Dams, Rivers & People

DRP NB 15 Feb. 2021: Why Mangshri Devi of Tapovan Should Head Uttarakhand’s Disaster Management Department?

Feature image Tapovan-Vishnugad hydropower project in Chamoli district on Feb., 7 by Gajendra Yadav, Express Photo

In a fantastic story, Shivani Azad of The Times of India has reported possibly the most remarkable story of the Chamoli avalanche disaster that started on Sunday morning on Feb 7, 2021. She reported that Vipul Kairuni of Dhaak village in Tapovan, working at the time at the now destroyed Tapovan Vishnugad project, got saved thanks to frantic calls by his mother Mangshri Devi as she and his wife saw from their village home, situated at a height from the river, that a massive flood is approaching the dam site. It was thanks to frantic, repeated calls by Mangshri Devi that not only Vipul, but at least two dozen more people could run to safety of a ladder and saved their lives.

So effectively, Mangshri Devi has saved at least two dozen lives in Chamoli disaster. Who else can claim to have achieved anything like that in the disaster? The disaster management department seems completely absent from the scene either in terms of pre disaster monitoring or in taking steps to save lives during the disaster. In fact, there should have been an early warning system in place that could have saved many more lives. But it does not exist. Either in Rishiganga/ Dhauliganga basin or anywhere else in Uttarakhand. NTPC’s Tapovan Vishnugad Project has faced so many disasters already since 2008, but is only now talking about putting in place early warning system. Should not the NTPC and power ministry top brass as well as Uttarakhand disaster management department held accountable for that?

At least Mangshri Devi’s effort needs to be immediately recognised and she should be given the honorary post of Chairperson of Uttarakhand disaster management department for doing the job that the Disaster Management Department is supposed to be doing. (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Uttarakhand-glacier-burst-A-moms-frantic-calls-to-son-saved-about-25-lives/articleshow/80903647.cms)

Great story with lessons for Disaster Management. Will Uttarakhand disaster management learn any lessons from this mom Mangshri Devi who saved two dozen lives by her calls including that of his son Vipul? https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Uttarakhand-glacier-burst-A-moms-frantic-calls-to-son-saved-about-25-lives/articleshow/80903647.cms  (14 Feb. 2021)

HYDRO POWER PROJECTS

Chamoli Disaster: Role of and Impact on Hydro Projects

HC upholds state’s right to tax use of water for power generation In a major blow to the hydroelectricity projects functioning in Uttarakhand, the Uttarakhand high court (HC) on Feb 12, 2021 dismissed 11 petitions – filed by the major hydel power projects functioning in the state — and upheld the constitutional validity of the law that imposed an additional cost on the firms using the hill state’s water for generation of electricity. The verdict was passed by the single-judge bench of Justice Lok Pal Singh. The law in question – the Uttarakhand Water Tax on Electricity Generation Act 2012 – had imposed a tax ranging from two paise to 10 paise per cubic metre of water depending on the size of the hydel project.

– Hydropower projects, ranging from THDC to Alaknanda Hydro Power Company, Bhilganga Hydro Power and many others, had challenged the law arguing that this was unconstitutional. It was also argued that the state had no power to levy the tax on electricity generation as it falls under the ambit of the Centre. Further the corporations argued that this law was not in operation when they signed the pact and that they were already supplying 12% electricity to the government. As a result, the provisions of the Act amount to double taxation, they argued in court. The bench, however, rejected all the arguments made by the counsels appearing for the firms and held that the law neither violates the Constitution nor is it mala fide in nature and that the legislature is competent to bring the law since it imposes tax on use of water, not generation of electricity.

– “A bare reading of the Act would reveal that the nature of impugned tax is not on ‘generation of electricity’ but on the ‘use of water’ or say ‘water drawn for generation of electricity’… If this tax was intended to be on generation of electricity then the legislature could not have exempted other kinds of generations of electricity like solar or wind generation,” read the court order. Justice Singh also noted that the Constitution gives taxing powers to the state as well and that “any attempt made to whittle down the powers of the State to tax, or subject it to assent, or approval of the Centre would not only be against the federal structure of our Constitution but would make the State appendages on the Centre”. The court added that Uttarakhand is a hill and cash-starved state with limited sources of revenue therefore the law is a way to give sustenance to the economy.

– The court has also vacated its May 2015 order which stayed the recovery of this tax and said that it finds no fault to the provisional assessment of the tax owed by the firms and the notices of the demand sent for using the water from state’s rivers. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/ukhand-hc-upholds-states-right-to-tax-use-of-water-for-power-generation/80905743  (14 Feb. 2021)

Counsels appearing for two of the 11 power projects said that they will file a special appeal soon before the division bench. “I have spoken to our clients and there is a collective view that the order has several issues. Therefore, we will file a special appeal before the division bench of the HC as soon as the winter vacations are over,” said DS Patni, the counsel for the Alaknanda Hydro Power Company Ltd (AHPCL). One of the grounds for challenge is that the state has not installed meters. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/hydropower-firms-operational-in-uttarakhand-decide-to-challenge-hc-order/80917055  (15 Feb. 2021)

NTPC, Rishi Ganga power projects nearly washed away This is a strange claim, no details as to what claimed actions were taken and how it reduced the disaster. No evidence either. “Interestingly, the Central Water Commission (CWC) has been able to monitor the rise in water levels in real time, thanks to an indigenously developed radar-based flood water monitoring technology developed by a start-up incubated at IIT-Kanpur. Using the technology developed by Kritsnam Technologies Pvt Ltd, founded by a group of graduates from IIT-Kanpur and IIT-Kharagpur, CWC was able to assess the situation and take prompt action. “Our radar-based instruments enabled the government to take required timely action, thus bringing down the human and economic loss to the minimum,” said K Sri Harsha, one of the co-founders of Kritsnam Technologies.” https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/companies/ntpc-rishi-ganga-power-projects-nearly-washed-away/article33776257.ece  (07 Feb. 2021)

The claim is repeated here, without any details or evidence: https://science.thewire.in/environment/why-we-already-know-the-rishi-ganga-flood-was-a-sooner-or-later-event/  (08 Feb. 2021

Surabhi Singh on FB post comment:- Usually river water level data is manually collected and we miss important data points. Water level data collected using these instruments every 10 mins help in assessing the flood risk in downstream areas and issue warnings for evacuation. Moreover this high resolution data can further be used for developing hydrological or hydraulic models for flood forecasting.

Union Home minister tells Rajya Sabha today on Feb 9, 2021 that it was landslide that lead to Chamoli disaster. Shah pinned the blame on a landslide of about 14 square kilometres, at an altitude 5,600 metres above mean sea level, near a glacier. “The landslide led to flash floods in the Rishiganga river, whose water rose manifold, and washed away two small hydro power projects. In Tapovan, an under-construction 520 mega watt power project of NTPC has also suffered damage,” Shah informed the Rajya Sabha. https://en.gaonconnection.com/uttarakhand-disaster-glacier-burst-may-not-be-the-cause-but-the-hindu-kush-himalayan-regions-glaciers-which-support-over-1-3-billion-people-are-under-threat/  (09 Feb. 2021) 

Union Minister of Power and New and Renewable Energy, RK Singh on Feb 9, 2021 said that 93 workers of NTPC Limited are missing, while 39 are still stuck in the Tapovan tunnel in the Uttarakhand glacier burst incident. “93 NTPC workers are missing, 39 still stuck in the tunnel, we are trying to reach them. We are planning to install Early Warning System as a precautionary measure against avalanches,” Singh said. Total Death toll so far in the disaster is 29, said Chamoli DM.  https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/93-ntpc-workers-missing-in-uttarakhand-glacier-burst-incident/80778789  (10 Feb. 2021)

Damage to NTPC project may delay commissioning: RK Singh Two power projects – NTPC’s Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project and the Rishi Ganga Hydel Project – were extensively damaged with scores of labourers trapped in tunnels as the waters came rushing in.

The disaster has caused an estimated loss of ₹1,500 crore at the NTPC’s 480 mw Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project and has put a question mark on its scheduled commissioning in 2023, Union Power Minister R K Singh said on Monday (Feb. 8). The minister visited Tapovan to assess the extent of damage at the project site, a day after the glacier burst in Chamoli district. “The project was scheduled to be commissioned in 2023. But there is a question mark now on how long it will take to desilt it as lakhs of tonnes of silt is lying at the project site,” Mr. Singh told reporters in Tapovan. “As of now it is difficult to say when we will be able to resume work at the site and when the project will be commissioned,” he said. However, the Union Minister ruled out any possibility of the project being scrapped.https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/uttarakhand-glacier-disaster-chamoli-search-and-rescue-efforts-live-updates/article33779030.ece  (08 Feb. 2021)

Tapovan project started in 2006 and was scheduled to be commissioned in 2013, but the devastating flood in 2013 affected the construction process. Earlier, the project’s cost was estimated to be Rs 2,978.5 crore, which was later revised to Rs 5,867.4 crore due to time and cost overruns. The NTPC has already spent more than Rs 4,467 crore on the site.  https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/opinion/uttarakhand-floods-a-disaster-foretold-6472631.html  (09 Feb. 2021)

Information about possible damage to the Vishnuprayag Hydropower project, from the owners: JPVL has a 400-megawatt Vishnuprayag Hydro Electric Project with its barrage over the Alaknanda river, and the project’s tail race tunnel discharging water in river Dhauli Ganga. The company explained in a statement that “sudden development of the ‘Force Majeure’ event led to the closure of the power generation.” The river water gushed in through the tail race tunnel of the project bringing with it the slush. “We are analysing all aspects and assessing the time to bring back the project to its pre-closure status” (operations were stopped at 11 am on February 7 due to this tragic glacier event). “We remain confident that VHEP will resume operations after completing the cleaning and checking all aspects in a few days,” it added. https://www.livemint.com/news/india/uttarakhand-glacier-burst-jpvl-closes-vishnuprayag-hydropower-project-11612778717539.html  (08 Feb. 2021)

NTPC has decided to install early warning systems in NTPC projects in all hill states which are vulnerable to natural disasters like avalanches.

– Shocking, strange claim by the Union Power Minister: the barrage built at the NTPC project bore the brunt of it and helped save villages downstream from massive devastation. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/ntpc-to-install-early-warning-system-in-its-projects-in-hill-states/80758064  (09 Feb. 2021)

Rishiganga project has been plagued by problems since 1998, when a group from Kolkata was given land to construct the hydel plant in the para-glacial zone of the Niti Valley. The project didn’t see light of day for eight years.. The project site was struck repeatedly by cloudburst, floods and landslides in 2008, 2011, 2103 and 2016. The most striking warning, locals said, came on August 15, 2011, when Rakesh Mehra, owner of a Ludhiana-based company came to the project site to inaugurate the trial run of a unit. He was struck by a boulder and died on the spot.

– In 2005, the project was then bought over by Ludhiana-based Mehra who was killed on the project site in 2011. In 2016, it was completely washed away in flash floods triggered by a severe cloudburst.

– Ignoring these ominous signs, another company from Delhi took up the project in 2018 and completed it in 2020. However, even before it could start its operations, the project was completely washed away again.

– “That very day we knew it was nothing short of a warning from Nature. Of the entire crowd standing there, the boulder only fell on him like a signal. This land is being converted into a shallow place by mining and tree cutting and mountain blasting. This had to happen,” said Kalawati Devi, 70, who had accompanied Gaura Devi in the 1973 Chipko movement to save the trees of Raini village. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/nature-had-been-sending-warnings-regarding-rishiganga-hydro-project-since-two-decades-say-villagers/80917091  (15 Feb. 2021)

Local people oppose blasting at the Vishnugad Pipalkoti HEP of THDC. The THDC officer accepts that blasting is being done in the project. Local people are fearful of the disaster and damage to houses. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/pipalkoti-locals-protest-against-hydel-project/articleshow/80755877.cms  (09 Feb. 2021)

By Chetan Mahajan: Eight such dams were hit in 2013, which made the impact of the flooding worse. “Each time such a structure breaks, the river acquires greater power and debris,” says Himanshu Thakkar, an authority on the subject who runs SANDRP. Yet, today we’re building dams bumper-to-bumper. https://magazine.outlookindia.com/story/india-news-the-condammed-space/304239  (22 Feb. 2021) 

Bloomberg: “Hydropower projects, which use large-scale blasting, tree felling and tunneling, most certainly added to the proportion of the impact,” said Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator SANDRP which studies the social and environmental impact of water-related projects. “They became a force multiplier in the destruction.” https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/other/hydropower-dams-face-backlash-after-himalayan-flood-tragedy/ar-BB1dC3FI  (12 Feb. 2021)

“Rivers are really at risk from development projects, dumping of solid waste and liquid waste, sand mining and stone mining,” Himanshu Thakkar, from the SANDRP told AFP. “Climate change is a longer-term process. that has already set in. The impacts are already happening. “So in every respect, rivers are under greater threat.”

“This area is prone to vulnerability, it is not appropriate for this kind of bumper-to-bumper hydro-power development,” Himanshu said. “Proper planning, impact assessment, proper geological assessment this has not happened here.” https://www.deccanherald.com/science-and-environment/uttarakhand-disaster-highlights-pressure-on-asias-great-rivers-949347.html  (09 Feb. 2021)

Baba Umar writes in TRT World: Experts may be divided on whether a landslide or a glacier burst caused deadly flooding in Uttarakhand, but there is a consensus that ignoring warnings against building mega-projects in the vulnerable area contributed to the losses. https://www.trtworld.com/article/44040   (11 Feb. 2021)

Dam Workers Face Serious Hazards, Need Much Better Safety and Social Security by Bharat Dogra. https://countercurrents.org/2021/02/dam-workers-face-serious-hazards-need-much-better-safety-and-social-security/  (09 Feb. 2021)

Tragic situation, demanding accountability of the NTPC top brass. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/uttarakhand-sight-of-co-workers-being-swept-away-still-haunts-labourers/80891385  (13 Feb. 2021)

NYT report on Uttarakhand disaster: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/08/world/asia/india-flood-ignored-warnings.html  (08 Feb. 2021)

Scientific American on Chamoli disaster: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/miniature-satellites-reveal-cause-of-deadly-uttarakhand-flood-that-devastated-hydroelectric-dams/  (12 Feb. 2021)

This is what a glacial lake outburst flood looks like. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDPbtP-0AW8&feature=emb_title  (15 Jan. 2020)

Power plants destroyed Rishi Ganga hydel plant on the Rishiganga river was the first to be hit by the breach in the district. An upstream dam – Rishi Ganga – constructed to divert water was washed away. The second major project affected by the flooding was the NTPC Tapovan hydel plant on the Dhauliganga river. As many as 148 workers are missing from the NTPC project. Officials say high river flow was noticed up to 100 km from Raini village. Experts said 4,000 cusec of additional water was there in the rivers. Apart from Raini and the two projects, no other village saw any impact. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/mapping-the-chamoli-tragedy-how-glacial-breach-in-uttarakhand-triggered-floods-101612754577694.html  (08 Feb. 2021)

The first visuals of the NTPC hydro power plant were of unbelievable devastation. Only mud and debris remain where the 520 megawatt project was coming up. Fifteen years of work, gone in 60 seconds.

NTPC officials said such projects were planned with 100 years of climate patterns taken into account; no one had imagined such a thing. Those at the site did not even get 30 seconds to try and escape the wall of water.

Strange NTPC claiming barrage saved people:- I was told the Raini bridge and the NTPC barrage stood in the way of the flash flood and villages downstream; had it not been for these structures, many more lives would have been lost. More lives were saved because it was a Sunday and only a fifth of the workers were at the site. https://www.ndtv.com/blog/uttarakhand-disaster-i-saw-chamoli-lose-years-in-60-seconds-2367728  (11 Feb. 2021)

This detailed report explores many issues including livelihood, road widening, landslide incidents in the area. Of the four power plants that were damaged in the floods, the privately owned Rishi Ganga project was the smallest, with a generation capacity of 13.3 MW. It was the first point where the deluge met man-made resistance.

Workers and contractors, on whose assurances migrant labourers from as far as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh came to work at the Rishi Ganga project, accuse the Kundan Group, which owns the hydel project, and the local administration, of not putting safety systems in place.

Rajesh Bhandari, a contractor who had sent five workers from Himachal Pradesh to the Rishi Ganga project for maintenance work at the 30-metre-deep pumping room, accuses senior officers of the Kundan Group of not informing families of the workers who died. S D Kamat, CEO of the Kundan Group, however, denied the allegations.

Project manager Kamal Chauhan, who had a narrow escape on February 7, is among those fielding questions from anxious family members and contractors looking for missing workers. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/rishi-ganga-hydel-power-project-flash-floods-uttarakhand-disaster-7187567/  (14 Feb. 2021)

Video animation on what caused the flood. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFalSXuXLVE&feature=emb_title  (14 Feb. 2021)

This details what was officially going between State and Centre following SC decision on hydro projects in the wake of 2013 disaster. At least two power projects hit by the glacial flood burst were in a list of 13 flagged at a meeting in the PMO exactly two years ago. That meeting, records show, ordered a permanent ban on any new hydro-electric project on the Ganga or its tributaries in Uttarakhand; froze those where construction had not reached the halfway mark and came up with strong recommendations against sand mining and boulder crushing.

However, these decisions have been in cold storage as the Uttarakhand government, led by CM Trivendra Singh Rawat, in an affidavit to the Supreme Court in August 2020, sought “re-commencement of hydro power development.”

Less than three weeks after the PMO meeting on February 25, 2019, records show, CM Rawat wrote to PM Modi, underlining the importance of hydroelectricity for the state’s energy security and for providing jobs in its remote hilly areas.

In the letter, Rawat pointed out that 34 hydel projects, with a cumulative capacity of 4084 MW, are stuck in Uttarakhand due to the declaration of Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone between Gomukh and Uttarkashi in 2012, and the ban imposed by the SC in 2013.

The PMO’s meeting was meant to formulate a unified position of the government before the Supreme Court after the Water Resources Ministry, then under Uma Bharti, opposed the Environment Ministry’s “self-contradictory” affidavit filed in January 2016 allowing hydel projects in the Upper Ganga stretch.

Besides the question of policy for new hydel projects, on the table were 13 specific projects, including the NTPC’s 520-MW Tapovan-Vishnugad on Dhauliganga and THDC’s 444-MW Pipalkot on Alaknanda, both damaged by the glacier burst.

The meeting was chaired by Nripendra Misra, then Principal Secretary to the PM, and was attended by top officials of the Ministries of Power, Environment and Water Resources and from the Uttarakhand government.

The decisions at the PMO meeting are yet to be placed before the SC by the Centre. When contacted, Misra declined to comment. When asked if there was a policy rethink after he wrote to the PM, CM’s office directed all queries to the state power department.

When asked if the PMO meeting and the CM’s letter superseded the 2017 report, Singhal declined to comment.

Among the decisions taken at the February 2019 PMO meeting:

  • Complete seven projects: These include the two damaged in last Sunday’s flood where more than 50% work was already over.
  • Check and allow three projects: 195 MW Kotli Bhel 1A; 320 MW Kotli Bhel-1B; and 171 MW Lata Tapovan — of the Power Ministry if more than 50% work was already complete.
  • Uttarakhand to approach Finance Commission to seek compensation for revenue loss and opportunity cost.

Meanwhile, in its affidavit to the SC in August 2020, Uttarakhand went back to the 2017 Environment Ministry draft to seek resumption in hydro power development, citing “acute power shortage” which has been forcing the state “to purchase electricity amounting to Rs 1000 crore” per year. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/uttarakhand-disaster-new-hydel-projects-ban-pmo-cm-7187655/   (14 Feb. 2021)

Projects above 2,200 m recipe for disaster: Experts The 13.2-MW Rishiganga project is classified as a “small hydropower” project (<25 MW) and there are seven such projects under various stages of development in Uttarakhand, according to a response to a question in the Lok Sabha in July 2019. There are eight projects above 25 MW and the damaged Tapovan-Vishnugadh project being developed by the NTPC falls into this category, according to a reply to a question last September.

In the aftermath of the cloudburst in June 2013 that killed at least 5,000 and destroyed several large projects, experts have pointed out that those above an elevation of 2,200 metres were a recipe for disaster. “We had warned about this,” said Ravi Chopra of the People’s Science Institute (PSI) who in 2013 submitted a report to the Supreme Court in 2013 on the role of the projects in floods. “This is a para-glacial zone and a combination of snow, water and ice is a deadly combination that wreaks everything in its path. Unless officials who allow commissioning of such projects are held accountable, this will continue,” he told The Hindu.

The 8 major projects in Uttarakhand are the 171-Mw Lata Tapovan (NTPC) Central; 520-Mw Tapovan Vishnugad (NTPC), 1000-Mw Tehri PSS (THDC) Central, 444-Mw Vishnugad Pipalkoti (THDC); 60-Mw Naitwar Mori (SJVNL); 120-Mw Vyasi (UJVNL), 76-Mw Phata Byung (LANCO) a private company commissioned project and the 99-Mw Singoli Bhatwari (L&T). GD Agrawal, a former scientist who’d become a hermit and crusader for the Ganga, had fasted for over a 100 days and ultimately died in October, 2018. Among the reasons for his fast was a stop to the projects such as the Vishnugad Pipalkoti on the Alaknanda; the Singoli Bhatwari and Phata Byung projects on the Mandakini and all projects on the Alaknanda and its tributaries. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/projects-above-an-elevation-of-2200-metres-recipe-for-disaster-experts/article33785448.ece  (08 Feb. 2021)

Risks posed by power projects Detailed piece by Jayshree Nandi revealing the state, central govts are still not seriously looking into the adverse impacts of hydro projects.

“We had said in our report that the region above 2,000 metres in Uttarakhand in the valleys is not suited for hydroelectric projects. …when glaciers recede, there can be a lot of debris and moraines that flow down. Huge boulders also come along. There appears to have been an avalanche and a glacial lake outburst in the Rishi Ganga valley and, as expected, debris and huge boulders smashed into the Tapovan dam,” Chopra said on Sunday after the massive inundation in Uttarakhand’s Rishi Ganga valley caused by a suspected glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF)

Not just dams and hydroelectric projects, now extensive slope cutting and deforestation have added to extreme vulnerability of Uttarakhand to climate change impacts,” said Mallika Bhanot of Ganga Ahvaan.

The environment ministry recommended environmental clearance to Lakhwar dam in Tehri Garhwal district with certain riders on December 2, 2020. “Despite the Ravi Chopra committee’s’ clear-cut findings, we didn’t learn a lesson. How many wake-up calls do we need? I can tell you if the Lakhwar dam breaks, Delhi has had it. Its entire population will be impacted. No dams or other structures should be allowed in the Himalayas now,” said Manoj Mishra, convenor of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/the-spotlight-falls-on-risks-posed-by-power-projects-101612728079803.html  (08 Feb. 2021)

Some information on controversies around 13.5 mw Rishiganga HEP. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/hydel-power-project-uttarakhand-flash-flood-glacier-burst-chamoli-district-7183561/  (11 Feb. 2021)

SANDRP Blog Rishiganga Ground visit report reveals landslide dam & raises questions  The first ground visit report of the Rishiganga catchment in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district by Dr Naresh Rana, a geologist after the Chamoli Avalanche disaster of Feb 7, 2021 has been shared by NDTV on Feb 11, 2021. Dr Rana visited the catchment of the Rishiganga to understand the ground situation on Feb 10, 2021 and this is possibly the first such visit since the disaster.

