DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 01 Feb 2021: Dissolving YMC is retrograde

In a shocking and disappointing move, the National Green Tribunal last week dissolved the Yamuna Monitoring Committee (YMC) in Delhi, UP and Haryana along with Justice Pritam Pal Committee and asked the state government to implement the various measures in earlier YMC and NGT reports and directions. This seems like a major set back for the future of Yamuna and other rivers. This seems to have been a direct fall out of the Supreme Court of India Suo Moto taking up the Yamuna pollution issue. This is not going to help solve the seemingly intraceable issue of tackling pollution of our rivers. If the states were interested and capable of implementing the necessary measures, we won’t have required YMC in the first place. YMC was taking a number of useful steps and as we wrote in the DRP lead story dated January 18, 2021, what is required is strengthening the hands of the YMC, but as if our worst fears were to come true, YMC has now been dissolved, even before it could make its mark in achieving cleaner rivers.

It should be noted that our judiciary does not have very remarkable track record in achieving cleaner rivers. In fact the same Supreme Court took up Yamuna case Suo moto in 1994 and not having been able to achieve any better state of Yamuna, after dealing with it for 23 long years, handed over the case to NGT in 2017. Supreme Court had been dealing with Ganga case even longer, and again not achieving better state of the river, handed over the case to NGT in 2017. It seemed like NGT had done something right in setting up YMC, but that also has been dissolved. Its clear that unless the citizens and society does not rise up, there is no hope for our rivers.

YAMUNA Delhi NGT dissolves YMC NGT on Thursday (Jan. 27) dissolved the Yamuna Monitoring Committee, along with another committee led by former Punjab and Haryana High Court Judge Pritam Pal. It asked the NCR states to instead act on all previous judgments issued by the green tribunal and the SC over the last two decades.

Taking the recommendations made by the YMC on record, NGT directed the chief secretaries of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to personally monitor the progress being made and submit periodical reports to the Central Monitoring Committee (CMC), which is headed by Jal Shakti Abhiyan secretary in terms of its earlier order dated September 21, 2020.

Asking the River Rejuvenation Committees (RRC) of Delhi, Haryana and UP to ensure interdepartmental coordination for the execution of action plans, the tribunal said quarterly reports on these should now be submitted to the chief secretaries on a quarterly basis, who may thereafter give their own quarterly reports to the central committee. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/ngt-dissolves-panels-on-yamuna-revival/articleshow/80524235.cms  (29 Jan. 2021)

“All the issues have been duly identified and categorical directions issued… The Tribunal or Tribunal appointed Committee cannot be expected as substitute for governance and can at best set directions,” the bench said.

One of the most crucial steps taken by the YMC in 2018 was to suggest that the Central Water Ministry get a study done to assess the environmental flow (e-flow) required in the river between Haryana’s Hathnikund and Delhi’s Okhla. The study done by the National Institute of Hydrology (NIH) has recommended releasing more water into the river from Hathnikund to help its revival. However, the Haryana government has disagreed with the study.

A member of the committee told The Indian Express that the steps required for revival of the Yamuna include addressing the question of e-flow, protecting the floodplains of the river and preventing flow of untreated effluents in it. “Unless the flow of freshwater in the river is not up to the required amount, there is no chance of revival… In (Covid-19) lockdown, the water in the river had become perfectly clean, because more freshwater was released into it and industries were either shut down or had minimum functioning,” the member said. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/yamuna-panel-concludes-proceedings-says-action-inadequate-on-reviving-river-7165781/  (29 Jan. 2021)

This needs to be further overseen at the national level by the CMC, headed by Secretary of Jal Shakti Ministry, which also includes NMCG and CPCB, in terms of earlier orders of this tribunal, the bench pointed out.

The NGT bench further made it clear that non-adherence to timelines must result in adequate and stringent action against accountable persons. “Timely completion of projects must be ensured, otherwise for generations the problem will remain untackled, as vested interests will like the projects to remain pending and delayed to the detriment of the public interest,” the NGT said.

The bench noted, the matter has been dealt with by the Supreme Court for 23 years, before transfer of the matter to this tribunal in the year 2017 and by this tribunal for almost nine years.

The bench said that the committee has functioned for more than two years and contributed in a big way in steering the authorities with a clear roadmap by its exhaustive reports on every aspect but the authorities’ action has been every time found to be inadequate and continues to be so.

This requires the authorities to change their attitude and rise to the occasion to discharge their constitutional obligation to the citizens to provide a clean environment by protecting the scarce sources of water by stringent steps against the erring officers and the violators and by effective monitoring at appropriate higher levels, reviewing/modifying the failed models and failed officers, the bench recommended. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/delhi-news/ngt-directs-delhi-cs-to-monitor-yamuna-rejuvenation-101611880673275.html  (29 Jan. 2021)

NGT pulls up DJB over pollution in the Yamuna A Bench headed by NGT chief, Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, directed the Delhi Chief Secretary to coordinate with Chief Secretaries of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh and monitor the progress of cleaning the river by evolving effective administrative mechanisms. The green panel also observed that the Yamuna Monitoring Committee (YMC) had noted several gaps in generation and treatment of sewage.

“Such gaps need to be bridged in U.P. and Haryana also. Necessary devices for sewage and effluent treatment have still not been installed to the required extent. In spite of availability of huge funds, the DJB is not working in a professional manner, as observed by the YMC,” the Tribunal also said.

“Floodplains are not being made encroachment-free, affecting the riverine ecology. Awareness programmes are inadequate. Frothing frequently found in the absence of regulating composition of detergents, which find place in the river through sewage, for which action needs to be taken… E-flow needs to be managed by resolving inter-State issues administratively,” the Bench said. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/ngt-pulls-up-djb-over-pollution-in-the-yamuna/article33706296.ece  (31 Jan. 2021)

ToI Infograph.

Study Phosphates cause of frothing in Yamuna A study conducted by DPCC on the formation of froth in the Yamuna has stated that the toxic foam was created mainly by the presence of phosphates and surfactants in the river.

The samples were collected in August from nine locations, including the drains at Najafgarh and Barapullah and the supplementary drains, and treated water from STPs, to identify the pollutants in the river. The DPCC study revealed that the phosphate level ranged from 6.9mg/l to 13.42mg/l while the surfactant level varied from 0.27 mg/l to 1.28. The maximum phosphate and surfactant concentrations were observed at Khajoori Paltoon Pool—downstream of Najafgarh drain—with 13.42 and 1.28mg/l, respectively. The prescribed standard for dissolved phosphate is maximum 5.0mg/l and for surfactant, 0.2mg/l.

CPCB recommended that the entire sewage generated from the stretch of Delhi required proper treatment and all detergent-manufacturing units in the country should be directed to manufacture detergents only as per the Bureau of Indian Standards specifications after obtaining the BIS certification. The monitoring committee said, “The problem arising due to the release of detergents with high phosphatic contents into rivers and waterbodies will remain till the manufacturers comply with the BIS standards for detergents.”

DPCC, which is running a drive against industries in this matter, said its teams had inspected 192 units, of which 102 were polluting the Yamuna. Of these, 18 units didn’t have effluent ETPs while 15 ETPs were non-functional. DPCC has issued showcause notice to 17 units and closure notice to another 39. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/why-you-cant-wash-your-hands-of-froth-in-yamuna-high-phosphate-content-in-detergents-one-of-biggest-causes/articleshow/80438147.cms   (25 Jan. 2021)  

Uttar Pradesh Ganga water not fit for drinking: PCB to HC The UPPCB on Thursday (Jan. 28) told the Allahabad High Court that the water of river Ganga is not t for drinking purpose. The submission was made in a suo moto case registered by the High Court in the year 2006, to protect and restore the river. The matter came to be listed after an intervention was led by Advocate Tripti Verma, claiming that water of rivers Ganga and Yamuna has deteriorated severely.

Amicus Curiae AK Gupta informed the Bench that untreated water of various drains are being directly own in both Yamuna and Ganga rivers and as a result, the water has changed in colour. He also pointed out that several drains (nalas) are still untapped, despite several directions by the Court that all drains need to be connected through STPs.  In view of these submissions, the Bench has sought details about (i) steps being taken by the Government authorities for treatment of drains through the process of bioremediation, (ii) in how much time it proposes to connect the remaining drains to STPs, (iii) number of prosecutions launched so for violation of order banning use of disposable plastic, etc.

Inter alia, the Court has permitted Amicus Curiae AK Gupta alongwith cousnels appearing for Government authorities to personally visit the STPs and other discharge points and ghats, in order to apprise themselves of current status relating to working of STPs and other process by which drain and sewerage water is being allegedly treated. The matter is now listed for consideration of February 4, 2021. https://www.livelaw.in/news-updates/allahabad-high-court-river-ganga-water-unfit-for-drinking-up-government-state-pollution-control-board-169114  (29 Jan. 2021)

HYDRO POWER PROJECTS

Uttarakhand Online release documentary film ‘Ladenge Jeetenge’. https://vidhilegalpolicy.in/events/screening-of-ladenge-jeetenge-a-documentary-on-dams-in-uttarakhand/; https://youtu.be/21Udw9CBNDo

J&K Over 214,000 trees to make way for Ujh HEP EAC & FAC have respectively recommended environment and forest clearance to the Ujh multipurpose hydropower project in Jammu and Kashmir, in their meetings in Dec 2020. The project includes a 116-m dam & needs diversion of 4,350 ha, which includes about 680 ha forest land and felling of 214,502 trees. It was declared a national project in 2008. https://india.mongabay.com/2021/01/over-214000-trees-to-make-way-for-ujh-hydropower-project-in-jk/  (26 Jan. 2021)

MoEF Minutes of the meeting of the EAC on River Valley Projects held on Jan 20, 2021. Decisions:

1. Kundah Pumped Storage Hydro Electric Project (4×125 MW) in Tehsil Udhagamandalam, dist The Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu by M/s TN Generation & Distribution Corp for Env Clearance: APPROVED

2. Expansion of Tubachi-Bableshwar Lift Irrigation Scheme (CCA: 52,700 ha) in Bagalkot District of Karnataka by Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Ltd. (KNNL) for Terms of Ref: APPROVED

3. [ADDITIONAL AGENDA] Dugar Hydroelectric Project in Chamba Dist of Himachal Pradesh – Amendment of ToR: APPROVED. http://environmentclearance.nic.in/writereaddata/Form-1A/Minutes/28012021UZ80QY68Approved_MoM6thEAC_RiverValley.pdf

DAMS

Opinion The problem of ageing dams By J. Harsha It is not a secret anymore that India’s dams are now ageing and concomitantly, reservoir water is being replaced by soil, technically known as silt or sediment.

The situation with hundreds of thousands of medium and minor dams is even more precarious as their shelf life is even lower than that of large dams. Krishna Raja Sagar dam was built in 1931 and is now 90 years old. Similarly, Mettur dam was constructed in 1934 and is now 87 years old. Both these reservoirs are located in the water-scarce Cauvery river basin. As dams age, soil replaces the water in the reservoirs. Therefore, the storage capacity cannot be claimed to be the same as it was in the 1900s and 1950s.

To make matters worse, studies show that the design of many of our reservoirs is flawed. In a paper, Supply-side Hydrology: Last gasp, published in 2003 in Economic & Political Weekly, Rohan D’Souza writes that the observed siltation rate in India’s iconic Bhakra dam is 139.86% higher than originally assumed. At this rate, he wrote, “the Bhakra dam is now expected to function for merely 47 years, virtually halved from the original estimate of 88 years”. Similarly, the actual siltation rate observed for the Hirakud, Maithan and Ghod dams are way higher at 141.67%, 808.64% and 426.59%, respectively. Studies in later years showed similar findings.

Almost every scholarly study on reservoir sedimentation shows that Indian reservoirs are designed with a poor understanding of sedimentation science. The designs underestimate the rate of siltation and overestimate live storage capacity created. Therefore, the storage space in Indian reservoirs is receding at a rate faster than anticipated. Reservoirs are poised to become extinct in less than a few decades with untold consequences already under way.

When soil replaces the water in reservoirs, supply gets choked. The cropped area begins receiving less and less water as time progresses. The net sown water area either shrinks in size or depends on rains or groundwater, which is over-exploited. Crop yield gets affected severely and disrupts the farmer’s income. In fact, the farmer’s income may get reduced as water is one of the crucial factors for crop yield along with credit, crop insurance and investment. It is important to note that no plan on climate change adaptation will succeed with sediment-packed dams.

The flawed siltation rates demonstrated by a number of scholarly studies reinforce the argument that the designed flood cushion within several reservoirs across many river basins may have already depleted substantially due to which floods have become more frequent downstream of dams. The flooding of Bharuch in 2020, Kerala in 2018 and Chennai in 2015 are a few examples attributed to downstream releases from reservoirs. The nation will eventually be unable to find sufficient water in the 21st century to feed the rising population by 2050, grow abundant crops, create sustainable cities, or ensure growth. Therefore, it is imperative for all stakeholders to come together to address this situation urgently. https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-problem-of-ageing-dams/article33711348.ece  (01 Feb. 2021)

As many as 293 big dams in the country are more than 100 years old, Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said in July 2019 as he introduced a bill on dam safety in Lok Sabha. https://www.news18.com/news/india/293-big-dams-in-country-over-100-years-old-says-union-minister-shekhawat-while-introducing-bill-on-dam-safety-2253155.html  (13 July 2019)

Kerala UN report mentions Mullaperiyar The report said that approximately 3.5 million people are at risk if India’s Mullaperiyar dam in Kerala, built over 100 years ago, “were to fail”. The dam is constructed with concrete ‘surkhi’ (a combination of limestone and burnt brick powder). “The dam, in a seismically active area, shows significant structural flaws and its management is a contentious issue between Kerala and Tamil Nadu States,” it said.  https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/un-report-threat-ageing-dams-india-mentions-kerala-s-mullaperiyar-142107  (25 Jan. 2021)

INTERSTATE WATER DISPUTES

Krishna river water sharing dispute Andhra asked to stop Pothireddypadu, RLIS works The Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) on Jan 25, 2021 directed the Andhra Pradesh govt not to take up construction works of Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Scheme (RLIS) as well as upgradation works of Pothireddypadu Head Regulator and Banakacharla Regulator Complex without submitting the requisite Detailed Project Reports (DPR) to the Board and the Central Water Commission (CWC). It also mandated necessary approvals from the Apex Council. The KRMB member Harikesh Meena wrote a letter to the Andhra Pradesh government on Jan 25, 2021 following a complaint lodged by the Telangana Irrigation department Engineer-in-Chief C Muralidhar in this regard. https://telanganatoday.com/andhra-pradesh-asked-to-stop-pothireddypadu-rlis-works  (25 Jan. 2021)

Mahadayi river water sharing dispute Govt statement on Mhadei untrue, didn’tobject on state instructions: Sr counsel In a major embarrassment to the state government, senior counsel Arvind Datar, who appeared for Goa in the Supreme Court in the Mhadei case, told TOI on Sunday (Jan. 31) that it was only on the instructions of the state government that they did not object to the notification of the Mhadei Water Disputes Tribunal award.

