blast had occurred at an illegal stone mining site, BJP MLC Aynur Manjunath accused officials of colluding with owners of many such units. “Many illegal mining units are operational in the area. Corrupt officials are to blame for the tragedy. Politicians are among those involved in this illegal business. CM needs to initiate stringent action against those responsible for the tragedy. I will write to the PM seeking his intervention,” Manjunath said.

Shivamogga district in-charge minister KS Eshwarappa said illegal quarries were operating in and around the vicinity of the site where the blast happened. “Explosives are transported illegally from these sites. I have received complaints about illegal quarries,” he said. KPCC spokesperson KB Prasanna Kumar demanded Eshwarappa’s resignation. He alleged the involvement of politicians and senior government officials in the illegal mining business. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/mlc-claims-officials-colluding-with-owners-of-illegal-mines/articleshow/80412621.cms  (23 Jan. 2021)

Three persons were detained and a high-level probe was ordered into the blast which killed at least six men in Hunasodu village of Shivamogga district on Jan 21, 2021. While three of the dead are migrant workers from AP, two are from Bhadravathi in Shivamogga, officials said. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/3-detained-probe-ordered-after-6-die-in-shivamogga-explosion/articleshow/80415681.cms  (23 Jan. 2021)

CM takes a Prompt U Turn after six people die in explosives accident in his home state Shivamogga  on Jan 21, 2021. He now says: “All those operating without licences will be given time to regularise the business or else stringent action will be taken against them. There are road works and highway projects for which mining and quarrying are needed… They can submit an application to regularise and continue their activities. We have no objection. Every deputy commissioner will do a spot inspection and take an appropriate decision.” The CM that mining and quarrying were inevitable for development and those in violation should regularise operations.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/bsys-u-turn-on-illegal-mines/articleshow/80428887.cms  (24 Jan. 2021)

ToI Report, 23 Jan. 2021

The 2018 report of the state mines and geology dept, done after 3 yr study, underlines the severity: There are about 30 000 violations. Karnataka Lokayukta actions then lead to collection of fine of Rs 110 Cr.

– Mines Dept officials say they have given licence to only 450 decorative stone quarries and about 300 stone quarries. There are over 2000 illegal quarries.

– Lokayukta Justice Shetty says the monitoring was stopped since a year due to the pandemic, will resume now.

– In Mandya dist, there are over 80 stone extraction units, a majority of them owned by politicians in Srirangapatna and Pandavapura taluks. Most operators use powerful explosives, posing grave threat to Krishna Raj Sagar dam.

– The situation is more alarming in western ghat districts where soil is removed to quarry stones.

– Stone quarries are also there close to Manchanabele dam and Banerghatta National Park. https://www.facebook.com/sandrp.in/posts/4176424192385222

Gujarat 15 migrants killed by sand dumper One more fatal accident involving sand transportation took place in Surat district of Gujarat killing 15 people including kids on same day. 14 deceased are reported belonging to Banswara district of Rajasthan. The deadly accident happened in around mid-night hours on Jan. 18 and 19 night near Kosamba village on Kim Madvi NH 48 about 50 km away from Surat. The migrants including women and children had come to Kosamba to build a house and were living in hamlet outside the village along the road.

As per Police Nama news they were all sleeping when past mid night a sand truck ran over 22 people killing 12 on the spot and injuring 8 others of which 3 succumbed to their injuries later in the hospital. Among the dead 8 are women, 6 men and a minor girl. The Hindu reported that the truck first collided with a sugarcane-loaded tractor after which the driver lost control of the vehicle, thus running over the migrant labourers sleeping on the pavement.

The TV9 video report in Gujarati stated that the illegal sand mining was happening in the area and the truck could be involved in supplying sand illegally. There is not much details on this aspect in media reports. It needs to be raised to demand investigation into the source of sand, owner of the truck and violation of rules.

Several labourer rights groups have also held lapses in government policies responsible for the tragic accident. They highlighted that despite Supreme Court’s 2010 direction, there is sheer deficit of housing for the working poor and they are unable to afford high rentals hence compelled to stay in makeshifts by the roads and in open areas exposing them to such life threatening risks as per The Scroll report covering the joint statement. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TM2nMzvM8u8  (19 Jan. 2021)

Almost one year ago, a school bus carrying 24 students had narrow escape when it was hit by a sand truck coming from opposite direction at the time of blast in a LPG truck in Surat. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/surat/blasts-rock-suratolpad-road-after-truck-carrying-lpg-cylinders-catches-fire/articleshow/73168798.cms  (09 Jan. 2020)

West Bengal Boulder truck killed 14 people There has been a big accident involving transportation of riverbed minerals killing 14 people and injuring 18 others. This incident happened on January 19 night around 9:00 pm near Jaldhaka River Bridge in Mainatali area of Dhupguri some 34 km away from Jalpaiguri district town.

Quoting Jalpaiguri Assistant Superintendent of Police Sumant Roy, EiS Samay report mentions that the boulder-laden truck lost control of the vehicle and hit a divider and turned right. At that time, the boulders fell on the passengers of the two vehicles coming from the opposite direction. The truck also hit a lorry.

After this accident, the locals expressed their anger against the administration. According to them, every day many lorries and trucks full of sand, dumpers and stones travel on that road. In many cases, they take the goods by loading them with the thumbs up to the law. Earlier, the accident took place due to overloading but the locals claimed that no action was taken by the police in this regard.

Though none of the report mentions whether the truck was ferrying boulders legally or illegally, what are the source of minerals, why it was over loaded and plying on road in traffic hours, this ABP Ananda Bangali report has pictures of the accident in which the round shaped boulders are seen spilled on the spot. Such boulders are mostly found in rivers. A video report of the accident from same portal can be seen here. https://eisamay.indiatimes.com/west-bengal-news/others/major-road-accident-in-jalpaiguri-13-dead-18-injured/articleshow/80358608.cms  (20 Jan. 2021)

Uttar Pradesh Elderly woman crushed to death  Hamirpur district where an elderly woman was killed by sand tractor while a child was injured. The incident happened near the Pandava Guest House in Moudha Kotwali town.

As per report, the woman Maiky resident of Fatehpur was pillion riding motorcycle along with his grandson Ankit when they were hit by the tractor in which the woman was crushed and his grandson got injured. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EB1Pyc5AVOc  (04 Jan. 2021)

Maharashtra Smuggler shot dead In Pune an in-fighting among sand smuggler led to exchange of bullets in which one was killed and one was injured. The deceased Swapnil Ranasingh (25) resident of Takli Haji village (on the bank of Ghor river) in Shirur taluka was a noted criminal with several cases filed against him. He was declared tadipaar and returned there few days back.

The gang was involved in sand smuggling. As per police, sand disputes and old financial transactions led to the incident on January 18 afternoon. The injured Pappu Gawade was admitted to a hospital in Shirur, the police said. The police on January 20 arrested the two suspects Vijay alias Koytya Govind Shedge (25) and Akash alias Bablu Khandu Mashere (23) hailing from Aamdabad village in Shirur taluka. https://parnerupdate.com/?p=3540   (19 Jan. 2021)

Madhya Pradesh Forest ranger transferred for naming minister in complaint Ram Suresh Babu’s complaint against Usha Thakur and her supporters was not registered by the police but the forest minister was forced to constitute a high-level inquiry headed by a Principal Chief Conservator of Forest level officer as the opposition raised the issue. The latest action of the forest department came before the completion of the high-level inquiry. https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/forest-ranger-transferred-for-naming-mp-tourism-minister-in-dacoity-complaint-1760472-2021-01-19  (19 Jan. 2021)

Rajasthan SC panel report questions leases near rivers Central Empowered Committee (CEC) directed by the Supreme Court to look into sand mining has said the state tacitly participated in “the free-for-all loot of this valuable natural resource”, questioning the “liberal” grant of environmental clearances.

The report, dated December 23 and submitted to the Court, says, “CEC has no hesitation in concluding that the issue of mining leases in khatedari (agricultural/revenue) lands has directly facilitated legalising extraction, transportation and sale of illegally extracted sand from the river beds in the state.”

The report also criticises the MoEF for the delay in granting environmental clearances to holders of letters of intent in sand mine leases, saying this “prolonged impasse in legal mining” had led to “rampant” illegal mining of river sand.

The report states that the collection of sand in Rajasthan was about 57 MMT per annum in 2016-17 before the Supreme Court order restraining sand mining, falling to 5 MMT per annum in 2019-20. “According to the state government only about 25-30% of the demand is fulfilled from lawful mining activities. The resultant gap is the main driving force behind illegal sand mining,” says the CEC.

