Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 22 Feb 2021: Case against NTPC for criminal negligence in Tapovan Project?

(Feature image: NDRF personnel carry out rescue and restoration work at damaged Tapovan Vishnugad barrage after the massive flash flood. PTI/Arun Sharma)

Consider these facts: The NTPC, the project developer, failed to appraise that the 520 MW Tapovan Vishnugad Hydropower project, where maximum damage and deaths occurred in Chamoli Avalanche disaster that started on Feb 7, 2021 morning, is in Paraglacial influence zone. Such an appraisal would have meant a number of implications, including possibly a decision that the project is geologically unviable.

NTPC failed to take any action to save the workers even after it was known upto 10-20 minutes before the disaster struck. Something that Mangshri Devi could do to save about 25 lives, NTPC could not do.

The project had faced several disasters since 2008, but fails to put in early warning system in place. For several days post disaster, reports say that NTPC failed to share even the detailed map of the tunnel where over 30 workers were stuck. NTPC’s disaster management system showed no signs of existence throughout the disaster. Reports say that the barrage gates were closed, which if they were open, it may have helped the flow of the flood debris downstream, which in turn could have possibly meant more time and saving of more lives.

These are just a few facts, many more would come to light if were to have independent inquiry into the disaster at the Tapovan Project as well the overall disaster. But even these limited facts clearly indicate a strong case against NTPC for criminal negligence in execution of the Tapovan Vishnugad Hydropower project. Will the judiciary take due note of this?

Uttarakhand: Chamoli Disaster Absence of early warning system cost many lives This is based on conversation with Himashu Thakkar, coordinator, SANDRP. Thakkar said cameras can be installed on some streams in vulnerable areas. “But this is part of disaster management information. [And] as this incident has illustrated, we are faltering in the first step of disaster management – in getting the information and then using that information.”

Thakkar, acknowledged that “physically monitoring this entire area is not possible.” However, “satellite monitoring is possible and radars can also help minimise loss.” He expressed surprise that despite possessing remarkable satellite capabilities, India still hasn’t been able to use such imagery effectively for advance warning.

A 2019 analysis by SANDRP found that there had been 23 cloud-burst events in the state during the 2019 monsoon season alone – rendering the absence of an early-warning instrument more conspicuous. https://thewire.in/environment/joshimath-nanda-devi-early-*\warning-system  (10 Feb. 2021)

MATU has asked Supreme Court to urgently hear all the pending cases related to the hydropower projects in Uttarakhand.

– Haridwar-based Matri Sadan has also announced that its founder, Shivanand Saraswati will fast unto death from February 23 against hydropower plants in Uttarakhand on river Ganga and all its tributaries – Alaknanada, Bhagirathi and Mandakini — in the state. He also asks to stop quarrying and use of stone crushers, and demands the formation of Ganga Council for protecting the Ganga from unabated exploitation for procuring money at the cost of aquatic biodiversity. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/uttarakhand-disaster-social-organisations-urge-sc-to-hear-pending-cases-on-hydro-projects/81081706 (18 Feb 2021)

MATU PR: Dhouli Ganga Disaster: Consequences of disregard of security arrangements and criminal negligence by NTPC https://matuganga.blogspot.com/2021/02/press-note-17-02-2021.html  (17 Feb. 2021)

Matu Jan Sanathan on Uttarakhand disaster: https://www.counterview.net/2021/02/dholi-ganga-disaster-people-just-dont.html  (18 Feb. 2021)

SHOULD NOT THIS IS SOMETHING THAT NTPC SHOULD HAVE ALREADY DONE THIS, NOT AFTER BEING TOLD AFTER TWO WEEKS OF DISASTER? Chamoli District Magistrate Swati S. Bhadauria had asked the NTPC to press into service additional excavators and divert the course of Dhauli Ganga to the other side so that its water does not flow through the barrage into Tapovan tunnel hampering sludge clearing efforts. River water flowing into the tunnel from the barrage has been a major headache for rescuers at the tunnel making the muck clearing operations even more challenging, Mr. Bhadauria said. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/uttarakhand-glacier-disaster-two-more-bodies-recovered-from-tapovan-site-death-toll-at-68/article33893890.ece  (21 Feb. 2021)

HYDRO POWER PROJECTS

SANDRP Blog Tapovan Vishnugad HPP: delays, damages and destructions Reading this chronology of disasters that Tapovan Vishnugad Project has faced starting from its environment clearance on Feb 8, 2005 and complete destruction a day before 16th anniversary of the clearance date, there is just one conclusion indicated: Scrap the project. Plz Read, Share. https://sandrp.in/2021/02/20/tapovan-vishnugad-hpp-delays-damages-and-destructions/  (20 Feb. 2021)

चमोली आपदा: माँ के फोन कॉल्स से बच गई 25 जिंदगियां फरवरी 7 को चमोली में आई विकराल बाढ़ अपने पीछे भीषण तबाही के निशान के साथ कुछ अहम सबक भी छोड़ गई है जो भविष्य में आपदा प्रबंधन को बेहतर बनाने में बहुत कारगार साबित हो सकते हैं। ऐसा ही एक असंभव किस्सा स्थानीय महिला मंगसीरी देवी का है जिनका 27 साल का लड़का विपुल कैरेनी एनटीपीसी की तपोवन विष्णुगाड जल विद्युत परियोजना में कार्यरत है। https://bit.ly/3s337IM  (19 Feb. 2021)

Uttarakhand Increasing extreme floods and droughts A recent analysis by CEEW India shows a four-fold increase in extreme flood events and two-fold increase in droughts in the past five decades in Uttarakhand. More than 69% of its districts are vulnerable to droughts. Over 50,000 ha of forest cover have been lost in the last 20 years.

“The tragedy in Uttarakhand reiterates the need for detailed district-level climate risk assessments and enhancing adaptive and resilience capacities at various administrative levels. Further, given that vulnerable communities are often the most affected by extreme climate events, they must be made an integral part of risk assessment planning,” said Arunabha Ghosh, CEO, CEEW.

“There is a need to fix accountability in disasters such as the recent Chamoli flash floods in which hydropower projects have been damaged and people killed,” said Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of SANDRP. “In these areas of the Himalayan region, there should be no hydropower projects, which act as threat multipliers,” he told Gaon Connection.  https://en.gaonconnection.com/uttarakhand-the-himalayan-state-is-besieged-by-extreme-floods-and-increased-droughts/  (16 Feb. 2021)

Activists question govt’s move to push on hydel projects The environment ministry said in a statement that it has come up with a common policy for the 7 under-construction hydropower projects in the higher reaches. The policy, which is to be presented in the Supreme Court in July, has been drafted by the environment, power and Jal Shakti ministries.

One of the seven projects is NTPC’s 520 MW Tapovan Vishnugad project that has been completely destroyed. The list includes the 444 MW Vishnugad Pipalkoti, a few kms downstream of Tapovan; the 99 MW Singoli Bhatwari; and the 76MW Phata Byung projects.

The Tapovan Vishnugad project is in a so-called paraglacial zone (above 2,000 metres in Uttarakhand), while the Vishnugad Pipalkoti, Singoli Bhatwari and Phata Byung projects are located in areas bordering paraglacial zones. These are landscapes that are extremely vulnerable to changes in geology related to glacial retreat. All also partially bore the brunt of the 2013 flood or floods that came before.