The most important revelation of the visit video is that the Rishiganga river flow was found to be completely stopped by an estimated 20-30 m high earthen dam made of the debris brought by the Ronthi Gad (river) at the confluence of Ronthi and Rishiganga rivers. As Dr Rana revealed, when this dam breaches, the water level in the downstream river would once again rise and there could be some risk to the personnel involved in rescuing some 35 people trapped in Tunnel No 1 of the under construction 520 MW Tapovan Vishnugad hydropower project of NTPC on Dhauliganga river, which has been almost completely destroyed by the avalanche flood on Feb 7, 2021 morning from the Rishiganga catchment. https://sandrp.in/2021/02/12/rishiganga-ground-visit-report-reveals-landslide-dam-raises-questions/  (12 Feb. 2021) 

Chamoli Disaster: CWC needs functioning, forecasting beyond monsoon The Chamoli disaster has caught CWC unaware and missing in action for 7 crucial hours. It has also provided several important lessons for the agency. Among them, firstly it certainly needs to set up more flood monitoring sites along smaller rivers in the state. Then round the year functioning of the sites is equally imperative. Of course, CWC still has long way to go to improve forecasting accuracy and data updating which we have been mentioning time and again. The points raised above can greatly contribute in aiding emergency responses during critical hours. One hopes, CWC would look into these issues positively in the wake of Chamoli flood disaster. https://sandrp.in/2021/02/10/chamoli-disaster-cwc-needs-functioning-forecasting-beyond-monsoon/  (10 Feb. 2021)

Rahul Banerjee on FB post comment:- Just flood monitoring won’t do as glacier monitoring is also necessary. Such a huge mass of the glacier breaking off and falling 2000 metres in a land slide could not have happened in the blink of an eye but must have been the result of cracks developing over a period of time.

SANDRP coordinator Himanshu Thakkar on Chamoli disaster once again shows that there are multiple ways in which hydropower projects tend to act as force multipliers in disasters.  https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/opinion-the-role-of-hydro-projects-of-uttarakhand-in-the-chamoli-avalanche-disaster/373823  (10 Feb. 2021)

Himanshu Thakkar article in Hindi on Uttarakhand disaster: https://www.prabhatkhabar.com/opinion/editorial-news-column-news-discovery-of-causes-of-disaster-uttarakhand-glacier-burst-update-srn  (10 Feb. 2021)

Article by SANDRP coordinator in Rashtriya Sahara of Feb 13, 2021: https://developers.facebook.com/docs/plugins/embedded-posts/ 

Ashok Baniya on FB post comment:- As Himansu pointed out critical review of hydro projects (RoR) by not only the panel of experts but also involvement of affected local stakeholders is required. It is not the case of only India but of Nepal, Bhutan, and other countries in South Asia.

Parineeta Dandekar’s (Marathi) article on Chamoli disaster. https://maharashtratimes.com/editorial/article/parineeta-dandekar-article-on-uttarakhand-glacier-burst/articleshow/80778250.cms  (10 Feb. 2021)

This is based extensively on conversation with SANDRP coordinator. https://science.thewire.in/environment/uttarakhand-early-warning-system-could-have-saved-more-lives-at-joshimath/  (10 Feb. 2021)

Article on Chamoli Disaster and Role of Hydorpower projects, by SANDRP coordinator. https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/opinion-the-role-of-hydro-projects-of-uttarakhand-in-the-chamoli-avalanche-disaster/373823  (10 Feb. 2021)

Editors’ Hour Episode 16 with Himanshu Thakkar and Himanshu Prem https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5V66bBfZz60  (13 Feb. 2021) https://www.facebook.com/sandrp.in/posts/4227158920645082

River experts and geologists demand accountability for Rishi Ganga disaster River experts, geologists and environmental activists from different parts of the country sought accountability for the Rishi Ganga glacial breach disaster in a web meeting on Saturday (Feb. 13). Rescuers have so far retrieved 38 bodies and at least 166 people are still missing and feared dead following the flash floods on February 7.

“The dams should have a system of disseminating early warnings and by early warning I do not mean a sign board that reads going near the river can be dangerous. Unfortunately, in the 21st century we still don’t have any systems in place. The workers had the time to vacate had they known. Also, a lot of muck had been dumped at the head of the Tapovan tunnel which amplified the impact of the flood pushing people deep inside it with muck,” said Navin Juyal, retired geologist from the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad.

“Our committee was asked if hydroelectric projects were destroying the ecology of the region. We had said yes. We had also mentioned that siting hydroelectric projects in the paraglacial zone (above 2000 metres) could accentuate disasters,” he added. Chopra, however, added that “the era of dams is possibly over. Hydropower is expensive. It is costing ₹6 to ₹8 per unit to produce whereas solar power is costing ₹2 to ₹2.5 to produce. Soon nobody will want to buy hydropower,” Chopra said. The meeting was organised by India River’s Forum, Water Conflicts Forum, People’s Science Institute, SANDRP, Mattu Jan Sangathan and others.https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/river-experts-and-geologists-demand-accountability-for-rishi-ganga-disaster-101613228682995.html   (13 Feb. 2021)

In order to understand what has happened in Uttarakhand and also take a scientifically informed and socially and ecologically just view about the long term environment-development intersections in the Himalayan regions in the background of climate change. https://www.facebook.com/IndiaRiversForum/videos/718594232352430/  

Landslide Lake Geologists have warned that a lake has formed upstream of Rishiganga valley which could flow out gradually, impacting rescue efforts downstream. “There is a place where Rontighat or Ronti river meets Rishiganga. The debris that fell with the glacier breach on February 7 has blocked the Rishiganga water there, creating a lake. A geologist, Naresh Rana, went to the place to physically inspect it with the help of villagers. Satellite images have also confirmed lake formation. The water will definitely spill as the lake is full now. We have been informed that authorities are trying to drain the water so that rescue work can resume after that,” said Navin Juyal, retired geologist from the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/lake-formation-upstream-of-rishiganga-likely-to-drain-in-coming-daysgeologists-101613124686405.html  (12 Feb. 2021)

-DRDO has provided the following information to CWC for further calculation of Water Level for Land Slide Dam in Chamoli District. https://twitter.com/CWCOfficial_FF/status/1360191484218146817?s=20  (12 Feb. 2021)

Commenting if the forecast of rainfall up to 1 cm and snowfall up to 10 cm over the northern parts of the disaster-hit Uttarakhand early next week by IMD will be a factor in amplifying the tgreat, D P Dobhal, glaciologist Wadia Institute said, “The threat will depend on the magnitude of snowfall and if its 10cm then it will add in 1cm of water which won’t be much threat but again we need to stay alert as situation is developing and volatile.” https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2021/feb/13/lake-formation-at-rishi-ganga-river-poses-bigger-threat-than-sunday-flood-2263295.html  (13 Feb. 2021)

Satellite images from NDRF and a spot visit by DRDO confirmed its presence and the CWC is running simulations to pre-empt the possibility of another round of floods. So far, about 0.7 million cubic metre (70 crore litre) water has accumulated in the new lake. It is about 350m long, thrice the size of a football field, and the natural ‘dam’ about 60m deep with a 10° slope. If the lake were to be breached at that angle from that height (2,383m above sea level), it could be dangerous. “The size of the lake is increasing with every passing day. However, some of the water is also flowing out. It doesn’t look alarming as of now,” NDRF director general SN Pradhan told TOI. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/satellite-images-confirm-new-lake-near-rishiganga-growing/articleshow/80886693.cms  (13 Feb. 2021)

CWC is conducting simulation studies on the artificial lake formed in the upper stretches of the Rishiganga river and also examining the possibility of carrying out a controlled blast to drain out the water. CWC chairman Saumitra Haldar on Saturday (Feb. 13) said studies are being conducted keeping in the mind the forecast of the IMD that the area could receive a rainfall of 1 cm and snowfall of 10 cm on February 15 and 16.

The CWC is also examining possibilities of what can be done if the water to rises to “critical” level. “We are assessing what could be the impact if the water level rises following rains and snowfall as predicted by the IMD. We are also studying what volume of water would be released if the lake bursts and how much time it would take to reach downstream,” Halder told PTI. https://www.financialexpress.com/lifestyle/science/controlled-blast-to-drain-out-water-from-new-glacial-lake-near-rishiganga-experts-conduct-simulations/2194261/  (13 Feb. 2021)

Union Jal Shakti minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat on Friday (Feb. 12) said that CWC has been tasked to devise a strategy on draining out water in a controlled way from the new lake that has been formed and discovered by scientists near avalanche site in Rishiganga. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/tasked-cwc-to-devise-strategy-to-drain-water-from-new-lake-near-rishiganga/articleshow/80893628.cms  (13 Feb. 2021)

Rescue operations at the disaster hit Tapovan Vishnugad HEP have been stopped as water level started rising. https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/uttarakhand-tunnel-rescue-work-halted-for-now-after-alaknanda-river-surges-again-news-agency-pti-quoting-officials-2368286  (11 Feb. 2021)

First Ground report of Rishiganga catchment shows that the river rishiganga river has been dammed by a 20-30 m high wall of debris brought by the Ronthi Gad, its tributary, on which the rockfall and snowfall event occurred on Feb 7. Prof Juyal reveals that the authorities knew about it since Feb 9, but have not disseminated the information. https://khabar.ndtv.com/video/show/news/uttarakhand-rishiganga-river-flash-flood-exclusive-photos-575400  (11 Feb. 2021)

Making of Disaster Discussion session organized by Gaon Connection https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHf9ACmNc6A&feature=youtu.be  (12 Feb. 2021)

Impact on River Eco System

Alaknanda ecosystem to take one year to regenerate The riverbed of the Rishiganga and the Dhauliganga up to Srinagar nearly 100km has been completely disturbed due to siltation, according to scientists. The macrobenthos (organisms that live at the bottom of a water column and are visible to the naked eye) and insects, which are also known as aquatic ‘ecosystem managers’ of the rivers are all gone with the disaster. They will take at least a year to come back again. Also, downstream of the Dhauliganga Pipalkoti onwards, scores of fish species have perished as the river was flooded by silt, sediments and the water had high turbidity. To get the original population of fishes back, it will take at least ‘two to three years’, according to scientists. Till Srinagar, it is silt-laden and totally disturbing the aquatic ecology. It is the Alaknanda that contributes the maximum flow to the Ganga stream.

“The stretch from Rishiganga to Alaknanda, which is around 100 km, needs to be left free for at least one year, which is the full cycle of all seasons – winter, spring, summer and monsoon. This will help the macrobenthos of the impacted zone such as Corydali, Hydropsy, Brachyce, Gomphida, Elmidae, Letocer etc to come back in the stretches again. The river biodiversity in the deluge-hit stretches has undergone changes. This 100km stretch needs healing and thus they be left free of pollution, construction and any other human activities for the aquatic ecosystem to revive,” said K Sivakumar, senior scientist at the Wildlife Institute of India.

Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of SANDARP who has worked dams for more than 30 years, said, “To save the ecology of rivers in the higher reaches of the Himalayas, the Uttarakhand government should not repair or re-commission the Rishiganga and Tapovan-Vishnugad hydroelectric plants. Hydroelectric power plant operations have the potential to multiply disasters in those landscapes.” Explaining how the riverine ecology gets impacted by hydroelectric projects, Thakkar said, “Setting up a hydroelectric plant would require building a tunnel, a dam, a road, a township, dumping site and blasting using explosives. When all such activities take place in and around a stretch of river, the area’s ecosystem gets adversely impacted.”  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/it-will-take-a-year-for-river-ecosystem-to-regenerate-experts/articleshow/80796534.cms  (11 Feb. 2021)

Did fish sense the oncoming deluge? Near Lasu village Alaknanda river turned silver with shoals of fishes close to the surface around 9am. Within minutes, some hundred locals had gathered, ready with baskets, buckets, pots, pans to “pick up” the fish — they didn’t even have to drop a rod or net. What they could not have known was that about 70km upstream, in another hour or so, disaster was about to strike. And this was a precursor.

Scientists said the subsurface vibrations of whatever it is that caused the floods may have ‘broken the sensors’ of fish upstream. “Fish have a lateral line organ (a biological system in aquatic creatures that help them detect movement and pressure changes in water). It’s very sensitive. The slightest disturbance can set it off, sending the fish into a state of shock,” said K Sivakumar, senior scientist at WII. “In this case, it’s possible that a sound preceding the flood may have been picked up by the fish. It is also possible an electric wire or some source of power fell into the water and gave them electric shocks. There can be many reasons. This is why we keep saying that dynamite blasting should never be done on a river.” https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/did-fish-sense-the-oncoming-deluge/articleshow/80778754.cms  (10 Feb. 2021)

Experts Insights, Officials Statements, Opinions, Articles, Studies  

Sequence of events This latest Dave Petley blog provides more detailed sequence of events preceding the storm flood in Rishiganga: https://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/2021/02/08/chamoli-2/  (08 Feb. 2021)

Dave Petley in this blog on Feb 10, 2021 talks about the landslides at hydropower projects. https://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/2021/02/10/himalayas-1/  (10 Feb. 2021)

This provides an interesting presentation of visuals of the Chamoli disaster. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-11/satellites-capture-scale-of-indian-glacier-collapse/13137924  (11 Feb. 2021)

“From what I’ve been able to see, the chain of events may have started in 2016,” said Mylène Jacquemart, a glacier researcher at the University of Colorado. “We’re seeing more and more in the high mountains cases of the rock and mountains not being as stable as we would have thought,” said Dan Shugar, a geomorphologist at the University of Calgary in Canada.

– Dr. Petley said it was likely that the rockfall — which was probably on the order of tens of millions of cubic yards of debris — struck a glacier, fragmenting it. “These rock avalanches are very energetic and chaotic,” he said. What was now a rock-ice avalanche continued downhill, generating immense heat from friction as it did so. This heat likely melted much of the ice. “That’s probably where all the water came from,” he said. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/08/climate/climate-change-flash-flood-india.html  (08 Feb. 2021)

No act of God by Bahar Dutt Reflecting on the decisions for the projects to be undertaken, Bahar Dutt said that it is the contractors who are calling the shots and not scientists or ecologists. “If it was the scientific lobby that was deciding the projects that should come up in the Himalayas, things would be different. It is the contractor lobby which takes these decisions,” she said.

“Our policymakers want to follow the contractor lobby, they don’t want to listen to scientists, and it’s very obvious. And you don’t need a scientist. You go and speak to the local people there, everybody has been saying that they don’t need this kind of development,” Dutt said. Demanding accountability, Dutt said that if the idea of development for the Himalayas does not change, disasters will keep occurring in the region. https://www.thequint.com/videos/news-videos/uttarakhand-chamoli-flash-flood-tragedy-a-man-made-disaster-no-act-of-god-environmental-journalist-bahar-dutt  (10 Feb. 2021) 

More projects approved Just 24 hours before the February 2021 tragedy unfolded, the MoEF cleared the Lakhwar Multipurpose Project (300 MW) on the Yamuna near Lohari village in the district of Dehradun in Uttarakhand. As of today, more than 70 big and small projects are slated on different sections of the Ganga and its tributaries, and thousands of labourers who worked on these infrastructure projects are bound to die a nameless, faceless death. https://www.thequint.com/amp/story/voices/opinion/uttarakhand-chamoli-glacier-burst-hydro-projects-dams-man-made-disaster-accountability-cost-of-development  (08 Feb. 2021)

Dam and damages Kavita Upadhyay rightly says that the Uttarakhand government continues to ignore evidence that hydropower projects in the fragile region exacerbate disasters. https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/dams-and-damages/article33795426.ece  (10 Feb. 2021) 

Learning no lesson Indeed we have learnt nothing from 2013 disaster as shows detailed piece by Nivedita Khandekar https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/we-have-learnt-nothing-from-2013-uttarakhand-disaster/articleshow/80769505.cms  (09 Feb. 2021)

In this interview of Ravi Chopra by Nivedita Khandekar, the scientist talks to us about the waning interest in hydropower in Uttarakhand, the deleterious effect of concentrated tourism of the Char Dham variety, and the role of activism and local communities. https://www.indiaspend.com/indiaspend-interviews/well-being-of-the-himalayan-region-is-critical-for-all-of-india-725072  (10 Feb. 2021) 

Vijayta Lalwani interviews scientist Ravi Chopra about what caused the floods and what lessons are we failing to learn. https://scroll.in/article/986331/uttarakhand-floods-disasters-happen-when-we-do-something-stupid  (09 Feb. 2021)

It’s a folly to be building dams, and hydropower projects above elevations of 2,200 metres, says Ravi Chopra. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/until-about-10-years-ago-i-believed-that-it-was-possible-to-have-hydropower-projects-in-uttarakhand-peoples-science-institute-director/article33811190.ece  (11 Feb. 2021)

Ravi Chopra committee in 2014 report had warned that warming due to climate change was melting the Himalayan glaciers and facilitated avalanches and landslides, and that constructing dams in the fragile ecosystem was dangerous. https://apnews.com/article/climate-climate-change-courts-avalanches-india-7be7a76eea4d497b22609ff3d5194e69  (09 Feb. 2021)

Ravi Chopra, director of PSI said that with the cost of solar energy rapidly falling, building more mountain hydropower dams was unnecessary. Hydropower produced in Uttarakhand costs about three times as much as equivalent solar power, he said, arguing that “in this time and age, hydropower makes no economic sense”. Big international funding institutions have largely moved away from supporting controversial big hydropower projects, though many smaller-scale dams are still being built globally. https://news.trust.org/item/20210211111403-y36n0  (11 Feb. 2021)

The Uttarakhand disaster reaffirms earlier warnings on the fragility of the Himalayan region calling for more careful planning and preparedness in the future! Dams, road construction and infrastructure projects are worsening the impacts by Aarti Kelkar Khambete of India Water Portal https://www.indiawaterportal.org/article/uttarakhand-disaster-warning-be-better-prepared  (10 Feb. 2021)

Vimal Bhai of Matu Jansangthan writes that govt ignored reports and warnings https://www.counterview.net/2021/02/uttarakhand-tragedy-how-govt-ignored.html  (10 Feb. 2021)

Anjal Prakash in this piece mentions why run of the rivers hydro projects are not green source of energy and sees the parallels of Chamoli in Sikkim. https://www.hindustantimes.com/opinion/rethinking-run-of-the-river-hydro-projects-101612965305568.html   (11 Feb. 2021)

Warnings ignored In July, 52 environmental organisations and activists across 12 Himalayan states of India, drafted a letter to the MoEF highlighting how regulatory decisions and industrial projects could cause ecological damage in the world’s youngest mountain range. “The government has classified the Himalayan region under the climate vulnerability index. It means that any project in the region would exacerbate landslides, groundwater drying up, and glaciers melting,” Manshi Asher, an activist from HIMDHARA and one of the 52 signatories to the letter, told VICE World News in September. https://www.vice.com/en/article/qjpadp/our-biggest-fear-came-true-warnings-by-locals-near-the-deadly-glacier-burst-were-ignored  (10 Feb. 2021)

Exploitation of nature “Professor GD Aggarwal (Swami Sanand) sacrificed his life after observing 118 days fast at our ashram in 2018, demanding closure of all the HEP projects on river Ganga in order to ensure its free flow for the benefit of humanity, nature and wildlife. But the Centre and the state government, driven by monetary greed, has been insensitive to the issue till date,” said Swami Shivanand, head of the Haridwar-based Matri Sadan. The state government has targeted to construct 450 hydro projects to harness 27,039 MW.

Hemant Dhyani, environment activist also deplored the callous attitude of the government towards the fragility of Himalayan biodiversity by saying, “Besides forcing HEP, the government machinery is hell bent upon cutting precious trees, destabilising mountains with blasting and deforestation and as a result, triggering soil erosion and drying up of water resources to widen 889 km Char Dham road across the state. The Chamoli calamity is another grim reminder in the series.” https://www.newsclick.in/Experts-Flag-Environmental-Concerns-Behind-Uttarakhand-Disaster  (09 Feb. 2021)

Mindless rampage of Himalayas The glacial burst near Raini village, the cradle of the Chipko movement, should serve as a wake-up call to stop the rampage on the Himalayan ecological system in the name of development, said Magsaysay awardee Chandi Prasad Bhatt on Monday (Feb. 8). According to the 87-year-old environmentalist, who was a Chipko movement leader, projects like the Rishi Ganga hydel project, which bore the brunt of Sunday’s calamity, should not have been given environmental clearance.

Bhatt said that in 2010 he had written to the then environment minister warning against the adverse effects of the project. “Had my advice been heeded, the loss of lives and largescale damage to property at the project site could have been prevented. The mindless rampaging on the Himalayas in the name of development must stop,” he said. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/mindless-rampage-on-himalayas-in-name-of-development-must-stop-chipko-movement-leader-101612777672133.html  (08 Feb. 2021)

“In a way, the Himalayas are giving warning every now and then, but we are constantly ignoring it. It is required that we take it seriously,” said Chipko leader Bhatt. https://edition.cnn.com/2021/02/12/asia/india-glacier-raini-village-chipko-intl-hnk/index.html  (13 Feb. 2021)

Editorial Troubled mountains But the Centre and the Uttarakhand government cannot ignore the larger context of the State’s increasing frailty in the face of environmental shocks. Once the crucible of environmentalism, epitomised by Sunderlal Bahuguna, Gaura Devi and the Chipko movement, the State’s deep gorges and canyons have attracted many hydroelectric projects and dams, with little concern for earthquake risk. Red flags have been raised repeatedly, particularly after the moderate quake in 1991 in the region where the Tehri dam was built and the 2013 floods that devastated Kedarnath, pointing to the threat from seismicity, dam-induced microseismicity, landslides and floods from a variety of causes, including unstable glacial lakes and climate change. https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/troubled-mountains-on-uttarakhand-glacier-disaster/article33785774.ece  (09 Feb. 2021)

From the Himalayas, a warning for us by Mark Tully The 2021-22 Union Budget will increase the pressure on the government to ignore the concerns of nature. It is heavily focused on investments in infrastructure, especially roads and railways, which the finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, hopes will revive GDP growth. This may be true. But these projects will, also, inevitably give rise to concerns about their environmental impact. https://www.hindustantimes.com/opinion/from-the-himalayas-a-warning-for-us-101613225330288.html  (14 Feb. 2021)

The region is warming much faster than much of the planet, and consequences are already showing. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/environment/global-warming/warming-and-warnings-from-the-high-himalayas/articleshow/80875256.cms  (13 Feb. 2021)

Chamoli disaster is human-induced by Chetan Chauhan Glacial melting and bursts are well-documented. But little attention has been paid to the damage caused to local ecology and loss of forest cover in the upper reaches of the central Himalayas by building hydel dams and construction of wider roads (read: Char Dham road project) overlooking environmental norms.

The upper reaches of Uttarakhand, source for several small riverine systems feeding the Ganga, already have 16 dams and another 13 under construction. The state government has proposed another 54 dams to harness the hydel energy potential of these rivers. On the Dhauli Ganga river, eight new hydel projects are proposed in addition to NTPC’s Tapovan project.

Geologists say that such heavy drilling of a young and under-studied mountain system such as the Himalayas and loss of massive green cover for these dams are causing irreparable damage.

What should be an eye-opener is that rarely, anywhere in the world, do two such big disasters in a region take place in a short duration of less than a decade. There was no such human rush in Chamoli fortunately because Rishi Ganga and Dhauli Ganga are small rivers. All those who died or are missing are workers at the two hydel projects.