The CEC report suggests that no tractor that is not registered as a commercial vehicle be engaged for transport of sand from the mining site to the transit depot. The recommendations of the CEC include termination of all the khatedari leases located within 5 km from the river bank as well as leases where violations are detected, and scrapping of the excess royalty collection contract system. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/sand-mining-sc-panel-report-slams-rajasthan-free-for-all-loot-questions-leases-near-rivers-7155109/  (21 Jan. 2021)

Senior govt officer attacked by sand mafia during raid, injured A senior Rajasthan government officer from Sawai Madhopur district was attacked and injured along with some policemen during an operation against river sand mining mafia on Thursday (Jan. 21). The incident took place during a joint operation against river-sand mafia, carried out by the police and the revenue departments, under the leadership of Bonli sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Badrinarayan Meena in Dholri village on Thursday (Jan. 21) morning, during which 15 tractors-trolley were seized.

The illegal mining was taking place at Morale canal near the village at around 5.30 am on Thursday (Jan. 21) morning when Meena, along with the police, chased the gravel trolleys, on the way from Peepalda to Dhorala village. “When the accused realised they were being raided, they started driving fast, resulting in overturning of a few vehicles. The accused also blocked the way of the raiding party by dumping the illegally-mined river sand in the middle of the road. Later, the SDM was stopped by the mafia and beaten up,” said a police official, who didn’t wish to be named.

“The SDM has suffered injuries on his shoulder and an arm in the attack. The accused escaped with four-five tractor trolleys. However, the remaining vehicles were captured by the SDM-led team. After some time, Bonli police and tehsildar Brijesh Meena also reached the spot.” SDM Meena said had suffered injuries on his right shoulder and hand during the attack. “We have also made a video of the incident, which will help in identifying the accused,” he said. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/jaipur-news/senior-rajasthan-government-officer-attacked-by-sand-mafia-during-raid-injured-101611294504245.html  (22 Jan. 2021)  

Uttarakhand Minutes of the FAC meeting held on Dec 22, 2021. Key decisions:

1. Renewal of Collection of Minor Minerals from 628.8 ha forest land of Song River 1, 2, 3 and Jakhan 1, 2 for 10 years under Dehradun Forest Division, Uttarakhand. APPROVED [Only Manual extraction.] http://forestsclearance.nic.in/writereaddata/FAC_Minutes/111181233121111515_1610947481346.pdf 

Meeting of FAC to be held on Jan 27, 2021 Some relevant agenda:

COLLECTION OF MINOR MINERAL FROM CHANDRABHAGA RIVER, NARENDRANAGAR FOREST DIVISION: 190 Ha. http://forestsclearance.nic.in/AgendaDetail.aspx?id=249!dis1

Hindi report on illegal mining in Ramganga river in Pithoragarh. The report says it is happening even during nights. The miners are using mules to transport the riverbed minerals. The act has created pits in riverbed. Locals fear it will aggravate flood damages. https://www.jagran.com/uttarakhand/pithoragarh-illegal-business-of-mining-in-kamtoli-21248797.html  (07 Jan. 2021)

Punjab Ghanaur loses over Rs 100-cr sand The area is home constituency of CM along the Ghaghar river bordering Ambala district of Haryana. Illegal sand mining is rampant on a large scale in Ghanaur town, posing a serious threat to the existence of several villages in the area. So far, over half a dozen villages have lost sand worth over Rs 100 crore in the past few years. More than two dozen FIRs have been registered in the past three years but so far there are no reports confirming the trade. Sources said just to keep their record “up to date”, the police register a case on the basis of a complaint by mining officials and “the matter ends there”. Despite political hullabaloo, “no probe has been completed to nail the mafia kingpins”.

At a number of spots The Tribune team visited in Ghanaur, many sand dredging machines and earthmovers were extracting sand not only from a vast tract of land but also from private land and from around the land adjoining Ghaggar, endangering its embankments. Interestingly, after a conversation with the local Shambhu police about illegal mining, The Tribune team received a call from a local politician, who requested this correspondent not to report the issue. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/illegal-mining-unchecked-ghanaur-loses-over-rs-100-cr-sand-199908  (18 Jan. 2021)

Andhra Pradesh Firm owned partly by CM family gets bulk of govt orders Bharathi Cement Corporation Private Ltd in which Reddy’s family holds 49 per cent stake, and his wife is a Director received 14 per cent or 2,28,370.14 metric tonnes of all purchase orders for cement made by the state from April 2020 till January 18, 2021.

-N Srinivasan, Managing Director, The India Cements, is one of the persons named in the CBI’s (Central Bureau of Investigation) quid pro quo case against YS Jagan Mohan Reddy and others. The CBI had accused that the then Y S Rajashekara Reddy government had favoured certain companies and allotted land at lesser prices, circumvented laws to give mining leases or allocated additional river water against rules, in lieu of which they invested in firms owned by Jagan Reddy.

-Of the 11 chargesheets filed by the CBI between April 2012 and September 2014, the sixth, seventh and eighth pertain to quid pro quo by Dalmia Cements, India Cements, Raghuram Cements (earlier name of Bharathi Cement), and Penna Cements. Penna Cements had received purchase orders of 1,50,325.02 MT. Taken together, these three companies account for a third of the total purchase orders during April 2020 and January 2021. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/andhra-cm-family-y-s-jagan-mohan-reddy-bulk-govt-order-7153496/  (20 Jan. 2021)

Uttar Pradesh Alleging illegal sand mining, mining officer destroys labourer’s cart A mining officer in Amroha district on Monday (Jan. 18) had the bullock cart of a poor labourer, Israr Ali, chopped with an axe and its tyres slashed, as “punishment” for ferrying sand to a construction site. Spotting the loaded bullock cart, the mining officer flew into a rage. Despite Ali producing the bill of purchase for the sand from a shop selling building materials, the officer took the cart in custody and chopped its parts using an axe.

According to Ali, a resident of Panju Saray, “I run a bullock cart on rent. On Monday (Jan. 18), my cart was hired by a banquet hall owner for carrying sand from a building materials shop. As per the order, I loaded the sand in my cart and was carrying it to the banquet hall. I had the bill of purchase for it. On the way, mining officer A K Singh appeared on the scene at TP crossing and asked me to stop my cart. I followed his instruction. He took me to a police picket where they misbehaved with me and demanded money as a bribe. When I refused, they took possession of my cart, chopped its wooden parts and punctured its tyres with an axe. I’m a poor man. The cart was my only source of income.” https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/meerut/alleging-illegal-sand-mining-mining-officer-destroys-labourers-cart/articleshow/80351642.cms  (20 Jan. 2021)

Tamil Nadu Man asked to deposit Rs 50k in sand mining case Granting bail to a man who was arrested in connection with an illegal sand mining case, the Madras high court has directed him to deposit Rs 50,000 as a non refundable deposit to the Government Rajaji Hospital (GRH) in Madurai district. The court was hearing the bail petition filed by Eswaran who was arrested by the Thiruvonam police in Thanjavur district on December 21.

The case of the prosecution is that the petitioner, a truck driver was transporting five units of river sand illegally without valid permit. The judge directed the petitioner to report before the concerned police everyday at 10.30am for two weeks and thereafter as and when required for investigation. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/madurai/man-asked-to-deposit-rs-50k-in-sand-mining-case/articleshow/80239932.cms  (13 Jan. 2021)

Report Protecting coastline from mining exploitation The serious environmental impact of sand mining harms both coastal welfare and fisheries sectors. The sand mafia in particular has shown little regard for collateral damage or the long-term sustainability of sand mining. Although India has attempted to mitigate the effects of sand mining by releasing guidelines for local governments to follow; without more stringent measures for enforcing government mandates exploitation will continue. The far-reaching consequences of sand mining, both ecologically and economically, can severely harm the livelihoods of coastal communities reliant on natural resources for sustenance. https://www.stableseas.org/sand-mining-india-coastlines-exploitation  (20 April 2020)    

WETLANDS, LAKES, WATER BODIES

SANDRP Blog Wetlands Overview 2020: Judiciary is active, but remains ineffective The highlight of the overview of wetlands in India in 2020 here is that the NGT, various High Courts and even the SC have been quite active on wetlands front, but there is very little impact of this on the wetlands and their governance in India. This is basically because, and this is the second key highlight of this overview, the central and state governments have shown almost no interest, understanding or will to protect the wetlands.