Experts hope that the February 7 flood will be the last such reminder of the risks associated with hydropower projects in these regions. “The under-construction and existing dams were the reasons for the escalated damage and impact of the 2013 disaster. The same phenomenon was seen in Asi-Ganga flash flood of 2012 and also in the recent tragedy in Rishi and Dhauli Ganga. These dams must be cancelled with immediate effect and the existing dams too must be systematically decommissioned in phases…” said Mallika Bhanot, an activist from Ganga Ahvaan. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/dehradun-news/activists-question-govt-s-move-to-push-on-with-uttarakhand-hydel-projects-101613503065025.html  (17 Feb. 2021)

Uttarakhand fails to deliver early warning system 8 years after it was promised Excellent detailed report that shows how ill prepared the projects and state govt are even eight years after the worst disaster. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/uttarakhand-fails-to-deliver-early-warning-system-8-years-after-it-was-promised-101613565935204-amp.html  (18 Feb. 2021)

Thought provoking analysis of judicial pronouncements on environmental issues. In the context of the Chamoli disaster. https://science.thewire.in/environment/chamoli-floods-are-a-reminder-that-sustainable-development-isnt-enough/  (18 Feb. 2021)

The sentence “India’s re-engagement with large hydro is one such regional dynamic.” seems to imply, rather misleadingly that more large hydro power projects are getting built and commissioned. This is not the case. https://www.hindustantimes.com/opinion/large-hydro-projects-risk-himalayan-communities-101613658884452.html  (19 Feb. 2021) 

This is pandering to pro dam views without providing sufficient place for the known critiques of these projects. Claim that it is the cleanest source of power is also ignoring reality of methane emissions and destruction of the forests – carbon sinks. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/the-lessons-to-be-drawn-from-chamoli-disaster-101613765131618-amp.html  (20 Feb. 2021)

This is a bit ill informed (e.g. SC order came in Aug 2013 and 24 project issue started much earlier because of WII report) and un-informed (e.g. PMO meeting decision in Feb 2019 not to take up ANY new hydro in Uttarakhand). https://theprint.in/india/caught-between-sc-centre-24-uttarakhand-hydel-projects-stuck-on-paper-after-2013-floods/605330/  (16 Feb. 2021)

This explains in some detail about changing snow line that it says contributed to the Chamoli disaster in a relatively dry winter with warmest January of Uttarakhand in 60 years. IIRS estimates that 2-3 MCM of water may have been released in the event. http://www.ipsnews.net/2021/02/india-glacier-disaster-in-a-warming-world-is-there-no-less-lethal-way-to-power-development/  (16 Feb. 2021)

Former IAS officer of Himachal Pradesh cadre writes: What is actually needed ( as Rishiganga proves) is just the reverse- a study on “the unintended environmental consequences of judicial decisions- or the lack of them- that have promoted big ticket projects on faulty economic grounds.”

– Contrary to the NITI Aayog’s whining, the judiciary has done precious little to protect the natural environment from the governments’s “big ticket” depredations: the utterly irresponsible Char Dham Highway marches on, even as the SC takes its own time to decide on the width of the road; it has been almost five years since Mr. Ravi Chopra of the People’s Science Institute Dehradun, appointed as an expert committee by the Supreme Court, submitted his report but the Court has yet to take a final decision on the matter; a report submitted by me to the Himachal High Court in 2010 recommending a moratorium on all hydel projects in the state until the listed vital issues of environmental protection were addressed, remains more or less unimplemented. Just a week after the Uttarakhand tragedy on the 15th of this month, the Supreme Court cleared the diversion of 614 hectares of forest land in Himachal for the execution of 138 big projects, including hydel power plants. https://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/4/20035/Never-Underestimate-the-Power-of-Human-Stupidity  (21 Feb. 2021)

Files obtained by The Wire reveal that the Ministry of Power stated that the e-flow prescribed by the Ministry of Water Resources would cause revenue loss to the HEPs. Hence, an exemption should be granted to those in operation or under construction at the time the notification was issued, the ministry suggested. The ministry even said that if a project incurs losses due to the regulation, they should be compensated for it. https://thewire.in/government/power-ministry-dilute-environemntal-flow-rules-so-hydro-projects  (21 Feb. 2021)

In 2018, the Centre had fixed environmental flow of the Himalayan Ganga at 20-30%. However, the Rawat government asked this limit to be further reduced to avoid monetary losses. Uttarakhand government had also refused to implement the NGT’s order to ensure minimum E-flow of 15%. https://thewire.in/environment/uttarakhand-rawat-govt-reduced-water-flow-hydro-projects  (19 Feb. 2021)

Uma Bharti said that as a minister she had spoken against having any power project on the Ganga and its major tributaries. https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/as-a-minister-i-was-against-power-projects-on-ganga-uma-bharti-121020700777_1.html  (07 Feb. 2021)

The track of the Chamoli landslide and debris flow. Image prepared by Planet Labs, used with permission. AUG Blog

Dave Petley on Planetlab images and their interpretations about Chamoli disaster. https://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/2021/02/15/perspectives-on-the-chamoli-debris-flow-disaster-in-uttarakhand/  (15 Feb. 2021)

CWC shares pictures showing damages to Rishiganga HEP. https://twitter.com/CWCOfficial_GoI/status/1361370133931778052?s=20

Outlook carries hundreds of images covering Chamoli disaster impact and rescue work. https://www.outlookindia.com/photos/place/uttarakhand/698?photo-257786 

Scientists studying samples to know roots disaster Five WIHG researchers travelled to the disaster site and later undertook aerial surveys right upto the vicinity of the Raunthi glacier, near the Nandadevi biosphere reserve. Sameer Trivedi, who was among those involved in the reconnaissance and analysis, said he and his colleagues had managed to extract several boulders of glacier —some about 25 kg — from the slurry even as rescue operations were on. “We’ve collected several samples. We also have sediment samples from glaciers in the region from previous expeditions. We can now compare them and be more certain of the glacial origin of the avalanche,” he said. Other in his team included Manish Mehta, Amit Kumar, Vineet Kumar and Akshaya Verma.

An outstanding research question that the scientists are poring over is what might have caused the rock to break off. The current hypothesis is that it was a natural process of freezing and thawing of the icy mountains over eons that might have caused cracks to develop, weakening the structure and causing it to crumble. Another suggestion is that a heavy mass of snow may have fallen over the glacier that was already partially melting, causing it to break off. However the scientists’ team reports that residents of Raini village, located near the Rishiganga, have reported hearing a loud blast just prior to the avalanche. “It could be due to an enormous volume of water, or there could be another source, we don’t know yet,” said WIHG Director Kalachand Sain. https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/scientists-studying-samples-to-know-roots-of-uttarakhand-glacier-disaster/article33851727.ece  (16 Feb. 2021)

Navy team measures depth of glacial lake In a joint operation, an Indian Air Force Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) winched Navy’s divers to measure the depth of a glacial lake formed upstream of Tapovan in Uttarakhand following the devastating flash flood. “The Naval divers undertook the challenging task of winching down from the helo and recording of depth using a handheld echo sounder (depth measuring equipment) in the near freezing waters. Throughout the operation, the IAF pilots maintained accurate positioning in the difficult terrain,” the Navy said. The data will help scientists determine the pressure on the mud wall of the dam. According to the Central Water Commission, the lake is 400 metres in length, 25 metres wide and 60 metres deep. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/navy-team-measures-depth-of-glacial-lake-in-uttarakhands-tapovan/article33894655.ece  (21 Feb. 2021)

50,000 cubic m of water in new Chamoli lake In a joint operation Saturday (Feb. 21), an Indian Air Force ALH winched divers from the Indian Navy into the lake to measure its depth. As the helicopter hovered 14,000 ft above sea level, the divers plunged into the ice-cold water with handheld echo sounders to calculate the depth.