In a written reply, water resources minister Filipe Neri Rodrigues had told the assembly that “the counsel did not oppose the notification of the award on his own accord”. Datar refuted the claim that he made the statement without the consent of the Goa government. “No. It is completely wrong (the state government claim). The statement is not true. Nothing was done on advocate’s accord,” Datar told TOI. “My memory is two years old. Three water resources department officials had come from Goa and the matter was duly discussed. It was on clear oral instructions after discussion in Delhi before the hearing (that we did not object to the notification),” Datar said.

In a late-night statement, CM Pramod Sawant reiterated that the state government had not given any instructions for opposing the Mhadei notification. “The government instructions are always in writing,” he said.

Datar said even if it was the case that the advocate did on his own accord, as made out by the Goa government, hearings had taken place after that and no one from the state government had raised any objections. “Suppose there was something drastically wrong, even after that hearings have taken place. They should have said this is without the consent of the state government, but nobody has done that till date,” Datar said. “If a concession is made without instructions, which rarely happens, you can retrieve the concession saying that this concession was (made) without authorisation,” Datar said. “It is really unfair of them to make a statement like this,” he said.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/govt-statement-on-mhadei-untrue-didntobject-on-state-instructions-sr-counsel/articleshow/80620566.cms  (01 Feb. 2021)

Following this opposition has demanded resignation of CM Pramod Swanat. https://www.sify.com/news/fresh-row-over-mhadei-oppn-wants-goa-cms-resignation-news-national-vcbeOuecddjic.html  (01 Feb. 2021)

RIVERS AS NATIONAL WATER WAYS

NW1 New cruise services to begin in Ganga between Rajghat and Assi ghat. The two storey cruise with sitting capacity of 100 people was built long ago costing 10.71 crore but was waiting for trial. It had left from Goa on Nov. 20 and reached Gazipur. It is expected to reach Banaras in next 20 days.  https://m.jagran.com/lite/uttar-pradesh/varanasi-city-cruise-from-goa-via-ghazipur-now-leaves-for-varanasi-seating-arrangement-of-100-people-21310883.html  (27 Jan. 2021)

URBAN RIVERS

SANDRP Blog South India Urban Rivers Overview 2020 Urban rivers provide a lot of services, but the urban areas are inviting major trouble by destroying them through dumping of solid and liquid waste, encroachments, river front developments, unsustainable mining among others. The urban areas also operate in almost total policy vacuum and none of the cities under smart city programs are dealing with Urban rivers with any smartness. An overview of some key developments about Urban Rivers of South India in 2020. Plz Read, Share. https://sandrp.in/2021/01/31/south-india-urban-rivers-overview-2020/  (31 Jan. 2021)

Bridges of Pune and the People who Stop and See What would the people crossing the bridges over rivers in cities be thinking? A beautiful photo blog from Abhay Kanvinde from Pune raising such questions.  Plz Read, Share. https://sandrp.in/2021/01/31/bridges-of-pune-and-the-people-who-stop-and-see/  (31 Jan. 2021)

Mutha; Pune Citizens oppose metro pillers in riverbed Prominent citizens of Pune had raised the red flag when this alignment of the metro project was first announced, arguing that the pillars would obstruct the flow of the river and cause flooding. https://www.newsclick.in/pune-metro-pillars-river-heighten-flood-risk-will-they-be-reconsidered  (24 Jan. 2021)

Jeevit Nadi Breathing life into the dying rivers of Pune! India Water Portal interviews Shailja Deshpande Director of Jeevitnadi to know about how Jeevitnadi was founded, its journey over the years and the future directions. The organization continues with its mission to breathe life into Pune’s rivers and has been awarded the prestigious Bhagirath Prayas Samman 2020 this year!

Urban rivers have so far been looked at differently. The focus always has been on harnessing urban rivers and their spaces for gains without consideration for the health and wellbeing of the river. We wish to change this perception and help rivers be naturally flowing, clean and safe for generations to come! https://www.indiawaterportal.org/article/breathing-life-dying-rivers-pune  (25 Jan. 2021)

Uruli residents catch landfill being packed with wet, mixed waste This site is closed to orgin of rivers. The garbage crisis seems to loom unendingly over the city, at the core of which lie repeated blunders by the Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) Solid Waste Management (SWM) department when it comes to the dumping sites of Uruli Devachi and Phursungi villages. And now, in a new brouhaha sparking fresh discord with these villagers, the civic body may have been caught blatantly violating green court orders. On Tuesday (Jan. 26), villagers nabbed sundry workers red-handed with several containers and machineries dumping and using unsegregated solid waste as filler inside the landfill site of the depot — in direct contravention of various orders issued by NGT at regular intervals since 2016.

As per the mandate, only old, inert (rejected) waste can be used at the landfill, which is neither decomposed nor recyclable. But taking wrongful advantage of the site’s availability (for which PMC is spending Rs 18 crore of public money), it seems the authorities have started using plastic and wet waste for landfilling purposes — and further, these have been allegedly brought in from other projects owned by PMC and run by private contractors, so as to benefit the latter. https://punemirror.indiatimes.com/pune/cover-story/uruli-residents-catch-landfill-being-packed-with-wet-mixed-waste/articleshow/80486235.cms  (28 Jan. 2021)

Ennore Creek eco-restoration project to begin shortly State govt gave administrative sanction for the project this month. It will be undertaken at an estimated cost of ₹189 crore. The Chennai Rivers Restoration Trust and the Water Resources Department will implement the project over three years. The project is likely to be completed in 2023. The key aspects of the proposal include a sustainable river mouth opening at an estimated cost of ₹153 crore and habitat restoration for about ₹48.39 crore. The project also includes the implementation of an environment management plan for the Ennore Creek at an estimated cost of ₹57 lakh and the removal of solid waste for ₹35 lakh. The final report of the study on Ennore Creek by the CRRT has been approved.

According to the WRD, the sustainable opening of the Ennore creek mouth and building of a training wall is proposed to reduce sedimentation. However, a proposal seeking a permanent solution to sedimentation is awaiting approval and funding from Kamarajar Port Ltd. for two years now. The restoration of Ennore Creek also involves dredging for 2 km from the mouth to the Ennore railway bridge. The work is proposed to be taken up in two phases and under the CRRT project. The other work, including demolition of old piers near Nettukuppam, would also be included the project, sources said. Corporation officials said the Ennore Creek eco-restoration project would mitigate flooding in residential neighbourhoods located along major waterways in the city. The integrated stormwater drain project in the Kosasthalaiyar basin in north Chennai would be incorporated into this project. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/project-for-eco-restoration-of-ennore-creek-to-begin-shortly/article33706478.ece  (31 Jan. 2021)

Kadambrayar; Kochi NGT slams govt over SWM Brahmapuram The NGT came down heavily on the Kerala govt over the continued ineffective SWT of Kochi’s Brahmapuram waste plant, stating that the administration failed in protecting citizens’ right to a clean environment. NGT said that there was no meaningful action for complying with the SWT Rules, 2016 and handling of solid waste, in spite of repeated directions in the last two years. The tribunal’s direction came while hearing a case seeking direction to take effective steps for infrastructure development for collection, storage, segregation and disposal of tonnes of waste, termed legacy waste that has accumulated over the years in Kochi’s Brahmapuram.

The tribunal said that as shown from a report by the SPCB, the samples clearly show that the parameters of environmental safety are not being met. The tribunal noted that the Kochi municipal corporation is still continuing unauthorised operations and work is yet to start for bio-mining, while pointing out that compensation has been assessed but not recovered. “The affidavit of the Chief Secretary does not show that any effective action has been taken on the ground. Thus, the situation is far from satisfactory. One wonders whether the officers dealing with the matter lack in competence,” the bench said.

Failure to uphold environmental rule of law is no different from maintaining law and order and protecting the citizens against crimes, the bench observed. Continuing violation of environmental norms is not only violation of rights of citizens, but also has potential for damage to the public health. “It is unfortunate that in spite of several orders of this Tribunal for the last two years, the officers concerned have only paid lip service to the issue. There is thus a clear governance deficit which needs to be urgently remedied at the appropriate highest level in the state”, the bench said. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/will-prosecute-officers-ngt-slams-kerala-govt-over-solid-waste-management-kochi-142240   (27 Jan. 2021) More information about the plant here. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/brahmapuram-solid-waste-processing-plant

The State-Level Monitoring Committee (SLMC) on SWM has informed the NGT that the leachate from the dumping site of Kochi Corporation at Brahmapuram remains a major source of pollution of the Kadambrayar. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/leachate-from-brahmapuram-polluting-kadambrayar-slmc/article30967117.ece  (03 March 2020)

Kadambrayar acts as the main source of water for Infopark, Smart City, Cochin Special Economic Zone (CSEZ) and many industrial units, but it is fast getting polluted due to the dumping of waste and lack of proper cleaning drives. Adding to it, excessive growth of water hyacinths and other weeds has severely affected the water flow. Residents and environmentalists feel the river will die a gradual death if action is not taken on a war footing. Environmental activist Purushan Eloor alleged the state government is not taking enough measures.

Salinity is another issue that troubles Kadambrayar. Kinfra had stopped pumping water for Infopark from Kadambrayar recently due to salinity issues, something that has affected the techies badly.Environmentalists say salinity in the river happens due to sea erosion.“For years, Kerala has been experiencing heavy sea erosion. The monsoon period is now reduced to 1-2 months, so monsoon flushing isn’t happening. So underwater streams are easily reaching other water sources. Also, freshwater sources are on the decline. Usually, the rivers are affected by salinity from March to May, but now salinity rises by November-December. This is what Kadambrayar is experiencing right now,” said Purushan. https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/kochi/2020/feb/11/waste-dumping-salinity-leave-kadambrayar-high-and-dry-2101688.html  (11 April 2020)

In parts adjacent to Kadambrayar, the compound wall of Brahmapuram SWM plant collapsed raising concerns that the already polluted water body stretch will be once again subjected to severe pollution as there is high chance that waste will flow directly into the stream during the monsoon showers. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/broken-wall-brahmapuram-waste-plant-may-cause-pollution-nearby-river-kochi-103390  (11 June 2019)

Spread over 110 acres, the Brahmapuram SWM plant is situated around 5 km away from Kochi’s Infopark. According to the locals, no waste was actually being treated at the plant as it’s more of a dumping yard. When the setting up of the plant was proposed in 2006-2007, the villagers of Brahmapuram had carried on a relentless protest against the same for almost two years. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/walk-through-ghost-village-brahmapuram-deserted-thanks-kochis-garbage-41040  (20 Nov. 2016)

In a major revelation, the corporation stated that the leachate from the SWM plant at Brahmapuram had been contaminating the Kadambrayar River as well the groundwater systems in the surrounding areas. The local body made this admission in the tariff proposal petition filed for the sale of power to KSEB from the waste-to-energy (WTE) plant at Brahmapuram. In the report the local body also admits that the new WTE plant was also not free of pollution. The civic body planned to use fly the hazardous ash, generated from the boiler and bag filter, for landfill. It says that rejects from the processed waste will also be used for landfill. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kochi/Corp-admits-to-polluting-river-groundwater-in-Brahmapuram/articleshow/54575677.cms  (29 Sept. 2016)

RIVERS

Prof. Brij Gopal, an exceptional mind and expert on freshwater ecosystems, passed away earlier this month, leaving behind a towering legacy. Please join us for a remembrance meeting for him as we recall memories & celebrate his work. Date: 1st February Time: 4:30pm to 6:00pm IST (GMT+5:30) Where: Live here on our Facebook page – India Rivers Forum https://www.facebook.com/IndiaRiversForum 

“Role of Forestry in River Conservation” by Dr. Pankaj Srivastava (IFS) Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal in the lecture series by Vigyan Prasar on 27th January 2021 from 04:00 pm to 055:30 pm. https://twitter.com/cleanganganmcg/status/1353703464300253187?s=20

Goa Mollem’s green cover loss and water woes  Nearly 21 years after the then governor, the late Lt Gen (retd) J F R Jacob, spoke about protecting the water security of Goa, today it is witnessing a tectonic shift inside one of the eight biodiversity hotspots of the world at Mollem, as three Centre-funded infrastructure projects have the potential to turn it into a parched state. It is not just water but the three projects that cut through the biodiversity paradise pose a mighty threat to endemism and the impending damage to the flora and fauna of the region will be “colossal”, said forest officials.

Mollem forests also constitute the catchment areas for the Khandepar, the main source of raw water for the Opa water treatment plant supplying potable water to Tiswadi and Ponda talukas. “It’s ironic that while Goa is fighting with Karnataka over the Mhadei water diversion, the government has no qualms in destroying the catchment areas of the Khandepar by bringing in the three potentially disastrous projects,” a senior forest department official said.