This is in spite of the huge number of new Indian wetlands brought under the Ramsar convention in 2020, since experience and also this overview shows that Ramsar convention does not seem to particularly help the fate of the wetlands. The third highlight of the overview is that there is a lot of civil society effort, both in terms of advocacy and work on ground for the protection of wetlands in India. In fact the legal action that we see in the NGT and Courts is largely due to their efforts. In fact whatever little positive developments we see here is coming from community and civil society efforts.  https://sandrp.in/2021/01/19/wetlands-overview-2020-judiciary-is-active-but-remains-ineffective/  (19 Jan. 2021)

Uttar Pradesh Dhanauri is in dire need of conservation Even as the wetland conservation is being discussed for several years now, what is speedily developing near Dhanauri is a roadway which is supposed to provide connectivity to the YEIDA residential sectors with Greater Noida, and could in future also indicate a heavy traffic flow within a kilometer of the Sarus habitat. According to environmentalist and birder Anand Arya, the road was initially planned through the wetland area until the issue was highlighted and the road shifted away to a distance. Arya has been for over five years seeking legal protection and conservation of the wetland and pressing on the need for the conservation of the area as a protected Sarus Sanctuary. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/noida/why-dhanauri-is-in-dire-need-of-conservation/articleshow/80319897.cms  (18 Jan. 2021) 

West Bengal Making money from sewage in Kolkata This piece, written by KLI alum Amitangshu Acharya during his fellowship at the KLI, charts Kolkata’s Black Gold, which is how many locals see this urban sewage, as it courses through canals and pipes and stitches together land and labor.  Their story of the East Kolkata Wetlands emerges through the eyes and the voices of those who work in them – a man who repairs fish nets, a woman who chases away cormorants by day and fish thieves at night, and laborers working in fish farms who are engaged in a prolonged struggle against a land mafia that is slowly eating away at a living ecological heritage. The narrative is interwoven with the ecological and engineering history of the East Kolkata Wetlands, an urban ecosystem whose very existence tells us that cities can be imagined differently. https://kli.ac.at/en/the_kli/news/view/245  (18 Jan. 2021)

Kerala Vehicles used for reclaiming Akkulam wetlands seized A revenue team led by sub-collector Madhavikutty M S seized four vehicles that were used for reclamation of wetland at Akkulam on Monday (Jan. 4). The officials said the land on which levelling was done has been notified as wetlands. The action was carried out invoking relevant sections of Kerala conservation of paddy land and wetland act, 2008. The provisions state that the wetlands of the state shall be maintained as such and there shall be a total prohibition on reclamation of wetland and removal of sand. It empowers an authorised official to seize any vehicle or implements used in contravention of the provisions of the act and send a report to the district collector for initiating proceedings for their confiscation.

The collector is also empowered by the act to restore the original position of any paddy land or wetland reclaimed violating the provisions of the act and realize the cost incurred in this regard from the holder or occupier of the said paddy land or wetland, as the case may be, so reclaimed after giving him a reasonable opportunity of being heard.

The president of environment protection council said Akkulam lake was levelled and encroached upon by land mafia some time ago. “In 2019, a stop memo was issued against unauthorised levelling and reclamation. There was no order revoking the stop memo and yet land-levelling went on unabated,” Sanjeev said. The state government is in the process of implementing a project to rejuvenate Akkulam lake. Despite spending 10 years on another project for lake revival, the government had ended up losing crores due to unscientific dredging process which even invited a vigilance probe.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/thiruvananthapuram/vehicles-used-for-reclaiming-akkulam-wetlands-seized/articleshow/80102881.cms  (05 Jan. 2021)

WATER OPTIONS

Uttarakhand Women end water woes on their own; revive dry water springs   Women in the Dubroli village of Almora district’s Lamgar block have brought an end to their water woes with their own self-reliance and a little bit of external help.

For most, Uttarakhand is a land of plenty as far as water is concerned, given its snow-clad peaks and glaciers and the fact that mighty perennial rivers like the Ganga originate in its territory.  https://www.downtoearth.org.in/video/climate-change/women-power-uttarakhand-village-women-revive-dry-springs-end-water-woes-75153  (21 Jan. 2021)

Jharkhand Innovative check dams conserving water – The bori bandhs are a very simple concept. The contractors while providing cement often leave gunny bags and the same bags were reused after filling them with sand or soil and used to make embankments. They are usually made on small rivulets and other water bodies and are usually 30 feet wide wherein the gunny bags filled with sand and soil are put atop one another and adjacent to halt the flow of the water. Along with soil or sand, grass also manages to tighten the hold of the dam. They last longer and need little repair work over the years.

-The idea of a community is primal to a village and Sharma reportedly managed to use that to help the villagers help themselves. Borrowing from their own concept of Madait, which involved locals coming together to share a meal together after a positive outcome, he made the villagers come together to celebrate the success of the embankment building. https://www.news18.com/news/buzz/innovative-check-dams-are-conserving-water-yielding-greener-results-for-over-8000-jharkhand-farmers-3306014.html  (18 Jan. 2021)

IWMI Grow nutritious food without over-extracting groundwater The author, IWMI Principal Researcher Aditi Mukerji, argues that outdated policies around water, energy and food have contributed to the current unsustainable trends in water and energy sector and that reforms in water energy and food sectors are needed to better manage unsustainable groundwater use.  https://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/2021/01/how-to-grow-nutritious-food-without-over-extracting-groundwater/  (21 Jan. 2021)

GROUNDWATER

Gujarat Samples suggest Gujarat lignite mining turns groundwater unfit for agriculture: PSS  In a letter to the secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Government of India, and copies to the Gujarat chief secretary, Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority CEO, and senior officials of the state industries and forests and environment department, Gujarat government, top environmentalists Rohit Prajapati and Krishnakant of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), have asserted that the groundwater samples from the Badi-Hoidad mining area suggests water has gone just unfit for drinking as also agricultural use.

Groundwater sampling from Badi-Hoidad mining area. CounterView.

– Referring to previous three warnings in their letters dated November 26, 2020, November 30, 2020 and December 18, 2020, followed by legal notice on December 31, 2020 to the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited (GPCL), the state public sector responsible for mining in Bhavnagar district, for not having requisite Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) as per the Supreme Court Order, the environmentalists have asked the Gujarat Pollution Control Control Board (GPCB) to “immediately issue closure notice” to GPCL for mining the area and cancel Environment Clearance to the PSU for “violating” Supreme Court order. https://www.counterview.net/2021/01/samples-suggest-gujarat-lignite-mining.html  (20 Jan. 2021) 

CPCB No steps being taken for decontamination of ground water at Bandhwari dumping site The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has taken on local bodies of Gurugram and Faridabad over the Bandhwari dumpsite while pointing out that “steps for decontamination of ground water have not been taken”.  The CPCB said that the dumpsite was still active due to “dumping of fresh waste at 2,000 TPD (ton per day) generating leachate” and “dumping of 33 lakh ton non-bio remediated waste”.

In its report dated January 13, submitted before the NGT, the CPCB says that “as informed, treatment and disposal of fresh MSW (Municipal Solid Waste) by Municipal Corporations of Gurugram and Faridabad at new identified sites at Farukkhnagar and Sihi could not be undertaken due to public protest” at these places. In the last hearing at the NGT on September 30, 2020, the CPCB was asked to present an independent report as on December 31, 2020 on the dumpsite, particularly with regard to ground water contamination and proper manifest system for the treatment of leachate.

The NGT will next hear the matter on March 9. Meanwhile, Aravalli Bachao – a citizens’ group – will on Sunday (Jan. 17) protest against the proposed waste to energy plant coming up at the site. They are also demanding removal of the dumping site. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/haryana/no-steps-being-taken-for-decontamination-of-ground-water-at-bandhwari-dumping-site-cpcb-202639  (23 Jan. 2021)

Centre Install water flow meters to avoid penalty To check misuse of ground water, the Centre has directed all users, including small scale industries, drawing groundwater to install water flow meters. Any withdrawal without digital meters will invite penalty for illegally using underground water, it said.  The Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) had issued Guidelines to control and regulate ground water extraction in India in September 2020. It also called for installation of digital water flow meter having telemetry system. https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2021/jan/18/install-water-flowmeters-to-avoid-penalty-government-2251529.html  (18 Jan. 2021)

URBAN WATER

NITI Aayog FSSM in Urban Areas: Service and Business Models  NITI Aayog on Jan 19, 2021 released a book on faecal sludge and septage management in urban areas. Jointly developed with National Faecal Sludge and Septage Management (NFSSM) Alliance, the book presents 27 case studies across 10 states and various service and business models adopted by Indian cities while implementing faecal sludge and septage management (FSSM) initiatives. https://www.pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1690414  (20 Jan. 2021)

Hyderabad Tenants out of free drinking water scheme ambit  Free drinking water supply scheme in the city will only benefit landowners, not their tenants. This is owing to Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board decision to link Aadhaar numbers to Customer Account Numbers (CANs) and weed out beneficiaries owning multiple houses in the city. As a result, consumers residing in rented houses will be unable to avail of the offer. For people living in apartments, the board will consider individual occupancy certificates of flats. Flat owners will have to fix water meters at their own cost.