A Navy diver winched by an IAF helicopter into the lake. (Source: Indian Navy/TIE)

They now have a number. The lake that was formed upstream of the Rishi Ganga river after the February 7 flash floods in Chamoli district, holding the potential of a fresh deluge, is between 8 metres and 9 metres in depth at different points, and contains about 50,000 cubic metres of water. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/what-lies-beneath-50000-cubic-m-of-water-in-new-chamoli-lake-7198847/  (22 Feb. 2021)

Rise in Rishganga riverbed The river beds of Dhauliganga and Rishiganga rivers have risen by few metres especially at Tapovan area after the February 7 deluge. “We have noticed considerable rise in river beds after the floods which is a big issue before us,” said a top NTPC official. Scientists and other agencies are continuously observing the Rishiganga lake at a height of 14,000 feet in the Himalayas in Chamoli district. Naval divers have also made a survey to observe the area and its depth. SDRF personnel at Pang and other areas along Rishiganga lake are also closely monitoring the flow of the Rishiganga river. In addition to this, alert sensors have also been set up along the river. The lake appears to be 750 metres long. https://www.siasat.com/ukhand-disaster-rise-in-dhauliganga-rishiganga-river-beds-2095285/  (22 Feb. 2021)

Alaknanda turns muddier The river is usually clear in winter, Uttarakhand Pollution Control Board (UPCB) environment engineer Ankur Kansal said; it becomes muddy only in the monsoon. Kansal could not recall when the Alaknanda had been seen this muddy in winter. The flood weakened downstream of Tapovan, & the mud and debris reached Rishikesh on Feb 11, travelling 250 km in three days. UPCB data show the Ganga was clean at Rishikesh and Haridwar on Feb 6; it was classified as “muddy” on Feb 11, and is currently “turbid”.

This photo of the muddy river was taken on February 13, six days after the flash flood. The Alaknanda at Devprayag looked the same even on Friday. TIE

The volume of debris that fell into the Rishi Ganga and was carried downstream to the Alaknanda is difficult to estimate, Dr Kalachand Sain, Director, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, said. But it is estimated that a glacial rock mass of 0.2 to 0.4 million cubic metre volume fell from about 5,600 m to 3,600 m along a 40-degree incline, transforming into a muddy slurry as it picked up vegetation and loose rock along the way, Dr Sain said. Prof Y P Sundriyal of the Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University in Srinagar said no timeframe can be given for the water to flow clear again. https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/alaknanda-river-colour-uttarakhand-floods-7196257/  (20 Feb. 2021)

Sunday off saved 10 Jharkhand labourers All 10 working on the NTPC project site returned home on Friday (12 Feb.). They were dropped at Haridwar by a bus arranged by the contractor they were working for. The rest of the journey was on train without a ticket. At least 14 more from Jharkhand working in Chamoli are still missing.

“We were playing cards outside our rooms. Suddenly, we heard people screaming. We gathered at a place and saw a 40-metre wall of water approaching and taking everything along with it. We started climbing uphill, leaving everything behind. Because it was a Sunday, we were relaxing at the makeshift camp set up for labourers,” Jainath recalls.

In Jharkhand, people do not work on Sundays. Not all around them were that fortunate. “About 4-5 workers from Bihar were sleeping inside and didn’t take it seriously when they were told to run. They got washed away in the flood,” says Jainath. It was only a few days that Jainath & Co worked at the ill-fated site. They had reached Chamoli around two weeks ago and were in quarantine before reporting for work. “We worked for just 4-5 days before disaster struck,” says Jainath. https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2021/feb/14/uttarakhand-floods-sunday-off-saved-lives-of-labourers-from-jharkhand-2263707.html  (14 Feb. 2021)

NTPC still to disclose loss of lives NTPC is extending a compensation of ₹20 lakh to the immediate family of the contract labourers of the agency engaged in construction of NTPC project, the firm said in a statement. State and Centre have separately announced compensation package of ₹4 lakh and ₹2 lakh, respectively. Further, compensation against the provident fund and Employees’ Compensation Act covered under statutory provisions of the workers in the range of ₹5 lakh to ₹15 lakh will also be made available, the statement added. The firm has not disclosed the exact number of workers at the affected project.  https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/ntpc-fast-tracks-compensation-for-families-of-uttarakhand-disaster-victims/article33843109.ece  (15 Feb. 2021)

Opinion Upper Himalayan valleys should be declared ESZ by Karan Singh Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and West Bengal (Darjeeling) fall within the immediate presence of the Himalayas, not to speak of the North Eastern States, which have their own set of environmental problems. This is an area where a creative federalism will be required if we are to meet the grave threats that loom ahead. https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/uttarakhand-glacier-burst-flash-flood-himalayas-7194740/   (19 Feb. 2021)

An Age Gone Blind How state and central governments ignored warnings, recommendations after 2013 disaster and kept pushing for more hydro projects in Uttarakhand.

Road construction is adding to growing water shortages in the Himalayas also because it disrupts local hydrology, clogging the network of water springs. Unlike what is often assumed, most water in north Indian rivers gathers in the main basins through such springs, whose health depends on the condition of the forests. https://openthemagazine.com/columns/age-gone-blind/  (11 Feb. 2021) 

Need for Ecology first, economy next India has created formidable legislative and institutional bulwarks to protect its environment, but none manage to get in the way of potentially damaging projects writes K Jayakumar. https://www.newindianexpress.com/opinions/2021/feb/13/the-need-for-ecology-first-economy-next-2263410.html  (13 Feb. 2021)

Aligning growth, politics and climate by Dr Arunabha Ghosh India continues to witness the wanton destruction of biodiversity and fragile ecosystems from ill-planned and poorly executed infrastructure projects. The contractor-politician nexus will not weaken easily. But these examples indicate a pathway to reform, strengthening the politician’s hand when new market interests and people’s priorities align with sustainable choices. https://www.hindustantimes.com/opinion/aligning-growth-politics-and-climate-101613394230556.html  (16 Feb. 2021)

Himachal Pradesh More than a dozen organizations from the hill state have come together to highlight dangers of climate change, exacerbated by exploitation of land, forests and water https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/environment/chamoli-disaster-what-lesson-can-himachal-learn-75587  (18 Feb. 2021)

SC okays diversion of forest land for 138 big projects  The SC on Feb.16 gave clearance to 138 projects, including several hydro and one hybrid electric projects, involving diversion of 614 hectares that had been hanging fire for several years. A three-judge Green Bench headed by CJI SA Bobde gave the green signal for 289 other projects involving diversion of 122 hectare forest land subject to certain conditions. Under an earlier verdict of the top court, permission of the Green Bench is needed for diversion of forest land for any other purpose.