While other parts of Western Ghats were thoroughly studied and documented by the British, Goa’s forests remained excluded from scientific exploration owing to the Portuguese rule. Wildlife experts said unlike the Portuguese, the Britishers were good naturalists, which led to the exploration and documentation of the flora and fauna from other Western Ghats states. Sources said the purpose of declaring Mollem forest a wildlife sanctuary in 1968 was to protect and preserve the biodiversity of the forest “so that the water regime in this area is protected”.

“It is mainly to protect the rivers originating in the Western Ghats. While the Dudhsagar river is flowing through the Mollem national park, there are so many other tributaries originating and merging with this river ensuring a sustained water supply. Any anthropogenic presence in the catchment area can lead to devastation,” the senior forest official said.

Explaining how the projects will wreak havoc on the fragile ecosystem of the Western Ghats, forest officials even inadvertently debunked the argument that the damage caused to the environment would be minimal as the alignment of the second track runs parallel to the existing one. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/crisis-in-making-mollems-greencover-loss-and-goas-water-woes/articleshow/80488763.cms  (28 Jan. 2021)

Karnataka Concerns over rivers drying up fast Mr. Holla said that the 2018 landslips in the Sakleshpur, Mudigere and Belthangady belts of the Western Ghats were the direct impact of extensive blasting and felling of trees for the Yettinahole project that involved construction of seven check-dams and laying hundreds of kilometres of huge pipelines.

– The Mrithyunjaya, a tributary of the Netravathi in Belthangady taluk, is almost dead, while the Kumaradhara and the Kempu Hole, the other tributaries, might dry up soon due to diversion of rivulets for the Yettinahole project.

– Jan 25, 2021 Bangarapalke landslip should not be seen as an isolated one as landslips were highly unlikely during non-monsoon season. It has occurred very close to the Netravathi’s birth place, Yelaneer, and the days are not far away for the Netravathi too to dry up, he cautioned. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Mangalore/concern-over-rivers-drying-up-fast/article33700079.ece  (30 Jan. 2021)

Maharashtra MPCB issues closure notice to a chemical unit in Palghar The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has issued a closure notice to a chemical unit in Palghar for allegedly violating various pollution norms. MPCB’s regional office at Thane issued the notice on January 25. The MPCB had asked the chemical unit – Seya Industries Limited, located at Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), in Tarapur to shut the manufacturing in 72 hours.

MPCB alleged that the chemical unit has not been adhering to pollution prevention norms. In the notice, MPCB has listed several lapses by MIDC – including consumption of coal more than the consented limit, non-disposal of any hazardous waste to the Common Hazardous Waste treatment among others from April to October last year.

As per MPCB’s notice, the unit allowed substandard quality effluent into the MIDC chamber through the stormwater drain. The operations and maintenance of the Effluent Treat Plant was found to be in poor condition. MPCB stated that if the chemical unit fails to comply with the directions, action will be taken as per environmental laws.  https://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/mumbai/other/mpcb-issues-closure-notice-to-a-chemical-unit-in-palghar/articleshow/80479263.cms  (27 Jan. 2021)

GANGA Uttarakhand Char-dham road project to claim over 56K trees The Char Dham road project is leading to the felling of over 56,000 trees in the ecologically-fragile mountain ranges. Of these, around 36,000 trees have already been felled while the rest are on the chopping block and are awaiting clearance from officials, data exclusively accessed by TOI has revealed.

The maximum number of trees that are due for felling currently are on NH-125, between Tanakpur to Pithoragarh where 6,885 trees are to be felled. The stretch of NH-58 between Rudraprayag and Mana will see 6291 trees being felled whereas the Rishikesh to Rudraprayag stretch on NH-58 has got 3460 trees marked for felling. While these are official numbers, those in the know say that the deforestation on the ground may be much more.

Experts point out that the blatant tree felling and slope cutting has already started having a devastating impact on the Himalayan ranges. “Unabated, unaccounted felling of Himalayan trees, which cannot be compensated by planting any other tree at that height and drilling of the mountains without proper measures, are steps that are opening doors for endless new chronic landslide zones,” said geologist Navin Juyal, who is a member of the SC -appointed HPC constituted to assess the environmental impact the project is having on the Himalayan landscape. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/char-dham-all-weather-road-to-claim-over-56000-trees-36000-already-felled/articleshow/80515611.cms  (29 Jan. 2021)

Interview Ganga’s cure lies in people’s will for a change Healing the Ganga can start in your kitchen, says Bidisha Banerjee, whose new book Superhuman River: Stories of the Ganga explores the faith and the science that define the river, and what it will take to save it.  https://www.indiawaterportal.org/article/gangas-cure-lies-peoples-will-change  (25 Jan. 2021)

Bihar About water stangnation problem along Ganga in Mokama and its impact on farmers. लखीसराय, पटना, शेखपुरा और नालंदा में गंगा के किनारे खेतों को किसान टाल कहते हैं. करीब एक लाख छह हज़ार हेक्टेयर में फैले इस इलाकों में किसान एक ही फसल ले पाते हैं. आमतौर पर यह दलहन की फसल होती है. परंपरागत रूप से लोग यहां दाल उगाते रहे हैं. टाल का इलाका हर साल गांगा में बाढ़ के पानी में डूब जाता है लेकिन धीरे-धीरे जब पानी उतरता है तब किसान इसमें अपने फसलों की बुआई शुरू कर देते हैं. बाढ़ के चलते आई उपजाऊ मिट्टी इसे बेहद उर्वर बना देती है. बिना खाद, पानी के ही किसान खूब पैदवार करते थे. आमतौर पर 15 अक्टूबर तक इस इलाके में बुआई शुरू हो जाती थी. लेकिन बीते तीन सालों से हालात एकदम बदल गए हैं. पानी समय पर निकल ही नहीं रहा. इसके कारण दलहन की खेती नहीं हो रही है. इस साल भी अक्टूबर बीतने को है लेकिन खेतों में कमर तक पानी भरा हुआ है. किसानों का कहना है कि बीते तीन सालों की तरह इस बार भी खेती नहीं ही होगी.

आखिर जो पानी पहले वापस गंगा में चला जाता था वह अब क्यों नहीं जा रहा. यह जानने से पहले यह जानना ज़रूरी है कि टाल में पानी आता कहां से हैं और जाता कहां है. इसका जवाब हमें स्थानीय युवक सुंदरम कुमार देते हैं. वे बताते हैं, ‘‘बाढ़ के समय अलग-अलग नदियों का पानी टाल में जमा होता है. तीन-चार महीने पानी टाल में जमा रहता हैं और जब गंगा का पानी कम होता है तो हरोहर नदी के जरिए गंगा नदी में चला जाता है. पिछले कुछ सालों में लगातार बढ़ते गाद के कारण गंगा की ऊंचाई बढ़ गई जिसके वजह से टाल का पानी अब गंगा में रफ्तार के साथ नहीं जा पा रहा है.’’

पानी नहीं निकलने का एकमात्र कारण गंगा की ऊंचाई बढ़ना ही नहीं है. किसान रंजीत इसके दूसरे कारणों का जिक्र करते हैं. वे बताते हैं, ‘‘सरकार ने टाल से लगते हुए इलाकों में रोड का निर्माण कर दिया. जहां से पानी की निकासी होती थी वहां उसे पुल बनाना था, लेकिन वहां छोटा सा पाइप लगा दिया. हरेक एक-दो किलोमीटर पर वहां पुल होना चाहिए था पर पांच से छह किलोमीटर पर पुल बना जिसकी वजह से पानी आ तो जाता है, लेकिन जाने का कोई साधन नहीं बचा. हम लोग बचपन में देखते थे कि पानी अलग-अलग रास्तों से निकलता था लेकिन इस सरकार ने वहां पुल बनाया जहां से पानी निकल ही नहीं सकता है.’’

टाल क्षेत्र में जल जमाव की समस्या कोई नई नहीं है. इसके लिए सरकार ने कई बार योजना बनाई. हिंदुस्तान में साल 2009 में छपी एक खबर के मुताबिक नीतीश कुमार ने बाक़ायदा इसको लेकर एक विशेष योजना बनाने की बात की थी. बिहार विधान परिषद में इस योजना की घोषणा उन्होंने की थी. तब नीतीश कुमार ने कहा था कि टाल क्षेत्र से समय से पानी निकल जाए यही सबकी चिंता का विषय है. लेकिन हैरानी की बात है कि आज ग्यारह साल बाद भी इसकी स्थिति में कोई बदलाव नहीं आया. यहां के किसान बताते हैं कि लम्बे समय से हम टाल योजना के बारे में सुन रहे हैं. अख़बारों में पढ़ते हैं कि टाल योजना के तहत पैसे आए हैं, लेकिन उन पैसों का ठीक तरह से उपयोग नहीं किया गया जिसका नतीजा आज वो भुगत रहे हैं. https://www.newslaundry.com/2020/10/23/bihar-elections-nitish-kumar-jdu-tejashwi-yadav-bjp-rjd-farmers-pulses  (24 Oct. 2020)

RIVERS BIODIVERSITY

SANDRP Blog Gangetic dolphins deaths in 2020 More than a decade after Gangetic dolphins (platanista gangetica) was granted the status of national aquatic animal, the rare mammal species continue to face multiple threats impacting their habitat and population in Ganga rivers. Just in past one year, the year when the PM of India declared the Project Dolphin, six dolphins were found dead for unnatural reasons in three states along the Ganga. https://sandrp.in/2021/01/27/gangetic-dolphin-deaths-in-2020/  (27 Jan. 2021)

SoANaS Podcast Episode 7 In this episode, Dr. Ramdevi Tachamo Shah suggests that a healthy freshwater ecosystem is essential for human welling. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxe1fO4RG_4&feature=youtu.be  (25 Jan. 2021)

MoEF 10k aquatic mammals fall victim to fishing vessels each year Around 9,000 to 10,000 aquatic mammals like whales and dolphins get snagged by mechanised fishing vessels every year across India, according to the Union environment ministry. So-called marine megafauna also get stranded on shore either alive or dead for reasons such as fisheries bycatch (marine species snagged in mechanised boats unintentionally during fishing), boat strikes, noise pollution, disease and disorientation, according to a ministry document on stranding guidelines released on Thursday (Jan. 28).

The guidelines also aim to reduce bycatch of marine animals in fishing gear by spreading awareness among fishing communities and to identify the bycatch and stranding hotspots of each state and UT to depute volunteers.

The ministry has also released the National Marine Turtle Action Plan 2021-26 which identifies all important sea turtle nesting habitats. India has a coastline of more than 7,500 km. Around 40,000 to 11,00,000 turtles nest on India’s beaches ever year. The goal of the action plan is to conserve turtle species and their habitats; improve understanding of the species and their habitats; and enhance sustainable tourism and so on. Both the marine megafauna stranding guidelines and the marine turtle action plan gain significance because the ministry of earth sciences (MoES) released a draft Blue Economy policy in January.

The Blue Economy policy plans to boost island tourism, marine biotechnology, deep sea mining and the ocean energy sector through innovative financing and business models. The last date for public comment on the draft is February 27. “The Centre’s economic planning is blind to ecological concerns and ecological plans don’t spell out the impacts of industrial and infrastructure expansion. Action plans draw their direction from the problems or vulnerabilities that they are designed to address,” said Kanchi Kohli, legal researcher, Centre for Policy Research. https://www.hindustantimes.com/environment/10k-aquatic-mammals-fall-victim-to-fishing-vessels-each-year-government-101612144988963.html  (01 Feb. 2021)

FISH, FISHERIES, FISHERFOLKS

Karnataka Indigenous fishes have been dwindling in Bengaluru’s rivers and lakes While wild animals are disappearing from forests owing to destruction of habitat in Karnataka, as many as 32 varieties of indigenous fishes are not to be seen in rivers, lakes and reservoirs in the state. Experts fear that these varieties could be lost forever as their population has dwindled considerably in recent years. Observers say that there was no plan to conserve them so far, and hope that adequate plans are drawn up by concerned officials soon.

Along with Chelu Meenu, Kuchu (Magur in English), Korava (Asiatic Snake Head), Cat Fishes, Haavu Meenu (Spiny Eel), Baale Meenu (Fresh Water Shark), Owl Meenu (Giant Snake Head) are some of the other varieties of fishes that are on the decline. A source in the Fisheries Department recalled that Haavu Meenu (Snake fish in English) was so tasty that late Chief Minister Kengal Hanumanthaiah relished eating it as part of his diet. Another fish variety which was often relished was Kuchhu Meenu, but these varieties are hard to find now.

Experts said that instead of focusing on indigenous fishes, the Fisheries Department gave a thrust to fast production of fishes, resulting in indigenous varieties vanishing from rivers and lakes. Nowadays, Rohu and Katla among other varieties, all belonging to Ganga river region, have been bred in state fish farms for consumption. Attention has not been given to indigenous varieties, which are making a slow exit from rivers and lakes.

Fishes started to dwindle after fisheries officials began to promote the highly predatory African Catfish among farmers, which grow fast and prey on indigenous varieties, making them disappear at a rapid rate, a fisheries officer said. Seemingly unaware of the dangers that the African Catfish could pose to indigenous fishes, the Fisheries Department brought them to Karnataka from Kolkata. These African Catfishes are native to the River Nile in Egypt and started to feed on indigenous fishes and created havoc before the department could sense the danger, according to observers.

Recently, retired fisheries officer MF Rahman submitted a representation to the Karnataka government, asking it to take steps to revive the population of indigenous fishes in reservoirs, rivers and lakes but nothing substantial has happened, he said. “I have gathered details of each indigenous fish and given it to the state government to revive them in farms but the report has been gathering dust,” Rahman said.