Preliminary estimates by the HMWS&SB reveal that of about 24 lakh families residing in the city, only six lakh consumers can utilise the scheme once fake beneficiaries are weeded out. The rest will be charged as per the regular water tariff. The name on the Aadhaar card and the HMWS&SB bill has to be the same for individual houses and domestic houses in slums. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/in-other-news/180121/tenants-out-of-free-drinking-water-scheme-ambit.html  (19 June. 2021)

Ludhiana Sewage overflow at hospital a headache Stagnant water due to sewerage overflow is giving a tough time to both patients and staff of the Mother and Child Hospital (MCH) located inside the Civil Hospital premises here. Water has been stagnant from many months now outside the labour room of the MCH and a canteen is also located on this road.

The area around the canteen is full of foul smell, giving really hard time to those visiting the place for refreshment. The hospital, where everything should be ideally neat and clean, has been sadly presenting a picture of filth and dirt for many days now. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/ludhiana/sewage-overflow-at-hospital-a-headache-202950  (24 Jan. 2021)

WATER POLLUTION

Andhra Pradesh No water contamination in West Godavari, says official All 25 persons in Komerapalle of West Godavari who were hospitalised after they showed symptoms of headache, fainting and seizures have been discharged, said joint collector (medical) Himanshu Shukla on Saturday (Jan. 23).“Results of the water samples sent to a Vijayawada laboratory and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (CSIR-IICT), Hyderabad have arrived. There are no signs of water contamination either in Eluru, Pulla or Komerapalle. Food samples have been sent to multiple labs, and results are expected to be communicated to us by tomorrow (Sunday),” Shukla added.

As many as 12 people who fell sick were in the 12-35 age group. At Eluru district hospital, specialist doctors monitored the health condition of all the 25 persons. The incident came close on the heels of a similar event at Pulla in Bhimadole mandal a few days ago. As many as 29 people fell sick between January 17 and 19, all of whom were discharged earlier this week. A total of 50 beds have been arranged in the hospital for the mystery illness cases. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/andhra-pradesh/2021/jan/24/no-water-contamination-in-west-godavari-says-official-2254385.html  (24 Jan. 2021)

WATER

Centre Govt going through draft National Water Policy The draft National Water Policy 2020 has blamed the government’s procurement policy for wheat and rice for the skewed pattern of demand for these water-intensive crops, which has aggravated the water crisis in the country, The Print has learnt. The policy, drafted by a 11-member committee constituted by Union Jal Shakti Ministry, has said it will be impossible to meet the basic water needs of millions of people for drinking and irrigation purposes without a “radical change” in this pattern of water demand, government sources said.

The committee, headed by Mihir Shah, a noted water policy expert and a former Planning Commission member, submitted its report to the ministry last month. The ministry is currently going through the draft policy before finalising and adapting it. The policy, a source said, has held that crop diversification without endangering national food security is the “single most important step” in resolving India’s water crisis. https://theprint.in/india/governance/govt-procurement-policy-of-wheat-rice-aggravating-water-crisis-draft-national-water-policy/590693/  (23 Jan. 2021)

IWP Yearend overview of water sector. https://www.indiawaterportal.org/article/2020-crammed-disasters-yet-filled-hope  (17 Jan. 2021)

AGRICULTURE

Kerala Pokkali rice could be the variety of the future Hailed by experts as a climate-adaptive rice variety, Kerala’s indigenous Pokkali rice cultivation finds new takers because of its ability to resist sea erosion and weather floods. Pokkali grows in the tidal wetlands of Ernakulam, Thrissur, and Alappuzha districts of Kerala. The fields are used alternately for rice farming and prawn and shrimp cultivation which is its main attraction.

The traditional farming practice though is labour intensive with a high cost of production because of which farmers are demanding more government patronage and better marketing opportunities. https://india.mongabay.com/2021/01/climate-adaptive-and-saline-water-resistant-pokkali-rice-could-be-the-variety-of-the-future/  (15 Jan. 2021)

Andhra Pradesh New borewell schemes could democratise agrarian distress In July 2020, the Andhra Pradesh government announced a scheme for free borewells for eligible small and marginal farmers. The ambition to “irrigate every acre of arable land in the State” is part of the ruling party’s promises under its flagship Navaratnalu welfare scheme.

– Gains made over the years stand to be lost by encouraging another wave of borewell digging among Andhra’s small and marginal farmers. It goes against the spirit and practice of APDMP, improving local water resources, and crop diversification. Instead of nurturing crops suited to local landscapes, free borewells might only incentivize another wave of planting water-intensive crops. Like free loans, indiscriminate borewell digging does not mitigate rural distress; it only worsens things for the next government and the next generation to handle.

– Instead of announcing free borewells that distort farmer behaviour, we must work on building the infrastructure needed to ensure crops are irrigated, are weather-proof (through technological interventions and landscape-suitability), disaster-proof (through insurance programs), logistics-proof (through robust cold storage infrastructure), and climate-friendly. Banning or fully subsiding something is a reflexive move characteristic of the Indian state to solve any issue. It reflects an inability to tackle complex problems with holistic solutions which have already been shown to work in the state. https://www.theindiaforum.in/letters/borewell-andhra-pradesh  (20 Jan. 2021)

Punjab Move paddy-wheat to UP, Bihar, Bengal: SS Johl  If Punjab’s march towards desertification is to be stopped, the best way is to move the cultivation of wheat and paddy out to 50 lakh hectares of land in the Gangetic plains of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, according to Dr Sardara Singh Johl, one of the most prominent agricultural economists in India. In an interview to ThePrint, Dr Johl, spoke about a wide range of issues related to agriculture in Punjab, especially the agrarian crisis prevalent in the state for the last decade or so. https://theprint.in/india/governance/save-punjab-from-desertification-move-paddy-wheat-to-up-bihar-bengal-agronomist-ss-johl/587379/  (18 Jan. 2021)

West Bengal A little help transforms farming in 2 villages Training and improved irrigation have helped indigenous and marginalised communities in two villages to take up farming and reduce their dependence on forests.  https://www.thethirdpole.net/2021/01/14/a-little-help-transforms-farming-in-two-west-bengal-villages/  (14 Jan. 2021)

Bihar Farmers save the Greater Adjutant Stork This is about the greater adjutant stork, which is being brought back from the brink by farmers in Bihar. The endangered birds provide natural pest control to farmers, as well as eating rats and snakes. In return, communities protect the birds and their nests from hunters.  https://www.thethirdpole.net/2021/01/12/bihar-farmers-save-the-greater-adjutant-stork/  (12 Jan. 2021)

POST MONSOON 2020

IMD Special forecast for rain-fed areas This monsoon, IMD will issue a special seasonal forecast for rain-fed areas where there is no irrigation to support agriculture. IMD will also use a multi-model ensemble forecast (a combination of different models) for the first time to predict monsoon rains this year. IMD held a day long brainstorming session on Monday (Jan. 18) to analyse the features of monsoon in 2020 and forecast plans for 2021.

IMD scientists said monsoon in 2020 was unique with large month-on-month variation and unusual rainfall patterns in four sub-regions of the country. An assessment of the seasonal forecast performance of IMD for monsoon 2020 was not found to be up to the mark. The error limit was breached for certain zones in the regional distribution forecast of IMD. To address concerns of inaccurate forecasting of monsoon patterns in some years, IMD has decided to use a multi-model ensemble forecast.

IMD is also likely to revisit the monsoon withdrawal criteria this year. For the past ten years, withdrawal of monsoon has been significantly delayed compared to the normal withdrawal dates. IMD scientists will assess whether this is because of IMD’s strict monsoon withdrawal criteria, like no rain in the region for at least five days, establishment of anticyclonic wind pattern, considerable reduction in moisture content, or is it because monsoon withdrawal has actually delayed significantly in the past decade.

IMD’s modelling groups have been asked to improve their forecasts for river catchments as a new feature of providing five-day forecast (instead of three day) for sub-river catchments in the country is likely to be started this year. New forecasting models will also be deployed for forecasting of urban flooding in Chennai and Mumbai.

DS Pai, senior scientist, IMD Pune, said operational forecast error was highest between 1998 and 2002—over 10% with 1998 recording a forecast error of 21% and 2002 recording an error of 22%. But forecast error has improved in the past 13 (2008 to 2020) years to an average of 5.82% after an ensemble model was implemented. “But we need further improvement in models. IMD is now planning to use both Monsoon Mission Coupled Forecasting System (MMCFS) and National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCRMWF)’s models this year to generate monsoon forecast for better accuracy.” Pai also highlighted that in a few years, India may be entering an epoch of above average monsoon rains. From 1945 to 1985 was also an above average rain epoch but from 1985 onwards, it has been a below average rain epoch.