The Bench, which also included Justice AS Bopanna and Justice V Ramasubramanian, also gave the go-ahead to Rs 1,337-crore Green Corridor National Highway project of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. It also gave approval for the construction of two-lane NH 20A (new NH 503) at a cost of Rs 61.48 crore. While the first highway project involved a diversion of around 50 hectare forest land the second one would require a diversion of more than seven hectares. The state government had moved five applications praying for various reliefs, including the diversion of forest land to small extents for the purpose of carrying out certain public welfare projects. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/sc-okays-diversion-of-forest-land-for-138-big-projects-in-himachal-212984  (16 Feb. 2021)

The hydel power station (L) and the intake point (R). The Arunachal Times

Arunachal Pradesh Rina hydel in need of repair, threatens village The Rina mini hydel power station, with an installed capacity of 2,100 kw, commissioned in 2008, if not repaired soon will be a threat to the village, said Rina-Hipo segment Gram Panchayat Chairperson Mardo Rina, and asked the government to sanction fund for the station which was damaged in September 2020 and the year before.

The department stated that civil structures of the plant were damaged by a landslide caused by a cloudburst in the area. The 2020 landslides led to destruction of the newly constructed downstream apron of diversion, the water intake structure, the fore-bay tank, and the retaining wall of the powerhouse. The department had already written to the government for funds for repairing all segments of the plant.

The plant, which is in the village, also poses a threat to the village if not repaired early, Rina said. Rina said that, if the plant is not repaired before the monsoon season, it will have to be shut down for the safety of the villagers, and thus deprive Lower Siang and Siang districts of power. He further said that three elected representatives – Ninong Ering, Kento Rina and Kaling Moyong – had already written to the power department for repair of the plant last year. https://arunachaltimes.in/index.php/2021/02/22/rina-hydel-in-need-of-repair-threatens-village/  (22 Feb. 2021)

Jammu & Kashmir Stop axing trees for Ujh HEP Plea to stop axing trees for Ujh project. Will the Supreme Court look into this as it says beneficial trees cannot be axed for development? https://www.dailyexcelsior.com/stop-axing-trees-for-ujh-he-project/  (18 Feb. 2021)

MoEF Key decisions in the minutes of the EAC meeting for River Valley Projects held on Feb 7, 2021:

1. Sirkari-Bhyol Rupsiabagar HEP (168MW) in Pithoragarh Dist of Uttarakhand by UJVNL for Env Clearance: Info Sought

2. Luhri HEP-1 (210MW) in Shimla Dist of Himachal Pradesh by SJVN – Amendment in EC: APPROVED

3. Reoli Dugli HEP-430 MW in Dist Lahaul-Spiti, Himachal Pradesh by SJVN for Terms of Reference: APPROVED

4. Teesta Intermediate HEP (2×30+2×15 MW) Kirney Village of Kalimpong Dist in W Bengal by W Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company for Terms of Reference: APPROVED

5. Bardang BHEP of 175MW in dist Lahaul & Spiti, Himachal Pradesh by SJVN Ltd. – Terms of Reference: APPROVED

6. Purthi HEP Project (232 MW Capacity) in dist Chamba, Himachal Pradesh by SJVN – Terms of Reference: APPROVED http://environmentclearance.nic.in/writereaddata/Form-1A/Minutes/18022021CAO72PG4ApprovedMOM_7thEAC_RVHEP.pdf 

DAMS

Study Ageing dams pose a safety risk India’s dams are more vulnerable to deterioration because a large proportion of them are earthen–built by compacting successive layers of earth, and not concrete and are hence more prone to ageing, said Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of SANDRP. “Secondly, the country gets concentrated rainfall every year for a designated time period as opposed to distributed rainfall, which contributes to the dams’ vulnerability. Thirdly, siltation, which is the accumulation of silt and debris behind the reservoir, leads to a reduction in the storage capacity of the dams. The actual siltation rate of the dams is higher than what is estimated in the proposals. Since siltation rates determine the costs and benefits of a dam, operators tend to underestimate the costs and overestimate the benefits when pushing for sanctions. The Central Water Commission’s recent study on the Srisailam project on the Krishna river also found that the dam’s storage capacity was reduced as a result of siltation. There are several more studies that clearly show that the actual siltation rates are several times higher than what was estimated,” added Thakkar. https://www.indiaspend.com/amp/infrastructure/indias-ageing-dams-pose-a-safety-risk-study-727458  (17 Feb. 2021)

Kerala Panel fixes rule curve level for Mullaperiyar dam At a meeting of the supervisory committee appointed by the Supreme Court at Kumily on Friday (Feb. 19), it was informed that the rule curve level had been finalised by the CWC. It also discussed the inflow forecasting system at the Mullaperiyar dam. It is in accordance with an apex court order raising the water level to 142 ft in 2015.

The CWC has already set the new rule curve level for the Idukki reservoir downstream of the Mullaperiyar dam. Though the water level crossed the blue alert level as per the rule curve level last monsoon, it was below the red alert level.

The sudden opening of the Idukki dam in August 2018 had caused large-scale damage downstream. The opening of the shutters of the Mullaperiyar dam caused a flood situation on the Periyar, leading to increased inflow into the Idukki reservoir.

As per the rule curve level, Tamil Nadu has to draw more water in case of an increased inflow into the dam. It was a long-pending demand of Kerala to keep the Mullaperiyar water level at a manageable level after it was raised to 142 ft.

The meeting, attended by representatives of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, discussed the update of the operation manual system and preparation of an emergency action plan for the Mullaperiyar dam. It also discussed issues related to strengthening of the baby dam, including removal of trees for its safety. The meeting also deliberated the procurement of seismometers and accelerometers to be installed at the dam site. Earlier, the supervisory committee inspected the main dam, earthen embankment, and the baby dam. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/panel-fixes-rule-curve-level-for-mullaperiyar/article33883367.ece  (19 Dec. 2021)

For the first time, the Tamil Nadu government has handed over the rule curve of the Mullaperiyar dam to Kerala. This comes after repeated requests from the state’s water resources department. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kochi/tn-hands-over-new-rule-curve-of-mullaperiyar-dam/articleshow/81129493.cms  (21 Feb. 2021)

Polavaram Project Engineers work for smooth passage of Pulasa fish “The CIFRI studied the physiology and behaviour of Pulasa (Hilsa) fish in choosing its path in the river and designed a specialised Fish Ladder Gate to be erected on one of the piers of the spillway to enable the unhindered passage of fish during the season,” the Polavaram chief engineer said. The fish ladder gate is about 252 metres in length and has three vents at various levels of the spillway so that the fish could move freely even if water levels keep changing.