There is enough data to suggest that the number of severe flash floods due to glacial melt in Uttarakhand has increased post 2000 and the reason, experts say, is the sudden spurt of environmentally-unfriendly development activities. If the present pace of Himalayan destruction continues, a future disaster will be devastating. Nature will strike back again. Damaging today and repairing tomorrow is not an option. India has only one option — save the Himalayas. https://epaper.hindustantimes.com/Home/ShareArticle?OrgId=92bc0de02c  (09 Feb. 2020)

In this fact check, Carbon Brief unpacks how the events unfolded and speaks to scientists who suggest that a landslide was, in fact, the most likely primary cause.  And while further analysis is needed to assess the role of climate change, one scientist tells Carbon Brief that rising temperatures are causing “more of these big slope collapses”. https://www.carbonbrief.org/factcheck-did-climate-change-contribute-to-indias-catastrophic-glacial-flood  (09 Feb. 2021)

Hemant Dhyani, SP Sati on how it’s a man-made disaster. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldeZsTr80Uw  (09 Feb. 2021)

6 lessons to learn Ram Chandra Guha on the six key lessons of the recent flood in the Himalaya. First, such occurrences happen with disturbing regularity in this region. Second, the devastation that ensues is as much the handiwork of humans as of nature itself. Third, the Himalaya are, in ecological terms, both fragile and irreplaceable, and therefore must be spared any further large projects. Fourth, environmentally-wise policies must be followed in other regions of India too. Fifth, the design and execution of such policies must involve the best scientists in the country. Sixth, these policies are likely to have happier, more benign, outcomes if they are accompanied by political decentralization as well. https://www.ndtv.com/opinion/6-lessons-from-a-himalayan-tragedy-by-ramachandra-guha-2365783  (08 Feb. 2021)

Himalyan blunders by Shekhar Pathak People do not want to risk their homes, fields, pastures, forests and rivers in the name of development. Most of such development work in the Himalayas is being carried out without an understanding of its fragility, seismicity, glacial behaviour, climatic changes and their collective destructive power. The Himalayas have been giving us life through water, fertile soil, biodiversity, wilderness and a feel of spirituality. We cannot and should not try to control or dictate the Himalayas. https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/mountains-glacial-behaviour-climate-change-chamoli-disaster-development-7186375/  (13 Feb. 2021)

Message loud and clear by Atul Seti The need now is to look for alternative plans for sustainable development. Micro hydel projects of 1MW or 2MW capacity can generate power without the need to stop the river flow. Local communities can be trained in setting them up. This will also generate employment for the youth. Gherat or water mills have been in use in Uttarakhand for centuries for grinding grains and spices using water power. There are thousands of them lying unused. They can be upgraded and converted into small power-generating units. The possibilities are many. It’s time that they are taken seriously — before the mountains decide to give us another message.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/past-prism/message-from-the-mountains-loud-and-clear-but-is-anyone-listening/  (14 Feb. 2021)

A resilient future for Uttarakhand by A Nambi Appadurai Experts and activists have incessantly asked for scrutiny into the construction of hydroelectric power projects in Uttarakhand. There have also been allegations about the use of explosives in the construction of dams and other infrastructure. In 2014, an expert committee led by Dr Ravi Chopra, instituted to assess the role of dams in exacerbating floods, provided hard evidence on how haphazard construction of dams was causing irreversible damage to the region.

The need of the hour is to invest in long-term crisis response mechanisms and resilience solutions. A few immediate steps include: (i) investing in resilience planning, especially in flood prevention and rapid response; (ii) climate proofing the infrastructure such as by applying road stabilisation technologies for fragile road networks and strengthening existing structures like bridges, culverts and tunnels; (iii) strengthening embankments with adequate scientific know-how; (iv) reassessing development of hydropower and other public infrastructure; (v) investing in a robust monitoring and early warning system; (vi) establishing implementable policies and regulatory guidelines to restrict detrimental human activities, including responsible eco- and religious tourism policies; and (vii) investing in training and capacity building to educate and empower local communities to prevent and manage risks effectively.  https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/a-resilient-future-for-uttarakhand/article33813220.ece  (12 Feb. 2021)

Need to improve monitoring Improved in situ monitoring network for weather, hydrology and glacier change is crucial for predicting the future of this resource and associated hazards. There is an urgent need to gather baseline data to understand the hydrology, geology and climate change response of Himalayan glaciers. Currently, there are a lot of unknowns to successfully predict and quantify future catastrophic events that may become more common with climate change. https://india.mongabay.com/2021/02/scientists-analysing-uttarakhand-floods-highlight-need-to-improve-monitoring-of-glaciers/  (12 Feb. 2021)

Govt negligence Informative discussion including govt officials, geologists on Chamoli disaster highlights lapses in monitoring and pushing hydro projects in sensitive region without following precautions. https://youtu.be/BSbEasmxH9s  (08 Feb. 2021)

Agonising cost of ham-handed development India’s leaders must recommit themselves to the ideas and activism of environmentalists involved with Uttarakhand by Nachiket Chanchani. https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/the-agonising-cost-of-ham-handed-development/article33814217.ece  (12 Dec. 2021)

Nayanika Mathur teaches anthropology at Oxford University. Writing in Times Evoke, she describes the deepening ecological concerns of villagers in Chamoli, the everyday impacts of climate change in the region which has just seen massive flooding — and why a ‘top-down’ approach isn’t working: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/the-chamoli-deluge-was-foretold-we-must-heed-the-wisdom-of-the-paharis/articleshow/80885978.cms  (13 Feb. 2021)

Questions are being asked about how the disaster happened, and what, if anything, can be done to prevent similar incidents in future. https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2021/2/10/india-dam-disaster-trigger-events-warning-for-future  (10 Feb. 2021) 

Building and construction work unmindful of ecological consequences caused devastating floods here in 2013, but the government has been uncaring. The SC had intervened to reduce the damage wrought by the project, but it remains silent about the illegality at its core.  https://www.theindiacable.com/p/the-india-cable-reckless-building  (08 Feb. 2021)

Geo-environmental consequences of obstructing Bhagirathi SP Sati, Shubhra Sharma,Y. P. Sundriyal, Deepa Rawat & Manoj Riyal AbstTaking cognizance from the Bhagirathi valley, present study calls for a detailed multidisciplinary study in the Himalayan valleys where the rivers are likely to get impounded for harnessing hydropower.  https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19475705.2020.1756464  (06 May 2020)

CEEW Study Preparing for Extreme Climate Events The study is the first-of-its-kind district-level profiling of India’s extreme climate events such as cyclones, floods, and drought. It uses spatial and temporal modelling to develop the district-level assessment discussing the complexities and non-linear trends and patterns. Besides the frequency of climate catastrophes, it examines the pattern of associated events and how the impacts have compounded. Further, it analyses the shift in trend in climate events across sub-regions within the country. The study uses a pentad decadal analysis to develop an extreme climate events catalogue for a historical time scale of 50 years (1970-2019). https://www.ceew.in/publications/preparing-india-extreme-climate-events  (20 Dec. 2020)

85% of districts hotspots of extreme floods, related events More than 85 per cent of districts in Uttarakhand, which are home to at least 9 crore people, are hotspots of extreme floods and its associated events, according to a recent study by the environmental think tank Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) on extreme weather hotspots in the country.

The frequency and intensity of extreme flood events in Uttarakhand have increased four-fold since 1970, according to the study. Similarly, associated flood events like landslides, cloud bursts and glacial lake outbursts have increased four-fold during this period, causing massive loss and damage. Chamoli, Haridwar, Nainital, Pithoragarh and Uttarkashi districts are the most vulnerable to extreme floods. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/85-of-uttarakhand-districts-hotspots-of-extreme-floods-related-events-study-7185012/  (12 Feb. 2021)

Himalayan Glaciers in Distress by Katharina Buchholz Between 2016 and 2018, glaciers in the region lost the equivalent of 0.5 to 2.5 meters in thickness across their whole surface areas per year. 2019 proved a slightly better year for glaciers in India, if not in Nepal. Some Indian glaciers gained the equivalent of around 20-50 centimeters that year, while losses of more than one meter per glacier continued in Nepal.

Glacial melt does not only increase the risk of disasters through calving, increasing the risk that large ice chucks hit rivers of meltwater and cause flood surges. Meltwater from retreating glaciers can also form lakes or be stored inside the glacier, which carries the risk of spontaneous bursts as well. Additionally, the melting of glaciers poses threats to biodiversity and freshwater supply while also contributing to rising sea levels.  https://www.statista.com/chart/24137/glacial-melt/  (9 Feb. 2021)  

Chipko revival needed by Dinesh C Sharma In view of this scenario of climate change and increasing threat of landslides and GLOFs occurring due to it, a two-pronged policy response is required. First and foremost, we need to study and monitor glaciers and glacial lakes on a continuous basis. A beginning has been made in this regard. Some glacial lakes are being monitored. For instance, the south Lhonak glacial lake in Sikkim has been ballooning. It has spread to 126 hectares from 18 hectares in 1976. The size of the Geepang Gath glacial lake in Chandrabhaga basin in Himachal Pradesh is estimated to be expanding by 0.025 square kilometre every year.

The number of glacial lakes in the Ravi, Chenab, Sutlej and Beas basins has also gone up between 2013 and 2015. Such monitoring studies have to be intensified and made widespread. It can happen under the overarching existing framework of the National Mission for Sustaining Himalayan Ecosystem. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/comment/a-revival-of-chipko-spirit-needed-in-chamoli-210222  (10 Feb. 2021)

National River is now our National Guilt Documentary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L77Kkt_wQvw&feature=youtu.be  (12 Nov. 2016)

India should stop building dams in Himalayan region: Experts  https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/south-asia/india-should-stop-building-dams-in-himalayan-region-experts  (08 Feb. 2021) https://www.news18.com/photogallery/india/what-exactly-happened-in-uttarakhand-floods-explained-through-graphics-3402992-3.html  (08 Feb. 2021)

Before and after satellite images by planet lab on Chamoli disaster. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/08/climate/climate-change-flash-flood-india.html  (08 Feb. 2021) This report by NDTV carries more such images. https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/uttarakhand-glacier-burst-new-satellite-images-show-chamoli-earthquakes-path-of-destruction-2366847  (09 Feb. 2021)

Geologists are worried about a slew of hydroelectric projects and environmental stress in Uttarakhand. https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/the-hindu-explains-why-are-geologists-worried-about-a-slew-of-hydroelectric-projects-and-environmental-stress-in-uttarakhand/article33831867.ece  (14 Feb. 2021)

Need to Change Economic Development Model Prof Gurinder Kaur, Dept of Geography, Punjabi University, Patiala:- If mountainous areas of the country, including Uttarakhand and their people, are to be saved, then it is incumbent on the Central Government not to carry out development work in these areas without seeking geologists’ and locals’ opinions. The government should immediately ban unsustainable development projects in the hilly regions, be it Char-Dham road or hydropower projects. If this does not happen, the people of these areas will be forced to endure disasters like sliding mountains and glaciers in the future. The people, living in the hilly regions and country large demand that the Central Government should adopt a pro-people and pro-nature development model instead of a pro-corporate economic development model. https://www.impriindia.com/research/reports/havoc-in-the-upper-himalayas/  (11 Feb. 2021)

Landslip, not glacial lake burst, probable trigger for flood CWC monitors and prepares monthly reports on the state of glacial lakes and water bodies 10 hectares and above via satellite and nothing out of the ordinary was observed. However, it is possible that smaller pockets of water exist that haven’t been caught in the satellite images, that may have flooded. “There’s a bit of a mystery and it will be some time before the causes can be determined,” Sharat Chandra, Director, CWC told The Hindu. The CWC constituted a team of experts on Monday (Feb. 8) to investigate the possible causes.

Other experts opine that large mass of rock or debris might have impacted the glacier and triggered an avalanche. Kalachand Sain, Director, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, said apart from glacial lakes not being observed, the glaciers were extremely steep and preventing water from accumulating enough to form such lakes. “A sudden surge of water is surprising and had it been from a broken glacier, we would be seeing a continuous flow of water. Right now this appears to have stemmed,” he said.

Dan Shugar, a geomorphologist at the University of Calgary, Canada, said on Twitter preliminary analysis of satellite imagery suggested that the event was a landslip. A part of a glacier — and Mr. Shugar suggested he is unsure if it is the Nandadevi glacier — may have broken off and become rock and ice avalanche that later turned into a flood.

Mohd. Farooq Azam, Assistant Professor, Glaciology & Hydrology, IIT Indore, offered a hypothesis again ruling out a GLOF. “We can now say with some belief that the incident occurred due to the fracture of a hanging glacier [about 0.2 sq km in size] together with snow and rock avalanches, at 5,600 metre altitude near the Trishul Peak.

Since 2017, debris and snow had been accumulating at the bottom of the glacier. The stream flowing out from it earlier was very clear, but after 2017 the glacier stream has been hidden below the accumulated debris-snow. It was possible that the debris-snow would have been absorbing and collecting water coming from the upstream glaciers and that could have been released when the ice-rock avalanche hit it, Mr. Azam said. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/landslip-not-glacial-lake-burst-probable-trigger-for-uttarakhand-flood/article33784558.ece  (08 Feb. 2021)

Ground-based measurements are critical to supplement satellite imagery but the prevailing conditions aren’t conducive, says Kalachand Sain, Director, WIHG. https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/himalayas-are-fragile-and-host-to-several-complex-processes-that-need-to-be-monitored/article33801828.ece  (10 Feb. 2021)

Asked if such disasters could be predicted, Sain said yes. “Current capacities to monitor glaciers are very limited. Out of 1,000 glaciers in Uttarakhand, we are able to physically monitor only seven. We need automatic weather stations along upper reaches to improve data generation and a dedicated national institute to process that data for disaster forecast,” he added. Five scientists of Wadia institute today reached Joshi Math to investigate the flood but are yet to climb up the source of the disaster. “It is a very steep and hard to access region. We may need choppers to get aerial views,” Sain said. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/nation/rockfall-triggered-breach-probe-on-209826  (09 Feb. 2021)

The CM said that ISRO scientists told him that a few days back there was snowfall in the affected area. “And from one trigger point due to rockfall at the top, it all slid downwards. Due to this, lakhs of tonnes of snow came gushing down which led to the tragedy. The ISRO scientists said the satellite imagery doesn’t show any glacier breakage and that this area is not avalanche-prone”.

Pradeep Srivastava, a scientist at Wadia Institute said “Due to freezing and thawing, rock mass broke away and slid down. Data suggests 0.2 km rock mass broke away and slid down, adding to the debris accumulated down the glacier. This created a melting layer near debris and the sliding snow. The rock avalanche was evident from the huge clouds of dust that came down with the flowing muck and debris”.

Srivastava said on February 6 there was snow in the area and on February 7 the average temperature was 5 to 6 degrees there, which was enough to melt the snow. “Satellite imagery shows snow on February 6 and no snow on the slopes on February 7. So it seems that it was a mix of snow avalanche and rock avalanche which led to the disaster,” he said.

Srivastava said in a glacier there are many sources of water. “Water can come from surface snow, from big cavities in glaciers and water trapped in crevices. Besides, water also melts due to pressure from the base of the glacier. But our teams will inspect the area and give details about what exactly happened there,” he said. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/dehradun-news/isro-experts-revealed-mix-of-rockfall-snow-avalanche-caused-chamoli-tragedy-cm-101612796354882.html   (08 Feb. 2021)

A team of specialists from the DRDO, which reached Uttarakhand early on Monday (Feb. 8) morning, conducted an aerial survey of the areas in Chamoli district which were devastated by flash flood triggered by glacier burst. The team said that it has collected data which will be analysed to understand the reason behind the natural disaster.

“Our team did an aerial survey of the glacier where incident took place in Chamoli. Prima facie it looks like a hanging glacier broke away from the main glacier and came down in the narrow valley,” Dr LK Sinha, Director, Defence Geo-Informatics Research Establishment of the DRDO told news agency ANI. “In the valley it formed a lake which burst later and caused the damage. The data is being analysed by our scientists in detail and if required, they would again go to get more details,” Dr Sinha further said.  https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/hanging-glacier-broke-away-from-main-structure-in-uttarakhand-drdo-101612780539805.html  (08 Feb. 2021)

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) on Tuesday (Feb. 9) said early assessment indicates the event involved a large avalanche of ice and rock. This was not the first such avalanche from these slopes. Experts have identified a similar but much smaller event in 2016.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has also reported higher temperatures at the approximate time of the flash floods than in the previous four days, with higher mean temperature intrusions to the north of the region. It monitored and reported melt in the region with melt volumes for 96 hours.

An international group of scientists is working with Indian scientists and the National Disaster Management Authority to assess all available sources of information, including satellite imagery, for an understanding of the flash floods and lessons learned. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/rishiganga-disaster-may-have-involved-ice-rock-avalanche-met-organisation-101612932001340.html  (10 Feb. 2021)

Underground glacial lake led to flash floods: IISc analysis The Divecha Centre for Climate Change at IISc, Bengaluru team has concluded that release of water from an underground glacial lake led to flash floods and inundation in the valley. Using a tool to map depression in the bedrock below glacier ice in northern Nanda Devi, the team said images suggest a depression of 25ha upstream of the glacier terminus.

This underground lake has a capacity to store 4.5 million cubic metres of water. The lower part of the ablation zone (zone of the glacier which has melted or calved and formed a lake) is also receiving a significant amount of water from a tributary glacier located at the northern side of the Nanda Devi glacier. “If this depression filled with water develops appropriate hydrostatic pressure, it can accelerate the lower part of the ablation zone, possibly releasing water from the underground lake. It could be the potential reason for the flash flood,” a note prepared by the IISC team said.

“This is a new tool developed in IISc by our team which can be very useful to study such disasters. The tool is based on Laminar flow equation and surface slope; known as Himalayan Glacier Thickness Mapper (HIGHTHIM). The tool was used successfully to map depressions below South Lhonak lake in Sikkim and further estimate the future expansion of the lake,” said Professor Anil Kulkarni, distinguished scientist, Divecha Center for Climate Change.

Responding to some US-based scientists who had suggested that a landslide had triggered the flash floods based on satellite data, Kulkarni said “It appears to me that they looked at the adjacent valley. Initial reports suggest that flash flood was caused due to breaking of Nanda Devi glacier. The observation was widely published by numerous news media and also supported by reconnaissance survey carried out by the Indian Air Force. We went deeper to see what happened under the surface.”  https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/uttarakhand-underground-glacial-lake-led-to-flash-floods-says-iisc-analysis-101612842535639.html  (09 Feb. 2021)

13 of 486 Uttarakhand glacial lakes vulnerable: GSI Dr. Rath said the GSI had during 2014-16 undertaken the compilation of an inventory of glacial lakes of the Uttarakhand Himalaya to identify high-risk areas for GLOF. This was done as a follow-up of the Kedarnath tragedy in June 2013. “We identified 486 glacial lakes excluding the supra-glacial lakes and 13 of these were found to be vulnerable,” he said. According to the GSI’s inventory, 71 lakes of different sizes and types are in the upper reaches of Rishiganga and Dhauliganga valley. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/13-of-486-uttarakhand-glacial-lakes-vulnerable-gsi/article33782869.ece  (08 Dec. 2021)

Study warned Himalayan glaciers melting The 2019 study, spanning 40 years of satellite observations across India, China, Nepal and Bhutan, indicates that climate change is eating the Himalayas’ glaciers, the researchers said. The study, published in the journal Science Advances in June 2019, shows that glaciers have been losing the equivalent of more than a vertical foot and half of ice each year since 2000 — double the amount of melting that took place from 1975 to 2000. Temperatures vary from place to place, but from 2000 to 2016 they have averaged one degree Celsius higher than those from 1975 to 2000, they said. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/uttarakhand-flood-2019-study-warned-himalayan-glaciers-melting-at-alarming-speed/article33775216.ece  (07 Feb. 2021)

A 2005 inventory of glaciers and glacial lakes in the Himalayan region, documented by ICIMOD had identified 127 glacial lakes in Uttarakhand using satellite images.

The 2015 paper, authored by K Babu Govindha Raj and K Vinod Kumar and published in the Journal of Indian Society of Remote Sensing, notes that the retreat of the glaciers in Uttarakhand was noticeable since the 1960s. And the area under glacial lakes in Garhwal region of the state had increased by 33 per cent between 1990 and 2009.

When two scientists, then working with National Remote Sensing Centre in Hyderabad, did a similar exercise in 2015, they identified as many as 362 glacial lakes in the state — an increase of 235 lakes in ten years. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/glacial-lakes-uttarakhand-flash-flood-himalayan-region-7180457/  (09 Feb. 2021)

A number of imminent potentially deadly glacier burst and flood situations have been identified worldwide, including in the Himalayas and South American Andes. But while monitoring is possible, the remoteness of most glaciers presents challenges. https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/explained-how-glaciers-glacial-lakes-form-and-why-they-break/article33781199.ece  (08 Feb. 2021)

A comprehensive inventory reveals a total of 4,418 glacial lakes within the Indian Himalayan Region. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/indian-himalayan-region-another-catastrophe-in-the-making/articleshow/80775263.cms  (10 Feb. 2021)

385 villages at risk, Rs 10K cr needed CM on Thursday (Feb. 11) approved Rs 2.38 crore for the relocation of five villages out of over 385 situated in disaster-prone belts of 12 districts in the hill state which are awaiting a shift to safer areas. According to an earlier study carried out by the state, the entire process may cost a whopping Rs 10,000 crore.

A maximum of 129 villages are in Pithoragarh district followed by 62 in Uttarkashi, 61 in Chamoli, 42 in Bageshwar, 33 in Tehri, 26 in Pauri, 14 in Rudraprayag, 10 in Champawat, nine in Almora, six in Nainital, two in Dehradun and one in Udham Singh Nagar. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/385-uttarakhand-villages-at-risk-10k-cr-needed-to-move-them/articleshow/80890295.cms  (13 Feb. 2021)

Impact on People

Pipalkoti locals protest against hydel project Demanding ‘complete ban on blasting’ for construction of a 14-km-long tunnel from Beerayi in Pipalkoti village to Helang, locals in Pipalkoti held a protest on Monday (Feb. 8) saying that they will not allow the plant to operate. The locals sat on protest dharna in Harsaari hamlet of Haat (Shivanagari), Choti Kashi, and also blocked the path of workers enroute to the construction sites.