When contacted, Joint Director of Fisheries department, Mysuru Narayan said that, “If Karnataka Veterinary, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries Sciences University officials come forward to conserve these dwindling indigenous fishes, then Fisheries Department would extend all support to conserve these fishes, before it is too late.” https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/indigenous-fishes-have-been-dwindling-bengalurus-rivers-and-lakes-142448  (30 Jan. 2021)

Report Story of unfortunate Scotsman, Himalayan Trout & Pahadi pride More than a century later, the once alien species has become in many places a mainstay in Himachali and Kashmiri lives. Trout has come to represent a potential for economic prosperity in the Western Himalaya. The days of hatching ova by the foot of a bed have given way to seven government farms in Himachal Pradesh, and hundreds of private farms. Hatcheries are mostly limited to government farms, like the main Patlikuhal.

The potential of trout farming is in rainbow trout, a cousin of brown trout, since it grows faster. In 1988, the Himachal Pradesh government signed an agreement with the Norwegian government to transfer trout culture technology with a focus on rainbow trouts. The eggs that do not become fertile must be removed manually, with great care: they are probably infected and could spread the infection. “After this, chances are the eggs have survived and will hatch in 15 days.” Private farm owners in Himachal or Kashmir do not grow brown trout. The fisheries department does this in marginal fashion and then stocks – or releases – these fish into the rivers.

There are several angling resorts in Kullu and trout is one of the more sought-after foods. “It is perhaps not a part of all Himachali culture,” Rajiv said. “You don’t find trout everywhere. But it is certainly a part of Tirthan’s culture.” There are many trout farms in Kashmir as well but the practice has not taken off in a big way. “The state government is encouraging youth to start trout farming,” said Kaul. “Many have done so with some success, but not much.”

The story of Mitchell, Miskeen and Joo is that of success in the face of tough odds – but today that success is at stake in the Western Himalaya. “Trout numbers have declined in Tirthan,” according to Rajiv. He said the state fisheries department regularly stocks brown trout in the rivers but that they have many issues with the staff. “There is rampant poaching, and lower-level guards of the department don’t just shirk their duty. Poachers openly take their permission in exchange for some trout.”

Poor fishing practices, such as releasing bleach into the water to render the trout unconscious, using large nets and an uptick in the number of dams, hydroelectric power projects and sand-mining has meant the trout and its homes across Himalayan rivers has been significantly threatened.

In Himachal Pradesh today, fishing requires a permit from the fisheries department, plus a commitment to not retaining any fish smaller than six inches, not killing more than six eligible fish and abiding by a ban from November to February – the breeding season. “But who will monitor this?” Krishan Sandhu, secretary of the Trout Conservation and Angling Association, Kullu, asked. “The department does not have good staff. At least 351 are needed to keep ward and watch. If they cannot meet this number, they must engage locals to take up the job.”

The situation is similar in Kashmir. F.A. Bhat, who heads the division of fisheries resource management in the faculty of fisheries, Sher-e-Kashmir University, said, “Earlier, you could find trout in all of the Jhelum and its tributaries. But today because of industrial activity, water diversion for irrigation, sand-mining and climate change, trout is not found in the lower reaches.” According to him, angling is now a thing of the past and no longer means much for Kashmir’s economy: “our conditions are not favourable for tourism anymore.” Kaul also said trout-farming is not big in Kashmir because “trout fish is expensive. It sells at Rs 700 per kilogram, compared to Chinese carp at Rs 200 per kilogram and local fish at Rs 250-300 per kilogram.”

Trout is an adopted fish with a colonial past, and its introduction in the Western Himalayas infused the lives of people, and the stories they tell, with a bit of history. The adventures of Mitchell, Miskeen and Joo in Kashmir, the legend of the Bhuntar airstrip being built just for the Punjab governor to fish in Kullu, Varun Bharti catching his first trout in Tirthan, Goffara selling fishing gear in his international level shop, a fish biologist’s memories of his grandfather – these are all stories hued by the presence of trout.

But even though it is an introduced species, trout has found a place in the hearts and minds of the Kashmiri and Himachali people. “The youth must take up the mantle now,” Sandhu said. “If nothing is done, we will lose trout from these waters.” This loss in turn would erase a complex web of relationships the fish shares with history, conservation and – today – even Pahadi prosperity. https://science.thewire.in/environment/fj-mitchell-sodhama-miskeen-himalayan-trout-sustainable-fishing/  (30 Jan. 2021)

Tamil Nadu Adani port expansion latest threat to Ennore-Pulicat wetlands As Chennai’s Kattupalli Port seeks environmental clearances for an expansion 17 times its initial size, residents and local communities are raising concerns over the ecologically sensitive Ennore-Pulicat coastal wetlands that the expanded port would sit on. Other concerns also accompany this project—the possibility of more polluting industries being set up near the port, a set of documentary illegalities, and coastal erosion too. https://thebastion.co.in/politics-and/a-port-expansion-is-the-latest-threat-to-the-ennore-pulicat-wetlands/  (27 Jan. 2021)

Another detailed report on the issue:- Pointing out that Ennore and Pulicat wetlands are an essential part of the ecosystem, Sunddarajan says, “This is a natural ecosystem and Pulicat is the second largest lagoon in India. The ecosystem helps fish to thrive in both wetland and the seas. Many new species of fish have come to life due to the ecosystem. So, the port expansion will affect the marine ecosystem and it will also lead to loss of livelihood for 1 lakh people.”

Incidentally, in its EIA report, the Marine Infrastructure Development and Private Limited on behalf of Adani Ports proposes artificial fish habitats to increase biodiversity, fish production and sustained livelihoods.

Sundarrajan points out that one of the reasons for the 2015 floods in Chennai was because the outlet in Ennore was allegedly encroached by the Kattupalli Port. “So 50,000 cusecs of water could not be let out in 2015, which was one of the causes for flooding. So now if the port is extended then Chennai will be affected,” he says. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/ground-report-why-pulicat-residents-are-opposing-adani-port-expansion-tn-142354   (28 Jan. 2021)

Economic Survey 2020-21 highlights: – Total food grain production in the country in the agriculture year 2019-20 (as per Fourth Advance Estimates), is 11.44 million tonnes more than than during 2018-19.

– Fish production reached an all-time high of 14.16 million metric tons during 2019-20: GVA by the Fisheries sector to the national economy stood at ₹2,12,915 crores constituting 1.24% of the total national GVA and 7.28 % of the agricultural GVA.  https://www.livemint.com/budget/economic-survey/economic-survey-2020-21-key-takeaways-11611915899230.html  (29 Jan. 2021)

Ennore Creek eco-restoration project to begin shortly State govt gave administrative sanction for the project this month. It will be undertaken at an estimated cost of ₹189 crore. The Chennai Rivers Restoration Trust and the Water Resources Department will implement the project over three years. The project is likely to be completed in 2023. The key aspects of the proposal include a sustainable river mouth opening at an estimated cost of ₹153 crore and habitat restoration for about ₹48.39 crore. The project also includes the implementation of an environment management plan for the Ennore Creek at an estimated cost of ₹57 lakh and the removal of solid waste for ₹35 lakh. The final report of the study on Ennore Creek by the CRRT has been approved.

According to the WRD, the sustainable opening of the Ennore creek mouth and building of a training wall is proposed to reduce sedimentation. However, a proposal seeking a permanent solution to sedimentation is awaiting approval and funding from Kamarajar Port Ltd. for two years now. The restoration of Ennore Creek also involves dredging for 2 km from the mouth to the Ennore railway bridge. The work is proposed to be taken up in two phases and under the CRRT project. The other work, including demolition of old piers near Nettukuppam, would also be included the project, sources said. Corporation officials said the Ennore Creek eco-restoration project would mitigate flooding in residential neighbourhoods located along major waterways in the city. The integrated stormwater drain project in the Kosasthalaiyar basin in north Chennai would be incorporated into this project. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/project-for-eco-restoration-of-ennore-creek-to-begin-shortly/article33706478.ece  (31 Jan. 2021)

RIVERBED MINING

Four major sand, stone mining accidents in January 2021

SANDRP Blog Sand; stone mining kills 45 in a week  2021 has begun with 45 lives lost in 4 mining accidents in just a week. We highlight the tragic incidents here as they raise some critical questions about governance and to prevent the avoidable accidents from becoming a new normal. https://sandrp.in/2021/01/27/sand-stone-mining-45-lives-lost-in-fatal-accidents-in-a-week/  (27 Jan. 2021)

“The unregulated illegal mining is the root cause behind such deaths. Most of these accidents happened in the dark of night or early morning hours,” Bhim Singh Rawat, associate coordinator of SANDRP, told Gaon Connection. “Hundreds and thousands of heavy trucks, often overloaded, ply through the interior roads, damaging them and making them accident prone. Then to earn more money through extra trips, drivers indulge in rash driving,” said Rawat.  

Between January 2019 and November 2020, at least 193 people have been killed in the country due to illegal sand mining. Despite stringent laws, the sand mafia continues to grow, killing both people and the ecology. https://en.gaonconnection.com/illegal-mining-46-killed-within-7-days-in-mining-related-transport-accidents/  (30 Jan. 2021)

Karnataka New sandmining policy for coastal region Responding to questions during question hour in Assembly here, Mines and Geology Minister Murugesh Rudrappa Nirani said on Friday (Jan. 29) that a separate sand policy will be introduced to help the people of Udupi, Dakshina Kannada and Uttara Kannada districts in the coastal region.

The minister said the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) authority has been instructed to clear 13 sand mounds located along river beds coming under its jurisdiction in 2020-21. “A seven-member District Sand Monitoring Committee headed by the Deputy Commissioner will issue temporary permits to 104 applicants to extract sand from 13 sand mounds for a year,” he said.

He added that the department had taken a decision to clear the sand mounds along the riverbeds in the CRZ as per the receiving directives from the Union Environment, Forest and Climate Change. “The Mines and Geology department would consider only those having temporary permits to clear the sand mounds of 2011-12 and a couple of years prior to that along the riverbeds in the CRZ.

The minister said that the state government’s aim is to supply quality sand at market price to the people in order to boost construction activities. In a statement released by his office here, he also added that – Mines Adalats – would also be held across the state under which he, along with department officials, would go to divisions to resolve the issues on the spot. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/ktaka-come-out-new-sandmining-policy-coastal-region-142443  (30 Jan. 2021)

Mining activity continues at the cost of environment  This mentions of adverse impacts of stone, sand mining on local eco-system, people including water sources and forest and risks of making panchayats permitting authority and also raising important questions.

-In Ballari, the Tungabhadra water has been diverted for making steel, when there is an absolute scarcity of drinking water in the region. This shows that steel is more important to the government than drinking water. Also, 3,000 acres are being granted in the district for a steel plant on a 30-year lease. These are things which are affecting the state.

-India is a signatory to various environmental agreements, right from the Stockholm Convention, to Rio Convention as well as the Paris Agreement but we have not implemented even 5% of the directives. The geology department is primarily responsible for all these things. How did they allow all these things to happen? Where is the risk analysis and precautionary principle? Why action is not taken against defaulting officers? Why such a massive, visible violation of the earth is going on? Who is protecting the unauthorised miners? These are the things that people should question their elected representatives. https://www.deccanherald.com/specials/insight/mining-activity-continues-at-the-cost-of-environment-942672.html  (24 Jan. 2021)

Dirty dynamics of stone quarrying In Madapalli, at the northern edges of Chikkaballapur district, it is diicult to find a hill without earthmovers, trucks and tractors. An attendant retinue of labourers — mostly from neighbouring states — chiselling or drilling rocks is a common sight. Most of these quarries are scarcely visible — or strategically hidden, according to locals — from roads leading to the village. But its effect on the surrounding environment and the village itself is crystal clear. https://www.deccanherald.com/specials/insight/the-dirty-dynamics-of-stone-quarrying-942671.html  (24 Jan. 2021)

Uppinangady: Locals object to sand mining from rivers  Sand is being mined from about half a kilometre stretch along the river. A road has been built for this purpose blocking the naturally flowing river. Sand mining operations are also ongoing at Tekkaru, Biliuru, Kadeshivalaya along the Netravati river and at Kadaba, Alankaru, Hirebandadi and Adekal along the Kumaradhara river. Additionally, mining is also being carried out along the Gundya river at Gundya, Udane, Icchalampadi and Nujibaltil. Locals have demanded action against these mining activities from the Department of Mines alleging that most of them are illegal. https://www.udayavani.com/english-news/uppinangady-locals-object-to-sand-mining-from-rivers  (25 Jan. 2021) 

Goa Sand mining in Goa: River systems in peril Informative piece by Dr Antonio Mascarenhas is a former Scientist, NIO, Goa:- If illegal sand is to be reimbursed to the river, how and where is sand to be dumped back? Regrettably, studies on sand budget of rivers of Goa was never done. The composition, actual thickness, lateral distribution and volume of sand deposits in rivers are not known. A scientific sand mining policy that governs the quantity of sand to be extracted from a specific site is lacking, although there are guidelines and criteria meant to control this haphazard human activity.

-A scientific study on the impact of mining within rivers is again lacking. Importantly, any activity in tidally influenced saline rivers is governed under the realm of coastal laws (CRZ); specific distances on both banks are classified as No Development Zones where no commercial activity is allowed. All these regulations are thrown to the winds. Paradoxically, in river Tiracol, sand extraction is allowed along the southern Goa river bank; but such activity on Maharashtra side is prohibited.

-Mining of sand per se should not be a problem. Sand deposits are entirely composed of silica or quartz that constitutes the most dominant mineral of the planet earth. The Indian peninsula for example is mostly made of granites and gneisses in which silica is major mineral. Sand generated due to erosive processes ultimately finds its way towards the ocean.

-As our sand in the rivers, sandy beaches, dunes and coastal plains are all siliceous. But the sensitive issue is how much sand is to be extracted and from where. Beaches and dunes are protected by law. River beds can be mined manually but not ransacked. Existing laws are snubbed. Hence the proliferation of sand mafias. Natural sand is a part of the ‘commons’ and is meant for collective benefit; sand is not the property of a selected few. https://www.heraldgoa.in/Edit/Sand-mining-in-Goa-River-systems-in-peril/169965  (20 Jan. 2021)

Process for sand mining licences to start soon  CM Pramod Sawant on Sunday (Jan. 24) said that the government will soon start the process of issuing permissions for sand mining in certain belts. This will lead to business opportunities for locals, he said.