– “We have made this arrangement in the second pier of the dam, keeping in view the path of the Pulasa fish. The fish ladder gate can be adjusted according to the water level,” Satish said. Each vent of the fish ladder gate will be of six feet height and four feet in width, which will provide enough space for the fish to pass through during the season. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/engineers-work-on-polavaram-dam-on-godavari-for-smooth-passage-of-pulasa-fish-101613240941824.html  (14 Feb. 2021)

the country and the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh has taken a major hit, according to the Centre’s report on ‘Sedimentation of Reservoirs in India 2020’. The report says that the major reservoirs in these states were in the list of reservoirs that have lost more than 50 per cent of its gross water holding capacity, dead storage and live capacity.

The Nizamsagar Dam in Telangana reported a 60.47 percent loss in its gross capacity upto the last survey conducted in 1992. The Nagarjuna Sagar Dam that was last surveyed in the year 2009, had recorded a 40.73% loss of dead storage. Whereas, Andhra’s Vamsadhara Dam has had a 60.43 percent loss of live storage capacity, upto 2004.

As a result, experts say that the storage in these reservoirs, among others, is receding at a far faster rate than anticipated, resulting in dire consequences in the future. Several reservoirs may already be choked, given the data from surveys conducted decades ago for most dams, the report warns.

The average rate of siltation in these reservoirs, for instance at the Nagarjuna Sagar Dam and the reservoir it forms, has been observed to be more than what was designated as an acceptable rate of siltation. While the designed rate of silitation of thousand cubic metres per square km per year  in Nagarjuna Sagar Reserovir was 0.22, the average observed rate of silitation came out to be 0.30. Dead storage loss in Nagarjuna Sagar (40.73 %) is also a cause of concern.

Telangana is now planning to create vegetative cover along the catchment area, and also looking into the option of artificial reservoirs, construction of check dams on small streams to arrest sedimentation as much as possible, said Sridhar Rao Deshpande, OSD to Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao. “It is a big task to desilt these huge reservoirs. This issue is not just limited to India, but is a problem world over. However, the southern states of India are much more affected than the north, due to the Himalayan rivers there”, he said. The way ahead to prevent these reservoirs from dying is only to work towards preventing further damage through sedimentation, he said. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/in-other-news/130221/dams-in-southern-india-dying-a-slow-death.html  (14 Feb. 2021)

Telangana Oustees question the commitment given to High Court In a move to speed up the completion of Mallannasagar reservoir (Part of KLIS) in the Siddipet district in Telangana, the officials are bringing pressure on the displaced persons to vacate villages, that would get submerged in the project, without waiting for the Rehabilitation and Resettlement process to be completed. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/oustees-question-the-commitment-given-to-high-court/article33872634.ece  (18 Feb. 2021)

Image source: NewsClick

Gujarat Salt pan farmers decide to boycott local body elections At Kharagoda in Surendranagar district of Gujarat, the entry point to the Little Rann of Kutch region, the salt farmers stood in ankle deep water in their salt pans, holding placards as they announced their decision to boycott local body elections as mark of protest. They said each year excess water from Narmada is released in the area destroying their produce. The workers have decided to boycott the local body election unless their issue is resolved. Salt production has gone down by 40% in the past few years due to unnatural flooding of the salt pans. https://www.newsclick.in/Gujarat-Salt-Workers-Protest-Salt-Pans-Submerge-Due-Diversion-Excess-Water-Narmada  (18 Feb. 2021)

INTERLINKING OF RIVERS

Tamil Nadu Declare Godavari-Cauvery link as national project: CM Edappadi K Palaniswami urged PM Modi to declare the Godavari- Cauvery river linking project as a National Project so as to benefit lakhs of people in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Addressing the sixth governing council meeting of NITI Aayog, he said river Cauvery and its tributaries had to be rejuvenated on the lines of “Namami Gange” and requested the Centre to accord sanction and extend financial assistance to the State at the earliest. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/politics/210221/declare-godavari-cauvery-plan-as-national-project-tamil-nadu.html  (21 Feb. 2021)

RIVERS AS NATIONAL WATER WAYS

Kerala CM launches first phase Of 520 km-long waterway The rejuvenated waterway is from Veli in Thiruvananthapuram to Chavakkad in Thrissur district through Kollam and Kottapuram. Mr Vijayan said the government had classified canals and bridges in southern Kerala and the Malabar region in order to modernise and develop the waterways in three phases.

“In the first phase, the existing canals were deepened to make it passable. As part of the second phase, encroachments will be removed and the width will be increased by the end of 2022.” Construction of the west coast canal and feeder canals will be done in Phase 3, which will be completed in 2025, he added.

He said the government has taken steps to prevent waste being dumped into the waterways and municipalities have a major role in preventing it. “CCTVs are being installed, fences are being erected and steps are being taken to create awareness among the people to protect the waterways,” Mr Vijayan said.  https://www.ndtv.com/kerala-news/kerala-chief-minister-pinarayi-vijayan-launches-first-phase-of-520-km-long-waterway-2371205  (15 Feb. 2021)

Launch of waterway The 168-km Kollam-Kottapuram stretch of the 633-km West Coast canal the main arterial waterway traversing through 11 districts — is already navigable. The corridor from Kollam to Kottapuram can facilitate the movement of 350 to 500 tonnes of cargo.

The stretch from Akkulam to Kollam has a width of 10 to 15 m and depth of 1.2 to 1.5 m. Kerala Waterways and Infrastructure Ltd. (KWIL), the special purpose vehicle created for the rejuvenation of the inland waterways, has also completed the work along the six km from Akkulam to Vallakadavu. But the delay in demolishing the 2.75-m high bridge at Karikkakom and installing a hydraulic bridge is preventing the movement of the solar boat to Vallakadavu.

Beyond Chavakkad, the six low-level bridges and the Kuttai regulator in the Ponnani-Kozhikode corridor are the hurdles. The priority is to make the waterway from north to south navigable by 2022 and then attain the National Waterway III standards by 2025. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/launch-of-waterway-today/article33838523.ece  (15 Feb. 2021)

URBAN RIVERS

Mula-Mutha, Pune Cost of river pollution abatement project to rise The estimate committee of Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has given its approval to the escalated cost. Funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the project will now be worth Rs1,236 crore, which includes operation and maintenance cost of around Rs216 crore while Rs1,020 crore would be the project price.

“The amount mentioned appears to be higher because the operation and management cost has been included in this tender unlike the previous bid. The project will be operated and maintained for 15 years with the additional money,” said a senior PMC official. He said even the cost escalation factor, which suggests annual inflation in material cost, has been considered while making the tender. As per PMC officials, previous tenders were cancelled around three years ago due to allegations of inflated costing. The base price and material cost were considered at rates prevailing in 2014. Now, PMC has restructured the tenders at the current rate.