The 444 MW hydropower plant, a project of THDC, has been drawing the ire of locals who are against any blasting activity. The Vishnugad-Pipalkoti Hydroelectric Project on Alaknanda river in Chamoli commenced in 2014, but barely 20% of the tunnel work has been done so far. Villagers said that they have been agitating for the past 1.5 years, but all the pleas to the administration, as well as THDC, have proved futile. “This is not acceptable to us, the blasting literally shakes our houses and the entire landscape vibrates. It can lead to disaster any moment here in Pipalkoti,” said Narender Pokhriyal, an activist from Haat village. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/pipalkoti-locals-protest-against-hydel-project/articleshow/80755877.cms  (09 Feb. 2021)  

Gaon Connection Despite the near-freezing temperatures, the residents of the 13 villages in Chamoli, affected by the landslide and flash floods, have been camping in the forests. They say their homes had already developed cracks due to the tunneling. Meanwhile, the water level in Rishganga and Dhauliganga rivers is reportedly rising again. https://en.gaonconnection.com/fear-in-the-mountains-following-the-uttarakhand-disaster-women-children-and-the-elderly-in-13-cut-off-villages-are-terrified-to-return-home/  (12 Feb. 2021)

Hridayesh Joshi describes the impact deluge on local people of Raini village. https://www.newslaundry.com/2021/02/10/uttrakhand-chamoli-disaster-glacier-power-projects-water-flood-rive  (10 Feb. 2021) https://www.newslaundry.com/2021/02/12/uttarakhand-chamoli-disaster-glacier-power-plant-ntpc-river  (12 Feb. 2021)

One more ground report by Hridayesh Joshi with Mayank Aggarwal.  https://india.mongabay.com/2021/02/chamoli-floods-trigger-concerns-against-rapid-development-in-the-himalayan-region/  (10 Feb. 2021) The report can be seen in Hindi here. https://hindi.mongabay.com/2021/02/10/besides-damage-chamoli-floods-triggers-concerns-against-rapid-development-in-fragile-himalayan-region/  (10 Feb. 2021)

Himachal Pradesh Fearing Chamoli like disaster, tribals in Lahaul and Spiti are conducting meetings to pass another resolution against the proposed dams in the region and send it to the Governor and the President of India. https://en.gaonconnection.com/uttarakhand-disaster-over-300-km-from-joshimath-in-chamoli-ripples-of-alarm-in-himachals-lahaul-and-spiti/  (08 Feb. 2021)

Avay Shukla, whose report warning against rampant hydel projects in the state was ignored, says ‘the die has already been cast, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it’. https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-a-disaster-is-just-waiting-to-happen-in-himachal/374271  (14 Feb. 2021)

13 organisations in the state said in a collective statement issued today that many operational, as well as planned hydropower projects in Himachal Pradesh, are located in areas highly vulnerable to disasters such as landslides and floods. http://www.uniindia.com/~/numerous-power-projects-vulnerable-to-disaster-ngos/States/news/2314509.html  (09 Feb. 2021)

The increase in the number of glacial lakes remains a major cause of worry for Himachal, especially the Sutlej basin which has some of the country’s biggest hydel projects such as Nathpa Jhakri, Karcham Wangtoo and Baspa. Based on the 2019 study, the Sutlej basin has the highest 562 lakes, Chenab basin 242 lakes, Beas basin 93 lakes and Ravi basin 37 lakes. Himachal suffered more than Rs 800-crore loss due to flash floods in the Sutlej river in 2000 and later in 2004 the formation of a lake Parechu in the upper basin of the Spiti river in Tibet posed threat to the villages downstream. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/count-of-glacial-lakes-in-sutlej-basin-rising-209663  (09 Feb. 2021)

उत्तराखंड की घटना के बाद हिमाचल के लाहौल स्पीति के लोग एकजुट हुए और प्रस्तावित 56 पावर प्रोजेक्ट के खिलाफ मोर्चा खोल दिया. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/hindistory/river/river-projects/locals-opposes-power-projects-intensified-in-lahaul-spiti-himachal-pradesh-75439  (08 Feb. 2021)

Jammu & Kashmir Officials and dam developers claim their dams on Chenab (Dulhasti, Baglihar, Salal) are all safe and there is nothing to worry.  The same way Uttarakhand officials assured before the disaster. https://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/todays-paper/front-page/none-can-predict-natural-disaster-officials/  (09 Feb. 2021)

DAMS

Chhattisgarh Tribals Protest Against ‘Bastar Irritation project’ Govt’s move to reinstitute the Bastar Bodhghat multi-purpose irrigation project in Barsoor village of Dantewada irked local tribals as the project threatens their settlements. Nearly 6,000 tribals of over 50 villages protested at Hitalkudum village of Bijapur on February 9, to register their protest against the move. https://thelogicalindian.com/adivasirights/tribals-protest-against-bastar-irritating-project-26778  (10 Feb. 2021) 

Proposed to be built on the Indravati river, the Bodhghat project is expected to cost Rs 22,653 crore, inform news reports. The dam is expected to come up near Barsur village in Dantewada district and help irrigate 366,580 ha of farmland in Maoist–affected Dantewada, Bijapur and Sukma districts of Bastar division.

The project is also expected to displace over 44 villages — it is believed that 30 of these will be submerged. Apart from this, about 5,704 ha of forests will also be submerged. https://en.gaonconnection.com/chhattisgarh-govt-revives-bodhghat-dam-project-bastars-tribal-communities-launch-strong-protests/  (12 Feb. 2021)

Kerala Mullaperiyar dam is a ‘ticking time bomb waiting to explode’ Mullaperiyar ticks all the boxes that the UN University – Institute for Water, Environment and Health study identifies for decommissioning – public safety, growing maintenance costs, reservoir sedimentation and environmental restoration. Large dams, even if structurally sound, are regarded as “high hazard” infrastructure because of the potential for a massive loss of human lives, livelihoods and destruction in the event of failure, the study said.

“Our study discusses the dam ageing issue globally, bringing the topic to the surface and hoping to get the national level policymakers’ attention,” Perera told SciDev.Net. “The decommissioning decision should be taken after a careful and in-depth analysis of a dam and its links with the economy and society.” “There are many strong advocates for increasing safety-related investment in dams,” says Perera. “For example, the World Bank, in just the last few years, has invested over $1 billion in a dam rehabilitation improvement programme in India.” https://scroll.in/article/986601/mullaperiyar-dam-in-kerala-is-a-ticking-time-bomb-waiting-to-explode  (12 Feb. 2021)

Polavaram Project Construction of 52 pillars on the spillway over MEIL had started spillway concrete works on November 21, 2019, with a total slab length at 1,128 metres. Out of this, the company said work on 1,095-metre slab length was over. Out of 192 total girders that are required to be set up on the spillway, the company has erected 188 girders so far and four more are yet to be installed.

For the spillway bridge, the company had completed laying of 45 slabs while the work on laying three more slabs are nearing completion. Out of 48 gates required to be constructed on the spillway bridge, the company said 28 were erected so far and a platform will be built to set up cylinders and power packs to the gates. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/in-other-news/120221/construction-of-52-pillars-on-the-spillway-of-polavaram-project-over.html  (12 Feb. 2021)

The 16th meeting of dam design review panel (DDRP) constituted for Polavaram Irrigation Project (PIP) is scheduled for next week. The panel has proposed to hold the meeting at the project site from February 19 for three days to discuss and clear the pending issues pertaining to designs so that the civil works can be completed as per the schedule. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/andhra-pradesh/2021/feb/14/dam-design-panel-to-meet-friday-2263840.html  (14 Feb. 2021)

Kaleshwaram Project IoT to manage in and out flows Come June 2021, the Internet of Things (IoT) will manage the inflows and outflows of Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Scheme (KLIS). The IT-enabled water management system will be introduced on full scale in irrigation. Smart sensors will be installed at the important locations of the KLIS. These sensors will digitally transmit the information relating to inflows and outflows to the project and other key inputs. Thus, the operation of gates and demand-side management will be done automatically. Water Resources Department Principal Secretary Rajat Kumar said: “Artificial Intelligence based decision making will help in proper utilisation of water. 28 sensors required for this operation are being imported from Germany.” Y Pradeep of Vassar Labs, the company entrusted with the task of installing the system, explained that the different sources of data would be integrated. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/telangana/2021/feb/13/now-iot-to-manage-inflows-outflows-at-kaleshwaram-2263346.html  (13 Feb. 2021)

Telangana Keshavapuram reservoir construction yet to see light of the day According to Water Board officials, Medchal-Malkajgiri revenue officials were yet to complete the land-acquisition process pertaining to 490 acres in their jurisdiction. They have not yet fixed and finalised compensation amounts that are to be paid to owners to take over their land. Meanwhile, 1,012 acres of forest land has been cleared by the MoEF for use the project. The Centre has only to give final instructions to the state government for releasing the relevant order to go ahead with the project construction.

The Keshavapuram reservoir requires about 3,500 acres. 87% of the land in the area belongs to the government, endowments and forest departments while the other 13 per cent is owned by private persons The Centre has laid down land compensation conditions for the remaining 1,012 acres. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/politics/080221/keshavapuram-reservoir-construction-yet-to-see-light-of-the-day.html  (08 Feb. 2021)

INTERLINKING OF RIVERS

IMPRI Event Report Inter linkages of Rivers (ILR) – A Flawed Concept The consequences of this project were discussed by Manoj Misra, Convener of the ‘Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan’ Campaign, in a webinar as part of ‘The State of the Environment: Planet Talks organized by the CECCSD at IMPRI, India Water Portal. He shed light on the potential ecological and environmental impact and explored alternatives for the way forward.  https://www.impriindia.com/event-report/interlinkages-of-rivers-ilr/  (12 Feb. 2021)

INTERSTATE WATER DISPUTES

Krishna river water sharing dispute  KRMB allocates 175.42 tmc ft water to AP, TS for Jan-Mar period The Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) has approved fresh indents of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana for utilisation of 175.42 tmc ft of water together during the three-month period from January 1 to March 31 this year from the two common reservoirs — Srisailam and Nagarjunasagar — to meet drinking water and irrigation needs. Of the total allocation, 92.5 tmc ft is for AP and 82.92 tmc ft for Telangana. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/krmb-allocates-17542-tmc-ft-water-to-ap-ts-for-jan-mar-period/article33823926.ece  (12 Feb. 2021)

IRRIGATION

Bihar ‘Irrigation, flood protection to be my foremost priorities’ Interview of state water resources department minister Sanjay Kumar Jha:- Alongside timely execution of the CM’s visionary initiative to saturate the irrigation demand through the ‘Har-Khet-Ko-Pani’ scheme, we will utilise this tenure to pace up and complete major schemes like the Paschimi Kosi Yojana, interlinking of Kosi and Mechi rivers, rejuvenation of Falgu river at the Vishnupad temple site in Gaya and the Ganga Water Lift Scheme.

-Jal-Jivan-Haryali scheme is a comprehensive mission-mode initiative capable of transforming Bihar’s ecological health and its carbon footprint. As a major stakeholder in this scheme, WRD has a clear role in strengthening the state’s road map to arrest the decline in groundwater levels, including through recharging of rivers and other surface water sources.

-Bihar’s flood woes originate outside our boundaries, mostly in the catchment areas of Nepal. Any permanent solution to this will be based on efficient channelling of surplus waters in the catchment areas. For this, diplomatic deliberations between the two countries have been on since 1940s. Integrated command area development in north Bihar districts and building barrages for utilising surplus waters for irrigation are also being considered. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/patna/irrigation-flood-protection-to-be-my-foremost-priorities/articleshow/80867204.cms  (12 Feb. 2021)

URBAN RIVERS

Great to see this, highlighting the photo features of Abhay Kanvinde on Pune rivers, on SANDRP blog. https://www.mid-day.com/amp/sunday-mid-day/article/will-you-sit-by-the-mithi-like-this-23159776  (14 Feb. 2021)

RIVERS

BRAHMAPUTRA Assam Unabated felling of exotic Simalu trees continues in reserve forests As the Assamese month of Phagun sets in with social media abuzz with colourful photos of beautiful Simalu trees, no effort of its conservation is being seen. There have been reports of unabated felling of this exotic tree in reserve forests of Lakhimpur, Dhemaji and Majuli districts along with the riverine areas off the Brahmaputra and the Subansiri. Inland waterway ghats like Eserakata, Khabolu, Borghat, Na-Ali, Somdirimukh are witnessing transportation of thousand cubic feet of timber of Simalu trees in these riverine areas every night to the urban areas.

Simalu, an indigenous tree that grows in riverine areas, helps in the conservation of soil and plays a crucial role against flood and bank erosion. Another exotic tree from the same family – Palash – is also fast becoming extinct in this blooming season due to the same reason. This colourful tree is a vital part of Assamese culture and its extinction could erase this culture. The indiscriminate felling of Simalu trees in the riverine areas of the three districts have increased the intensity of bank erosion caused by various rivers.  The felling and uprooting of these indigenous trees has made the river banks more vulnerable to erosion leaving the rivers to move in diverse directions.

Earlier in 2015, hundreds of Simalu trees were felled to widen the PWD road from Gogamukh to Dhakuwakhona in Lakhimpur district which also affected the natural habitation of these birds. The conservationists are of the opinion that mass plantation of this tree in riverine areas, reserve forests, fields, grazing, school and office premises and on roadsides should be initiated to maintain the ecology as well as for flood and erosion management.https://nenow.in/north-east-news/assam/unabated-felling-of-exotic-simalu-trees-continues-in-assams-reserve-forests.html  (15 Feb. 2021)    

GANGA Report Centre Has Ignored Several Key Reports Detailed piece dealing with issues and status of e flows in Ganga. Experts have demanded a ban on heavy infrastructure work carried out under such projects in the fragile eco-sensitive zones of the Himalayas. Deep concerns have also been expressed over the adverse effects on the health of the Ganga river as these projects restrict water flow. Environmental activists fear that if the government does not properly ensure minimum water flow in the river, also known as environmental flow, it will not be long before the river dries up and we may witness a spate of similar disasters in the future. https://science.thewire.in/environment/when-it-comes-to-gangas-health-the-centre-has-ignored-several-key-reports/  (13 Feb. 2021)

Will Built Char Dham Project While Protecting Environment: Gadkari In a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha, Mr Gadkari said the ₹ 12,000-crore Char Dham project, an all-weather road connecting Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, had 53 packages. Thirteen packages are under process, while work on 40 others is under progress. Of the 13, five packages pass through eco-sensitive zones, he said, adding that work on 169 kilometres, costing ₹ 2,450 crore, had been completed. Mr Gadkari also said his ministry also approved a new 210-km Delhi-Dehradun expressway worth ₹ 13,000 crore. It will also have 10 elevated roads and the distance between the two cities can be covered in a span of 3-3.15 hours. The work will be awarded by June, the minister for road transport and highways said. The minister said the 25 km of the Haridwar ring road, costing around ₹ 1,500, had also been approved. https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/will-built-char-dham-project-while-protecting-environment-nitin-gadkari-2368971  (12 Feb. 2021)

Pharmaceuticals Pollute the Ganges Researchers from Doon University, Dehradun have reported the presence of 15 pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) in the Ganges near two Hindu pilgrimage cities. These pollutants include caffeine, anti-inflammatory drugs, common antibiotics, beta blockers, antibacterials, and insect repellents.

Over three seasons, Doon scientists studied the river waters of two cities in the rapidly industrializing Haridwar and Rishikesh. Haridwar and Rishikesh, with a combined population of 400,000, attract an estimated 20 million tourists and pilgrims annually. In particular, the scientists analyzed the water at its point of entry into the two cities and at sites before its entry into a sewage treatment plant and after sewage treatment. The study could provide useful baseline data for forecasting and evaluating the efficiency of future antipollution measures of the river basin restoration program, the authors added.

There are few studies on PPCPs in Indian rivers. “Such studies are expensive, as they require sophisticated instruments,” Suthar explained. “Sewage, treated or untreated, flowing into the rivers is the main polluter,” said Keshava Balakrishna, a professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, Manipal Institute of Technology. “Aquaculture, agricultural farms, and pharma industries can be other important sources,” Balakrishna added. In 2020, Balakrishna’s team reported the presence of PPCPs in two tropical rivers in southwestern India, the Swarna and Netravati, which empty into the Arabian Sea.

The 2017 review reported that studies from other countries indicated that PPCPs in rivers could accumulate in aquatic organisms and enter the food web. A 2019 global review of PPCPs in rivers reported that “no global legal maximum environmental concentrations exist for pharmaceutically active compounds,” despite poor understanding of the combined acute and chronic effects of PPCPs on flora, fauna, and human health.

The global review went on to say that primary and secondary wastewater treatment plants “generally are unable to remove these pollutants, leading to their migration into drinking water supplies,” and recommended advanced tertiary water treatment processes, such as oxidation and adsorption. It also suggested advanced methods for accurate and continuous monitoring of pharmaceuticals in the environment and strict regulations for effluent release.

In India, most antipollution efforts are directed at surface water treatment and focus on parameters such as chemical oxygen demand, biological oxygen demand, nitrates, and bacteria, said Suthar. “We need a policy that looks at PPCPs too.” The new Ganges research also echoes recent studies tracing PPCPs on European glaciers, where researchers traced chemical pollutants to the use of perfumes in personal care products like soap. Perfumed soaps and ointments are also associated with PPCPs in Haridwar and Rishikesh, where mass bathing events are part of tourism and pilgrimage activities.  https://www.ecowatch.com/pharmaceuticals-pollution-ganges-2650503187.html  (11 Feb. 2021)

West Bengal Citizens drink water without knowing harmful contents: NGT Innocent citizens drink Ganga water out of reverence without knowing the harmful contents and the least expected from the authorities is to notify the extent of harmful contents at appropriate locations including at Ganga Sagar in the NGT said Wednesday (Feb. 10). The green panel said steps are required to be taken on “war footing” by authorities in preventing water pollution in Ganga. It said that control of pollution of river Ganga needs to be taken seriously at all levels in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

The tribunal said that though certain steps have been taken, the compliance summary filed by NMCG for Clean Ganga shows that with respect to various projects, the matter is still at the tender/DPRs (Detail Project Reports) stage and progress in completing the ongoing projects in a timely manner remains a challenge, inspite of availability of funds, supported by the Government of India initiatives.

The NGT said control of pollution of river Ganga will be incomplete without controlling pollution of all the tributaries and drains connected to it. The green panel said the concerned five States may take further remedial action on the subject of preventing discharge of untreated sewage/effluents and compiling the relevant information about quantity of sewage being discharged in river Ganga and its tributaries.

It directed that progress reports may be furnished by the concerned five states to the NMCG on or before June 30, 2021 and NMCG may give its consolidated progress report with its recommendations to it by July 15, 2021 by e-mail. It is a pity that even after constant monitoring by the Supreme Court for 34 years (1985-2014) and by this tribunal for the last six years and, 46 years after enactment of the Water Act making discharge of pollutants in waterbodies a criminal offence, pollutants continue to be discharged in the most holy river, the tribunal had said. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/environment/pollution/innocent-citizens-drink-ganga-water-out-of-reverence-without-knowing-harmful-contentsngt/articleshow/80789768.cms  (10 Feb. 2021)

Bihar NMCG completes 22; sanctions 17 new projects of Rs. 557.83 cr This also covers details of various water projects:- PM Modi inaugurated the 43 MLD Beur STP (Rs.78 crores) and 37 MLD Karmalichak STP (Rs.73 crores) in Patna on 15th September, 2020. Apart from this, the PM also laid the foundation stone for River Front Development Scheme under Namami Gange in Muzaffarpur. Three Ghats, namely, East Akhara Ghat, Sidhi Ghat and Chandwara Ghat of Muzaffarpur city will be developed under this scheme.

PM also dedicated to the nation various STP projects of Uttarakhand on 29th September, 2020 namely 68 MLD STP at Jagjeetpur, Haridwar; Upgradation of 27 MLD STP at Jagjeetpur, Haridwar& 18 MLD STP at Sarai, Haridwar; 26 MLD STP at Lakkadghat, Rishikesh; 7.5 MLD STP at Chandreshwar Nagar and 5 MLD at Chorpani in Muni Ki Reti & 1 MLD and 0.01 MLD STP at Badrinath. All major projects have been completed in Uttarakhand (120.5 MLD capacity created in Haridwar, Rishikesh and Muni-ki-Reti). Infamous Chandereshwar Nagar Naala at Muni-ki-Reti tapped and it no longer drains into the Ganga.

For the first time, Namami Gange has been included under the Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence for Public Administration Scheme for recognizing the efforts of district level officials. Under this award category, one award shall be given to a district out of the 57 notified DGCs under the Mission. NMCG has released/achieved an amount of Rs. 1,452.40 crores from January, 2020 to November, 2020 for implementation of infrastructure projects, beautifications of Ghats, forestry interventions etc. to the State Programme Management Groups, Central Public Sector Undertakings and State Forest Departments.

The Second National Ganga River Basin Project (Ganga – II) was approved by the World Bank Board on 25th June 2020 for Rs. 3023.10 crores. The Department of Economic Affairs, Government of India and the World Bank signed the loan agreement on July 7, 2020. The Loan would be for a period of 5 years up to December 2026. https://orissadiary.com/national-mission-for-clean-ganga-completes-22-projects-sanctions-17-new-projects-amounting-to-rs-557-83-crores/  (26 Dec. 2020)

Uttar Pradesh Ganga conservation to be part of UP syllabus  Students of the Secondary Education Board (UPSEB) will now study the Ganga conservation subject at the high school and intermediate level. This has been included as a subject at the initiative of the Namami Gange Department and Uttar Pradesh will be the first state to do so.

According the government spokesman, a proposal to include Ganga conservation and prevention of water pollution in the curriculum has been prepared and the UPSEB has sent it to a committee of Hindi experts for consideration. Once the committee approves the proposal, the subject will be included in the syllabus.

The Namami Gange and the state government’s rural water supply department have directed the secondary education department to implement new courses and activities related to the Ganga pollution in schools and also make it compulsory for students to take part in Ganga cleanliness programme. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/education/news/ganga-conservation-to-be-part-of-up-syllabus/articleshow/80266448.cms  (14 Jan. 2021)

1038 new Aarti sits to be built  An official spokesman said that the government is going to build 1,038 new aarti platforms from Bijnor to Ballia districts, turning them into major spots of religious tourism. According to the plan, which is being executed in cooperation with the Tourism department, the new aarti sites will be constructed in the villages falling in a radius of 5 km of the Ganga river.

Earlier in December, during a meeting of the Union Jal Shakti Ministry, instructions were given to develop ancient and historical religious places and temples in these villages as tourist spots. For the cleanliness of the Ganga and the Ganga Swachchta Abhiyan, the government is going to start STPs in 14 districts soon for the purpose, the spokesman added. https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/up-to-build-over-1-000-new-ganga-aarti-sites-2360504  (30 Jan. 2021)

YAMUNA 100 of 156 drains ‘are not meeting standards’ Assessment of water quality data of drains for the year 2020 has found that 100 of the 156 drains in the catchment of the river Yamuna “are not meeting General Standards for discharge of environment pollutants in respect of one or more parameters namely; BOD, COD and TSS”, the Centre has told the Supreme Court. The CPCB and MoEF said this in a joint affidavit filed in response to a notice issued by the top court, which is hearing a plea on “remediation of polluted rivers” in the country. The affidavit pointed out that the CPCB had sought data from the SPCBs of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh and DPCC with regard to Yamuna.

The figures showed that a total of 156 drains open into the Yamuna from 70 municipalities as it flows through these places. The CPCB concluded “that there is no gap in treatment and disposal of hazardous waste and industrial wastewater management” but “gaps are identified in sewage generation and treatment capacity in case of 60 cities/muni/municipalities including Delhi”. Gaps are calculated based on Sewage Generation vis-a-vis installed capacity or actual utilisation or complying capacity, whichever is lower. For Delhi, the gap in sewage treatment capacity is found to be 2,562 MLD, the affidavit said.

Though towns like Vikas Nagar and Harbatpur in district Dehradun, Purola in district Uttarkashi and Ponta Sahib in Himachal Pradesh have gaps with respect to sewage treatment, “but water quality of river Yamuna at these locations is meeting the Primary Water Quality Criteria for bathing waters”, the affidavit added. Based on the materials, three polluted stretches have been identified, it said, adding these are Panipat to Sonepat in Haryana, Wazirabad to Asgarpur in Haryana, Delhi and UP and Asgarpur to Etawah in Haryana and UP. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/delhi-100-of-156-drains-in-catchment-of-river-yamuna-are-not-meeting-standards-7183339/  (11 Feb. 2021)

Delhi Extracting Floodplain Water: How Deep Is Deep Enough? While Delhi government has announced it will extract an additional 55 MGD of water from the floodplain to augment supply, experts have cautioned not to go beyond the natural storage capacity of the floodplain, which may lead to long-term depletion. However, most experts have also welcomed the move, pointing out that a floodplain can store plenty of additional water.