Mohapatra said the reason monsoon 2020 was unique and difficult to forecast is because of intra-seasonal variability and formation of several low pressure systems which couldn’t be captured. Deficient rain or excess rain spells also couldn’t be predicted well. “There is need therefore to quantify the uncertainty in the monsoon forecast so that forecast can be used for various applications like energy, health, agriculture etc,” Mohapatra added. “In a few years, we are likely to transition to an epoch of above average monsoon rains because monsoon follows epochs of around 31 years in these transitions. An above average epoch will be good for the country and agriculture but would mean more extreme rainfall events for which we should prepare,” added Mohapatra. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/this-monsoon-imd-to-begin-special-forecast-for-rain-fed-areas-101611025287359.html  (19 Jan. 2021)

POST FLOOD 2020  

MoJS Review of CWC work by Minister of State for Jal Shakti – Mr. Kataria was informed that 79 new Flood Forecasting stations have been made operational in the last one year. As a result, 11,721 forecasts were issued in the year 2020 from 328 forecasting stations set up across 19 river basins. A newly upgraded Flood Forecasts Website and Flood Data entry utility started with effect from may 2020 – https://ffs.tamcnhp.com

– The CWC officials apprised about the need for setting up a project at Upper Siang/Brahmaputra which shall be highly beneficial for the state of Assam. Regarding alleged Plan of China to set up a super hydropower station at Brahmaputra at Medong, Tibet, the officials apprised that any attempt to divert water of Brahmaputra river shall act as an encroachment on the entitled rights of lower riparian states like India, Bangladesh and adversely affect the availability of water in the Brahmaputra basin during the lean season. However, there are official platforms – like the Expert Level Mechanism set up between India and China in the year 2006 to discuss various issues related to trans-border rivers.

– He was also informed that under DRIP – I, rehabilitation of 223 dams located in 7 States has been done with an estimated cost of Rs. 3466 crores. https://www.pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1690471  (20 Jan. 2021)

Tamil Nadu After 12 years, Vaigai dam touches maximum storage level  After 12 years (last time was in 2008, it has reached FRL in total of 5 years), the Vaigai dam has touched its maximum level of 71 feet following which the PWD engineers decided to release 2139 cusecs of water considering the safety of the dam on Jan 18 2021. The dam also supplies drinking water to Madurai city, besides irrigation and filling up tanks. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/after-12-years-vaigai-dam-touches-maximum-storage-level/article33601960.ece  (18 Jan. 2021)

Check dam damaged, reconstruction work begins near Villupuram The PWD has begun work on restoring the portion of the newly constructed check dam between Enathimangalam and Thalavanur that breached on Saturday (Jan. 23) resulting in heavy flow of water into the irrigation channels. Built at a cost of ₹25 crore, the check dam was inaugurated by Law Minister C.Ve. Shanmugam in September last year.

PWD sources said that the check dam had reached its storage capacity in the wake of the recent incessant rains. However, cracks developed beneath the structure due to erosion on Saturday, resulting in heavy flow of water into the irrigation channels. “We have plugged the breach using sand bags. Work to restore the damaged portion has begun and it will be competed in a time-bound manner,” an official said.

The check dam is 650 metres long and three metres in height and is sandwiched between Cuddalore and Villupuram districts. It has six vents -three each in Enathimangalam on the Cuddalore side and three at Thalavanur on the Villupuram side. Located about 10 km from Villupuram, it had been designed to trap flood waters and help recharge ground water. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/check-dam-damaged-reconstruction-work-begins-near-villupuram/article33648454.ece  (24 Jan. 2021)

ENERGY OPTIONS

Study Case for floating PV on HEP facilities Study about floating Solar PV panels at hydro project shows that the saved water from reduced evaporation losses also helps increase hydropower generation. https://www.pv-magazine-india.com/2021/01/18/the-case-for-combining-floating-solar-pv-with-hydroelectric-power-plants/  (18 Jan. 2021)

ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE

MoEF Proposal to treat forests as tradable commodity In what is being seen as a severe threat to the country’s green cover, the Union environment ministry has proposed that forests be treated as tradable commodity having value as per the Wholesale Price Index (WPI), to cut down the cost of diversion of pristine forests for infrastructure projects.

In a draft note on the revision of the Net Present Value (NPV) of forest land diverted for non-forest purposes sent to a Committee of Secretaries (CoS), the ministry on January 22 suggested the interim arrangement of aligning the rates with the WPI till the information sought for revision in NPV rates as proposed by experts of the Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM), Bhopal, are compiled. https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2021/jan/25/development-at-cost-of-nature-worry-over-centres-proposal-to-treat-forestsas-tradable-commodity-2254654.html  (25 Jan. 2021)

Chhattisgarh 10 gram sabhas object to mining in Hasdeo Arand Ten gram sabhas from Korba district, mainly consisting of people from the Gond tribe, have raised objections to Centre’s intention to acquire 712.072 ha of land for mining in Madanpur South coal block. A large part of the land to be acquired is in the biodiversity rich Hasdeo Arand region.

According to the coal ministry notification published on December 24, of the 712.072 ha identified for the acquisition, 489.274 ha is protected forest land and 159.327 ha comprise revenue and other forest land. Sarpanches of the ten gram sabhas and other members wrote to Coal Controller’s Organization under the coal ministry on January 16, stating that there was no consultation with gram sabhas and their consent was not taken for the mining project. https://www.hindustantimes.com/environment/ten-gram-sabhas-object-to-mining-in-chhattisgarh-s-biodiversity-rich-forest-101611370658130.html  (23 Jan. 2021)

Report Environmentalist Questions Need to Rush Big Ticket Mining ‘Reforms’ Criticising the government for ‘overlooking real stakeholders’, activists allege the mining policy changes will pave the way for easing entry of private mining companies. https://www.newsclick.in/Cabinet-Nod-Environmentalist-Question-Need-Rush-Big-Ticket-Mining-Reforms  (19 Jan. 2021)

Hyderabad EIA report on NIMZ a cut & paste job: Retired scientists Scientists for People, a group of retired scientists, has objected to the EIA report of National Investment and Manufacturing Zone at Zaheerabad. The scientists, in a letter to MoEF secretary RK Gupta and chief secretary Somesh Kumar, alleged that pollution loads presented in the EIA report were fictitious and have no basis. The social impact assessment did not present the number of families losing land and its impact on their lives. “Plagiarism in several chapters, where EIA is copied and pasted from various websites,” they added.

Former IICT chief scientist Dr K Babu Rao said, “Zaheerabad NIMZ proposes to take away land, which has been sustaining them for generations, from thousands of poor farmers at a throwaway compensation and TSIIC will profit from it. We have analysed the EIA report and found it manipulated to serve the interests of TSIIC and is not an objective scientific study. We have looked at three crucial chapters of the report on anticipated impacts, alternative studies and environmental management plan in detail.”

“MoEF&CC did not include food processing industries under EIA Notification 2006, but the draft EIA report shows the pollution load from this sector is highest, especially sulphur dioxide emissions are maximum. There is no proposal for steam generation and the fuel used for it,” he added. “TSIIC tried to get over this aspect by conveniently blaming the people, saying they were chased away preventing any study. But they present pictures of interaction with people at three tandas. We are specifically shocked at the extent of plagiarism in these three chapters of the report,” he said, adding “we observed plagiarism in other chapters also but would like to confine to these three chapters as it is enough to attract the rejection.

“The probability of two different persons writing the same sentence of ten words in English is less than one in a trillion. Matching of pages and pages of text with other sources cannot be accidental. It is an act of deliberate copying and deception,” the former IICT scientist said “MoEF&CC can verify our plagiarism report and then take quick action to disqualify the EIA,” he added. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/hyderabad-eia-report-on-nimz-a-cut-paste-job-say-retired-scientists/articleshow/80321958.cms  (18 Jan. 2021)

Karnataka Green laws passed at instance of foreign powers: NHAI in HC  The submission was made by a Deputy General Manager of NHAI in objections to a writ petition filed by the NGO, United Conservation Movement, against a 2013 notification of the Union Environment Ministry doing away with environment impact assessment reports for widening national highways of over 100 km by more than 40 metres.

The NHAI has since attempted to retract from the filings through a senior lawyer in the form of former advocate general Uday Holla. But the High Court on January 19 insisted that the NHAI respond on how the submissions were filed.