The civic body has been planning to deal with pollution in Mula and Mutha rivers through the project. As many as 11 different tenders have been included and now a single tender will be issued. “The estimate cost has received a green signal. Now, the tender process will be carried out. Even pre-bid meetings will be held. The bids will be finalized in about 30-45 days,” said Shivaji Lanke, secretary of the estimate committee. Apart from clearing pollution and improving river beds, even infrastructure for solid waste management is being built under the river pollution abatement project. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/cost-of-river-pollution-abatement-project-to-rise/articleshow/80887293.cms  (13 Feb. 2021)

No croc, but nets fish out river waste The sighting of a crocodile near Bhide Pul a couple of days ago had led to panic among locals. Multiple efforts were put in place by forest officials and cops to spot the reptile again and release it into a larger waterbody. While the crocodile was not seen again, the nets put to capture the creature has exposed the sorry state of the city’s garbage management. Huge piles of riverbed effluent have got trapped in the mesh.  https://punemirror.indiatimes.com/pune/civic/no-croc-but-nets-fish-out-river-waste/articleshow/80913422.cms  (15 Feb. 2021)

Alandi residents alerted authorities after seeing huge foam formation in the Indrayani river, on Tuesday. (HT PHOTO)

Indrayani, Alandi  Foam in river worries residents Residents from Alandi have raised an alarm as a huge amount of foam has been noticed in the Indrayani river since Sunday (Feb. 14). On Feb 1 the same foam formation was noticed in the Pavana river at the Keju Devi temple boat club and the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) sent the water samples for testing. On Tuesday (Feb. 16), a thick layer of foam was noticed in the temple town. Residents blamed industrial units from Pimpri-Chinchwad for releasing waste, while untreated sewage waste is also released into the river. “Every year we face this issue, but there is no concrete solution by MPCB so far. In the past few occasions incidents of fish dying have also occurred,” said Suresh Kali.

The Indrayani river originates in the Western ghats near Lonavala, passes through Kamshet, Dehu, Pimpri- Chinchwad and Alandi, and later meets the Bhima river at Talapur in Shirur tehsil. “Many residents have a habit of using the Indrayani river water for drinking purposes which we keep on telling them not to, as water pollution is happening at the regular intervals in the river,” added Kali. “Unless strict action is not taken against industries who discharge waste in the river, the pollution issue will not be sorted. PCMC and MPCB need to come out with strict measures, which have not happened till now,” said Prashant Raul, an environmentalist from PCMC. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/pune-news/foam-in-indrayani-river-worries-alandi-residents-101613559901978.html  (17 Feb. 2021)

Kadambrayar; Kochi Collector to submit report on river pollution to NGT In the wake of rising pollution levels in Kadambrayar, district administration has taken measures to prepare the report at the earliest and submit it to the NGT before February 20.

At a meeting of district planning council (DPC), P T Thomas, MLA, moved a resolution demanding urgent steps to stop the pollution. “Many of the local bodies on the banks of Kadambrayar depend on the river for meeting their drinking water needs. But, the river water has become so polluted. A private textile firm at Kizhakkambalam has been dumping chemical waste into the river,” the MLA said.

“A few years ago, there was a Supreme Court order stopping functioning of blending and dyeing units’ operation from Tirupur. Then, a private firm set up its dyeing unit at Kizhakkambalam. Now, the chemical waste from the dyeing unit is being dumped into Kadambrayar. This pollutes the water making it unsuitable for drinking. That’s why I moved a resolution demanding action against those polluting the river. Now, the district collector will be submitting a report to the NGT regarding Kadambrayar pollution,” Thomas said.

Earlier, Thrikkakara municipality also has moved a resolution against those polluting Kadambrayar. “We are mooting a drinking water project. Our plan is to fetch the water from Kadambrayar and treat it. It is big project which we want to implement with the support of the state government,” said Thrikkakara municipality chairperson Ajitha Thankappan. “We will be able to go ahead with the project only if the pollution is stopped. Many places in the municipality and neighbouring local bodies are facing acute shortage of drinking water,” she said. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kochi/kochi-collector-to-submit-report-on-river-pollution-to-ngt/articleshow/80745022.cms  (08 Feb. 2021)

Musi, Hyderabad Little progress in river front development  A decade later, some work has been completed as part of the Musi river face-lift. Officials from the Musi River Front Development Corporation Limited (MRDCL) have laid about 9.5 km of walking and cycling tracks at an estimated cost of Rs 9 crore. Officials said the Musi beautification and rejuvenation project would need another three years to take proper shape.

After repeated complaints by those living around Musi of worsening stench and pollution, the Musi River Front Development Project began in 2006, it is yet to see the light of the day.

After the formation of Telangana state, the got dusted off the project and decided to give a face-lift to Musi at an estimated cost of Rs 740 crore, with 70 % of the funding coming from the National River Conservation Directorate (NRCD). Due to fund-crunch, the project gathered dust during the first TRS govt. In the meanwhile, the project cost escalated to Rs 1,665 crore.

Citing this, the govt constituted MRDCL on March 25, 2017. The state govt is expected to contribute Rs 500 crore while the remaining amount will be raised from banks and financial institutions. The project commenced in Dec 2017 but there has hardly been any progress. Despite forming Musi Riverfront Development Corp (MRDC) and earmarking Rs 1,665 crore, the nodal agency has neither diverted effluents nor removed encroachments from the banks till date.

MRDCL Chairman D. Sudheer Reddy said that the project could progress at a brisk pace once the DPR is prepared. He said that they would remove up to four feet of sludge from the river to minimise the smell and ensure free flow of the river.  https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/politics/140221/musi-could-finally-see-some-development.html  (15 Feb. 2021)

Tawi, Jammu Sabarmati RFD model to be replicated  Experts from Sabarmati River Front Development Corp Ltd on Feb. 4 explained the details and gave suggestions for development of Tawi River Front on the lines of Sabarmati River Front in a meeting that was convened by Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha for expeditious implementation of the smart city projects in J&K.

The team also briefed about the challenges and best practices adopted during the development of Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad, and drew parallels between the Tawi River Front project. Stressing on timely completion of the Smart City Projects, the Lt Governor passed specific directions to the concerned officers for completion of the projects within the set timelines without any delay. https://www.thestatesman.com/india/gujarats-sabarmati-river-front-replicated-tawi-jammu-1502950406.html  (05 Feb. 2021)

Sabarmati, Ahmadabad Meanwhile a visitor finds no improvement in river pollution despite the project. https://ahmedabadmirror.indiatimes.com/ahmedabad/ahmedabad-speaks/riverfront-beautiful-but-the-river/articleshow/80869438.cms  (12 Feb. 2021)

Gomti, Lucknow CBI files chargesheet in river front project case  CBI has filed a charge sheet against the then Executive Engineer Roop Singh Yadav, and then Junior Assistant (Irrigation Works) Raj Kumar Yadav; K.K. Spun Pipe Private Limited, its two directors Himanshu Gupta and Kavish Gupta; and Badri Shrestha, a senior advisor to Brand Eagles Longjian JV for alleged irregularities in the award of an intercepting-trunk drain work related to the river front project involving ₹1,400 crore.

Investigations revealed that the accused officials awarded the work for intercepting-trunk drain to an ineligible private firm. The date of tender was extended twice to accommodate it. Forged documents of another bidder, a private company, were also arranged by the accused to complete the quorum of three participants in the tender. An agreement for the work was allegedly executed without getting the necessary approval and allotment of funds. “The bank guarantee of the L-2 firm was allegedly prepared from the bank account of the L-1 company. During investigation, both the public servants were arrested on November 19, 2020, and they are presently in judicial custody,” said an official. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/cbi-files-chargesheet-in-gomti-river-front-project-case/article33866155.ece  (18 Feb. 2021)

RIVERS

Report Man who follows India’s rivers on foot Siddharth Agarwal has walked along the Ganga, Ken and Betwa rivers over the years. Now, his observations have made their way into a documentary titled Moving Upstream.