Vikram Soni, professor emeritus at JNU in 2007, had estimated that over 50MGD water could be extracted from the Yamuna floodplain, which would get recharged normally. “The floodplain gets recharged each year during the monsoon at which point about 100 million cubic metre is available for extraction. While this cannot be withdrawn in one go, the project will not only increase daily availability of water for Delhi but will also act as an emergency store,” Soni had said.

Warning against overuse, Shashank Shekhar, assistant professor of Delhi University’s geology department, said, “While the initial estimate for Palla was 35MGD, this was increased to 60MGD. Similarly, we have to ensure scientific studies are carried out at each location to determine the capacity of water it can hold and slightly less than that should be extracted.” Water minister and DJB chairman Satyendar Jain tweeted on Thursday (Feb. 11) that 55MGD groundwater would be extracted through tubewells from 10 water/STPs situated on the floodplain. “A population of 22 lakh people will benefit from this initiative,” he had said. A senior DJB official assured that “the levels will be constantly monitored by installing piezometers. There is no scope of overuse”. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/extracting-floodplain-water-how-deep-is-deep-enough/articleshow/80888740.cms  (13 Feb. 2021)

DDA looks to revive wetlands along floodplain by Sept  Work to revive water bodies and plant native species along the Yamuna floodplain at 10 project sites across a total area of around 1,175 hectares is likely to be completed by September 2021, DDA has informed the NGT appointed YMC. In addition to reviving and rejuvenating the floodplain, demarcation work by installing bollards and removal of encroachments at these 10 sites will also be completed, it said.

The sites where work is ongoing include a stretch from the old railway bridge to ITO east (90 hectares), NH-24 to DND flyway (100 hectares), Old railway bridge to ITO west (200 hectares), DND to Kalindi Kunj bypass (115 hectares), Wazirabad barrage to ISBT bridge (236.5 hectares), ITO to NH-24 (90 hectares), NH-24 to DND flyway part-1 (235 hectares), NH-24 to DND Flyway part-2 (15 hectares), Wazirabad to Old railway bridge (66 hectares) and the Geeta Colony bridge stretch until ITO (30 hectares). The report stated that civil and construction work at certain sites had already been completed. These include signage, bollards and other facilities, which may be required for recreational activities. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/dda-looks-to-revive-wetlands-along-floodplain-by-september/articleshow/80438078.cms  (25 Jan. 2021)

Uttar Pradesh SC issues notice to Jal Shakti Ministry, DJB, others Supreme Court has issued notices to the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Delhi Jal Board (DJB) and municipal bodies of Faridabad, Prayagraj, Agra and Aligarh on cleaning of the Yamuna which remains polluted with high ammonia content. The order came from a Bench headed by CJI SA Bobde which had on January 13 taken suo motu cognisance of the matter after the DJB alleged that water containing high pollutants was being released in the river from Haryana.

The top court – which has already issued notice to Haryana Government on the issue – posted the matter for hearing after 4 weeks in view of a letter circulated by advocates-on-record for the parties seeking adjournment. On January 19, it had asked for a report from a NGT committee on improving the water quality of the Yamuna and the action taken on its recommendations after amicus curiae and senior advocate Meenakshi Arora said the NGT-appointed panel has been monitoring the cleaning of the river.

Maintaining that pollution-free water is a fundamental right which a welfare state is “bound to ensure”, the Bench had asked the CPCB to submit a report identifying municipalities along the Yamuna which had not installed sewage treatment plants. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/delhi/yamuna-pollution-sc-issues-notice-to-jal-shakti-ministry-djb-others-210532  (10 Feb. 2021)

Low water level: Taj mahal’s foundation under threat  The lack of water around Taj Mahal could potentially be disastrous for the monument. Experts say the Taj Mahal is built on massive wooden slippers that have shrunk over the years because of the decrease in the flow of the Yamuna. “If a barrage is constructed, it would not only add to the life of the Taj Mahal but would also beautify the surroundings with a water front. The matter has been pending clearance and we cannot understand the reason for the delay,” said an ASI official.

Archaeologists and conservationists have already rung the alarm bells on lack of water in the Yamuna. The then BJP MP from Agra, Ram Shankar Katehria, said that a dry Yamuna was a threat to the Taj Mahal. “Several studies have been carried out on this. There are shafts of wood holding together the foundation of the monument. This wood needs to be moistened by the river’s waters to lend strength to the foundation. But the water table below the structure is depleting because of a dry Yamuna,” he said.

Naveen Jain, Agra mayor, said that Taj Mahal’s beauty is under threat due to lack of water. “We’re concerned about Taj Mahal’s beauty due to lack of water consistency around it. Consistent water flow around Taj Mahal also solidifies its foundation. If there’s no water, it leads to algae, bugs which hamper its beauty. Request Centre to look into it,” he said. https://www.indiatimes.com/news/india/taj-mahal-foundation-under-threat-decrease-in-yamuna-water-levels-534162.html  (12 Feb. 2021)  

Hindon Floodplain Environmentalists say that the Hindon floodplain is being violated by builders, as its floodplain is the most attractive destination for people buying homes. Therefore, housing societies are cashing onto it, ignoring the environmental damage it may cause. Tongad gave an example of Gaur city, saying it is an example of illegal construction on Hindon’s floodplain.

The issue of illegal construction on floodplains is more than a decade old. But no satisfactory progress has been made. Floodplains of a river work as a natural filter and help clean the river; illegal construction encroaching on the floodplain are eliminating this option, thereby allowing the river to be polluted but also contaminating of groundwater in the region. http://thepatriot.in/2021/02/10/farming-fiasco-on-hindon-floodplains/  (10 Feb. 2021)

RIVERS BIODIVERSITY

Maharashtra Meet the man conserving otters in Western Ghats Conservationist Malhar Indulkar is working to conserve otters and their habitats in the Tillari region of Maharashtra in the northern Western Ghats. As part of his awareness programmes, an ‘otter festival’ was held at a school in the region and children were kept engaged through various activities including a play. They were also given comics on otters.

Fisherfolk were also educated on the perils of non-traditional fishing techniques and some plot owners were encouraged to forgo fishing of spawning fish in their plots to ensure a greater population of fish in the river. A conservation reserve has been recently declared in Tillari as tigers and other wildlife use the area and more have been proposed to ensure good connectivity of wildlife in the Western Ghats. https://india.mongabay.com/2021/02/meet-the-man-conserving-otters-in-maharashtras-western-ghats/   (11 Feb. 2021)  

Search on for crocodile in Mutha Teams from forest department and police, along with animal rescue volunteers, launched a search in Mutha riverbed after sighting of a crocodile near the Bhide bridge in Deccan Gymkhana area in the heart of Pune city was reported. However, no crocodile was spotted till reports last came in. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/pune-forest-department-cops-search-for-crocodile-in-river-bed-near-z-bridge-7185782/  (12 Feb. 2021)

Worldwide campaign to protect fishing cat The highly elusive fishing cat, a lesser-known feline species, is facing several threats due to its depleting habitat. Listed as ‘vulnerable’ on IUCN’s Red List, the species has a high probability of becoming endangered unless circumstances threatening its survival and reproduction improve.

Fishing cats have a patchy distribution along the Eastern Ghats. They abound in estuarine floodplains, tidal mangrove forests and also inland freshwater habitats. Apart from Sundarbans in West Bengal and Bangladesh, fishing cats inhabit the Chilika lagoon and surrounding wetlands in Odisha, Coringa and Krishna mangroves in Andhra Pradesh.

“Our team also reported the presence of the species for the first time in a completely inland freshwater riverine habitat in Srikakulam a couple of years ago. The conservation threats to fishing cats in the Eastern Ghats are mainly habitat loss [wetland degradation and conversion for aquaculture and other commercial projects], sand mining along river banks, agricultural intensification resulting in loss of riverine buffer and conflict with humans in certain areas resulting in targeted hunting and retaliatory killings,” says Murthy Kantimahanti, a part of Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance and founder of Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society, India.

The Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance is a team of conservationists, researchers and enthusiasts across the world working to achieve a single dream — a world with functioning floodplains and coastal ecosystems that ensure survival of the fishing cat and all species with which it shares a home. With its regional group of conservationists and researchers, it has initiated an understanding of the bio-geographical distribution of the fishing cat in the unprotected and human-dominated landscapes of the northeastern Ghats of Andhra Pradesh. The project will use techniques like ecological niche modelling, camera trapping, signs and tracks survey, interviews with locals and documentation of historical records.

The fishing cat is confident and content in water, they tap the surface to lure prey, plug their ears when they dive, and emerge from the water with dry skin due to a double coat. Some compare the vocalisations of the fishing cat to a quack, a bark, even a chuckle and a gurgle. In Cambodia, where images of fishing cats are found carved in the walls of ancient structures, they are known as Kla Trey, ‘Tiger fish’.

Because of their dependency on water, fishing cats are threatened by the loss of wetlands, swamps and mangrove habitats. Urbanization, farming and other human-animal conflict also mean that populations are set to drop by up to 30%, and the fishing cat is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

Major shifts in land use management like agricultural intensification in prime fishing cat habitats and wetland degradation are the main factors that can influence the population distribution of these cats in the Eastern Ghats. “We know nothing about their population dynamics, and very little about their ecology and habits in the wild. Therefore, it’s very difficult to say the impact without such data. Although fishing cats are predominantly associated with wetlands, these highly elusive cats are adaptable to live even in human dominated landscapes and relatively drier habitats,” Murthy adds. https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/campaign-by-the-fishing-cat-conservation-alliance-to-protect-the-feline/article33741075.ece  (03 Feb. 2021)

Uttar Pradesh Admin invites objections, claims on turtle sanctuary After the government notification was issued for setting up turtle wildlife sanctuary, a protected area for conservation of freshwater turtles, at Prayagraj, the district administration has invited objections from locals who would be affected by this shifting of sanctuary from Varanasi. A communique from the district magistrate Bhanu Chandra Goswami said an area of 30 km on the banks of river Ganga at Kothari village in Meja block has been declared a turtle wildlife sanctuary. The area is of ecological and zoological importance and therefore, it is extremely important to preserve it. The sanctuary would lead to conservation, enhancement and development of wildlife and its environment.

If anyone has a problem in regard to ownership or any other rights on the land, then the individual can submit a claim at the office of the DM with relevant documents within two months. Additional district magistrate (ADM) (administration) or his office can be contacted for more information in this regard. The forest department would be releasing some rare and prominent species of turtles in the sanctuary before Holi. Divisional forest officer, Y P Shukla said, “The area of turtle wildlife sanctuary will be transformed into a tourist place. We will release some species, including black pond turtle, Indian Tent turtle, Indian roofed turtle brought from Lucknow.”

The sanctuary was earlier established in Varanasi and notified as the country’s first freshwater turtle sanctuary under the Ganga Action Plan in 1989. The idea was combined with the plan to release carnivorous species of turtles for organic cleaning of the Ganga. However, as construction work started close to the ghats in Varanasi, the turtles began to gradually move towards Prayagraj. A waterways project was also proposed via the stretch. In addition to this, when the state government banned sand mining in the area to save the nesting turtles, the problem of sand accumulation and increased sedimentation created new challenges. The WII then conducted a feasibility study and found the Prayagraj-Mirzapur stretch of Ganga suitable for relocation of the sanctuary a move which finally got the nod of state government and State Wildlife Board in 2019.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/allahabad/admin-invites-objectionsclaims-on-turtle-sanctuary/articleshow/80900510.cms  (14 Feb. 2021)

Punjab 23 captive-bred gharials released in Beas reserve State Department of Forests and Wildlife Preservation on Friday (Feb. 12) released 23 captive-bred gharials brought from Morena in the Beas conservation reserve. Earlier, in 2017-18, during the first phase of ‘Gharial Reintroduction Project’ as many as 47 gharials were released in the Beas conservation reserve in batches in Amritsar and Tarn Taran districts. A suitable stretch of river Beas near Salimpur and Tahli forest in Hoshiarpur district has been selected for the reintroduction of the current batch. The ambitious scheme of the government aspires to establish a breeding population of these critically endangered gharials in the rivers of Punjab. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/punjab-releases-23-captive-bred-gharials-in-beas-reserve/article33825877.ece  (13 Feb. 2021)

FISH, FISHERIES, FISHERFOLKS

Study Climate change may cause 26% habitat loss for snow trout Snow trout, the iconic cold water fish species found in Himalayan rivers, would lose their habitat by 16 per cent in the next 30 years and by over 26 per cent by 2070, a new climate change study by the government’s Wildlife Institute of India has found. The study ‘Is There Always Space at The Top’ was published in the ‘Ecological Indicators’, a journal of high international repute based at the Netherlands, on September 6. The study indicates that most of the lower altitude streams across the Himalayas would be rendered unsuitable for the existence of snow trout with the rise in temperatures.

An ensemble of 72 statistical models across the Himalayas, the study authored by WII scientists Aashna Sharma, Vineet Kumar Dubey, Jeyaraj Antony Johnson, Yogesh Kumar Rawal and Kuppusamy Sivakumar – reveals the vulnerable snow trout would be squeezed into the high-altitude rivers in the Himalayas.

“The also flagged the “rampant” damming of the rivers across the Himalayas, saying the presence of dams would definitely obstruct the fish mode of movements to safer havens, ultimately risking their very survival. The study recommends some solutions such as persuasive “conservation efforts beyond political boundaries by combined decisions of the policymakers of Himalayan countries”.

It also include reducing “unsustainable harnessing of rivers for hydropower development projects and energy efficiency by improving green energy potential”. The team detailed that never has such an extensive and rigorous ensemble methodology been used to understand the climate change impacts on any freshwater species in India. They said there was a dire need for inter-governmental policy measures involving India, Nepal and Bhutan to sustain the biodiversity of these rivers.  https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/climate-change-may-cause-26-habitat-loss-for-snow-trout-in-himalayan-rivers-study/story-wUvfDe8nuP4Y1Ds79JzAWI.html  (09 Sept. 2020)

The study can be seen here.  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/334647530_When_nature_decides_who_stays_and_who_goes_Priority_effects_extirpating_the_non-native_brown_trout_Salmo_trutta_fario_L_population_from_a_Himalayan_river  ( July 2019)

Report Delhi & Its ‘Unseen’ Fisherfolks However, multiple studies have shown that the dissolved oxygen level in the river stretch from Palla to Jagatpur, lying above the Wazirabad barrage, is well within the standard range set by bodies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), World Health Organization (WHO) and Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) for the healthy growth of fish and other aquatic life. Nearly all of the fishing in Delhi takes place in this northern stretch of the Yamuna.

– Fishing in the Yamuna takes place in a very scattered and unorganised manner. There are very few cooperatives registered and people either fish alone or in small groups, some unaware that a license could be acquired for fishing. The task is further made difficult by the government departments and the officer-in-charge’s narrow understanding of unions as limited to factory workers and government employees. Some fishermen, despite having a license, undergone training, and residing in Delhi for more than 40 years, could not get their cooperative registered as they were unable to produce the certificates/proofs linking them to their ancestral communities in West Bengal. Registration of cooperative allows the fisher to indulge in cage fishing, thus being able to breed fishes and also become beneficiaries of government subsidies. A fisher sitting on the Yamuna ghats explained that a year’s license which cost him Rs 150, also guarantees insurance of Rs 2 lakh to his family in case of accidental death. As per the Development Department of the government of NCT of Delhi website, licenses for fishing with a rod and line cost Rs 3/day in the Delhi area and Rs 20/day in the Okhla area. While the annual license ranges between Rs 150 – 300 depending on the area and pieces of equipment.

– During the year 2017-18, Delhi’s output of the inland fisheries sector (measured in monetary terms at the 2011-12 prices) was Rs 9.8 crore, being consistently the same in the last decade (NSSO, 2020). https://thewire.in/rights/delhi-fishing-yamuna-river  (09 Feb. 2021)

Farakka lock and Hilsa It has been reported that an old project to facilitate the movement of hilsa upstream along the Ganga to its spawning grounds of yore may come to fruition this year. Back in February 2019, the government had unveiled a project to redesign the navigation lock at the Farakka Barrage at a cost of Rs 360 crore to create a “fish pass” for the hilsa.

– The barrage had a navigation lock that stopped the fish from swimming upstream beyond Farakka. In Buxar on the border of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the last recorded catch of the hilsa was made 32 years ago.

– As of the 2019 plan, the new fish pass on the Ganga was to cover only 8 metres, a fraction of the Ganga’s width at Farakka. It seemed likely that only a small number of hilsa might sneak through, but it was doubtful if the new fish way would allow large shoals of the fish to return to their former spawning grounds further upstream. https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-the-farakka-lock-and-hilsa-why-there-is-both-hope-and-apprehension-7185620/  (13 Feb. 2021)

Maharashtra Jal samadhi threat prompts MPCB to order water release The MPCB on Wednesday (Feb. 10) asked the irrigation department to release water from the dams so that hazardous effluents from the Panchaganga river can be flushed out. The decision was taken after several locals from Shirol tehsil threatened to take jal samadhi and stood in the water for over an hour to protest against the rising level of pollution in the river.

The protesters, mostly farmers, claimed that since a shoal of fish was found dead at Shirol barrage of the river three days ago, no action had been taken against the polluters. The officials belonging to the sub-divisional office of the MPCB met the protesters at the protesting site and said immediate measures will be taken to stop the death of aquatic life.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolhapur/jal-samadhi-threat-prompts-mpcb-to-order-water-release/articleshow/80791518.cms  (11 Feb. 2021)

Fish found dead in another barrage near Panchaganga  A shoal of dead fish found at the Shirol barrage near the Panchaganga early on Monday (Feb. 8) morning triggered fresh concern over river pollution, prompting the authorities concerned to launch a probe besides a clean-up drive. Barely month ago, had a similar incident happened at the Terwad barrage, upstream of Shirol barrage. CMUddhav Thackeray later directed the MPCB to seal the establishments releasing harmful waste and effluents into the river stream.

The MPCB issued show-cause notice to Shirol council as the waste water from the town continues to be released into the river untreated. Locals claim that the fish are dying because hazardous effluents from industries are carried in tankers and released into the river late at night. Activists from Shirol have demanded that water and power supply be stopped to Shirol town council offices because the administration has failed to stop the waste water from entering the Panchaganga river.

“There are no industries between the Terwad and Shirol stretch of the river, but fish deaths have been reported.” Acting on the CM’s directive a month back, the MPCB had issued closure notice to the textile processing units from Ichalkaranji which release harmful chemicals into the river stream. The plan drafted by Kolhapur Zilla Parishad to treat waste water from major towns and villages along the river stretch still remains on paper, mainly due to want of funds. The outlay of various projects is over Rs 230 crore. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolhapur/fish-found-dead-in-another-barrage-near-panchaganga/articleshow/80755161.cms  (09 Feb. 2021)

Hundreds of fish die in Ramala pond in Chanda Hundreds of fish were found floating dead along the bank of historic Ramala pond in the city on Tuesday (Jan. 26). NGO Eco-Pro Organization claimed the pond water has been poisoned due to pollution caused by the Macchi nullah flowing into it. The organization staged demonstrations to demand measures to stop pollution in the pond. President of Eco-Pro, Bandu Dhotre claimed that the fishes have been dying since last many days, but the matter came to light when they inspected the pond on Republic Day.

“The groundwater in surrounding area too is becoming polluted. There is a foul stench in water of borewells and wells,” he said. “It becomes unbearable when the wind brings along the stench from the Ramala pond to residential areas,” said Dhotre. He claimed that they have raises the matter with the district administration multiple times. “The proposal never materialized due to the Covid pandemic last year. The cleaning and deepening of pond needs to be done before the onset of monsoon,” he said. The organization has warned to launch an intense agitation if the administration fails to take up the pond’s conservation work this year.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/hundreds-of-fish-die-in-ramala-pond-in-chanda-ngo-blames-pollution/articleshow/80487634.cms  (28 Jan. 2021)

Pavana Residents concerned about river water pollution  Concerns about massive water pollution in the Pavana river has come to the fore after citizens noticed huge amount of foam in the water which comes from the Pavana river at the Keju Devi Temple boat club in Chinchwad. A few days ago, a large amount of fish were also found dead in the same area. The nearby residents said that the water pollution issue keeps cropping up every few months.

The Pavana river water after passing from Keju Devi temple goes to Chinchwad at Morya Gosavi temple, Chinchwad Phata, Dapodi and then meets Mula river at Sangvi. The river covers a distance of 60km. Along with water use for drinking purposes, the water has been also used by citizens for bathing or washing clothes who stay near the river banks.

Social activist Madhav Patil of the organisation Angolichi Goli, said, “The water pollution issues have been raised in front of PCMC commissioner Shravan Hardikar and mayor Usha Dhore, but problems of water pollution go unheard every time. No concrete steps are being taken by the PCMC to stop water pollution.” In 2018, the MPCB listed it among the five most heavily polluted rivers of Maharashtra. Untreated sewage, garbage, accumulation of silt and discharge of untreated waste were listed as the major causes of pollution.  https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/pune-news/residents-concerned-about-water-pollution-in-pavana-river-officials-promise-action-101612107925902.html  (31 Jan. 2021)

For 3rd time in week, dead fish rise in masses at Pavana river Three days after the Pimpri-Chinchwad Mayor visited the Pavana riverside in Ravet and assured that water pollution leading to the mass death of fish would be curbed, a fresh massacre of the freshwater life emerged at the same spot on Sunday (Nov. 8, 2020). In the third (Nov 2, 4 and 8) such incident to take place in the last eight days, hundreds of fish were found floating in the river water or on the banks, with no action taken till date by the PCMC in the face of such alarming evidence of how badly polluted a key waterbody under its limits is.

Now, citizens have returned once more to the municipal commissioner, begging him to take stern action immediately against all those responsible. The development took place this weekend at Ravet-Punawale Bandara from where water is distributed by PCMC to MIDC areas in Chakan, Pimpri and Chinchwad. According to citizens, chemical water is released from companies at Mamurdi and Sangawde, but which units are indulging in these activities needs to be identified by officials.

Citizen activist Vishal Bhondave has complained to PCMC officials about the death of several fish in three different incidents in just over a week. He added that the fish and other aquatic animals in the river die horribly after oxygen levels in the water reduce alarmingly due to pollution. Bhondave added that after the Mayor’s visit, they assumed at least some concrete measures would be taken by PCMC — but in vain. https://punemirror.indiatimes.com/pune/civic/for-3rd-time-in-week-dead-fish-rise-in-masses-at-pavana-river/articleshow/79136746.cms  (10 Nov. 2020)

Rajasthan Chittor villagers protest with crocodile carcass In a bizarre incident, infuriated villagers from Nagri gram panchayat area of Chittorgarh district, carried a carcass of crocodile outside the collectorate and protested against Hindustan Zinc Limited, holding the company responsible for water pollution in Bedach river which is reportedly causing deaths of hundreds of fishes, birds and even their cattle population.