The division bench noted: “Moreover, the said authority seems to be proceeding on the footing that most of the organizations which file petitions in this court and the apex court in environment matters for protecting the environment are supported by foreign powers.”

If the NHAI does not support the stand taken in the objections, it must “state before the court what action has been taken against the persons responsible for filing such a statement of objections which prima facie contain scandalous and irresponsible allegations”, the bench stated. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/green-laws-passed-at-instance-of-foreign-powers-nhai-in-karnataka-hc-7157994/  (23 Jan. 2021)

HC asks explanation High Court on Jan. 11 took strong exception to arguments made by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) on affidavit that Environment Protection Act of 1986 (EP Act) was enacted by the Parliament at the instance of foreign powers and non-profit organisations which file public interest litigation petitions under the EP Act are acting at the instance of such foreign powers. Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka, who was heading the Bench, said that he had, in his 17 years as High Court judge, never come across such obnoxious arguments by a public sector undertaking. https://www.barandbench.com/news/litigation/karnataka-high-court-nhai-environment-protection-act-foreign-powers  (11 Jan. 2021)

HC Doubts Expertise Of Committee Formed To Protect ‘GIB’ The HC on Thursday (Jan. 21) expressed doubts about members appointed by the state government in the advisory committee formed for development and upliftment of Great Indian Bustard, (GIB) in the state, may not be experts in the field. A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum orally said “Out of 6 member’s at least four members may not have expertise.” It added “Was there an application of mind before appointing these persons. You (State) must appoint people who are working in the field day in and day out.”

The state government by order dated June 17, 2020 has formed the advisory committee. The committee consists of Deputy Conservator of Forest—Ballari as its Chairman. The members of the committee are Dr Manohar, Professor of Zoology, Veerashaiva College, Dr Arun, MBBS/MS Surgeon, Tashildar, Siruguppa Taluk, Range Forest Officer, Ballari Range and Samad Kottur, Lecturer, Government PU Colleges, Hospet. In its order, the bench directed the government to on January 25 produce details of the meeting of the committee constituted under order dated June 17 2020. “Place on record the minutes of the meeting of the committee. State government shall also produce files concerning appointment of members under the said order”, the HC said. https://www.livelaw.in/amp/news-updates/karnataka-high-court-the-great-indian-bustard-development-168729  (21 Jan. 2021)

Govt rejects classifying Hesaraghatta as conservation reserve The State Wildlife Board on Tuesday rejected the proposal for converting Bengaluru’s last-standing grassland Hesaraghatta into a conservation reserve. This decision was a setback for the decade-long movement initiated by the environmental activists and locals. The state Forest Department, along with the Animal Husbandry Department had chalked out a proposal for declaring the 5,010-acre land area the Greater Hesaraghatta Grassland Conservation Reserve in 2013-14.

It was filmmaker and member of the group Arkavathy and Kumudvathy River Rejuvenation Trust, Mahesh Bhat, who had spearheaded the PIL that helped save the 345-acre grassland situated in the larger 5,010-acre land area from being used to make a film city in 2012. He said, “We filed the PIL with High Court and it went on for three years. The court eventually returned the land to the Department of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services.” https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/citing-development-k-taka-rejects-classifying-hesaraghatta-conservation-reserve-141991  (22 Jan. 2021)

Book Review Dirty underbelly of Indian development The first review of a “Despite the State”, by veteran financial commentator Manas Chakravarty: “The picture the author paints is at wide variance with the image we have of India as a vibrant emerging power”. M Rajshekhar spent 33 months doing in-depth reporting on the political economy of six states—Mizoram, Odisha, Punjab, Bihar, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. This excellent book is the outcome of his efforts. This is reporting at its best. The picture that emerges is of a democracy that has been hijacked by vested interests, interested only in power and pelf. In state after state, Rajshekhar found an unholy nexus between politicians and crony capitalists. He also explores the power of the sand mining mafia in Tamil Nadu. The book says that the Indian state, far from being a developmental state or a benevolent one, has instead become a malignant growth on society, sapping its lifeblood. Hence the book’s title –‘Despite the State’.  https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/opinion/book-review-the-dirty-underbelly-of-indian-development-6369211.html  (20 Jan. 2021)

Films Lens on wildlife beyond national parks Manta rays in the Indian Ocean, wolves and other wildlife from Pune’s grassland, and muggers in Goa’s estuaries were the subjects of three diverse environmental films released in 2020. Collectively, the films address conservation issues, habitat threats, wildlife trafficking, and human-wildlife interactions beyond the boundaries of protected areas. The three films were part of the All Living Things Environmental Film Festival (ALT EFF) that ran online between December 5 and 20, 2020. https://india.mongabay.com/2021/01/environmental-films-that-turn-the-lens-on-wildlife-and-issues-beyond-national-parks/  (15 Jan. 2021)

CLIMATE CHANGE

AGU Blog Increasing occurrence of large glacier-related landslides A really interesting paper has just been published in the journal Scientific Reports (Liu et al. 2021) – the good news is that this article is open access, so it is free to all.  It seeks to explore this issue in more detail by building a database of large landslides over a 20 year period (1999 to 2018) for a 600,000 km² high mountain area in Asia, centred on the eastern Pamir, western Himalayas, Hindu Kush, Karakoram, and western Kunlun mountains.  The dataset has been built using Landsat satellite data, providing consistency in terms of satellite coverage over this period (better instruments are now available, but they do not cover the whole of the time period).  The authors have excluded landslides triggered by earthquakes and those that are a long distance from glaciers.

The landslide area plotted against the year for large landslides in an Asian high mountain areas. Figure from Liu et al. (2021)./AGU Blog

This really interesting paper is not I think the last word on this topic, but it is further evidence that global heating is hastening the mass wasting of high mountain areas. https://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/2021/01/25/high-mountain-areas-1/  (25 Jan. 2021)

Report India 7th most affected by climate change in 2019 globally India was the seventh most-affected by the devastating impact of climate change globally in 2019 according to the Global Climate Risk Index 2021 released on Monday (Jan. 25). India was preceded by Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Bahamas, Japan, Malawi and Afghanistan in the list of countries most affected by the impacts of extreme weather events in 2019, the report by Germanwatch, a Bonn-based environmental organisation said.

Between 2000 and 2019, over 475,000 people lost their lives as a direct result of more than 11,000 extreme weather events globally and losses amounted to around US $2.56 trillion (in purchasing power parities). The report was released just ahead of the Global Adaptation Summit hosted by Netherlands wherein UN secretary general Antonio Guterres is likely to call upon developed countries and donor agencies to increase funding to adaptation measures of developing countries.

In 2019, monsoon continued for a month longer than normal in India. From June to the end of September 2019, 110% of the long-period average was recorded. Flooding caused by heavy rain was responsible for 1,800 deaths across 14 states and led to the displacement of 1.8 million people. Overall, 11.8 million people were affected by the intense monsoon with the economic damage estimated to be US $10 billion. There were eight tropical cyclones in India. Six of the eight cyclones intensified to become “very severe.” Extremely severe cyclone Fani affected 28 million people, killing nearly 90 people in India and Bangladesh, and causing economic losses of US $8.1 billion, the report said. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/india-seventh-most-affected-by-climate-change-in-2019-globally-report-101611552192319.html  (25 Jan. 2021)

Study Shift in Earth’s tropical rain belt to threaten water, food supply for billions By 2100, billions of people are at risk of facing more flooding, higher temperatures and less food and water. A new study published in “Nature Climate Change” found that the climate change will cause the Earth’s tropical rain belt to unevenly shift in areas that cover almost two-thirds of the world.