Ask him, and he has many stories to share about apple trees that are believed to go into slumber when it snows; about fishermen who have to be content with working behind dams instead of across entire rivers; about waters that are flowing less and dwindling more, over the years. These stories have made their way into photo stories, educational events, news reports, articles and even a film.

Moving Upstream also partnered with another organisation to enable a walk along the river Ken, and has now constituted a fellowship that encourages young Indians to walk along rivers. He clarifies, “We are not looking for a particular skill set or background. People from different walks of life can go experience the rivers, and help create an archive of stories.” https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/the-man-who-follows-indias-rivers-on-foot/article33893634.ece  (21 Feb. 2021)

Odisha Impact assessment of riverfront project in Cuttack soon The NGT-constituted joint committee will now assess the impact of sand filling in Mahanadi river bed upstream of Jobra barrage in Cuttack. The NGT had constituted the committee on Dec 15, 2020 to assess the impact of the proposed riverfront improvement project and ensure that it does not cause irreversible damage to the floodplains of Mahanadi river in Cuttack.

The committee comprises representatives of Central Water Commission (CWC), nominees of MoEF, CPCB, National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee and the State Pollution Control Board. Admitting an application on Thursday (Jan. 21), 3-member bench headed by Chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel said, “The committee may consider the grievances of the applicant and give its consolidated report on the issue raised in the representation and report to the tribunal within two months”. The application filed by social activist Pradip Kumar Pattnaik sought intervention against the ‘illegal sand filling’ in Mahanadi for over 3 km upstream of Jobra barrage. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2021/jan/24/impactassessment-of-riverfront-project-soon-2254421.html  (24 Jan. 2021)

Karnataka ‘Kasturirangan report will save rivers’ Environment & Health Foundation (India), NGO based in Kodagu, has written to CM BS Yediyurappa, requesting the state govt to reconsider its stance in implementing the Dr K Kasturirangan Committee report on the Western Ghats.

CP Muthanna, the founder of the foundation, discussed the issues that will get aggravated if the Western Ghats areas are not protected. “If the river catchments like Kodagu, Hassan, Chikkamagaluru. Shivamogga and Dakshina Kannada are neglected, the drought in the state will worsen. Protection of the river catchments is also important in order to ensure that there is no water pollution at the source of the river due to contamination by industries,” he wrote.

Muthanna further stated that this may also lead to the degradation of river systems and that it will result in increased ingress of saline seawater in the coastal region of the state, thereby making the water unfit for drinking and rendering districts on coastal belt unfit for agricultural activities. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/kodagu-ngo-writes-cm-explains-why-implementing-kasturirangan-report-critical-143497  (15 Feb. 2021)

Haryana Ghaggar catchment area groundwater fails test Groundwater samples from Ghaggar catchment areas in six districts have been found non-compliant. This was revealed by the Executive Committee of the NGT in its consolidated report on Ghaggar pollution. The Executive Committee, in its report dated February 15, recommended to the SPCB to seal non-compliant groundwater sources by erecting boards mentioning “water is not fit for drinking” at the sites. The water quality of Ghaggar, monitored by HSPCB during the period July 2020 to January 2021 indicated that the values of F.Coli parameter were “quite high”—35110-352500 MPN/100 ml. Also, the value of BOD -4.7 Mg/I- 7.2 Mg/I was observed from June 2020 to January 2021. “The data indicates that the water quality of Ghaggar is Class D as per the water quality criteria prescribed by the CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board),” said the report.

As many as 255 points have been identified as pollution sources, which are entering into main drains and ultimately into the Ghaggar. Out of these, 153 points relate to Panchayat Department, 78 to Urban Local Bodies and the rest to other departments. Untreated sewage at the rate of 107.53 MLD through 70 locations is being discharged into the Ghaggar. For improving the water quality, the committee has recommended completing all STP under construction by March 31, sewerage network in six towns and implementation of irrigation scheme for using treated sewage of towns by June 30. Out of 59 STPs, 16 (27.1 per cent) are not complying with prescribed norms and only seven comply with F.Coli parameter. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/haryana/ghaggar-catchment-area-groundwater-fails-test-213301  (07 Feb. 2021)

YAMUNA, Delhi Panel says little progress ‘Insignificant progress’ has been made over the last one year in relation to all 11 projects, which were sanctioned for pollution abatement work in the Yamuna under Namami Gange Programme, the Central Monitoring Committee (CMC) has stated in a report released for NGT. The committee had recently taken over the role of monitoring progress for all the Yamuna-related projects after the Yamuna Monitoring Committee (YMC) was dissolved.

ToI Infograph

While 42 decentralised STPs are proposed for Delhi to trap sewage flowing into the Yamuna, only one is likely to be completed before December 2021, the report says. All other STPs are likely to extend beyond June 2022. The three most crucial projects — Rithala, Kondli and Okhla — are behind schedule, the report mentions.

The report states an STP of capacity 318 MLD is likely to be completed between April 2021 and December 2021, while STPs with a combined total of 950.8 MLD capacity will be completed after June 2022. It further states 90 million gallons per day of water is being reused for horticulture purposes and at DTC depots.

The CMC, meanwhile, said another 14 STPs were awaiting detailed project reports, all falling in the Najafgarh zone. “An Integrated Drain Management Cell has been formed for remediation and management of all drains in Delhi. Drain-owing agencies have submitted their action plan and started its implementation,” said the report. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/clean-yamuna-panel-says-little-progress/articleshow/81082738.cms  (18 Feb. 2021)

Uttar Pradesh ‘Damage from pollution is no less than damage from other heinous crimes’ Noting that damage from pollution is no less than the damage from other heinous crimes, the NGT has reprimanded the Uttar Pradesh government for not taking effective steps to control pollution in the Hindon river. The Tribunal has now ordered the Chief Secretary, UP, to ensure remedial action expeditiously, which includes fixing responsibilities and finding incompetent or failing officers. The proceedings took place following a petition filed by NGO Doaba Paryavaran Samiti alleging pollution in Kali Nadi, Krishna and Hindon rivers, resulting in diseases and deaths of some inhabitants in the area. https://www.firstpost.com/tech/science/green-panel-rules-that-damage-from-pollution-is-no-less-than-damage-from-other-heinous-crimes-9280431.html  (08 Feb. 2021)

RIVER BIODIVERSITY

Report Fight to save elusive wild cats About fishing cat project work. In 2012 it was declared state animal of West Bengal. A study of small cats in November found “many small, rare and elusive cats in the Indian subcontinent don’t get as much attention as the more spectacular big cats. Nevertheless, the need to protect them is just as pressing.” The study, by Sweden’s Uppsala University, found only 6–11% of the areas where three rare cat species – including the fishing cat – have their habitat are protected.

In 2020, fishing cat scientists, researchers and conservationists from around the world came together to form the Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance. The nonprofit has declared the month of February Fishing Cat February to raise awareness of the mammal and support conservation efforts. Currently, there are no population counts at either national or global level but the fishing cat is named on the IUCN red list as vulnerable, with its numbers decreasing due to multiple threats.