The villagers alleged that the toxic elements released by the company’s machinery are polluting the water heavily and in the past, too, mass mortality of avian creatures including fishes and birds had been reported to the officials, however, no stern action has ever been taken. On Friday (Feb. 2), residents from Nagri, Aanwal Heda, Aajolia ka Kheda gathered in large numbers when they spotted a dead crocodile in the river. They took the carcass in an autorickshaw to the collectorate junction where they kept it for public view. People were saddened to see the site of the lifeless animal. Police and the forest department staff rushed to the spot on being informed. They had a tough time pacifying the residents who were adamant demanding a police case to be taken against the company for the harm. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/chittor-villagers-protest-with-crocodile-carcass/articleshow/80714505.cms  (06 Feb. 2021)

चित्तौड़गढ़ जिले के पुठोली गांव स्थित जिंक प्लांट से गैस के रिसाव के बाद प्लांट के आसपास रहने वाले लोगों की आंखों में जलन होने लगी। साथ ही, कई किलोमीटर क्षेत्र में उगी फसल को भी नुकसान पहुंचा है। जिसको लेकर शनिवार को पुठोलीवासियों ने जिंक प्लांट पहुंचकर विरोध जताया तथा फसलों के नुकसान को लेकर मुआवजा दिलाए जाने की मांग की है। ग्रामीणों के प्रदर्शन को लेकर प्लांट प्रशासन ने पुलिस बल मौके पर बुलाया। पुलिस प्लांट प्रशासन व प्रदर्शनकारी ग्रामीणों के बीच समझौता वार्ता कराने में लगी है। बताया गया कि चित्तौड़गढ़ जिले के पुठोली गांव स्थित जिंक प्लांट से शुक्रवार शाम से गैस रिसाव शुरू हो गया था। https://www.jagran.com/rajasthan/jaipur-villagers-protest-over-gas-leakage-from-zinc-plant-in-chittorgarh-21206345.html  (26 Dec. 2020) 

Kerala Residents blame BPCL’s rampant pollution for mass fish deaths A Large number of fish dying in the streams and canals of Ettikkara and Kakkad has rendered the residents of these areas a worried lot. According to them, it’s the rampant pollution by Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) that is causing these deaths. “Pollution has always been a major concern in Ambalamugal-Puthencruz panchayat. There have been many people’s movements against the unrestrained violation of pollution control laws,” said Pramod Lukose, president of Ambalamugal South West Residents’ Association. Saturday’s fish deaths are an indication of how bad the situation is, he added.

Nearly all streams and minor canals associated with Periyar Valley Irrigation flow in or around the petrochemical company, said Pramod. “In this case, a major portion of the streams flow within the company’s walls and the water must have mixed with harmful chemicals, thereby suffocating the fishes to death,” said K K Ashok Kumar, vice-president, Ambalamugal-Puthencruz panchayat. These dead fishes are then picked off the surface of the streams by kites, he added. 

The incident has happened at a time when the trial run of BPCL’s new project has just gotten under way. “We fear that the chemicals from the PDPP plant might even have seeped in through the underground water table and from there into the wells of nearby houses,” said Ashok. What’s even more unsettling is that these streams flow into Chitthirapuzha, which is a drinking water source. “This plant has been built after filling up fields and streams. Adoor is surrounded by the company. The people here struggle with air, water and sound pollution, caused by the company,” said Ashok. https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/kochi/2021/jan/04/ettikara-kakkad-residents-blame-bpcls-rampant-pollution-for-mass-fish-deaths-2245018.html  (04 Jan. 2021)

Farmers blame pollution for cage fish kill at Chittoor After lockdown impact, a traditional fisher, K K Gopi returned to his traditional job and set up two cages in the Chittoor-Kothad River near his house at Makkanparambu, dropping fingerlings he caught from the backwaters and had purchased from a hatchery.

At 7pm on Wednesday (Nov. 4, 2020), when he was near the cages to feed the fish they seemed quite happy, thrashing around on the surface. On Thursday (Nov. 5) morning, he was shocked to find them all dead and floating on the water. “There is nothing more devastating than seeing something like this. It’s the only hope I had,” says Gopi, who lost around 2,500 fingerlings and adult fishes. Rajesh, a resident of Edayakkunnam near Chittoor, who was engaged in cage farming with friends, also lost fishes in six cages they kept a short distance away.

The farmers are blaming effluent discharge from two establishments nearby — a specialty hospital and a service station. “We are absolutely sure that the fish death is due to pollution. On Wednesday (Nov. 4) night there was heavy rain and the rising waters must have brought the polluted water to the cages,” said Gopi. According to Rajesh, the water also had the presence of used motor oil, as the water was black in colour.

“The people here drink the same water. Who will listen to our complaints? Because our life is linked to the river, we know what is happening to the waterbody,” says Rajesh, a traditional fisher. According to him, in certain parts the water is really black and the stench can be felt when the water level goes down.

“Everyone says the waters are no longer safe for fishes and that we should look for another spot,” says Gopi, who had taken water samples and dead fishes to the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute for testing. According to sources, the samples showed a high concentration of heptachlor and aluminium, which has been linked to mass mortality of fishes in backwaters before. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kochi/farmers-blame-pollution-for-cage-fish-kill-at-chittoor/articleshow/79074781.cms  (06 Nov. 2020)

Tamil Nadu Fish found dead due to low DO level The recent death of a large number of fish at Saravana Poigai, the temple tank of Subramaniaswamy temple at Tirupparankundram, was caused mainly due to low levels of DO in the water, reveals the findings submitted by the SPCB and the Fisheries department. Executive Officer of the temple M. Ramasamy said that the dead fish floating in the pond were being removed everyday since Friday (Sept. 25, 2020) morning. “But, the quantum of dead fish removed on Tuesday (Sept. 29) was considerably lower,” he added.

An official from the SPCB said that there must be a minimum DO level of 4mg/ litre in the water for healthy survival of fish. “But, from the samples listed from the pond, it was found that the DO levels were between 1mg/litre and 2 mg/litre. We are continuing with our investigation to find out why the dissolved oxygen levels reduced in the pond,” said the official. Mr. Ramasamy also said that the findings revealed that the fish density at the pond was also higher.

An official from the Fisheries department said that the main issue was that the water in the pond was stagnant as there was no outlet point. “The water is also severely contaminated as devotees and residents washed their clothes using detergents with powerful chemicals. Previously, thousands of fish were found dead in 2016 at the pond. Hence, we have suggested the officials to not grow fish in the pond,” he added. He said that they have increased the number of motors to four as these will help improve DO levels in the water. “The pond is also currently closed for public use,” he added. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/fish-found-dead-due-to-low-level-of-dissolved-oxygen/article32724675.ece  (29 Sept. 2020)

SAND MINING

Himachal Pradesh SC asks Centre to do EIA on flow of river if boulders removed Supreme Court on Wednesday (Feb. 10) adopted a cautious approach and asked MoEF to do EIA on removal of boulders from the river bed system in Kullu district and how it will affect the flow of rivers including its tributaries. A bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian observed that removal of sand and stones from the river bed has created problems in Kerala, which has witnessed massive floods a couple of years back. “It is a well-known fact that stones and boulders have a direct impact on the flow of rivers. We find it imperative to direct the MoEFCC to do an EIA of the proposed site and specifically make a report whether it will have an adverse impact on the flow of the river,” the bench said.

The top court directed that the cost of EIA shall be borne by a company Paras Stone Crusher, who sought court’s nod to carry on its business and collect boulders falling in the river bed from nearby forest areas in Kullu district of the state. The Counsel appearing for the company said that they have environment clearance for the proposed site and are engaged in the business of stone crushing, which involves collection of naturally occurring stones and boulders as raw materials for use in stone crushing factories and thereafter selling the output produced as ‘aggregate’- a material used in various types of construction work.

The bench asked the counsel as to which authority has given the environment clearance? Advocate ADN Rao, appearing as amicus curiae in the matter, told the bench that the state level environment impact assessment committee has granted the environmental clearance but no EIA has been done. He said that he has no objection to the firm collecting stones and boulders but in the garb of collecting these naturally occurring stones, it should not indulge in sand mining.

The bench said that it would like to have EIA done on the proposed site and asked Rao to suggest the agency which could do the assessment. Rao said that the zonal office of MoEFCC can do the EIA and it can furnish the report to the court. The firm has said that the top court in its earlier order has restrained diversion of forest land in its favour. It said that the proposed site has a high volume of natural accumulation of stones and boulders.

“The high build-up of stones and boulders at the said site has been continuing nuisance and safety hazard because it disturbs the flow of the river, diverting its path and causing extensive damage to nearby private and public lands,” it had said. The stone crusher company referred to the 2012-2013, flash floods in the areas and said it was caused due to build up at the said site and had destroyed the army bridge, a local school and the BRO roads in the area. It said that the site is devoid of tree cover and no felling of trees will be necessary for execution of the proposed project. https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2021/feb/10/sc-asks-centre-to-do-environment-impact-assessment-on-flow-of-river-in-himachal-pradesh-2262307.html  (10 Feb. 2021)

Madhya Pradesh Lady Official attacked by mining mafia Bhawna Sengar, Assistant Mining Officer was assaulted by mining mafia on Wednesday (Feb. 10) while she had gone to seize a tractor trolley engaged in illegal quarrying from river Parvati in Sheopur. A local resident Jwari Kevat assaulted Sengar with an iron rod forcing the team to flee the spot. Later the police on the complaint of the officer booked Jwari and his son Narendra.

A similar incident was reported last Sunday (Feb. 6) from Gwalior where mining mafia fired bullets on police team. On Jan 30, the locals had assaulted the forest officers in village Panadi and had fled with tractor trollies seized by the government officers.

Besides, a SHO (TI) Sudhir Singh Kushwah was injured on Feb. 5 as mining mafia running away with the tractor trollies laden with illegally mined sand in village Jalalpur in Morena last week. The incident took place when the officer with his team had intercepted half a dozen tractor trollies laden with illegally mined sand from river Chambal. https://www.news18.com/news/india/days-after-murderous-assault-on-police-forest-guard-and-mining-officer-attacked-in-mps-gwalior-3419564.html  (11 Feb. 2021)

Policeman injured in mafia attack Inspector Sudhir Singh Kushwaha was injured when the driver of a tractor carrying illegally excavated sand tried to crush him near in Gwalior city on Friday (Feb. 5). Police had arrested six persons in connection with the incident, while Kushwaha was hospitalised. https://www.theindiaprint.com/national-news-english/amangal-in-chambal-sho-arrives-to-take-revenge-for-wounded-soldier-caught-in-sand-mafia-firing-saves-life-by-jumping-in-drain-24615  (06 Feb. 2021) https://suspensecrime.com/mafia-bringing-sand-from-chambal-firing-on-police-beaten-ti-and-tried-to-crush-with-tractor/  (05 Feb. 2021)

“The people involved in illegal mining have been giving a cut (commission) to legislators (of the BJP) and ministers. Obviously, these people don’t have any fear of law and they attack the police and administration (officials) every day. Such people cannot accept that they should be stopped despite giving money,” Digvijay Singh told reporters. The Rajya Sabha MP said the illegal mining can be stopped in a day if administration acts seriously. https://www.financialexpress.com/india-news/mining-mafias-paying-commission-to-bjp-have-no-fear-of-law-digvijaya-singh-on-mp-cop-attack/2189381/  (06 Feb. 2021)

Speaking to the state ministers before the weekly cabinet meeting, the CM on Tuesday (Feb. 9)  claimed that in recent past around 2,000 hectare land worth Rs 10,000 crore was freed from illegal holding of 1,271 land mafia. Chouhan listed the achievements of the government against various illegal operators, saying that an amount of Rs 800 crore was refunded to 50,000 persons defrauded by chit fund companies.

During the past week, several incidents involving attack on government officials on duty were reported. A forest guard was killed by wood smugglers in Dewas—an incident that the deceased himself filmed. In Datia, a personnel of the state industrial security forces was shot at, while in Gwalior an attempt was made to run over a police inspector under a tractor by sand mafia. In Bhind, a person involved in illegal sand mining opened fire in front of the house of minister O.P.S. Bhadoria. https://www.theweek.in/news/india/2021/02/09/land-worth-rs-10000-crores-freed-from-mafia-in-mp-says-cm-chouhan.html  (09 Feb. 2021)

Uttar Pradesh Mob clashes with police after man dies in accident Agra DM Prabhu Narain Singh said the place that the incident occurred was close to the Yamuna river, where sand was earlier mined legally but the tender had expired. “Around three months ago, the mining contract had ended. We have called for a new tender but no one has come forward so far. The village of the man is nearby and local residents mine sand illegally,” he said.

“Around 11 am on Thursday (31 Dec. 2020), a youth was driving a tractor with a trolley filled with sand. The youth did not appear to be a trained driver, and when a police vehicle passed him by, he got scared and hit the accelerator. That particular road is at a height. The tractor driver lost control and the tractor overturned and fell onto the fields below. He was rushed to the Shanti Manglik Hospital. Local residents thought police were responsible for his death,” added Singh.

He said that around 300 local residents came to the chowki, vandalised it and set it on fire. The situation was brought under control in around two hours, officials said, adding that those involved in the vandalism and arson will be identified with the help of CCTV footage and booked. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/agra-mob-clashes-with-police-after-man-dies-in-accident-chowki-set-on-fire-7128193/  (01 Jan. 2021)

Media clips slide show on local reports covering illegal mining in Yamuna in Kairana during past two weeks.

Strict action against illegal sand mining: DM District Magistrate Navneet Singh Chahal, Mathura on Thursday (Jan. 28) said strict action will be taken against those indulging in illegal sand mining on the Yamuna river bed and other rivulets. He also said officers concerned will be taken to task if they fail to curb the menace in their respective. He also said instructions have been issued to realise the fine imposed on offenders of illegal sand mining without any further delay. The official said directions have also been issued to prevent illegal soil mining in the district.  https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/strict-action-will-be-taken-against-illegal-sand-mining-mathura-dm/2018838  (28 Jan. 2021)

Tamil Nadu HC seeks fresh profiling of Tamiraparani sands  Indiscriminate excavation of inner bed sand in the Tamiraparani has remained unchecked. The looting of river sand in the 120-km-long Tamiraparani, as in other rivers across Tamil Nadu, has been a burning issue for long.

A farmer of Agaram village petitioned the court in October 2020 seeking an end to illegal quarrying of river. After this K. Kalaivanan, the court-appointed Advocate Commissioner, conducting test pit measurements and inspection for presence of heavy minerals in the area around the new check dam construction site at Agaram Kudiyiruppu along with the taluk surveyor and other revenue officials of Thoothukudi district. The report surmised that the area where the check dam was coming up facing illegal mining and is consisted of not only ordinary sand but also a substantial amount of heavy minerals and atomic minerals adding a new dimension to Tamil Nadu’s mining policy. https://frontline.thehindu.com/the-nation/the-madras-high-court-seeks-fresh-profiling-of-tamiraparani-river-sands-and-finds-the-extent-of-illegal-sand-quarrying-alarming/article33559768.ece  (29 Jan. 2021)

Builders prefer M-sand  Acute shortage of sand and a steep rise in price has forced builders and engineers to depend substantially on manufactured sand (M-sand) in Tiruchi. Until recently, sand was the only option for plastering and concrete mixing. There were days when a load of two units of sand sourced from the Cauvery or Kollidam beds was available for ₹ 400 to ₹ 500 as it was available in plenty in the upper and lower reaches of the Cauvery in Tiruchi about 20 years ago. It shot up gradually over the period up to ₹ 30,000 per load (2 units). Though there is still a demand for river sand irrespective of the high rate, builders find it extremely difficult to source it as the Public Works Department had closed down most of sand reaches in Tiruchi and Karur districts due to stiff opposition from farmers and litigation against sand-quarrying.

Sourcing sand through bullock cart is the only option available to the builders. If they want to mobilise sand, they will have to wait for days together. Acute shortage of river sand, concern over exploitation of rivers for sand mining, litigation against sand quarrying and steep hike in prices have led the builders to shift their attention to M-sand and plastering sand (P-sand). Some builders, who began to use M-sand as a temporary measure, now prefer it. “There are individual house constructors, who still prefer river sand. But, it is a tough task to source sand. We do not have options but to convince our customers to use manufactured sand,” says A. Selvakumar, a building contractor in Srirangam.

Builders say that there is no problem in sourcing M-sand. It is cheaper. A load (four units) of M-sand is available for ₹ 15,000 in Tiruchi. The rate of P-sand hovers around ₹ 16,000 for a load. P. Dharmar, a supplier of construction materials in Thiruvanaikoil, said that since the rate of river sand was more than double to that of M-sand, buyers invariably preferred M-sand. Many builders and engineers had switched over to M-sand. It had become an organised trade. It was available in plenty in Karur, Perambalur and Pudukottai districts, he said. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/m-sand/article33804013.ece  (10 Feb. 2021)

Telangana HC issues notice to State over sand transport A two-judge panel of the Telangana High Court on Friday (Feb. 5) comprising Chief Justice Hima Kohli and Justice B Vijayasen Reddy ordered notice to the State government over the alleged illegal transport of sand to the Mallannasagar project from Banda Kothapalli of Yadadri-Bhongir district. Mangapanda Komaraiah filed an appeal after a single judge upheld the May 2020 proceeding of the government on the transfer of sand. He said the transport of sand to non-local areas is contrary to the Sand Mining Rules, 2005, and complained that the proceeding lacks a resolution of the village panchayat. The panel adjourned the case for the government’s response.

The same panel sought the response of the State government on a PIL case complaining about the actions of police over permissions for public meetings. Petitioners MD Shafiquzzaman and Syed Ghouse Moinuddin Quadri highlighted various violations by police including denying permission and delaying permission till the last minute. Further, their limiting of the number of speakers and participants, changing and reducing the time of the meeting, frisking, taking video of the public assembly violates the fundamental rights and also the Police Act, 1861, and Hyderabad Police Act, 1348, they said.

Senior counsel L Ravichander pointed out how the fundamental right to freedom of speech and assembly was threatened and infringed by the unauthorised actions of the police. He informed the panel that many citizens were compelled to approach the court to obtain permissions though it was not mandatory to obtain a licence from police according to the said Acts. The panel adjourned the case giving a final opportunity to the State to submit its counter.  https://telanganatoday.com/telangana-high-court-issues-notice-to-state-over-sand-transport  (05 Feb. 2021)

Kerala Black Sand documentary, qualifies for 2021 Oscars awards “Black Sand”, a documentary film directed by Sohan Roy and produced by Abhini Sohan Roy under the banner of Aries telecasting Pvt. Ltd. has qualified for 2021 Oscar awards under the Documentary Short Category section. In a statement issued here by the company on Thursday, it said “Black Sand” is one of the 114 movies that got selected into this category. The documentary showcases the horror caused by the irrevocable damage caused by sand mining at Alappad in Kollam district, which has engulfed half of the inhabitants’ land and homes.

Roy, a marine professional based in the UAE is known for his directorial Hollywood movie “DAM 999” which contended for the 2011 Oscars and received five selections in three categories. “Black Sand” has also got official selection at the Rajasthan International Film Festival 2021 scheduled for March 20-24 at Jaipur. https://www.businessinsider.in/entertainment/news/black-sand-an-indian-documentary-qualifies-for-2021-oscars-awards/articleshow/80844590.cms  (11 Feb. 2021)

Karnataka Rampant sand mining caused floods in Malaprabha basin: Report An expert report last month has revealed that indiscriminate sand mining in the catchment area and the consequent flattening of the river bed was directly responsible for the August 2019 floods in the Malaprabha basin. Despite the warning, the sand mining – many illegal extractions is also going on – continues unabated in the Malaprabha river basin in Bagalkot, the home district of Minister for Mines and Geology Murugesh Nirani.

Sudhir Sajjan, a technical assistant to Managing Director of Krishna Bhagya Jala Nigam Limited (KBJNL), after studying the changes in the Malaprabha river basin, a major tributary of River Krishna, in his report titled ‘The flood phenomena at the Malaprabha basin’ has mentioned: “It is undoubtedly the spurt in the mining activity in the catchment area, which is the root cause for recurring floods in the river.” This was a study sanctioned by KBJNL.

But, in Bagalkot district, the authorities concerned seem to have ignored the expert’s warning and have let indiscriminate mining go on unabated. Fayaz, District Mines and Geology officer at Bagalkot denied that there is illegal sand mining in the district. When asked about Sudhir Sajjan’s findings, Fayaz told DH: “The department is not aware of any such report given to the KBJNL. The department this year has given sanctions to 39 sand points. The rumours about illegal sand mining are baseless.”

Sand extraction from riverbed has now turned into a major business attracting those from the district and from parts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Many farmers of the district – Bagalkot is crisscrossed by Krishna and Malaprabha rivers – these days prefer extracting sand from their land or leasing their lands for hey sums. Badami, Jalihaal, Hungund, Rabkavi, Banahatti, Jamkhandi, Ilkal, Bilagi and Mudhol taluks, on the banks of Malaprabha and Ghataprabha, have a rich deposit of high-quality sand. The demand for sand from these areas is high and as a result, farmers prefer sand mining to farm. The region is said to have several illegal sand points as against 35 to 40 legal points sanctioned every year by the Mines & Geology Department.

Mindless extraction of sand has inflicted irreparable damage to nature. Thanks to illegal mining, the government is also losing revenue. The government now gets around Rs 1 crore as royalty from these mines every month but it will go up substantially if illegal mines are regularised, say locals. A contractor on condition of anonymity admitted that without illegal mining, it would be difficult to sustain in the business. “After paying bribes, what remains from the earnings is paltry. Hence, illegal mining and over-loading of vehicles are inevitable to remain in business,” he said. https://www.deccanherald.com/state/rampant-sand-mining-caused-floods-in-malaprabha-basin-report-949480.html  (09 Feb. 2021)

By the end of 2019, the state government estimated the total damage caused by the floods at Rs 35,160.81 crore. Of this, Bagalkot suffered damages to the tune of Rs 3,653.63 crore while damages in Belagavi pegged at Rs 17,863 crore. “It is undoubtedly the spurt in the mining activity in the catchment area, which is the root cause for recurring floods in the river,” the report said, meticulously mapping the fields ravaged by sand mining along the river course, starting from areas near Manasapur to Khanapur, Yellur and Bailhongal.

Speaking to DH, Sajjan said the mining has effected a change in the land use which meant a high amount of soil was being carried to the river basin. “This is a situation very typical to Malaprabha.

“Induced meandering leading to soil mass movement has in turn led to sheet flooding where the water level is not deep but enough to cause damage to lands and change direction, away from the course,” he explained. The report also said that many of the 32 bandharas (diversionary weirs) constructed across the river were “the most unscientific structures.’’ “The one built between the hillocks near the Ramalingashwar temple caused huge impounding during the flooding of August 2019,” he said, noting that the choking of the weirs during the floods exacerbated the situation.

The report particularly pointed at four structures – check dam near Ramdurg, bandharas near Shivayogi Mandir, Ramalingeshwar temple and a new bridge on NH 50 near Belagal – that unleashed a rippling effect in August 2019. “Just their absence or their scientific planning would have reduced (flood) intensity by 50%,” it said. The report made 11 structural recommendations and three key recommendations regarding desilting of the river bed, desilting reservoir and not to construct the newly proposed bridges unless they cover the total width of the river during the peak flow level. “Unless these are implemented, there is no doubt that the floods will recur,” he said.  https://www.deccanherald.com/state/unabated-sand-mining-caused-2019-malaprabha-flooding-report-940225.html  (18 Jan. 2021)

New sand mining policy allows extraction from 183 blocks  In a bid to provide fillip to the construction activities across Karnataka, Mines and Geology Minister Murugesh R. Nirani on Wednesday (Feb. 10) said that under the new sand mining policy, 183 sand blocks have been identified where mining will be allowed across the state. Nirani said that the new sand mining policy is aimed at ensuring easy availability of sand at lower prices. After a meeting with the officials at Vikasa Soudha, the Minister told the media that the department had fixed Rs 300 per tonne for extracting sand from gorge, streams and rivers. “We have identified 183 blocks where mining will be allowed across Karnataka. While, cess will be levied on tipper, lorry and other vehicles for transporting the sand, but bullock carts and two-wheelers will be exempted from the tax,” he said.