– The tropical rain belt, otherwise known as the Intertropical Convergence Zone, or ITCZ, is a narrow area that circles the Earth near the equator where trade winds from the Northern and Southern hemispheres meet. Areas along the equator are among the warmest on Earth, and this, paired with the winds, creates significant humidity and precipitation. “Our work shows that climate change will cause the position of Earth’s tropical rain belt to move in opposite directions in two longitudinal sectors that cover almost two thirds of the globe,” lead author Antonios Mamalakis said, “a process that will have cascading effects on water availability and food production around the world.” Over eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean, evidence shows that the ITCZ will shift north. This will likely result in “increased drought stress over Madagascar and intensified flooding over southern India,” Mamalakis said. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/climate-change-tropical-rain-belt-water-food-supply/  (24 Jan. 2021)

Extreme weather events may surge in near future India needs to be ready and come up with specific projection models on how these changes will affect agriculture, health, water resources, energy and other sectors to cope with their impact, M Rajeevan Nair, secretary to the ministry of earth sciences said. He said: “areas under drought are likely to increase from the present 15-20% to 25-30% in future. We need to devise ways to cope with these changes.” https://www.hindustantimes.com/environment/extreme-weather-events-may-surge-in-near-future-101611277341388.html  (22 Jan. 2020)

SOUTH ASIA

India-Pakistan India sidesteps Pak’s objections to build power project on Chenab River India has decided to go ahead with 850 MW Ratle hydro power project on Chenab River in Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) despite objections raised by Pakistan with the World Bank, saying that it was not in conformity with the Indus Water Treaty (IWT).  https://tribune.com.pk/story/2280987/india-sidesteps-pakistans-objections-to-build-power-project-on-chenab-river  (22 Jan. 2021)

China-Nepal Zero progress in Chinese construction in past one year  More than a dozen Chinese construction projects in Nepal have come to a standstill due to the Chinese contractors’ and consultants’ negligence and inability to take ahead the construction works in the past one year. This includes  Upper Trishuli 3B hydropower project, Two more hydropower projects in Rasuwa district, Sanjen (42.5 MW) and Upper Sanjen (14.8 MW), 140 MW Tanahu hydropower project, Mid-Bhotekoshi in Sindhupalchok, Khimti-2 in Dolakha-Ramechhap, Langtang Stream in Rasuwa, Nyadi in Lamjung and Singati in Dolakha, among others. https://nepal24hours.com/chinese-construction-projects-in-nepal-moving-on-a-turtles-speed-records-zero-progress-in-past-one-year/  (17 Jan. 2021)

SoANaS Rivers, Habitats and Biodiversity: Foundations for Sustainable River Management Dr. Ramdevi Tachamo Shah and Dr. Deep Narayan ShahSince the beginning of the 20th century, infrastructure has been built in rivers across the world to get irrigation, hydropower, and flood control benefits. In South Asia also, interventions have been made in the Ganga River’s tributaries in Nepal. Sarada Barrage in the Mahakali in 1928, Girijapur Barrage in the Karnali in the late 1970s, Gandak Barrage in 1969, and Kosi Barrage in 1959 to derive irrigation, flood control, and some hydropower benefits. Many other dams have been built in recent years.

River Continuum Concept (Vannote et al. 1980)/ SoANaS

In the last two decades, the construction of hydropower dams and other infrastructures has boomed in Nepal. Many hydropower plants have been planned for every river, and the majority of them are under construction. Operation of multiple hydropower and irrigation projects in a single river has resulted in the drying up of stretches of the river with high cumulative environmental and social impacts in the basin. In the already dam-regulated Modi and Trishuli rivers of the Gandaki Basin, the fish population has dramatically declined and many fish species are threatened. Improper fishing practices are other threats to river ecosystems and aquatic lives.

Hydropower plants not only add energy to the national grid but also fragment rivers and decimate, if not eradicate, important fish species and other aquatic life. The development of hydropower should be based on a baseline assessment of a river’s ecosystems, consisting of instream organisms such as macroinvertebrates, fish, amphibians, and mammals. Hydropower development should be guided by the goal of incurring minimal impacts and maintaining healthy river ecosystems. Regular monitoring and compliance with the e-flow policy are the starting points to sustainable hydropower development. https://soanas.org/rivers-habitats-and-biodiversity-foundations-for-sustainable-river-management/

Nepal Shifting Gender Relations in Agriculture & Irrigation in Tarai-Madhesh Abstract from IWMI report:- The report concludes that strengthening equitable irrigation user groups alongside capacity building for farmers and program implementers are critical measures for improving women’s access to irrigation and overall well-being. Women should be ensured meaningful participation, including leadership roles. It recommends linking irrigation user groups to other income-generation schemes, and facilitating access to better credit, finance and agricultural inputs. https://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/publications/other-publication-types/books-monographs/iwmi-jointly-published/research-for-development-learning-series-issue-10/

Bhutan Will Punatshangchhu-I HEP Ever See the Light of The DAY? The construction was started from 2007. The failure of the right bank occurred in July 2013… It looks ridiculous to still continue with the site stabilization measures knowing well that the project is a doomed one… the project will probably never see the light of the day.

– If the first democratically elected government of Jigmi Y. Thinley didn’t just go by the lone advice of the then project managing director R. N. Khazanchi to shift the dam to the unchecked ad-hoc site, the project would have been completed and commissioned years ago. The present dam site to the naked eye looked absolutely unsuitable, yet the new site was selected without carrying out detailed geological investigations as mandated for construction of the dam. The Department of Geology (DGM) entrusted to carryout the detailed geological investigations was cut short by not allocating resources by the then Secretary of MoEA Sonam Tshering. https://kbwakhley.blogspot.com/2021/01/will-punatshangchhu-i-hydropower.html   (23 Jan 2021)

Pakistan Multan’s mangoes and multinationals Ahmad Fraz Khan Water woes of Multan are identified by a recent report by the Irrigation Department. It categorises the Multan zone (an irrigational administrative unit and the district being part of it) as one of the most critical areas of the province. The aquifer level has gone to a minimum of 50 feet: at some points, it is even at 80 feet or more. This is despite the colossal recharge from River Chenab, which is joined by two other rivers — Ravi and Jehlum — before entering Multan district.

This three-river recharge has not helped the Multan district because its 11,500 tube wells are pumping out water at a greater pace than these rivers can recharge. According to the report, the level is now going down by more than a foot every year. https://www.dawn.com/news/1602000/multans-mangoes-and-multinationals  (18 Jan. 2021)

Sindh women win historic recognition to manage water Excluded from water management for years despite being a major part of the agricultural workforce in Sindh, women farmers have been granted a role in water governance after the passage of a new amendment. https://www.thethirdpole.net/2021/01/20/women-in-pakistans-sindh-win-historic-recognition-to-manage-water/  (20 Jan. 2021)

Bangladesh Govt report reveals increase in fisheries production Just released official statistics show, Bangladesh’s yearly fish output increased to 4.4 million tons (inland capture (28.45%), inland culture or farmed-fish (56.24%) and marine capture (15.31%)) now from 1.8 million tons in 2000. The country’s Ilish catch rose to over half a million tons a year now while it was only 0.3 million tons 10 years back. Bangladesh ranks first in global catch of Ilish, fourth in Tilapia. With over 1.2 million tons of inland water capture fish output annually, Bangladesh now contributes a tenth of the world’s total inland water capture fish production, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) states in its latest flagship report – The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2020. China (1.9 million tons) and India (1.7 million tons) are the only two other countries in the world that produce more inland water capture fish than Bangladesh.

– Globally, fish provides only 17% of average per capita intake of animal proteins, in Bangladesh’s case it is 60%, making fish one of the cheapest sources of protein for 170 million people in the country.

– The yields of some fish varieties (measured by weight) are 13 times the yield of rice that could be grown on the same land, and revenues are several times higher. According to the Dept of Fisheries, Bangladesh, the fisheries sector now contributes over 3.5% to national GDP, over 25% to the agricultural GDP, and 1.5% to the foreign exchange earnings by exporting fish and fish products. https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2021/01/17/bangladesh-witness-to-a-silent-fish-revolution  (17 Jan. 2021)

Illegal sand mining goes on unabated in Kurigram Reckless and illegal sand extraction from the riverbed and banks in villages of Rajibpur Upazila of Kurigram district is causing untimely river erosion and threatening nearby homesteads. Some influential figures of the area are running a rampant sand mining business right under the noses of the administration, which shows no sign of taking any actions against them, locals complained. They said that the administration was not playing any role in this regard as some influential people of the area are running the business.

Row upon row of dredging machines are helping the sand miners to illegally lift sand from the banks of Brahmaputra, Jinjiram, and Sonavari rivers in Rajibpur Upazila of Kurigram. There is a lucrative market for the extracted sands as the fast-growing economy has a booming construction sector, particularly civic infrastructure. Concrete, paved roads, ceramics, metallurgy, petroleum fracking, even the glass on smartphones, all require sand, and river sand is best.