A study was under way to assess the environmental damage due to sand mining, Sawant told reporters on the sidelines of Yuva Sammelan at Ravindra Bhavan. “The study of the first cluster covering the Chapora river has been completed. Based on the assessment, permissions will now be issued for sand extraction in that belt,” Sawant said. Sand mining in the rest of the rivers will be legalised once the study is completed, he said.

Sawant’s statement comes two days after Goa Forward Party threatened a stir if sand mining is not started. GFP working president Kiran Kandolkar, at a press conference last week, said BJP was extracting “political revenge” against those who did not support it in the 2017 assembly elections. He alleged that Sawant has stopped sand extraction in parts of Goa, while allowing sand extracted from Sawantwadi to be brought into the state.

As per EC norms, the state has to conduct a study of rivers to assess the impact of sand mining activities. With no such study having been carried out by the state, NGOs had approached the high court seeking restriction on issuing sand extraction permits. The NGT had banned sand mining in Goa while directing that proper environmental licences be issued to operators before extraction is permitted. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/process-for-sand-mining-licences-to-start-soon-cm/articleshow/80439117.cms  (25 Jan. 2021)

Chennai-based agency roped in to conduct survey Reiterating that the government is opposed to illegal sand mining carried out with mechanical pumps, CM Pramod Sawant on Sunday (Jan. 24) said there should not be a problem to restart sand extraction in the traditional way. The CM said the government is implementing the basic survey required to be completed before permission is granted for sand extraction. He said the government has roped in a Chennai-based agency to undertake the basic survey. Sawant said since the basic survey has been completed at the Chapora river, the day is not too far when the permissions are issued for sand extraction in the state.

The CM said he is of the firm opinion that sand from neighbouring Maharashtra and Karnataka should not enter the state when sand can be extracted in the state, giving business opportunities for the local people. “The Dona Paula-based NCMR agency has been roped in to conduct the survey. One stretch of the Chapora river has been completed, while the agency will carry out similar surveys in other rivers as well”, he added.

When the  media drew his attention to the crackdown launched on the sand mining in the state, the CM said it is necessary to understand that the matter is pending in the High Court and the police officers will be hauled up for any laxity against illegal sand mining. Saying he is in favour of sand extraction undertaken in a traditional manner, the CM said the government will not support mechanical sand extraction as the activity may pose a threat to the river embankments in times of uncontrolled sand mining. He said that those who have gone to the court against sand mining are to be blamed and not the government for stopping sand extraction in Goa. https://www.thegoan.net/goa-news/sand-mining-chennaibased-agency-roped-in-to-conduct-survey/64807.html  (25 Jan. 2021)

Madhya Pradesh Amendment in Sand Mining Rules, 2019 Govt on January 05, 2021 has issued the amendments in Sand (Mining, Transportation, Storage and Trading) Rules, 2019. The following amendments have been made:

• Rule 9, which specifies the period of sand group included in tender, has been substituted, namely: “the contract period of the quarries should be for three year and for the first year the date of issuing the letter of intent shall be calculated up to June 30 of that year. The second one shall start from June 30 for the third quarter.”

• Rule 13 (5), which specifies the application of agreement to be issued, has been inserted, namely: “if the letter of intent holder, who has received the letter for the quarry of one group has not made an application for intent within 7 days, and the agreement has not been executed within 5 days, the cancellation of letter of intent shall be executed for forfeiting the security deposit.”

• Form VIII, which specifies the letter for the tender by the holder, has been substituted. https://avantis.co.in/updates/article/12411/amendment-in-madhya-pradesh-sand-mining-transportation-storage-and-tra/  (21 Jan. 2021)  

Rajasthan M-sand policy will prove to be a game-changer CM Ashok Gehlot after unveiling the manufactured sand (M-sand) Policy-2020 at CM’s residence on Jan. 25 said the M-sand policy-2020 will prove to be a game changer with investment and creation of jobs in the mining sector in a big way. He said the use and production of M-sand in the state will be encouraged and the dependence on gravel mined the river beds will be reduced. The problem of waste mines in the mining areas will also be solved as masonry stones could be used as an input for m-sand which is a boon for environment besides creating large employment opportunities at the local level.

Gehlot said in order to instill confidence among the public and to create demand, it has been decided use M-sand mandatory for the PWD and other government department to use a minimum of 25% of their demand for sand from M-sand. Gehlot asked the officials of the department of mines to give wide publicity to the entrepreneurs regarding the concessions and encouragement given through this policy so that more and more investors in the state could come forward to set up units of m-sand. There is a need to enlighten the common man that m-sand is a better alternative to natural gravel in construction works, he said.

Minister of mines and Gopalan Pramod Jain Bhaya said that M-sand units have been given industry status in the policy. He said that there is a demand for about 70 million tonnes of gravel in various construction works in the state in a year. Principal Secretary of mines and petroleum department Ajitabh Sharma said in the presentation that new units to be set up under the policy and M-send units already operating in the state will also be eligible for the benefit payable under RIPS-2019 for their expansion. In this policy, attractive provisions have been made for the investors like investment subsidy, exemption electricity duty, land tax and stamp duty in SGST for seven years. At present 20 major M-Sand units are operational, which is producing 20,000tons of M-Sand per day. The establishment of new units will be encouraged once the policy is introduced. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/m-sand-policy-will-prove-to-be-a-game-changer-gehlot/articleshow/80456484.cms  (26 Jan. 2021)

सुप्रीम कोर्ट की कमेटी ने रेत खनन में बंदरबाट पर सरकार पर सवाल उठाए सुप्रीम कोर्ट ने फरवरी 2020 में इसके द्वारा नियुक्त सेंट्रल इम्पावर्ड कमेटी को निर्देश दिया था कि वे राज्य में रेत खनन से संबंधित आरोपों पर विचार कर इसे रोकने के लिए एक रिपोर्ट पेश करें. रिपोर्ट में कमेटी ने राज्य सरकार के साथ पर्यावरण, वन और जलवायु परिवर्तन मंत्रालय की भी आलोचना की है. http://thewirehindi.com/155826/rajasthan-illegal-sand-mining-supreme-court-committee/  (22 Jan. 2021)

Bihar Sand mafia attacks NHAI toll plaza staff Sand mining mafia armed with knives and iron rods attacked and critically injured an employee of Sasaram toll plaza, managed by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), on Jan. 21 late evening for not allowing overloaded sand trucks and heavy vehicles through the plaza, officials said.

Rupesh Chaubey was assaulted while returning to his village, Bhadrasheela, after finishing his shift at the plaza. As his bike reached near Auwan gate on the national highway, armed goons intercepted and attacked him before dumping him in the nearby fields believing him to be dead. He was rescued and admitted to the sadar hospital by toll officials, who were informed about the assault. Chaubey is currently out of danger, plaza manager Nishant Raj said on Jan. 22. The attack was made to terrorize toll plaza officials into allowing passage to overloaded sand trucks, Raj said.

The sand mafia was highly frustrated after the state government’s recent ban on transportation of sand and stone chips by trucks with 14 or more wheels to prevent overloading. Senior district administration officers and police force were deputed at toll plazas to enforce the ban. The powerful sand mafia has begun to use rural roads for the lucrative illegal trade due to a strict vigil on highways. Some incidents of threats doled out to officials to allow the passage of overloaded heavy vehicles through toll plazas have also been reported, an official said.  https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/patna-news/bihar-sand-mafia-attacks-nhai-toll-plaza-staff-for-stopping-overloaded-trucks-101611301730266.html  (22 Jan. 2021)

Odisha 3 sand-laden tractors seized in Anandpur Ghasipura police in Keonjhar district seized three sand-laden tractors while they were carrying sand that was illegally mined from various riverbeds under Anandapur sub-division of the district today. Acting on a tip-off, the police conducted raids at various sites of the river bed and seized the sand-laden tractors as they were engaged in sand mining without any prior permission. Later, the police informed the concerned revenue officials and Tehsildar who reached the spot and launched a probe.

Meanwhile, some locals demanded that the Tehsildar should take stringent action against all the sand smugglers. They also alleged that some officials are biased in controlling the illegal sand trading as they act upon small traders only while the big traders are left out. On the other, sources from the Tehsil office said that the river beds will be regularly monitored henceforth and strict action will be taken against the accused persons who are involved in such illegal sand mining.  https://kalingatv.com/state/illegally-sand-mining-3-sand-laden-tractors-seized-in-anandpur-of-odisha/  (24 Jan. 2021)

Uttar Pradesh A sand loaded truck turtle turned near Tikar village under Arval PS injuring the driver and the helper. The indicent happened when the truck tyre stuck into a pit near underconstruction culvert. https://www.inahardoi.com/2021/01/blog-post_250.html  (30 Jan. 2021)

WETLANDS, LAKES, WATER BODIES

Graph source Ramsar website.

SANDRP Blog WWD 2021: 5 new Ramsar sites in 2020 but threats remain  In the past two years, India has added 15 wetlands as Ramsar sites and there are about five proposals in the pipeline. However the driving force behind the exercise by the authorities seem promotion of tourism for revenue generation. All the Ramsar sites added in 2020 like previous are facing threats of pollution, encroachments, and siltation requiring urgent attention and holistic management with active participation of local communities. Yet, there seems clear lack of action on part of concerned state or central governments to address these threats which is the minimum expectation when a wetland is declared as important site under the Ramsar convention.

Even the information available on Ramsar site mentions that most all the wetlands have been facing threats ranging from human settlements to geological events. It says that human settlements (non-agricultural) have been affecting 33 Ramsar wetlands in the country while agriculture & aquaculture has become a threat to 31 such wetlands. While 30 sites are facing pollution issues 29 are undergoing natural system modifications. Similarly invasive and other problematic species and genes is a problem for 23 wetlands whereas 20 are under biological resource use. Likewise 20 sites are facing issues of water regulation, 16 human intrusions & disturbance, 14 transportation and service corridors, 10 climate change & severe weather, 4 energy production and mining and 3 geological events.

It further reveals that management plans are available only for 21 Ramsar sites and under preparation for 9 sites. Strangely out of 42 sites the Montreux records are available for only 2 sites. The Montreux record is the principle tool under the Ramsar convention for highlighting wetlands sites in need of priority conservation status. It is maintained as part of the Ramsar Database and is subject to continuous review. As per the websites even the pictures for 26 Indian Ramsar sites are not available.  https://sandrp.in/2021/02/01/world-wetlands-day-2021-five-new-ramsar-sites-in-2020-but-threats-remain/  (01 Feb. 2021)

Manipur ESG online petition demanding Wetlands International must withdraw its so-called ‘wise use’ plan for Loktak https://esgindia.org/new/campaigns/lakes/global-campaign-to-protect-for-posterity-the-unique-loktak-wetland-region-in-manipur-india/  (01 Feb. 2021)

Uttar Pradesh Waterbird census paints a grim picture of Dhanauri wetland The Asian Waterbird Census -2021, which was held on Sunday, painted a grim picture of Dhanauri wetland — only seven Sarus cranes were spotted suggesting a drastic drop in the overall bird population. Ironically, the wetland – yet to be recognised by the government as a wetland and awaiting protection for the several years – had been proposed to be declared as a Sarus crane sanctuary and a Ramsar site or a wetland of international importancein 2017 by the district forest department.

Located at Dankaur in Greater Noida, the wetland sprawls over 101.21 hectares, of which about 33 hectares was under water, as per a remote sensing exercise in 2015. However, as per this year’s survey, the wetland has witnessed a more than four times drop in its overall bird population since last year, prompting ecologists to raise concerns.  https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/noida-news/with-drastic-drop-in-bird-population-waterbird-census-paints-a-grim-picture-of-dhanauri-wetland-101611682884988.html  (26 Jan. 2021)

Delhi Wetlands shrinking & dying, finds bird survey The urban wetlands in the national capital are shrinking, degrading, disappearing, and dying due to extreme human intervention, misuse or overuse of natural resources, pollution, and modern entertainment activities, finds the Asian Waterbird Census 2021 conducted by Wetlands International.

“The three urban wetlands in the city as National Zoological Park wetlands, Sanjay Lake and Yamuna river are degrading, shrinking, dying and losing the natural ecology & biodiversity for sustenance due to lack of ecological conservation and sustainable management by government,” said TK Roy, Ecologist, conservationist, AWC Delhi State Coordinator.

Yamuna’s riverine wetland used to be a rich natural habitat for several aquatic animal species including waterbirds. It has now turned into a polluted sewage-fed black stream, shrinking where public throw garbage and do illegal seasonal veg cultivation on the dry banks, the report said. https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/delhi/2021/jan/23/delhi-wetlands-shrinking–dying-finds-bird-survey-2254002.html  (23 Jan. 2021)

Report What are wetlands and why do we need to protect them? Around 4.63 percent of the geographical area of India are wetlands. Wetlands are areas that are inundated with water permanently or seasonally. They occur where water meets land. India has lost nearly one-third of its natural wetlands to urbanisation, agricultural expansion and pollution, over the last four decades. https://india.mongabay.com/2021/01/explainer-what-are-wetlands-and-why-do-we-need-to-protect-them/  (27 Jan. 2021)

WATER OPTIONS

Bengaluru Engineer helps revive 10K wells to mitigate city’s water crisis Vishwanath Srikantaiah, a water activist who runs a Bengaluru-based NGO named Rainwater Club, is working tirelessly to conserve the water resources. Srikantaiah, who gets massive support from the local communities and well-diggers, has been successful in reviving 10,000 wells and aims to recharge 1 million wells in future.

Popularly known as ZenRainMan, Srikantaiah possesses the credentials of a Civil Engineer and an urban planner, who worked for Housing and Urban Development Corporation for about 14 years before dedicating to the cause of water conservation. Besides recharging wells, Srikantaiah has also designed rooftop rainwater harvesting structures for several households and factories across Karnataka.