Nirani added that transportation of sand from one district to another across the state will not be permitted while the uniform prices will be maintained for the transportation within the gram panchayat limits. The Minister underlined that the new sand policy is investor-friendly and will help in construction activities in a big way in the state. Nirani added that the Mines and Geology department is planning to set up Karnataka Mineral Industrial Development Board on the lines of Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB) to give further impetus to mining activities in the state.

The Minister said that a single-window agency also would be set up to expedite the disposal of applications of mining proposals. He added that the single-window agency will ensure speedy clearance of proposals among forest, environment, revenue and home departments. “At districts, deputy commissioners will head the committees while the minister would be heading the state level panel. The DC will clear the applications for investments up to Rs 5 crore and the panel headed by the minister will approve the projects more than Rs 5 crore. This will help obtain licenses easily and get rid of red-tapism,” he said. The Minister further added that the government is aiming to set up a mines university in the state on the lines of National Mines University in Jharkhand’s Dhanbad. https://realty.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/allied-industries/karnatakas-new-sand-mining-policy-allows-extraction-from-183-blocks/80857701  (11 Feb. 2021)  

Odisha NGT seeks report on sand mining in Subarnarekha NGT has asked the state government to examine the allegations of illegal sand mining in Jaleswar area of Balasore district and submit a report within two months. The development follows a petition led in the tribunal seeking its intervention in the alleged illegal sand mining activities along Subarnarekha river under Jaleswar tehsil in Balasore.

The NGT has asked the state government to form a special panel and examine the issue before ling a report within two months. The tribunal in its written order has also made CPCB, SEIAA and SPCB as parties to the panel. “Let a joint Committee of four members, comprising CPCB, SPCB, SEIAA, Odisha and District Magistrate, Balasore, look into the grievance in the application and furnish a report to this Tribunal within two months,” the order said. It also added, “SEIAA, will be the nodal agency for coordination and compliance. Based on the observations of the Committee, the concerned statutory authorities may take appropriate action in accordance with law, following due process.”

The original petition had claimed that sand mining along Subarnarekha river was in violation of the Environment Protection Act, 1986. Several norms of sand mining were also found to be outed in the case. The petitioner had demanded early hearing of the case and intervention of NGT. The case was heard by a three-judge bench headed by Justice Adarsh Goel while Justice Sheo Kumar Singh joined the bench as the judicial bench while Dr Nagin Nanda was in the bench as expert member. https://www.orissapost.com/ngt-seeks-report-on-sand-mining-in-subarnarekha/  (28 Jan. 2021)

Andhra Pradesh Tap revenue sources for implementing Navaratnalu: CM CM Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has directed the officials to focus on expanding the revenue sources of the State for implementing Navaratnalu and other welfare schemes promised in the YSRCP manifesto. During a review meeting on Thursday (Feb. 11), Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy called for focus on high revenue yielding mining activities and ordered that works related to silica sand mining be expedited.

Also, he insisted that priority be given to speeding up the works in the coal mines at Bramhadiha block in Jharkhand, Suliyari in MP and Madanpur in Chhattisgarh acquired by the A.P. Mineral Development Corporation. Further, the CM directed the Forest Department officials to obtain permission from the Central government as soon as possible for selling the red sanders stocks. While striving to generate more revenues, people should not be burdened, the CM added. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/cm-tap-revenue-sources-for-implementing-navaratnalu/article33814531.ece  (11 Feb. 2021)

WETLANDS, LAKES, WATER BODIES

Karnataka Officially state has no wetlands, Ramsar site At least 16-17 per cent area of Karnataka are potential wetlands, but officially, the State hasn’t got a single wetland or Ramsar site. No initiative has been taken to mark out and declare wetlands, highlighting the negligible protection for rich biodiversity. If wetlands or Ramsar sites are declared, they require stringent conservation measures. 

This fact emerges in the report ‘Wetlands Ecosystem: A Sensitive Landscape of Unorganised Non-Administered Services’, which has been accepted by the European Journal of Applied Sciences and is to be released by February-end. The report was prepared by UV Singh, retired IFS officer and member of the NGT Committee, and Deepthi Hebale, research scholar, Energy and Wetlands Research Group, Centre for Ecological Sciences, at IISc.

In Karnataka, the state wetland committee is not even notified as recommended by Wetlands rules 2017. Besides, government bodies have been unable to convince locals on what is permitted and prohibited, once an area is declared as wetlands. Forest officials point out that in most cases, ministers and government departments are also not convinced on the ecological responsibilities that follow declaration of rivers, lakes and sites as wetlands.  Officials also say that they had proposed eight sites in Karnataka to be declared as wetlands, and Ranganthittu in Mandya as a Ramsar site. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/karnataka/2021/feb/12/too-hot-to-handle-officially-karnataka-has-no-wetlands-ramsar-site-2262881.html  (12 Feb. 2021) 

Kerala Ashtamudi wetland under siege Not even a signboard has been placed to indicate the stature of the lake that was numbered Ramsar site 1,204. “The authorities concerned have carried out minimal work to conserve the Ashtamudi lake. Voluntary efforts by social organisations and local people are keeping it alive,” said V I Rahul, an environmentalist who lives near the lake claiming reclamation, pollution and sand-mining have caused immense damage to the famed water body. V K Madhusoodanan, another environmentalist, said only a small portion of the special funds allocated by the MoEF for the conservation of the lake has been utilised. “Almost all courses of the lake have become waste-dumping sites with plastic the biggest threat,” he said.

Large areas of Ashtamudi have been reclaimed for development projects and more are earmarked for upcoming projects. The lake that once spanned an area of 61.4 sq km has now shrunk to 34 sq km. Besides encroachment to accommodate the increasing population, the formation of new islets between Dalavapuram, Neendakara and Kavanadu have also contributed to the reduction in the area of the lake.

Rahul has filed a PIL with the Kerala High Court regarding the issue. The PIL points out that, if the road is allowed, it would severely affect the already disturbed ecosystem of the Ashtamudi wetland. SWAK, Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority, Kollam district collector, city corporation, Directorate of Environment and Climate Change, Public Works Department and the State of Kerala are respondents in the case. 

The 2.75 km road, costing 254.4 crore, has been constructed to ease the traffic along the 1.6 km stretch connecting Collectorate Junction, High School Junction and Kollam bus stand. However, the Kollam bypass has apparently made the project irrelevant as a major part of the traffic flows along the bypass. Though the authorities claim the road will be constructed on pillars, the tidal flow of water is likely to be affected. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/kerala/2021/feb/12/ashtamudi-wetland-under-siege-2262852.html  (12 Feb. 2021)

Assam Rare duck has created a flutter  Floating in the Maguri-Motapung beel (or wetland) in Tinsukia district for over a week is the spectacular and rare Mandarin duck. First spotted on February 8 by Madhab Gogoi, a Tinsukia-based birder and tour guide, the duck has since become the star of the wetland — an area affected by a blowout and fire at a natural gas well located close by in May 2020. The bird was last sighted in this part of Assam more than a century ago, in 1902.

Considered the most beautiful duck in the world, the Mandarin duck, or the (Aix galericulata) was first identified by Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist Carl Linnaeus in 1758. The eBird website, a platform that documents birds world over, describes it as a “small-exotic looking bird” native to East Asia. “It’s very beautiful, with majestic colours and can be spotted from a distance,” said Deborshee Gogoi, a Digboi-based professor of marketing, and a birder, who also spotted the duck last week, “It was a male — we could tell because in this species, the males are more colourful than the females.”

The eBird website describes the male as “very ornate with big orangey ‘sail fins’ on the back, streaked orangey cheeks, and a small red bill with a whitish tip” and the female with “narrow white spectacles on a shaggy grey head, bold pale dappled spots along flanks, and pale bill tip.” The migratory duck breeds in Russia, Korea, Japan and northeastern parts of China, explained Gogoi. It now has established populations in Western Europe and America too. In 2018, when a Mandarin duck was spotted in a pond in New York City’s Central Park, it created a flutter among local residents. https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-why-a-rare-duck-has-created-a-flutter-in-upper-assam-7187927/  (15 Feb. 2021)

3 ‘disused lakes’ can be restored, assures NEERI Three lakes that had almost disappeared with no characteristics of a water body can be recovered, a recent study conducted by the NEERI stated. These three ‘lakes’ are among the 19 lakes that were termed as ‘disused’ by the BBMP to state the lake has been entirely encroached upon. Examining the possibility of restoring all the 19 disused lakes was one of the directions given by the High Court, which is hearing a bunch of petitions with regard to restoring lakes.

The three disused lakes that may be restored are Arehalli of Halage Vaderahalli village (around 12 acres), Kamakshi Palya in Saneguruvanahalli (2.23 acres), both linked to Vrishabhavathy Valley and Thavarekere (6.29 acres), which is part of Koramangala-Challaghatta valley. While BDA layout comes upon the Arehalli lake, the Kamakshipalya lake is largely encroached by the houses provided by Slum Board. There is also a road in the lake area. In the Thavarekere lake, a park is come up.

What requires to be done at Kamakshi Palya lake is going to be a huge effort. Reports have suggested complete excavation of open ground area up to the depth of 5 metres, creation of fence around the open ground to stop the entry of public etc. The common suggestions for all the three lakes made in the report include detailed study of hydrology, preparation of lake bund to avoid garbage dump, de-weeding, desilting, construction of the fence, development of natural wetlands among others.

The report mentions at least 16 lakes are fully encroached and are unlikely to be restored. They are Ancheramanakere, Belakahalli, Bovimaranahalli, Byatagunte Palya, Chikkalsandra, Doresanipalya, Geddalahalli, Gundopanth, Ittmadu, Karisandra, Konena Agrahara, Lingarajapura, Sanigoruvahalli, Nandi Shettappa, Shivanahalli and Vijanapura. From BDA layouts, roads and schools to private buildings, parks, bus stands and crematorium, these lakes are disappeared in the recent past.

The study states that the restoration plan for the three lakes would be separately prepared during the preparation of a Master Plan for all 205 lakes. Mohan Krishna, Chief Engineer (Lakes) at BBMP said NEERI was entrusted with the task of preparing two reports. “While the first report has studied problems pertaining to lakes, the second report will offer long term solutions. The second report will be ready in six months,” he said.

A detailed look at the first report shows that NEERI has only stated what is already available in the public domain or with the BBMP. V Ramaprasad, convener of Friends of Lake believed Bengaluru-based research institution such as IISc or ATREE would have provided better perspective and solutions for improving the condition of lakes as they know the city better. https://bangaloremirror.indiatimes.com/bangalore/civic/3-disused-lakes-can-be-restored-assures-neeri/articleshow/80885968.cms  (13 Feb. 2021)  

Uttar Pradesh Hasanpur lake grapples with waste water, encroachment Spread over 82 hectares, the wetland on the Noida-Hapur border at a distance of 28 km from Greater Noida, that is known as the largest natural lake in north India and the largest wetland in NCR, is not even protected. Over fishing and untreated water from nearby villages have been threatening the water body for some time now. To make matters worse, fishermen often burst crackers to keep birds away from the lake. As a result, once a hub of several migratory birds, it hardly has any such visitors now. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/noida/hasanpur-lake-grapples-with-waste-water-encroachment/articleshow/80747853.cms  (08 Feb. 2021)

Wetland inside NTPC has 45 bird species A 28-acre marshy patch, so far just a part of its scenery, has put the state-run NTPC’s Dadri campus on the official books of the UNDP as a popular destination for migratory birds in NCR. This was after the first-ever Asian Waterbirds Census (AWC), conducted by UNDP on January 15 & 16 at the NTPC Dadri complex, recorded as many as 45 bird species, including some endangered, vulnerable and threatened varieties like Ferruginous Pochards (near threatened), Common Pochards (vulnerable) and Egyptian vultures (endangered). https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/noida/wetland-inside-ntpc-has-45-bird-species-1st-survey/articleshow/80805746.cms  (11 Feb. 2021)

Environmentalists debate wetlands definition Environmentalists question the definition of wasteland, a ‘value-loaded term’, as Indian government starts mapping it again. https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/nature/as-india-maps-wasteland-environmentalists-debate-definition/  (10 Feb. 2021)

WATER OPTIONS

Chennai Care Earth develops illustrated manual on wetlands for children In a bid to teach the complex concepts of wetland ecology to children in an absorbing manner, Care Earth Trust, has developed an illustrated learning module along with SwedBio, a programme of the Stockholm Resilience Centre. Home of the Blue Lily, a manual on wetland ecology is aimed at drawing children’s attention to ecosystems native to their region. The organisation plans to print the manual and distribute them in government schools and among educators. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/care-earth-brings-out-illustrated-manual-on-wetlands-for-children/article33734760.ece  (03 Feb. 2021)

How about a ‘Katta Museum’ housing mini prototypes of Kattas? How many types of Kattas are there? We have counted Nine so far. There maybe more in Coastal Karnataka & Kasaragod districts. Someone should do a in-depth study. Why not a PhD study? https://www.facebook.com/sandrp.in/posts/4225858927441748  

GROUNDWATER

Study 20% has high arsenic levels in groundwater Almost 20% of India’s total land area has toxic levels of arsenic in its groundwater, exposing more than 250 million people across the country to the poisonous element, says a new IIT Kharagpur study which used artificial intelligence (AI)-based prediction modelling. According to the researchers, the findings suggest a much greater extent of the high arsenic zones and total population exposed than already known from arsenic sampling exercises and reports by various governmental and non-governmental organisations. The research, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, indicates the need for much more rigorous sampling of arsenic levels across India than what exists.

The current study noted that these high arsenic areas are mostly located along the Indus-Ganga-Brahmaputra river basin and in pockets in Peninsular India. It said the states of Punjab (92 per cent), Bihar (70%), West Bengal (69%), Assam (48%), Haryana (43%), Uttar Pradesh (28%), and Gujarat (24%) show the highest areal extent of elevated groundwater arsenic zones. These are followed by sporadic occurrences in the states of Madhya Pradesh (9%), Karnataka (8%), Odisha (4%), Maharashtra (1%), and south-eastern part of Jammu & Kashmir (1%), the researchers said. Apart from these, all other states are found to have negligible or mostly no arsenic hazard, they added. “A total of more than 250 million people are estimated to be exposed to high arsenic in India,” said Abhijit Mukherjee, Associate Professor at the IIT Kharagpur, West Bengal. https://science.thewire.in/environment/iit-kharagpurs-ai-study-finds-20-of-india-has-toxic-levels-of-arsenic-in-groundwater/  (11 Feb. 2021)

URBAN WATER

Bengaluru SPCB’s solution for excess treated water An tech solution is being currently designed by the SPCB to address a common but major complaint of apartment dwellers, who are unable to discharge excess treated water legally. The zero liquid discharge policy had put many large buildings with STPs in a fix because they were not allowed to let treated sewage water into BWSSB’s underground drain network (UGD) or BBMP’s storm water drains so far.

“We are working on a mobile application that will provide a common platform for various stakeholders, be it the apartment’s resident welfare associations, private tanker owners and those who require treated water. This will help an apartment with excess treated water to discharge it legally. Our plan is to use this treated water in all 1,035 parks owned by BBMP,” said Syed Khaja, senior environmental officer (SEO) at SPCB.

He also said the Board has roped in experts from the IISc to study whether treated water can be used for construction activities too. “This is being done to ensure treated water does not result in weakening or early corrosion of the steel used in buildings,” said Khaja. He said out of the 975MLD of sewage water that is currently being treated, about 250MLD is being treated by private apartments. Discharging excess treated water from apartments has been an issue for apartment dwellers for quite some time.  https://bangaloremirror.indiatimes.com/bangalore/others/kspcbs-solution-for-excess-treated-water/articleshow/80777493.cms  (10 Feb. 2021)

No guardian for these lakes  Govt’s proposal to hand over Hebbal and Nagavara lakes from the Forest Department to the BBMP’s Lakes Department is going to be delayed. Half of the land of these lakes were denotified for various purposes, including construction of the Ring Road, Forest Department’s nursery, Gandhi Krishi Vidya Kendra (GKVK), etc. As a result, the BBMP is now reluctant to take custody of the lakes as their size has shrunk post denotification.

Recently, CM had announced in the Assembly that the State Government was taking measures to reclaim around 300 acres of Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) land that was encroached upon, but no effort has been made to protect the water bodies including these two lakes in Bengaluru. With the CM announcing the handing over of all the lakes to the BBMP, the Forest Department the actual custodian of the lake has not done anything to remove the hyacinth or prevent sewage from flowing into Hebbal Lake.

According to a document by the Forest Department, the extent of Hebbal Lake notified in December 2019’s government order was 92.26 acres, whereas the actual extent in the original land records was 192.92 acres. For Nagavara Lake, the extent notified in the December 2019 government order was 56.17 acres, whereas the actual extent in the original land record was 103.03 acres. “The state government is projecting itself as a saviour of public land but has denotified half of Hebbal and Nagavara Lake land worth around Rs 18,000 crore, despite Karnataka Forest Department’s objection,’’ said a lake activist, on the condition of anonymity. As per the report of the Conservator of Forest, Bangalore Circle, Bengaluru, of the 192 acres 19 guntas of Hebbal Lake, 2 acres 8 guntas has been used for the Ring Road, 8 acres 20 guntas for the Forest Department’s nursery and 21 acres has been used by GKVK University. https://bangaloremirror.indiatimes.com/bangalore/civic/no-guardian-for-these-lakes/articleshow/80777667.cms  (10 Feb. 2021)

Just 21 of 210 lakes have water fit for drinking As many as 19 lakes in Bengaluru have been encroached and only 21 lakes have water fit for drinking, a new study submitted in the Karnataka High Court this week has found. The study was conducted by CSIR-NEERI and it suggested long-term and short-term measures to rejuvenate Bengaluru’s lakes. CSIR-NEERI was asked to submit a report by the BBMP after it was directed by the Karnataka High Court which is hearing a batch of petitions related to the condition of lakes in the city.

Among this, 11 lakes are in the Yelahanka zone of the city and includes the Agrahara lake, Ramagondanahalli lake and Thirumenahalli lake that have been developed. In the rest of the city only 10 out of 178 lakes have water fit for drinking.

Discussing the popular Ulsoor Lake, the report stated that the water quality of the lake was only good enough for domestic, industrial and irrigation purposes. It stated that the water in the Kaggadasapura lake is unsuitable for drinking purposes. Only 1 of the 48 lakes in Bommanahalli zone had water fit for drinking Nyanappanahalli Lake while 3 lakes in Mahadevapura zone had water fit for drinking. In many cases, it was not possible to measure the water quality since the lake surface was covered with water weeds.

The High Court will study the issue of the condition of Bengaluru’s lakes beginning next week. A division bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum will hold sittings twice a week and focus on rejuvenation of few lakes including the Kamakshipalya, Arehalli and Tavarekere lakes. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/just-21-bengaluru-s-210-lakes-have-water-fit-drinking-csir-neeri-report-143259  (12 Feb. 2021)

Man raises illegal water connection issue, gets intimidated The much-lauded ward committee meetings, held in every ward to allow residents to place their problems before the civic authorities, have turned into a nightmare for Mohammed Ibrahim. The resident of Govindapura, who retired as the personal assistant to the General Manager of NGEF in 2002, has been very vocal at these meetings. But instead of providing solutions to the problems raised by him, Ibrahim says the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) is targeting him.

“I have been raising problems about erratic water supply and illegal water connections at Govindapura and other areas of Nagawara ward but the authorities did nothing to redress my grievance. Instead they sent people to my residence to check if my water meter was working. I was shocked to see three people from the BWSSB entering my home and demanding to see my water bills,” said Ibrahim.  According to him, the BWSSB would cut water supply to his house or provide low pressure water to his home, whenever he brought up the issues of illegal water connections. https://bangaloremirror.indiatimes.com/bangalore/others/man-raises-illegal-water-connection-issue-gets-intimidated/articleshow/80886901.cms  (13 Feb. 2021)

Delhi DPCC seeks action plans for using treated water in parks DPCC has sought action plans from land-owning authorities of all parks for using treated water from DJB. NGT had directed that all parks should take treated water through effluent or sewage treatment plants installed by DJB. Delhi has more than 17,000 parks and most of them are using water from borewells, said officials.

“We have sought action plans from MCD, DDA, PWD and CPWD to submit action plans specifying their daily requirement of treated water in MGD and the number of water tanks from DJB they would need every day,” said a DPCC official. “DJB currently generates around 600MGD treated water and about 100MGD is used daily. Hence, nearly 500MGD treated water can be used by parks for maintenance. The action plans would help us in better monitoring,” the official added.

DPCC has also asked the land-owning bodies to lay pipelines for connecting the parks to DJB’s sewage treatment plants if the STP is located within 5km. The remaining parks will have to hire water tankers from DJB. According to another official, the urban development department had sent a list of borewells in the parks to the district magistrates concerned last year, requesting them to seal them. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/dpcc-seeks-action-plans-for-using-treated-water-in-parks/articleshow/80869054.cms  (12 Feb. 2021)

This report says the Chamoli disaster has affected Delhi Water supply. https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/uttarakhand-flood-disaster-hits-water-supply-for-1000s-in-delhi-2370925  (15 Feb. 2021)

Noida Ganga water by November  The Noida authority currently procures 240 MLD Ganga water to most of the sectors in the city. It also procures some groundwater when the Upper Ganga canal, that supplies the water to Noida, is cleaned, which happens in the month of November every year, said the officials. Work on the project, to supply Ganga water to households in the above mentioned sectors, was started in March 2018. However, work to lay the pipeline was delayed due to Metro construction work in Sector 62 and other areas, said officials.

“We have completed 67% of the work on this project and have put works on fast track, so that the project can be completed by November-end this year and residents can be supplied Ganga water,” said Rajiv Tyagi, chief general manager of the Noida authority. When the pipeline comes into operation, Noida will get an additional 90 MLD of Ganga water thus reducing dependence on ground water.

Officials said that Noida’s population is expected to increase to about 2.5 million in a couple of years, and the water capacity of the city needs to be expanded in anticipation of the growing demand. At present, the city has a total of 165 sectors with an estimated population of around two million.  “With this project, we want to increase Ganga water availability from the existing 240 MLD to 330 MLD in order to meet the water demands that will come from the upcoming residential areas along the Noida-Greater Noida Expressway as well as other parts of the city,” Tyagi said. The UttarPradesh Jal Nigam requires an estimated ₹200 crore to finish this project. “We are providing 56% Ganga water and 44% groundwater to Noida. In the future too, this ratio of 56:44 will continue,” said Tyagi. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/others/noida-sectors-to-get-ganga-water-by-november-101613151867831.html  (12 Feb. 2021)

Chennai More check dams planned to augment city’s water supply Work to build a check dam at Illupur, about 10 km upstream of Poondi reservoir, was started on Saturday (Feb. 13) at a cost of ₹17.6 crore. The 230-m-long check dam would come up across Nagari river, near Tiruttani, in about a year. Nagari river, which originates in Andhra Pradesh, traverses 69 km in Tiruvallur district before entering Poondi reservoir. From there, it then flows as the Kosasthalaiyar. Officials said the 2-m-tall check dam would help store about 70 mcft of water and recharge groundwater in a 3-km-radius, besides irrigating 296 hectares of land in the region.