But sand mining can change the course of rivers over time, bringing about profound changes in the lives of those who live on a river’s banks, and are usually dependent on it for their livelihoods. In Kurigram, the residents of the following villages are most apprehensive of the impact of sand mining on the rivers flowing through the district: Mohanganj, Char Newaji, Kodalkati, Baul Para, Baliamari, Rajibpur, Munsipara are under threat. https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/nation/2021/01/16/illegal-sand-mining-goes-on-unabated-in-kurigram  (16 Jan. 2021)

Illegal sand mining threatens farmland Hunger for sand destroys flood embankments around the Jamuna river, putting farmlands at risk in Tangail and Sirajganj districts.  https://www.aljazeera.com/gallery/2021/1/11/in-pictures-sand-extractions-puts-farmland-at-risk-in-bangladesh  (11 Jan. 2021)

Report As World’s Deltas Sink, Rising Seas Are Far from Only Culprit Although climate change is often blamed for coastal inundation in places like the 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. https://e360.yale.edu/features/as-worlds-deltas-sink-rising-seas-are-far-from-only-culprit  (13 Jan. 2021)

Sri Lanka Indian govt pressuring Sri Lanka to hand over a port terminal to Adani Group? The workers’ union of the Sri Lankan Port Authority (SLPA) has alleged that the government of India headed by PM Modi is putting undue pressure on the island-nation to hand over the development and operation of a major Colombo port terminal to the Adani Group. Is New Delhi’s prime interest the national security of India amid the growing Chinese presence in Sri Lanka, or is the Modi government seeking to have the terminal run by a business group headed by a close associate of the prime minister? Controversy over the impending deal has led to conflict between unions and management at the port of Colombo. https://www.adaniwatch.org/modi_government_pressuring_sri_lanka_to_hand_over_a_port_terminal_to_adani_group  (22 Jan. 2021)

CHINA

India-China China Has Built Village In Arunachal, Show Satellite Images The village, consisting of about 101 homes, show satellite images dated Nov 1, 2020, located on the banks of the River Tsari Chu, lies in the Upper Subansiri district, an area which has been long disputed by India and China and has been marked by armed conflict. The construction, approximately 4.5 kms within Indian Territory of the de facto border, will be of huge concern to India. The image dated a little more than a year before that – Aug 26, 2019 – does not show any construction activity. So, the village was set up in the last year. In fact, in Nov 2020, the BJP MP from Arunachal Pradesh, Tapir Gao, had warned the Lok Sabha of Chinese incursions in his state, referring specifically to the Upper Subansiri district.

No village in this area in August, 2020. By November 2020, 101 homes appear in completed village. NDTV

– An authentic online map of the Surveyor General of India, used by the government as its official map, clearly shows that the Chinese village lies well within Indian territory. The Tsari Chu river valley has a history of clashes between India and China dating back to 1959.  https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/china-has-built-village-in-arunachal-pradesh-show-satellite-images-exclusive-2354154  (18 Jan. 2021)

Study 2 species of red panda exists in India Contrary to the previously held belief that only one species of red panda is found in India, Indian scientists have established that India is home to both the Himalayan Red Panda (HRP) and the Chinese Red Panda (CRP). In doing so they have also countered a Chinese study published in February 2020 which claimed that the CRP is not present in India.

The Indian scientists have also contradicted China claims, saying it is the Siang river in Arunachal Pradesh that is the potential boundary or geographic that divides the two sub-species after examining the DNA samples from the Indian Himalayan Region. In their work, the Indian scientists found that the population of CRPs in Dibang Valley has genetically diverged thrice and the HRP had also diverged twice at 0.17 million years ago and 0.12 million years ago.

The scientists further stated that their study also found that the HRP population in Kanchenjunga landscape-India (KL) had declined abruptly in the last 5-10 thousand years due to environmental changes. The red panda has lost 50% of its population in the last 20 years and now only 2500 individuals survive in the wild in India, China, Tibet, Nepal, Myanmar and Bhutan. “Red panda conservation requires the involvement of multi-agency coordination and countries,” said Chandra.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-counters-china-on-red-pandas-dna-finds-himalayan-and-chinese-sub-species-exist-here/articleshow/80381232.cms  (21 Jan. 2021)

ASIA

Indonesia Palm oil plantations, coal mines linked to deadly flood Environmentalists have attributed recent heavy floods in southern Indonesian Borneo to widespread deforestation for oil palm plantations and coal mines.

– An analysis by Indonesia’s space agency shows an area of forest twice the size of London was cleared in the past decade in the watershed area of the Barito River in South Kalimantan province.

– During the same period, plantations spanning twice the size of Los Angeles have been established in the watershed area.

– Activists have called for a sweeping review of licenses as well as rehabilitation of degraded areas in the region. https://news.mongabay.com/2021/01/palm-oil-plantations-coal-mines-deforestation-indonesia-south-kalimantan-flood/  (20 Jan. 2021)

MEKONG Thailand Govt Rejects New Technical Report on Lao’s Sanakham dam  Thailand has rejected a new technical report on Laos’ Sanakham dam project, one of nine large-scale Mekong river mainstream dams integral to Vientiane’s controversial economic strategy of becoming the “Battery of Southeast Asia.” The 684-megawatt Sanakham dam is one of seven dams in various stages of planning. At a cost of about $2 billion, it would take eight years to complete once construction starts in Laos’ northwestern Xayaburi province.

Thailand’s Office of National Water Resources told RFA’s Lao Service on Tuesday (Jan. 19) that it does not accept the revisions submitted Jan. 15 to the Thai National Mekong River Committee by the Chinese dam developer Datang Corporation Limited. “Both our office and the Mekong committee concluded that the information in the new report is still not sufficient. More study is required,” said Somkiat Prajamwong, the office’s secretary-general.

Mekong river project. VOA News.

Somkiat said the new report did not include data on the impact on the environment or how it would affect people who live below the proposed dam. He called on the developer to conduct an extensive environmental impact assessment and again revise the report before the next consultation. https://www.voanews.com/east-asia-pacific/thailand-rejects-new-technical-report-planned-large-lao-mekong-mainstream-dam  (24 Jan. 2021)

Thriving fish reserve The radical experiment of just 75 households proves that reserves work in freshwater environments too. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2021/01/thai-village-created-tiny-fish-reserve-25-years-ago-today-its-thriving/  (12 Jan. 2021)

NILE GERD Ethiopia lays foundation stone of new dam amid stalled talks Ethiopia’s Minister of Water and Irrigation Seleshi Bekele Awulachew announced Jan. 9 that the foundation stone of a new dam was laid on the Agma River, a small river in the Blue Nile Basin, in the Amhara Region, north of the capital Addis Ababa. According to a report by Sky News Arabia quoting the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, the dam, dubbed Agma-Shasha, will be built in northern Shewa in the Amhara Region, and will be 45.5 meters (149 feet) high and 371 meters (1,217 feet) long, with a storage capacity of up to 55 million cubic meters.

Ethiopia is scheduled to finish construction within three years, at an estimated cost of $125 million. The project will allow it to develop 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres) of land, which would benefit 28,000 families. The dam’s construction will be implemented by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation in cooperation with the Amhara Water Work Construction Enterprise. This comes at a time when the negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) are stalling between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. The latest round of talks was held on Jan. 10 and came to a halt, this time, over disagreements over how to resume negotiations and the procedural aspects of managing the negotiation process. https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2021/01/egypt-ethiopia-new-dam-nile-gerd-talks.html   (18 Jan. 2021)

THE REST OF THE WORLD

Study Brumadinho dam collapse could have been predicted weeks in advance  The dam collapse at Vale’s Córrego do Feijão mining complex in Brazil, which killed almost 300 people two years ago, could have been foreseen with the right monitoring technology.

Rescuers in Brumadinho in 2019. (Image by IDF Spokesperson’s Unit photographer, Wikimedia Commons).

This is according to a recent study by researchers at the University of Nottingham and Durham University, who collaborated with Terra Motion and discovered that by applying satellite radar imaging InSAR to check for small ground movements in and around dams, it is possible to predict a dam burst. https://www.mining.com/brumadinho-dam-collapse-could-have-been-predicted-weeks-in-advance-study/  (24 Jan. 2021)

Australia Indigenous survey for Warragamba Dam plan found wanting Heritage NSW has blasted the Berejiklian government’s preparations for raising the Warragamba Dam wall, saying consultation with traditional owners was inadequate and modelling was needed to determine the likely impacts on cultural heritage from inundation.

The criticism, contained in a briefing note to Aboriginal Affairs Minister Don Harwin and leaked to The Sun-Herald, also said the government had set up a weekly “high-level co-ordinating group” including Jim Betts, secretary of the Planning Department, to address Indigenous and other issues in the project. https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/inadequate-indigenous-survey-for-warragamba-dam-plan-found-wanting-20210123-p56wc7.html  (24 Jan. 2021)

USA Know about atmospheric rivers Atmospheric rivers are relatively long, narrow regions in the atmosphere – like rivers in the sky – that transport most of the water vapor outside of the tropics. These columns of vapor move with the weather, carrying an amount of water vapor roughly equivalent to the average flow of water at the mouth of the Mississippi River. When the atmospheric rivers make landfall, they often release this water vapor in the form of rain or snow. https://www.noaa.gov/stories/what-are-atmospheric-rivers  (Dec. 2015)

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

Also see: DRP News Bulletin 18 Jan. 2021 & DRP News Bulletin 11 Jan. 2021

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

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

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