He has started a YouTube channel, ZenRainMan, through which he shares his insights and tries to spread awareness on the proper usage of rainwater and provides tips for rainwater harvesting. He has divided the videos into separate playlists that tell about Harvesting Rain Water, Groundwater and Sustainable Sanitation techniques. The activist has also posted discussions, seminars and demonstrations he has participated in to spread awareness on the issue. https://www.firstpost.com/india/mission-paani-bengaluru-based-engineer-helps-revive-10000-wells-to-mitigate-citys-water-crisis-9242201.html  (27 Jan. 2021)

Tamil Nadu Social worker gets Padma Shri for building eco-friendly toilets The announcement of Padma Shri to 71-year-old M Subburaman from Trichy city has put NGOs and social workers here in an upbeat mood. The award was in recognition of his efforts of over 20 years in building more than 1.2 lakh toilets across India. Subburaman pioneered and propagated the concept of ecological sanitation (EcoSan) toilets, a crucial reason for the prestigious recognition. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/trichy/social-worker-gets-padma-shri-for-building-eco-friendly-toilets/articleshow/80471187.cms  (27 Jan. 2021)

Madhya Pradesh Revived shallow springs fulfill water needs of villages – About importance of jhirias natural springs in Dindori area along Narmada river basin and steps to conserve, tap them as potable water source. https://www.villagesquare.in/2021/01/29/revived-shallow-springs-fulfill-water-needs-of-villages/  (29 Jan. 2021)

Jharkhand The bori bandh check dam model had fetched an award of excellence from the Union Jal Shakti Ministry in the participatory water management category at the National Water Innovation Summit 2020 held on a virtual platform in Delhi. With bori bandhs, farmers can cultivate mustard and wheat in rabi season and grow vegetables in large tracts as against the earlier practice when agriculture land used to remain fallow during the entire rabi season forcing farmers to migrate to nearby cities in search of livelihood. https://www.newindianexpress.com/thesundaystandard/2021/jan/03/check-dams-yielding-green-resultsin-jharkhand-2244613.html  (03 Jan. 2021)

According to a report by India Today, the farmers built a cheque dam on Jojiya river that flows right through the middle of the village.  “The farmers blocked the flow of the river by using bags filled with sand and mud. After that, they turned and diverted the flow of the river through small channels towards their fields. The water is now being used for irrigation purposes,” the India Today report said.  https://www.indiatimes.com/news/india/farmers-in-jharkhand-village-build-dam-533241.html  (31 Jan. 2021)

URBAN WATER

Delhi NGT directs govt to develop model to link RWH to water supply systems A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel also directed the Delhi government to remove encroachments on water bodies and give unique identification number to them. We may add that it may be desirable to explore whether a model can be developed as a strategy for augmenting supply of drinking water by linking water collected through RWH systems to the water supply systems, the bench said. The tribunal said the model can be developed on the pattern of schemes for connecting solar energy generated in individual houses with the Grids with requisite incentives to motivate the concerned individuals/organizations.

With regard to RWH systems, the tribunal said the network needs to be increased to possibly all buildings by Administrative policies encouraging such efforts by possible business models. Water is scarce and gap in drinking water demand and supply is on the increase. Compensation regime needs to be followed and violators and incentives are required for the contributors, the bench said. The tribunal directed the Delhi Chief Secretary in coordination with the concerned authorities, including the DJB and the DDA take further action on the subject of restoration of water bodies, installation of RWH systems, utilisation of treated sewage water, extraction of ground water and prevention of contamination of water. http://www.millenniumpost.in/delhi/ngt-directs-govt-to-develop-model-to-link-rwh-to-water-supply-systems-430362  (28 Jan. 2021)

Gurugram Groundwater remediation unlikely before landfill is fully reclaimed Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) is yet to take steps for remediation of groundwater in Bandhwari village, where an active and unsanitary landfill is alleged to have contaminated the underlying aquifer and the drinking water supply of the area. Officials privy to the matter said the task, despite being mandated by the NGT, is unlikely to be taken up before the landfill site is fully reclaimed, but did not clarify when the reclamation process will be completed.

In a recent report submitted to the NGT, the CPCB has stated, “Steps for decontamination of groundwater have not been taken by MCG as the dumpsite is active… Groundwater decontamination may be done after removal of contaminating sources.”

As part of ongoing litigation in the matter, the NGT, last year, had asked the CPCB to “give its independent report of status (of the landfill) as on 31.12.2020, particularly with regard to ground water contamination and proper manifest system for treatment of leachate…”

The ongoing dumping of nearly 2,000 tonnes of mixed municipal waste per day at Bandhwari, along with the presence of at least 3.3 million tonnes of non-bioremediated legacy waste, make groundwater remediation a challenging, if not nearly impossible, task, officials said. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/gurugram-news/groundwater-remediation-unlikely-before-landfill-is-fully-reclaimed-mcg-officials-101611508267578.html  (24 Jan. 2021)

Karnataka Govt plans biggest township with 30,000 sites PM Modi is expected to lay the foundation stone for the project, proposed on nearly 2,000 acres at Jigani, around 30 km from Bengaluru, in March at a virtual event. While the two-year target to complete the project looks too ambitious, Housing Minister V Somanna sounded confident when he said that the land acquisition process has almost been completed.

The Housing Department is all set to call for tenders next month for developing roads, underground drainage, water connections, streetlights and other amenities.  Around 100 acres will be reserved for schools, parks, markets, places of worship and other amenities. Sites of 20×30 ft, 30×40 ft and 40×60 sqft dimensions will come up at the Karnataka Housing Board (KHB) Township.

According to minister Somanna, this project was initiated in 2012 and notification was issued for 1,940 acres. But, in the last nine years, previous governments did not evince interest in taking the project forward. There were some legal hurdles too, which have been resolved, except a few cases where a few farmers have approached courts, he said. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/karnataka/2021/jan/31/karnataka-govt-plans-biggest-township-with-30000-sites-2257456.html  (31 Jan. 2021)

Bengaluru E-City lake shrinks as concrete jungle expands Lakes are becoming the first casualty of development as the city is making its way into the surrounding villages. A case in point is the Shikaripalya lake in Electronics City Phase I, which though is still not under the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) limits, is located about 2 km from the under-construction Metro station. There are at least two roads dividing the 19 acres water body into three parts. It is highly contaminated, has been encroached upon from all sides and become a dumping yard. https://bangaloremirror.indiatimes.com/bangalore/civic/e-city-lake-shrinks-as-concrete-jungle-expands/articleshow/80528039.cms  (29 Jan. 2021)

Chennai Start-ups foray into app-based water supply GoWatr and Tankme, start-ups based in Chennai, are facilitating online booking of water tankers in and around the city. While GoWatr has just completed one year, Tankme is a new entrant. Kaushik Mohan and Fahad Javeed, Co-founders of Tankme, said an efficient water booking system will help in drastic reduction in operator cost and in turn reduce the cost. In traditional water delivery systems, 70% of the price a customer pays goes to meet the transportation cost alone, they said. The water delivery space has been crowded with private and government participation.

GoWatr acts as an aggregator for water tanker supply to consumers and installs IoT and flow meter devices that helps monitor the storage level of water (at the customer’s place) remotely. “When the tank is about to go empty, we will get an alert and inform the consumers immediately,” Shreeknt Jha, co-founder of GoWatr, said that, as of 2019, nearly 50 to 60% of the water supplied in Chennai and its suburbs was through private water tankers. About 20,000 tanker loads of water were supplied every day through 4,500 private tanker lorries.

Data provided by Tankme shows that there are 18 lakh plus deliveries (water tanks) that happen in Chennai per annum. According to them, this particular market was valued at ₹450 crore per annum. GoWatr will be foraying into other parts of India. And Tankme wants to establish its footprint across Chennai by April. Their clientele includes apartments, commercial buildings, malls, IT parks, educational institutions, restaurants and construction industry. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/chennai-start-ups-foray-into-app-based-water-supply/article33700194.ece  (30 Jan. 2021)

JJM/ RURAL WATER SUPPLY

Budget 2021-22 What India’s Key Environmental Programmes Get, And How They Spend It Central funds allocated for environmental programmes are usually insufficient or poorly managed. Funding must match needs by correctly assessing the nature and extent of challenges such as air pollution and water management.

– At the central level, such policies are mainly the domain of three ministries–the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF), the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), and the Ministry of Jal Shakti (MJS).

In 2020-21, the MoEF was allotted a total of Rs 3,100 crore ($424.66 million), a 5% increase over the Rs 2,955 crore ($404.79 million) in the previous year. The MNRE was given Rs 5,753 crore ($788.08 million), a 9% rise over the Rs 5,254 crore ($719.73 million) allocated in 2019-20.

– The MJS that handles the Namami Gange project to clean the river, conserve other water bodies and support irrigation programmes was allocated Rs 8,960 crore ($1227.4 million)–an 8.6% rise from the Rs 8,245 crore ($1129.45 million) allotted the year before. https://www.indiaspend.com/budget/what-indias-key-environmental-programmes-get-and-how-they-spend-it-budget-720047  (30 Jan. 2021)

Budget 2021-22 Promise Of Tap Water To All Rural Homes Will Need More Funds As the Centre readies the annual budget, expected to focus on reviving India’s pandemic-hit economy, experts emphasise the need to ensure basic access to water and sanitation. The water budget is even more crucial this year–access to clean water, handwashing and sanitation is vital to control the spread of COVID-19, but is a key challenge for India. https://www.indiaspend.com/budget/promise-of-tap-water-to-all-rural-homes-will-need-more-funds-budget-2021-719174   (28 Jan. 2021)

Summary analysis of CPR’s Jal Jeevan Mission: At the start of Financial Year (FY) 2020-21, GoI allocated Rs 11,500 crore Budget Estimates (BEs) for JJM – a 15 per cent increase from the previous year’s Revised Estimates (REs). Additional funding of Rs 12,000 crore was also provided through Extra Budgetary Resources (EBR).

■ Total funding (both GoI and EBR), however, was 32 per cent lower than the initial amount of Rs 34,753 crore approved by the Cabinet for the year.

■ Release of funds by GoI was slow during the year. By the end of the third quarter in FY 2020-21, GoI had released Rs 6,872 crore or only 30 per cent of its allocations.

■ The scheme aims to provide all rural households with Functional Household Tap Connections (FHTCs) by 2024. As on 11 January 2021, a total of 6.4 crore or 41 per cent of rural households had been provided FHTCs. Goa is the first state in the country to provide FHTCs to all rural households in the state.

■ On 2 October 2020, DDWS launched a 100-day mission-mode campaign to provide potable Piped Water Supply (PWS) to all rural schools, AWCs, and ashram shalas. As on 12 January 2021, 9,14,594 new PWS connections were provided to 4.84 lakh rural schools and 4.3 lakh AWCs. Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana are the first six states to provide every school and AWC with PWS.  https://accountabilityindia.in/publication/jal-jeevan-mission/ 

WATER

National water policy draft A graded fee system for water users, independent regulatory authorities in all states and finding cost-effective alternatives to constructing more dams — these are some of the major recommendations in the draft National Water Policy, 2020, submitted to the govt in last month. But it also recommended that while economic service for commercial and industrial usage should be charged at an “economic cost”, vulnerable sections of the society should be charged at a concessional rate. The panel has also asked the government to shift its focus from building dams. https://theprint.in/india/governance/user-fees-state-level-regulators-fewer-dams-what-draft-national-water-policy-proposes/591233/  (25 Jan. 2021)

Why India is facing water crisis? Dr Tarannum has worked closely on building of shallow water excavator dredgers for desilting of lakes, ponds and rivers across India. Strange statement from her: “The community disconnect and apathy towards water began in the 20th century with water becoming a state subject and the advent of piped water system.” No critical word about government!  https://www.news18.com/news/buzz/is-india-facing-a-water-crisis-apathy-toward-water-to-blame-says-water-warrior-dr-fawzia-tarannum-3337703.html  (25 Jan. 2021)

MONSOON 2021

Skymet Monsoon season likely to be ‘normal’ in 2021 India should experience a “normal” June-September monsoon season as the effects of the La Nina weather pattern ease, according to a report by Skymet Weather Services Pvt Ltd. “There is sufficient cooling in the Pacific Ocean now and La Nina conditions are at the peak,” the private forecaster said on its website on Sunday, adding that initial readings indicate that there are still risks in some areas. Last year, the monsoon was driven by the La Nina phenomenon — when the equatorial Pacific cools – which is peaking at present. La Nina will decline during the spring and turn neutral later through the monsoon season, Skymet said. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/monsoon-season-likely-to-be-normal-in-2021-skymet-says/articleshow/80616155.cms  (31 Jan. 2021) 

ENERGY OPTIONS

Opinion Expectations for power sector from budget To be truly environmentally-conscious, the government needs to provide subsidies to renewable energy customers and decrease reliance on fossil fuels, as energy sourced from non-conventional sources are usually expensive. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/opinion-budget-2021-expectations-for-the-power-sector/80495714  (29 Jan. 2021)

ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE

National Regulator to Oversee & Give Directions Related ECs For Projects  The Supreme Court on Thursday (Jan. 28) issued notice to the Central Government in a plea seeking for the appointment of a National Environmental Regulator to oversee and give directions pertaining to Environmental Clearances for projects. A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde presided over the matter, and Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, assisted by Advocate Anupradha Singh, appeared on behalf of the Petitioner.

The Public Interest Litigation (PIL), led by AOR Satya Mitra, seeks for the constitution of an independent Regulatory Authority in compliance of the order passed by the Supreme Court on 6 July, 2011, wherein the Apex Court examined the need for autonomous, expert body for appraising projects on the basis of their potential impact on the environment.

It has been submitted that multiple petitions have been led in Courts across the country wherein “issues of credibility and authenticity of EIA Reports have been called into question, the effectiveness of public consultation process has been assailed and where the appraising authorities have been found to have failed to adequately apply their minds before clearances have been granted”.