A proposal to build two more check dams at Sangeethakuppam and Kumarajapet across Kusa river in Pallipattu taluk is awaiting permission. Once the three check dams are built upstream of Poondi reservoir, a minimum of 200 mcft of water can be saved, besides recharging the water table. The Lava and Kusa rivers are tributaries of the Nagari, which originates in Andhra Pradesh. Of the 17-km-long Kusa, about 4 km flows within Tamil Nadu limits. Both rivers join near Pallipet to become the Nagari.

Similarly, proposals are being chalked out to build barrages upstream and downstream of the Poondi reservoir. Barrages with shutter arrangements and more depth would be act as reservoirs across the rivers and help store additional water. “If a barrage in Ramancheri across the Nagari is built 4 km above Poondi reservoir, we may be able to save up to 1,000 mcft of water and feed the city’s water supply,” said an official. The department plans to build a barrage near Karanodai bridge as there is no other storage structure for nearly 15 km after Thiruka- ndalam across the Kosasthalaiyar. It would help store an additional 600 mcft of water that otherwise flows into the sea, the official added. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/more-check-dams-planned-to-augment-citys-water-supply/article33832976.ece  (14 Feb. 2021)

Pune Leaks in water meters waste lakhs of litres in Kothrud An inordinate delay in completion of the ambitious round-the-clock water supply project initiated by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) about three years ago has now shown the results in negative. As per the plan, the civic body wanted to stop waste of water but even with so-called ‘smart’ meters, lakhs of litres of precious water in the parched city are going down the drain.

Several residents from the Kothrud area where thousands of meters have been installed under the scheme have complained of leaking water. Since the residents have been asked not to tamper with the meters, nobody is able to repair this leakage. Moreover, ironically the municipal staff of the water supply department have been showing little concern as they are “overloaded with other work” and nobody is turning up to repair the crucial leaks.

In 2018, PMC undertook the 24×7 water supply project at an estimated cost of Rs 3,513 crore for equal distribution of water across the city. One of the project’s aims was to undertake systematic leakage detection and repair activity to bring down the level of non-revenue water in the distribution system. It was also the first civic body in the country to raise Rs 200 crore through bonds for a water supply project. Despite the deadline set to 2021, hardly 36 per cent of the construction of overhead tanks has been completed so far, in addition to 18 per cent work of laying pipelines and 8 per cent of installation of water meters.  https://punemirror.indiatimes.com/pune/cover-story/water-way-to-go/articleshow/80900789.cms  (14 Feb. 2021)  

Bhopal Hindi report on pollution of water sources including Narmada. https://www.facebook.com/sandrp.in/posts/4231827016844939

Avadi Corporation likely to reclaim its landfill by year-end The civic body is implementing a bio-mining process, wherein garbage is segregated and dry waste is separated for recycling, at its 7.7 acre site, located 10 km from Avadi. About 70% of the 64,000 cubic metres of garbage accumulated over the past two decades had been processed so far using machinery, officials said. On average, Avadi generates 90.7 tonnes of garbage daily and the Corporation managed to collect nearly 90% of the waste from the doorsteps of residents. Of the nearly 45 tonnes of biodegradable waste generated daily, about 35 tonnes is processed at the 16 micro composting centres being operated across the Corporation and converted to 4 tonnes of manure daily. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/avadi-corporation-likely-to-reclaim-its-landfill-by-year-end/article33777386.ece  (08 Feb. 2021)

JJM/ RURAL WATER SUPPLY

IMPRI Event Report Water Governance: Challenges and the Way Forward Himanshu Thakkar, Coordinator at SANDRP shed some light on the subject in a webinar organized by CECCSD, IMPRI and India Water Portal as part of the series – The State of the Environment Planet Talks. https://www.impriindia.com/event-report/water-governance-challenges-and-the-way-forward/   (11 Feb. 2021)

Haryana 2 officers of groundwater cell suspended CM on Feb. 8 suspended two employees of the groundwater cell of the Irrigation Department for allegedly not making payments for works undertaken under the Jal Shakti Abhiyan, 2019. The two employees are head draftman Samrita and clerk Manoj Kumar. The CM suspended them during a ‘janata darbar’ at PWD Rest House here on a complaint by Mohit, a resident of Kurukshetra’s Samalkhi village. He had installed 16 water recharge structures and his payment of Rs 18.58 lakh was allegedly not disbursed even after having made several rounds to the groundwater cell’s office. Mohit had alleged the draftman and the clerk had sought bribe to clear his dues. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/haryana/two-officers-of-groundwater-cell-suspended-209266  (08 Feb. 2021)

Calangute Dirty water seeps into water line Calangute panchayat member Shawn Martins said that though efforts have been made to rectify the problem, they’ve still not been able to locate the exact spot where the contaminated water is entering the water pipeline. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/dirty-water-seeps-into-calangute-water-line/articleshow/80888326.cms  (13 Feb. 2021)

MONSOON

Report Monitoring rainfall changes in wettest place An analysis of 119 years of rainfall measurements at different rain gauge stations across northeast India, has revealed a decreasing trend in rainfall since 1973. Areas considered wettest in the world are also showing changes in rainfall that may have implications for water management. The decline in rainfall is driven by changes in the Indian Ocean temperature and conversion of forestlands and vegetation cover to croplands in the last two decades. Long-term data is needed to better understand, detect, predict and respond to changes in rainfall variability due to climate change.  https://india.mongabay.com/2021/02/monitoring-rainfall-changes-in-worlds-wettest-place/  (11 Feb. 2021)

ENERGY OPTIONS

IEA calls for overhaul of energy mix for zero emissions by 2060 India needs to adopt transformational changes in its energy mix to be able to transition to net zero emissions by the mid-2060s, according to the India Energy Outlook report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) on Tuesday (Feb. 9).

Net zero emissions mean that any new greenhouse gas emissions are balanced by absorbing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere. Several countries including the United States, China and members of the European Union have already announced plans to achieve net zero emissions in the coming decades.

To achieve net zero emissions by the 2060s, India’s energy sector will need “profound transformation,” the India Energy Outlook said. India is the fourth largest global energy consumer now after China, the United States and the European Union. At current rates of growth, India will overtake the European Union by 2030 to move up to third position. India’s rate of GDP growth will add the equivalent of another Japan to the world economy by 2040, IEA said.  https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/iea-calls-for-overhaul-of-energy-mix-for-zero-emissions-by-2060-101612895157540.html  (10 Feb. 2021)

Maharashtra BMC is planning a floating solar project on Middle Vaitarna dam to supply power at Rs 4.75 per unit. https://www.mumbailive.com/en/infrastructure/bmc-will-set-100-mw-floating-solar-hybrid-project-on-middle-vaitarna-dam-61347  (09 Feb. 2021)

Tamil Nadu Striking a fine energy balance While coal-based energy continues to be the primary source of Tamil Nadu’s electricity requirements, the fragile state of finances of power generation units and the global push towards clean energy sources will eventually force a reckoning of sorts in the energy industry, say experts. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/striking-a-fine-energy-balance/article33832987.ece  (14 Feb. 2021)

ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE

Opinion An ecologically illiterate Budget On several significant items relating to the environment, allocations have remained stagnant or fallen says Ashish Kothari.

The government could argue that while direct allocations to environment-related institutions and schemes may not have risen significantly, there are substantial allocations to sectors that have a positive environmental impact. For instance, the 2021 Budget has allocated ₹3,500 crore for wind and solar energy, ₹4,000 crore for a ‘Deep Ocean Mission’, and ₹50,011 crore for urban drinking water. All of these have positive ecological potential, but let’s examine them a bit more closely.

According to Himanshu Thakkar of the SANDRP, the same issue bedevils the drinking water allocations. In principle any scheme for urban drinking water is positive. But with the continuation of a highly centralised approach to all such schemes, there is a ‘one size fits all’ approach, heavily focused on expensive infrastructure like big reservoirs and pipelines. Instead, a decentralised approach that uses a mix of local rooftop and backyard harvesting, restoration and conservation of urban wetlands, and regenerating groundwater could achieve much better results. And as in energy, there is no focus on incentivising responsible consumption, restraining luxury uses, and redistributing water more equitably, without which no amount of infrastructure will be enough. https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/an-ecologically-illiterate-budget/article33785392.ece/amp/  (09 Feb. 2021)

Budget has given environmental conservation issues a slip  Allocations for environment highly inadequate, say experts. “Despite the country’s economic growth and its position of being the fifth largest economy in the world, the allocations to the MoEF have been shrinking in real terms,” said Ashish Kothari, Founder-member, Kalpavriksh, Pune while chairing the session.

“There is a need to estimate the ecological footprint of all activities. A methodology should be devised under which every ministry/department can access the ecological footprint of their work and come out with the indices and results. Similarly, every city and each individual should have the capacity to estimate their ecological footprint. The government should consider these aspects for the budgeting process,” added Thakkar. https://www.indiawaterportal.org/article/budget-2021-environmental-conservation-or-business-usual  (13 Feb. 2021)

State must not defame youth by Ashish Kothari In a “business-as-usual” scenario, today’s youth will inherit a world with all rivers and lakes polluted or drained out, air in cities not fit to breathe, no prospects for satisfactory and dignified livelihoods (given the “jobless growth” that India has witnessed for over two decades), so-called “natural” disasters waiting for them at every turn, and complete subservience to the diktats of powerful corporations and the state. Why should they not protest? They have every right to do so, and if activists abroad support them, this is not evidence that there is an international conspiracy, or that anything is threatening India’s security. Indeed, the real anti-national here is a government that undermines the country’s ecological present and future, and the democratic rights of its citizens.  https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/state-must-not-defame-youth-standing-with-farmers-its-the-future-they-are-fighting-for-7188819/  (15 Feb. 2021)

Vaccination of manual scavengers must be prioritised by Pragya Akhilesh During the pandemic, manual scavengers kept entering septic tanks because we failed to provide them a safety net. Some migrant labourers also took up the work of scavenging. https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/manual-scavengers-covid-vaccination-frontline-sanitation-workers-7188686/  (15 Feb. 2021)

Karnataka Govt rejects Kasturirangan report The govt has been preparing to approach the apex court over uncertainties over the implementation of K Kasturirangan Committee report. The report declares nearly 1,500 places across the Western Ghats as ecologically sensitive. In their response, the govt said that they totally reject the Kasturirangan report. “The govt has resolved to approach the Supreme Court and challenge the implementation of the report by the Union government if the NGT directs them to do so,” read the reply.

While the Forest Minister Aravind Limbavali was unavailable for comment when contacted, the Environment and Ecology Minister C P Yogeshwar, who recently assumed the office, said that he is yet to take cognizance of the issue. The state government has taken the decision as the NGT is hearing the case filed by Goa Foundation to implement the Kasturirangan committee report. The foundation then moved the case to the Supreme Court that served notice to all the concerned governments to respond. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/karnataka-govt-rejects-kasturirangan-report-western-ghats-plans-approach-sc-143331  (12 Feb. 2021)

Goa Activists warn of Chamoli like tragedy if Mollem projects not cancelled Goencho Ekvott and Goencho Avaaz have asked the state government to consider the disaster in Uttarakhand as a “wake-up call” and stop being insensitive towards the preservation and protection of the environment. “We want to tell the elected representatives to take precautions and stop destroying fields and the environment in the name of development,” Captain Viriato Fernandes said, adding that similar tragedies were seen in Kerala two years ago and in Canacona in 2009 and could hit Goa again if deforestation continues.

Activists criticised the government for its refusal to reconsider the destructive projects passing through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in the Western Ghats and alleged that this showed the insensitivity on the part of chief minister Pramod Sawant to consider the people’s plea. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/activists-warn-of-uttarakhand-type-tragedy-if-mollem-projects-not-cancelled/articleshow/80803413.cms  (11 Feb. 2021)

Uttarakhand 2 forest officials die in Pauri wildfire 2forest personnel lost their lives on Feb. 7 while they were dousing wildfire in Lavintha village of Pauri forest division —where 106 forest fire incidents were recorded from October till date. A senior IFS officer claimed that the two officials died due to “absence of fire fighting kits”. Prior to this, two villagers, Saraswati Devi (60) and Hema Devi (25), both from Thana Matena village of Almora, died when the wildfire reached their village on January 24.

This comes days before the wildfire season in the state officially commences on February 15. During this time, the spring sets in due to which trees shed dry leaves and the soil loses moisture as a result of a rise in temperature. The forest fire season continues till mid-June.

“We have already released Rs 5.75 crore for upgrading the fire fighting facilities of the personnel,” said Head of state’s forest force Rajeev Bhartari. Till date, 287 wildfire incidents have been recorded and 247.97 hectares of forest cover were burnt. A cumulative loss of over Rs 16 lakh was estimated by the forest department while over 5,500 trees were burnt.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/absence-of-firefighting-kits-claims-lives-of-two-forest-officials-in-pauri-wildfire/articleshow/80867567.cms  (12 Feb. 2021)

CLIMATE CHANGE

Study Role of warm ocean conditions; MJO in genesis & intensification of extremely severe cyclone Fani Vineet Kumar Singh, M. K. Roxy & Medha Deshpande

Abstract:- Our analysis shows that the Madden Julian Oscillation and anomalous high sea surface temperatures provided conducive dynamic and thermodynamic conditions for the genesis of cyclone Fani, despite forming very close to the equator where cyclogenesis is generally unlikely. Further, favourable ocean subsurface conditions and the presence of a warm core eddy in the region led to its rapid intensification to an extremely severe cyclone. A large area of warm ocean surface and subsurface temperatures aided the cyclone to maintain very high wind speed for a record time period. The vital role of the ocean surface and the subsurface in the genesis and the intensification highlights the need to efficiently incorporate ocean initial conditions (surface and sub-surface) and ocean–atmosphere coupling in the operational cyclone forecasting framework. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-82680-9  (11 Feb. 2021)

SOUTH ASIA

Book Review Indus Basin with a lesson on war and peace Uttam Sinha’s Indus Basin Uninterrupted, written with remarkable ease, engages not only with the ‘hydrology heritage’ of the basin but also with the history of major developments on its banks. The Indus Basin is a powerful symbol of the passage of time and the rivers, since time immemorial, have governed peoples’ lives, sharpening identities, and facilitating the ‘intercourse of peace and commerce’. The land around the rich ows of water dictated agriculture, ordered territories and attracted invaders. The book while accounting all this intermixes just the right amount of historical context with political analysis to the sociological-economic unfolding on the Indus Basin ending with the signing of the Indus aters Treaty that the author calls a “historical pause”. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/view-a-new-book-explores-indus-basin-with-a-lesson-on-war-and-peace/articleshow/80879011.cms  (12 Feb. 2021)

India-Afghanistan Pact on $300 mn dam  India and Afghanistan could sign a pact this week for the construction of the Shahtoot dam, which aims to provide safe drinking water to 2 million people in Kabul and supplement irrigation facilities in about 400 hectares of agricultural land in Chahar Asiab and Khairabad districts in Kabul province in Afghanistan. The dam (storage capacity 147 MCM) is expected to be built on the Maidan river tributary of Kabul river. The dam project has been in the works for several years even as Pakistan has expressed concern that it would reduce water flow into the country. https://www.livemint.com/news/india/india-and-afghanistan-may-sign-pact-on-300-mn-dam-this-week-11612805733668.html  (08 Feb. 2021)

Nepal Budhi Gandaki: Mega-dam remains a mirage Plans to build Nepal’s biggest ever hydropower project have gone through a bewildering series of politically motivated changes since 2011. Now it seems the Nepali government cannot get the Chinese contractor to say when construction might start. Meanwhile, the lives of some 50,000 people are being disrupted for a project Nepali energy sector experts have criticised as fast becoming financially unviable, due to the falling costs of other renewables, such as wind and solar.

The Budhi Gandaki hydro project was meant to be finished by 2022, almost doubling Nepal’s electricity supply by adding 1200 MW. The project plans envisage a lake 45 kilometres long in central and western Nepal, behind a dam 263 metres high (one of the world’s 10 tallest). The reservoir’s steady flow should permit output of 3.38 billion units of electricity a year. The Budhi Gandaki river is a major tributary of the Gandak river which carries turbulent Himalayan waters into northern India.   The Budhi Gandaki hydropower plant should have been completed by 2022. In 2015, the project cost was estimated at US $2.5 billion— more than one fourth of Nepal’s total budget that year.  https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/livelihoods/budhi-gandaki-nepals-mega-dam-remains-a-mirage/  (12 Feb. 2021)

China-Pakistan Fishers fearful as China eyes fisheries A Chinese diplomat’s announcement that China will expand Gwadar’s fishing industry scares fishers in Pakistan’s coastal cities, who already face destitution due to dwindling catch. https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/livelihoods/fishers-fearful-as-china-eyes-pakistans-fisheries/  (11 Feb. 2021)

Pakistan Discourse Analysis of Water Policy Debate Abstract:- This article explores the water policy narrative in Pakistan, and identifies its historical trajectories and influences, as well as the impact of the global agenda setting of water for 2030. https://www.mdpi.com/2073-4441/12/6/1656/htm 

Bangladesh Awami League activist shot dead in Pabna An Awami League activist has been shot to death in Pabna. The incident occurred in the district’s Ataikanda Bazar at around 8:15pm on Sunday (Feb. 14). The deceased was identified as Amirul Islam, 32, an activist of Bharara union parishad Awami League.  According to locals, Amirul was a close associate to Sultan Mahmud, a leader of Bharara union parishad Awami League. The deceased was shot thrice, they added. He may have been killed by an opposition group who are aiming to establish supremacy in the local sand mining business, they said. https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/nation/2021/02/14/awami-league-activist-shot-dead-in-pabna  (14 Feb. 2021)

ASIA

Living Delta Hub In this Lug piece, Siobhan Warrington  introduces the Living Deltas Hub and provides an update on how the Newcastle Oral History Unit & Collective is contributing to this large, five-year (2019-2024) international and interdisciplinary project.

The Living Deltas Hub seeks to deliver research and related activities that will contribute towards sustainable and equitable futures for those living in the Delta regions of the Mekong and the Red River in Vietnam and the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) river system (including the Sundarbans).  Coordinated by Newcastle University, it is a partnership of academic institutes from Vietnam, India, Bangladesh and beyond, consisting of over 100 researchers.  https://blogs.ncl.ac.uk/oral-history/2021/02/03/i-used-to-love-standing-barefoot-in-the-river/  (03 Feb. 2021)   

MEKONG River drops to “worrying” levels Mekong River water levels between Jinghong hydropower station in China’s Yunnan province and the Mekong Delta in Viet Nam have fallen to worrying levels, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Secretariat said today (Feb. 12).  Water levels have dropped considerably since the beginning of the year due to lower rainfall, flow changes upstream, hydropower operations in the Mekong tributaries, and outflow restrictions from the Jinghong dam.

“There have been sudden rises and falls in water levels immediately downstream of Jinghong and further down to Vientiane, which has been challenging for authorities and communities to prepare for and respond to possible impacts,” said Dr Winai Wangpimool, Director of the MRC Secretariat’s Technical Support Division.

The MRC’s monthly rainfall observations show that since November last year rainfall has been consistently lower than average, falling by 25%. The Commission’s observed water level data also indicate that outflow at the Jinghong station yesterday was 775 cubic meters per second (m³/s), a plunge of almost half of its normal level of approximately 1,400 m³/s, which was last recorded in December.

Since the initial fall on 1 January, outflow levels at Jinghong from 1 to 7 January were stable at 785 m³/s but gradually rose to 1,400 m³/s on 15 January, representing a 1.07-metre rise in the water level. The outflow then dropped to 740 m³/s during 15–23 January, before rising to 990 m³/s on 29 January. It then fell gradually, reaching 800 m³/s on 11 February.  https://www.mrcmekong.org/news-and-events/news/pr002-12022021/  (12 Feb. 2021)

Indigenous people ‘under threat’ from Asia clean energy push Worldwide, the rush to adopt renewable energy to reduce carbon emissions is hurting rural and indigenous communities disproportionately, with their lands taken for solar, wind, bioenergy and hydropower projects, human rights groups say.

While renewable energy has a large land footprint, the projects receive government incentives and less scrutiny than fossil-fuel projects such as coal, and few companies have policies to avoid or minimise human rights abuses. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-landrights-renewables-environment-fea-idUSKBN2A903H  (09 Feb. 2021)

THE REST OF THE WORLD

NASA Reveals Rare Photos Of ‘Gold Rivers’ In Peruvian Amazon In the new extraordinary photos revealed by NASA, the Peruvian Amazon can be seen glittering like gold. The aerial view shots taken aboard the International Space Station, are simply stunning. While that glow is just sunlight reflecting off hundreds of pits of muddy water, there is plenty of gold in them. Each glistening pool is a gold-prospecting pit, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory website, believed to have been dug by unlicensed miners.

Peru’s Madre de Dios state, shown in this picture, is home to a huge unregulated industry with thousands of miners trying to make a living. As many as 30,000 small-scale miners (working outside of government regulations) prospect illegally in the area, tearing up the rainforest with excavators and trucks in order to unearth the gold underneath. 

Illegal mining can be a boon to impoverished workers in Madre de Dios, but a detriment to the Amazon. According to a 2011 study in the journal PLOS One, gold mining is the single greatest cause of deforestation in the region. While the price of gold is steadily increasing, people from local communities that are often deprived see an opportunity to make a living from mining.  Another part of Peru, La Pampa was the site of a huge gold rush that lasted close to a decade. It was finally halted by the government in 2019 when around 5,000 miners were expelled. https://www.indiatimes.com/trending/environment/amazon-gold-rivers-nasa-photos-534154.html  (12 Feb. 2021)

Hundreds of Fish Species, Including Many That Humans Eat, Are Consuming Plastic https://www.ecowatch.com/fish-consuming-plastic-2650530342.html  (13 Feb. 2021)

Nigeria Polluted communities ‘can sue Shell in English courts’ The UK Supreme Court has ruled that oil-polluted Nigerian communities can sue Shell in English courts. The decision is a victory for the communities after a five-year battle, and overturns a Court of Appeal ruling.

The Niger Delta communities of more than 40,000 people say decades of pollution have severely affected their lives, health and local environment. The oil giant had argued it was only a holding company for a firm that should be judged under Nigerian law. Shell described the legal ruling as disappointing.  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-56041189  (13 Feb. 2021)

Harrowing story of Iron Duke dam collapse https://www.herald.co.zw/harrowing-story-of-iron-duke-dam-collapse/  (13 Feb. 2021)

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

Also see: DRP News Bulletin 08 Feb. 2021 & DRP News Bulletin 01 Feb. 2021  

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

One thought on “DRP NB 15 Feb. 2021: Why Mangshri Devi of Tapovan Should Head Uttarakhand’s Disaster Management Department?

  1. Do we know the term used for people who sell their own mother for money?
    Village people of interior Uttarakhand believe that God is like human beings. When they are duped by city dwellers for building hydel projects by saying that they are going to get jobs or their area will be developed like Delhi or Mumbai, they are already incurring sins. When these power projects bring in destruction to those villagers, it’s already enough. And just like Dr. Ravi Chopra said in his recent interview to The Wire that humanity is losing its ground as people living in cities don’t even bother that a flash flood destroyed too many lives and those left behind have nowhere to go.

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