In wake of the above, the July 2011 order stipulated for the Central Government to appoint a National Regulator under Section 3 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986.  “This direction was given on the basis of an observation that the prevailing mechanism for processing, appraisals and approval of environmental clearances proved to be decient in many respects”.

Apart from observing in the 2011 order that there existed no machinery for the implementation of the National Forest Policy, 1988, the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, and the Environment Protection Act, 1986, the Court further found it inappropriate that the person setting up the industry was tasked with doing the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Report.

Therefore, it was concluded by the Court that there was an urgent need for a Regulator who would be proactive in preventing and stopping environmental pollution, and therefore, ordered that a National Regulator would be appointed.

The instant plea submits that despite the explicit directions in the judgement, the Central Government has failed to set up a National Regulator as contemplated and the Central Government has justied it by stating that the directions were in the nature of suggestions and were not binding.

Further, the Central Government contends that the aforementioned statutes cast the duty of a Regulator upon the Central Government and these statutory duties cannot be delegated to any other authority. Additionally, under the EIA Notication, 2006, appropriate mechanism for appraising projects as well as monitoring and enforcing compliance of environmental conditions were already in place, and there was no need for a National Regulator.

However, in 2014, the Supreme Court reiterated its order and claried that it had not merely suggested that a National Regulator should be appointed, but that it was a writ of mandamus.

The plea then goes on to emphasise on the fact that the present day EC processes are neither transparent, nor objective. “ECs are issued in an arbitrary manner because of, amongst other reasons, lack of permanency of EAC members, lack of validated data, ineffective monitoring and enforcement of environmental clearance conditions, and, in some cases, conict of interest in the case of some members”.

The Draft EIA Notication has also been referred to in context of the lack of structural or procedural reforms which, as per the plea, substantially dilutes the safeguards in the 2006 notication. By ignoring the directions of the Apex Court, the plea submits that it is key to protect the health of the environment under Article 21 of the Constitution.

In light of the above, the plea prays for the setting up of a National Regulator under Section 3(3) of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, for appraising projects and enforcing environmental conditions as has been previously directed by the Supreme Court. https://www.livelaw.in/news-updates/supreme-court-appointment-national-regulator-environmental-violation-169068  (29 Jan. 2021)

Report  Why Centre resisting draft EIA translation in all vernacular languages: HC The Delhi High Court on Wednesday (Jan. 27) said it cannot understand why the Centre was “vehemently” resisting its order to translate the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) in all 22 languages in the Eight Schedule of the Constitution.

A special bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan said the government would have to understand the objections in local languages to the draft EIA and therefore, “what was the harm in translating it in all the 22 languages”. The court gave the government time till February 25, the next date of hearing, to place on record its difficulties in translating the draft in all the languages.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Chetan Sharma, appearing for the central government, told the bench that it has already received 20 lakh responses till date to the draft EIA and therefore, there was no need to translate it in more languages. The ASG also claimed that translating it in all 22 languages would create a lot of administrative problems as the government “does not have the wherewithal to carry out the translations”.

The court, however, did not agree with the stand, saying “in modern day it cannot be a factually impossible task”, but asked the government to indicate the difficulties it has in translating the draft EIA in all the languages. The bench, during the hearing, also said that the Constitution says the final notification may not be translated in all the languages, but it does not say anything about the draft which is put out for receiving public opinion.

“We don’t understand why the Union government is resisting vehemently an order of this court for translating the draft into all the languages so that everyone can understand it and respond to it,” it further said. The court gave the government time till February 25, the next date of hearing, to place on record its difficulties in translating the draft in all the languages. https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2021/jan/27/why-centre-resisting-directionto-translate-draft-eia-in-all-vernacular-languages-delhi-hc-2255627.html  (27 Jan. 2021)

MoEF Amendment brings APIs and intermediates under single category The MoEF has issued a letter with an amendment that clubs APIs and intermediates as a single category instead of individual products. The move has been appreciated by industry stakeholders as it will provide them with the flexibility to change the raw material mix/or product mix within the sanctioned pollution load. The Ministry has taken the decision based on the several presentations made by the industry representatives requesting for issuance of Prior Environmental Clearance under the provisions of EIA notification 2006.

According to issued communication by the MoEF, the matter has been examined in the Ministry and henceforth all the EACs of Environment Ministry/ SEAc (State Expert Appraisal Committee) should appraise the proposal for prior Environmental Clearance under the provisions of EIA notification 2006 and subsequent amendments under the EIA notification 2006 for APIs and intermediates as a single category instead of individual products.  Accordingly, the EAC/SEAC should recommend the permissible pollution load i.e.quantity and quality including the composition of emissions, discharge and solid waste generation from such activity for inclusion in the prior Environmental Clearance. https://www.expresspharma.in/regulations-policies/moef-amendment-brings-apis-and-intermediates-under-single-category/  (30 Jan. 2021)

NITI Aayog Megacity plan for Little Andaman alarms conservationists  A plan for the sustainable and holistic development of the 680 sq km, fragile Little Andaman Island in the Andaman and Nicobar group has raised the alarm among conservationists. The ‘Sustainable Development of Little Andaman Island – Vision Document’, is the NITI Aayog’s proposal to leverage the strategic location and natural features of the island. This, the vision says, will be done by building a new green field coastal city there that will be developed as a free trade zone and will compete with Singapore and Hong Kong. The proposal is pivoted along three development anchors and zones.

The vision document has maps with no legends or explanations and uses inappropriate photographs plagiarised from the Internet. It talks of conservation of national park/wildlife sanctuary on Little Andaman when none exist here and it has no mention of the geological vulnerability of the place, which was amongst the worst-affected in the earthquake-tsunami combination in 2004. The waves hit Little Andaman so hard that on December 26 the breakwater there was not just breached, it was physically displaced and it’s orientation changed. Ships could not berth for weeks thereafter.

The plan has no financial details, no budgeting, or inventorisation of forests and ecological wealth and no details of any impact assessment. The nature resort complex proposed at West Bay on the western coast is to have theme resorts, floating/underwater resorts, beach hotels, and high-end residential villas. It is today a secluded and difficult to reach part, one of the most important nesting sites of the globally endangered Giant Leatherback sea turtle which is being studied by the Dakshin Foundation, the Andaman and Nicobar Environment Team and the island administration’s Forest Department.

In a note dated September 26, 2020, Divisional Forest Officer, Little Andaman, raised serious concerns about this vision on grounds of ecological fragility, indigenous rights and vulnerability to earthquakes and tsunamis. The note said such large diversion of forest land would cause obvious environmental loss leading to irreversible damage (more than 2 million trees stand in the forest land sought for these projects), that habitats of various wild animals including endangered sea turtles would be affected, and that the impact could not even be assessed because there was no environment impact assessment report and neither were there any detailed site layout plans for the proposed diversion.

This note of dissent was a minor irritant and was ignored in the plan and vision that seeks to alter the nature of an ancient island bigger than Chennai and Mumbai in area. The vision document, described by conservationists as a first bullet through the heart of the island, is to be followed by a second one soon. A meeting is to be held under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary on February 4 to initiate the denotification of the Onge tribal reserve on Little Andaman. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/financial-tourist-complex-on-little-andaman-a-bullet-through-an-islands-heart/article33710255.ece  (31 Jan. 2021)

Uttarakhand Govt puts stay on its earlier order denotifying Shivalik Elephant Reserve State govt on Thursday (Jan. 28) issued a stay on its earlier government order (GO) of January 8 to denotify the Shivalik Elephant Reserve. The GO had been issued on January 8, hours after the Uttarakhand High Court put a stay on the state wildlife board’s recommendation for denotification of the state’s premier and only elephant reserve. The court had subsequently put a stay order on the GO three days later.

Forest minister Harak Singh Rawat had called it a “coincidence” that the GO and the HC’s stay order were issued on the same day, hours apart, saying he had no knowledge of the court’s order. Now, the stay will be in place until further orders from the court. Thursday’s order was issued by principal secretary of forests Anand Bardhan. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/uttarakhand-govt-puts-stay-on-its-earlier-order-denotifying-shivalik-elephant-reserve/articleshow/80515580.cms  (29 Jan. 2021)

Report India’s mining reforms ignore mining-affected communities Detailed reports by by Mayank Aggarwal Recently, the Union Cabinet approved mining reforms which would soon be presented to the parliament for final clearance. The reforms, cleared by the government, are expected to increase participation of the private sector in mineral exploration, move towards auction only regime for minerals, develop a national mineral index and create tangible assets using the district mineral fund.

However, those working with the mining-affected communities note that the reforms will leave the communities in the lurch as they ignore concerns regarding livelihood and rehabilitation. They also point out that the reform only focuses on increasing mineral production while it remains silent on the ill-effects of mining over the last few decades. The experts also note that with these changes, the government fails to focus on ensuring a fair transition of the area where mines will exhaust in the next 20-30 years. https://india.mongabay.com/2021/01/indias-mining-reforms-ignore-mining-affected-communities/  (27 Jan. 2021)

Ignored and invisible: The burden of mining on women While loss of land and livelihood is a more commonly discussed impact of mining, an invisible impact is seen on local women who witness a disruption of social structures, burden of earning an extra income, long term mental health issues and a shift from independent cultivators to being dependent on others for survival.

Wherever mining operations take place there is an uptick in cases of sexual violence against women and trafficking, note experts and organisations working across India. Until recently, there were employment restrictions for women in mining. Despite claims to the contrary, livelihood opportunities in the mining companies are not available for women.  https://india.mongabay.com/2021/01/ignored-and-invisible-the-burden-of-mining-on-women/  (20 Jan. 2021)

Where is the DMF money meant for people living in mining areas going? In 2015, the Indian government introduced a mechanism for establishing the District Mineral Foundations (DMF) which were to drive developmental work in the mining-affected areas. Over Rs 400 billion have been collected in the fund so far but the implementation remains poor with civil society leaders and experts complaining that transparency in use of this fund and involvement of local communities is missing.

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

West Bengal Coal mafia: Shouldn’t somebody owe responsibility? Bengal’s super fugitive coal dealers, Anup Majhi — Lala to his friends — and his deputy Joydeb Mondal, have been interrogated by a host of investigating agencies for their alleged involvement in illegal mining and operating fake companies to mask their dubious business as legitimate operations.

In the closing weeks of 2020, CBI, ED and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) raided Majhi’s 20 offices in Kolkata and a few offices in Dhanbad, Purulia and Asansol. The agencies claimed that they found documents linking both Majhi and Mondal to an illegal coal empire worth Rs 20,000 crore. Besides coal, Majhi is also known to be dealing with sand quarried illegally from the Damodar and Ajay River beds. https://www.newsbred.com/article/coal-mafia-shouldn-t-somebody-in-west-bengal-owe-responsibility-  (24 Jan. 2021)

Study About 43 million hectares of forest lost in 14 years  An area roughly twice the size of the state of Karnataka was cleared across the tropics and subtropics around the world between 2004 and 2017, largely for commercial agriculture, finds a new assessment published by the WWF. Using five satellite-based datasets, the report finds 43 million hectares of deforestation during the period. Nearly two-thirds of that loss occurred in Latin America.

The report looks at the state of forests and causes of deforestation in 24 “active deforestation fronts”, which account for over half of all tropical and subtropical deforestation that occurred over the 14-year period. The report lays out a series of actions to address deforestation, include policy measures by governments and companies. These range from commodity sourcing policies to recognizing Indigenous and local communities’ land rights. https://india.mongabay.com/2021/01/about-43-million-hectares-of-forest-lost-in-14-years/  (25 Jan. 2021)

CLIMATE CHANGE

Study Water levels in Himalayan river basins drop as world warms As the world warms, less water is replenishing major river basins, a new study has found. This could impact water availability, with big implications for future water security. The river basins of the Himalayas are among those experiencing the largest changes, the research reveals.

Water availability depends on how much water is stored on the surface or underground in lakes, rivers and groundwater, including soil moisture, snow and ice. The movement of water into these catchment areas is called ‘water recharge’.

But rising temperatures mean more water is being lost through evaporation and absorbed by plants. At the same time, less water is entering river basins from rain and snowfall as weather patterns change. The result is lower levels of water in the basins, a trend which is expected to continue with the growing impact of climate change.

The researchers from the Indian Institute of Science and the University of New South Wales in Australia studied 31 river basins. They calculated that the replenishment of the Irrawaddy basin fell by 39% with each degree rise in temperature, the Indus by 24%, Mekong by 15% and Ganga-Brahmaputra by 14%. For 23 of the 31 river basins, the researchers found a decrease in recharge corresponded to an increase in temperature. https://www.thethirdpole.net/2021/01/26/water-levels-in-himalayan-river-basins-drop-as-world-warms/   (26 Jan. 2021)

Climate change may change rainfall patterns in south India, intensify floods  According to the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change a northward shift of the tropical rain belt over the eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean could result in “intensified flooding in southern India,” and may impact global biodiversity and food security by 2100.

The scientists, including those from the University of California (UC) Irvine in the US, said this “sweeping shift” of the rain belt was disguised in previous studies that provided a global average of the influence of climate change. However, they said climate change caused the atmosphere to heat up by different amounts over Asia and the North Atlantic Ocean.

The current study highlighted the drastic alterations to come over future decades in India by isolating the response in the Eastern and Western Hemisphere zones. “In Asia, projected reductions in aerosol emissions, glacier melting in the Himalayas and loss of snow cover in northern areas brought on by climate change will cause the atmosphere to heat up faster than in other regions,” said study co-author James Randerson from UC Irvine. “We know that the rain belt shifts toward this heating, and that its northward movement in the Eastern Hemisphere is consistent with these expected impacts of climate change,” Randerson said. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/climate-change-may-change-rainfall-patterns-in-south-india-intensify-floods-study-101611040966201.html  (19 Jan. 2021)

Global ice melt accelerating at record rate First study to analyse the total ice melt on Earth shows ice loss of 28 trillion tonnes between the years 1994 and 2017. https://theprint.in/science/global-ice-melt-accelerating-at-record-rate-finds-new-study/593238/  (27 Jan. 2021)

Wind-Blown Dust Is Causing Greenland’s Ice to Melt Faster  As the world’s ice sheets melt at an increasing rate, researchers are looking for explanations beyond just a hotter climate. A recent study found one answer may lie in the dust. Published on Monday (Jan. 25)  in Nature Communications, the study found that phosphorus, a mineral found in dust, is a key nutrient for an extensive glacier algae bloom on Greenland’s ice sheet, known as the “dark zone.” As the algae grow, the ice becomes darker, decreasing its ability to reflect sunlight and causing the ice to melt faster and sea levels to rise.

“It’s important to understand the controls on algal growth because of their role in ice sheet darkening,” Dr. Jenine McCutcheon, who led the study published in Nature Communications, told the University of Leeds. “Although algal blooms can cover up to 78 percent of the bare ice surfaces in the Dark Zone, their abundance and size can vary greatly over time,” Dr. McCutcheon added.

Since 2000, the dark zone’s melting season has “progressively started earlier and lasted longer,” according to the University of Leeds. Glacier algal blooms are responsible for up to 13 percent of surface melting in this region, the study noted. But until recently little was known about how these algal blooms developed. Researchers found that phosphorus can cause the photosynthesis rate of the ice algae to improve significantly, McCutcheon said, according to the University of Leeds. Although researchers examined dust sourced from local rock, they warned that dust can be transported thousands of miles by the wind. https://www.ecowatch.com/sea-level-rise-dust-minerals-2650140424.html  (26 Jan. 2021)

Disappearing glaciers are threatening rare alpine plants with extinction  In a new study published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, researchers found that one-fifth of alpine plant species on four glaciers in the Italian Alps are likely to become locally extinct once the glaciers vanish from the high mountains. Some of these European species are plants which are found nowhere else on Earth.

Cushion plants, which resemble pin cushions dropped on the ground, grow so close to the soil that they effectively huddle for shelter from the sheer, drying winds overhead. This helps species like vernal sandwort and mossy saxifrage trap dead plant matter blown along the ground – a welcome supply of compost and moisture amid the dry and barren landscape.

These characteristics make some alpine plants very good pioneers – they can arrive on bare ground and begin changing it so that it becomes more suitable for other species. But as the global climate changes, mountain ranges are warming fast. Despite its hardy reputation, the unique flora of these regions faces an uncertain future.  https://theconversation.com/disappearing-glaciers-are-threatening-rare-alpine-plants-with-extinction-154135   (30 Jan. 2021)

SOUTH ASIA

Nepal SJVN bags hydropower project Indian company SJVN will get the responsibility of 679 MW Lower Arun Hydropower Project in Sankhuwasabha and Bhojpur districts. An investment board meeting chaired by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Friday night decided to hand over the project to an Indian company. SJVN is currently constructing 900 MW Arun 3 Project in Nepal.

– The Brazilian company Brass Power did not work as per the conditions laid down in the production license. After the Brazilian company held the license for 15 years, its license was revoked under the direction of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority. https://ekantipur.com/news/2021/01/30/161199842760021844.html  (30 Jan. 2021)

Pakistan Delay in compensation: Dasu Dam affectees threaten to stage protests The affectees of the 4300 megawatts Dasu hydropower project on Sunday (Jan. 31) demanded the government to pay them the compensation amount under the kitchen package. “The federal government has been giving away the compensation amount to families displaced because of Diamer-Bhasha dam and such a package was also promised with us but yet to be paid,” Malik Ghulab Khan, a member of an 80-members committee of affected families, told a press conference in Dasu. Flanked by other committee’s members, Malik Ghulab Khan said that the families displaced because of construction of the Dasu dam’s reservoir will stage protests outside the offices of the Wapda at different sites.

“We give Wapda and the government 10-days to hold talks with us and announce a kitchen package for the families displaced by the dam’s reservoir, otherwise, we will stage a sit-in outside its office,” Maulana Abdul Waris, another member of the committee, said. He added that the families affected because of the mega energy project were fully cooperating with Wapda and the district administration for the early completion of the dam but would never deviate from their demands agreed by the Wapda in an agreement signed with locals in 2016. “If the government doesn’t fulfil its commitment with us within the next 10-days, we would not only hold public rallies and protests but also stage sit-in outside the Wapda’s offices,” Shamsur Rehman Shams said. https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/783317-delay-in-compensation-dasu-dam-affectees-threaten-to-stage-protests  (01 Feb. 2021)

CHINA

Sand mining grinds down river system, sparks flood threats By Marc Goichot. Research is needed into the sand mining industry’s opaque supply chains, to connect the dots that link unsustainable sand mining and hydropower dams to changes in the physical integrity of rivers, rising water and climate risks, including flooding.

– Extracting too much aggregate from China’s rivers and lakes could be increasing the likelihood of floods. Digging up unsustainable amounts to build cities and infrastructure may be a key factor in increasing the vulnerability of those same cities, roads and railways to floods. https://chinadialogue.net/en/business/sand-mining-grinds-down-river-systems-and-sparks-floods/  (25 Jan. 2021)

ASIA

Balkan Every winter pollution is swept from overflowing landfills into waterways Trucks and building machines are parked on a river dam in southwest Serbia, but not for construction work. Instead, huge cranes are being used to clear tons of garbage crammed at the foot of the power plant. Serbia and other Balkan nations are overwhelmed by communal waste after decades of neglect and a lack of efficient waste-management policies in the countries aspiring to join the European Union.

Huge cranes clear tons of garbage stuck at the foot of the hydro power plant at the Potpecko accumulation lake near Priboj, in southwest Serbia, January 22, 2021. DARKO VOJINOVIC/AP

Burning rubbish dumps can be seen from the roads, plastic bags are hanging from trees and islands of waste are floating down the region’s rivers. The problem usually comes into focus in winter, when swollen waters sweep over landfills, pushing the garbage toward hydropower dams.

This has been the case at the Potpec accumulation lake near the power plant after a spate of rainy and snowy weather in December and early January. The surface of the lake got covered in a thick layer of waste ranging from plastics to rusty metal scraps, tree trunks and even reportedly a coffin.

The garbage has been swept downstream by the Lim River, which feeds the Potpec dam. The Lim originates in neighboring Montenegro, passing through several municipalities and their waste sites in both Montenegro and Serbia. “Based on a recent study, we found out that in these towns, in the five municipalities in Montenegro and three in Serbia, about 45,000 tons of waste are collected (per year),” said Predrag Saponjic, the Lim River hydropower plant system manager. Looking at the rubbish-strewn lake, he added that “even if only a fraction of that waste ends up in the Lim River, we get this.”

Environmentalists in the Balkans have warned that because most landfills aren’t managed properly they leak toxic materials into rivers, threatening ecosystems and wildlife. Bosnia too has reported a garbage pileup that endangers the hydroelectric dam on the Drina River, near the eastern town of Visegrad. The Lim is one of the tributaries of the Drina, which makes their waterways — and garbage flows — closely connected.  The two emerald-colored rivers — the Drina flows along the border between Serbia and Bosnia — during summer are favored by adventurers and water rafters who enjoy the winding waterways and seemingly pristine nature.

While Balkan nations have been struggling to recover following a series of wars and crises in the 1990s, environmental issues often come last for the countries whose economies are lagging far behind the rest of Europe and where public funds are vulnerable to widespread corruption. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/lake-of-garbage-serbia-balkans-pollution-landfills-water-eu/  (26 Jan. 2021)

Russia Drying Ural river Despite some conservation efforts and regional cooperation, the Ural river is rapidly shrinking, threatening the water security of Kazakhstan and the wider region. https://www.thethirdpole.net/2021/01/27/as-the-ural-river-disappears-a-crisis-looms-for-eurasia/  (27 Jan. 2021)

MEKONG Thailand Govt challenges Laos dam building spree Thailand has threatened to sink plans for a Chinese-developed dam planned for the Mekong River in neighboring Laos, in a rare rebuke that hints at a rising tide of dissension in an area where all three countries share Southeast Asia’s largest waterway. Thailand has raised objections to the $2 billion Sanakham Dam since late last year, when government officials broke diplomatic protocol and made critical statements in the media against the project.

The dam, which is being developed by China Datang, is due to generate 684 megawatts of electricity when it comes online by 2028 and is considered an integral part of the Laotian government’s strategy to become “the battery of Southeast Asia.” Bangkok raised concerns again this month, saying it rejected a new technical report at a meeting hosted by the Mekong River Commission, an intergovernmental body based in Vientiane, the Laotian capital. The commission was established to manage water resources in the Mekong basin, which is shared by members Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/Thailand-challenges-Laos-dam-building-spree-on-Mekong-River  (30 Jan. 2021)

Activist dedicates life to bringing Mekong’s plight to light Activist Pianporn “Pai” Deetes’ fight against the planned construction of dams along the lower stretches of the Mekong River by the Chinese government is a David-versus-Goliath story. For almost two decades she dedicated herself to stop a project that she believed would lead to massive damage to the river if it was allowed to continue. The Thai cabinet early this year cancelled the Lancang-Mekong navigation channel improvement project proposed by China, in no small part thanks to publicity drummed up by Ms Pianporn and her team.

As the Campaigns and Communications Director for International Rivers’ Southeast Asia programme, Ms Pianporn’s most urgent task is protecting mainland Southeast Asia’s major rivers, including the Mekong and Salween, as well as the rights of local communities living long their courses. And in recent years, her focus has turned to Thailand’s role as a dam developer and financier. The Chiang Mai University graduate told the Bangkok Post that she aspires to create equality and fairness in society, to help marginalised communities live with honour and dignity, and protect the environment for the benefit of future generations. https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/general/2060263/giving-local-rivers-a-voice  (01 Feb. 2021)

Cambodia How sand dredging bled a fishing community dry After a decade of heavy sand dredging in the waterways of Koh Kong province, a fishing community once recognised for its rich ecosystem is struggling to fill its nets. https://southeastasiaglobe.com/sand-dredging-koh-kong/  (10 Sept. 2018)

THE REST OF THE WORLD

Africa Spectre of conflict threatens the future of CAR ‘sandfishers’ Sand extraction provides a lifeline to many in impoverished CAR, but the industry faces a growing threat of violence. Bangui, Central African Republic – As if summoned by the setting sun, dozens of wooden canoes laden with a precious cargo come in to moor on the shores of the Ubangi River.

This decades-old industry provides essential sand to builders, who mix it with cement to fuel Bangui’s construction industry. It is also a lifeline for hundreds in the Central African Republic’s (CAR) capital, Bangui, where poverty is rife and work scarce. But the livelihoods of these men are at risk by a resurgence in violence that is threatening to once again engulf CAR, a resource-rich but poverty-stricken country where armed groups control large swaths of territory. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/1/23/spectre-of-conflict-threatens-the-future-of-car-sandfishers  (23 Jan. 2021) 

Namibia Test drilling for oil & gas begins in Okavango region  This month, Recon Africa’s multimillion-dollar drilling rig pierced a riverbed in elephant habitat some 160 miles from the wildlife-rich Okavango Delta.

The search for oil and gas in the watershed of the world-famous, wildlife-rich Okavango Delta moved one step closer to reality when a multimillion-dollar drilling rig from Houston, Texas, broke ground on the first test well in Namibia on January 11.

The rig, retrofitted for drilling in the desert, had arrived in December on the 600-foot-long transport ship Yellowstone, also laden with at least 23 massive trucks for pulling loads, bundles of drill pipe, and seismic testing systems on trucks with off-road tractor tires.

Because of the pandemic, Walvis Bay was eerily quiet at the time. Instead of the usual bustling of beach-going visitors, the only activity was the din around the Yellowstone as workers in reflective overalls helped offload equipment being lowered to the ground by dockside cranes. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2021/01/oil-gas-test-drilling-begins-namibia-okavango-region/  (28 Jan. 2021)

Report Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Nestlé named top plastic polluters for third year in a row Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestlé have been accused of “zero progress” on reducing plastic waste, after being named the world’s top plastic polluters for the third year in a row. Coca-Cola was ranked the world’s No 1 plastic polluter by Break Free From Plastic in its annual audit, after its beverage bottles were the most frequently found discarded on beaches, rivers, parks and other litter sites in 51 of 55 nations surveyed. Last year it was the most frequently littered bottle in 37 countries, out of 51 surveyed.

It was found to be worse than PepsiCo and Nestlé combined: Coca-Cola branding was found on 13,834 pieces of plastic, with PepsiCo branding on 5,155 and Nestlé branding on 8,633. The annual audit, undertaken by 15,000 volunteers around the world, identifies the largest number of plastic products from global brands found in the highest number of countries. This year they collected 346,494 pieces of plastic waste, 63% of which was marked clearly with a consumer brand. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/07/coca-cola-pepsi-and-nestle-named-top-plastic-polluters-for-third-year-in-a-row  (07 Dec. 2020)

Unmasking the pandemic’s pollution problem COVID-19 began as a public-health crisis. It still is. As of late January, more than 2 million people had died. Some 100 million had been diagnosed with the infection. But now the pandemic is driving an environmental problem, too. But COVID-19 isn’t helping. Because the virus can live on plastic for up to three days, most protective equipment should be used only once before being thrown away. Prata and her team estimate that the world now uses some 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves every month.  https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/covid-19-pandemic-pollution-problem-masks-ppe-plastic-cardboard  (28 Jan. 2021)

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

Also see: DRP News Bulletin 25 Jan. 2021 & DRP News Bulletin 18 Jan. 2021

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

One thought on “DRP NB 01 Feb 2021: Dissolving YMC is retrograde

  1. Cleaning our Rivers – a far cry (in wilderness). How many Cities(local Governmens) have functioning liquid waste treatment plants and treating 100% of liquid wastes?

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