In India, the fishing cat is listed under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 and receives the same level of legal protection as the tiger, the elephant and other threatened fauna. However, more than 90% of the cat’s range is outside protected areas and negative interactions are inevitable in human-dominated landscapes.  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/feb/17/the-fight-to-save-worlds-elusive-fishing-cats-india-aoe  (17 Feb. 2021)

Punjab 23 gharials released into Beas Department of Punjab Forest and Wildlife Preservation, in collaboration with the WWF-India recently released another lot of 23 gharials into the Beas flowing in Hoshiarpur district. It was an extension of the state’s programme, conceptualised in 2005, to reintroduce, preserve and breed these critically endangered species of crocodile in Punjab streams.

In the phase-I of this project, 47 juvenile gharials were released into the Beas Conservation Reserve in batches between 2017-2018 in Amritsar and Tarn Taran. RK Mishra, Chief Wildlife Warden, Punjab, said a suitable undisturbed stretch of Beas, near Salimpur and Tahli Forest, Hoshiarpur, was selected for the current batch of 23 captive-bred gharials. He said the long snouted gharials (Gavialis gangeticus) were brought here from Morena, Madhya Pradesh, under the phase-II of the project. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/23-gharials-released-into-beas-212592  (14 Feb. 2021)

FISH, FISHERIES, FISHERFOLKS

Tamil Nadu Fishers fight to save the Muthupet mangroves Nearly 60 percent of Tamil Nadu’s largest mangrove forest cover has been degraded, destroying a vital habitat for local fishers and migratory water birds.

An aerial view of the degraded Muthupet mangrove forest in Thiruvarur district in Tamil Nadu / Credit: Tamil Nadu forest department/The Earth Journalism.

-In November 2018 a devastating cyclonic storm, Gaja, crossed the Tamil Nadu coast between Nagapattinam and Vedaranyam, killing 52 people and displacing over 500,000.

-In this three part series titled “Lost Treasure,” The New Indian Express reporters travel through the once dense mangrove forests of the coastline. Going by the multiple testimonies of jurisdictional forest officials and the local populace, the fatalities from Gaja could have easily run into the hundreds if not for the Muthupet mangroves, which acted as a natural barrier that prevented the killer storm from hitting coastal villages in Tiruvarur and Thanjavur districts.

-However, the storm was too strong for even 20- to 30-foot tall fully-grown mangroves to endure. The latest remote sensing data from the Tamil Nadu forest department shows that a whopping 60% of the total 11,886 hectares of the Muthupet mangrove area has now degraded. Only 2,000 ha (16.8 percent) is currently dense mangrove forest. The State of Forest Report, 2019, says there was a decline of 4 sq kms of forest cover in the state between 2017 & 2019.

-A Ramsar Site is a wetland site designated to be of international importance. It is also an important protected area as it is closer to the international border between India and Sri Lanka, located at the southernmost end of the Cauvery Delta, along the Palk Strait.

-V Selvam, former director of the coastal systems research project at the Chennai-based MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), spent months inside the Muthupet mangroves while doing his PhD research from 1983 to 1986 and has worked with local communities there on mangrove regeneration for around 40 years. “The situation has never been so desperate as it is today,” he said. “If there is no immediate intervention, the forest and lagoon will die.”

-In fact, before the cyclone struck, the 2017 report of the Forest Survey of India indicated that the Muthupet mangrove forest cover had increased by about 2,600 ha between 1995 and 2015, especially in the Palanjur, Thamarankottai and Maravakkadu reserve forests of the wetland thanks to some proactive measures initiated jointly by the forest department, MSSRF and local fishing communities.

-Unlike other forests, the Muthupet mangroves have an emotional connection to the local community, who for centuries have safeguarded this critical wetland and adopted unique and sustainable fishing practices. Official records show that there are about 22 fishing hamlets around the wetland, with a total population of 37,255 people.

-Range Forest Officer A Thaheer Ali says there are multiple reasons for the degradation of the mangroves in the area, the major ones being hypersalinity and siltation. Mangroves are salt-tolerant species and they depend on a delicate balance of fresh and seawater and are often referred to as tidal forests.

-“Generally, Muthupet gets fresh water for six months, from July to December. This year, due to the extended northeast monsoon, there was flow until the second week of January. It is during the summer that the tidal water stagnates and its evaporation occurs, leading to hypersaline conditions smothering the low-salt tolerant mangrove species, especially the young ones,” he said.

-Additionally, the 6 distributaries of the Cauvery River – Nasuviniar, Pattuvanachiar, Paminiyar, Koraiyar, Kilaithangiar and Marakkakoraiyar – that flush fresh water into the Muthupet forest have silted-up, Ali said. Also, these distributaries hardly receive any inflow, thanks to the presence of dams and barrages upstream.

-The Muthupet forest is the only place in India where “canal fishing” is practised. It’s a unique method that serves the dual purpose of providing livelihoods for local fishers and keeps mangroves in good health. There are about 120 natural canals and 79 man-made fishing canals in the forest, each measuring from 500 metres to 4 km. These were dug a couple hundred years ago.

M Shankar, 50, a fourth-generation fisherman and the president of the Village Forest Council in Maravakkadu, said that out of these 200 canals, only 15 to 20 were functional currently and all the others had filled up with silt. The Gaja cyclone turned the entire Muthupet forest into a graveyard. Besides uprooting trees, the storm covered all the canals with 3-foot-deep silt,” Shankar said. To revive the forest, the 200 canals have to be de-silted, but Shankar said “we will not let our forest die.”

-For the past 25 years, Shankar has been mobilising his community to carry out mangrove planting on 5,000 hectares, with the help of the forest department. Shankar and his community have so far dug 3,000 feeder canals, which bring water into the degraded areas and help the mangroves re-generate. In Palanjur and Thamarankottai reserve forests, there is still healthy mangrove cover, thanks to his efforts. Now, these canals are also covered in silt.

-A Madurai-based NGO, the Dhan Foundation, has come forward to de-silt at least 50 canals. T Asaithampi, coordinator of Coastal Conservation and Livelihood Development Programme, said the foundation has plans to pump in Rs5 crore for canal de-silting.

-But a lack of funds is delaying restoration work. It’s been nearly 18 months since the Tamil Nadu forest department submitted a proposal seeking funds under the National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change from the MoEF. “We are still awaiting a nod from the ministry,” said Syed Muzammil Abbas, Chief Wildlife Warden and Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) of Tamil Nadu.

-The delay is attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic and the department is yet to get even the annual budget for mangrove restoration for the year 2020-21, sources said. As per the detailed project report, a sum of Rs25 crore has been sought from the ministry for the Muthupet mangrove forest restoration.

-The project has eight components. Primarily, the funds will be utilised for the removal of invasive prosopis juliflora from the mangrove area, regeneration of mangrove biodiversity on 2,500 hectares of degraded area in the Muthupet forest range, and de-silting old canals to maintain the existing mangrove plantation. https://earthjournalism.net/stories/lost-treasure-fishers-in-india-fight-to-save-the-muthupet-mangroves  (12 Feb. 2021)

The three part series can also be seen here. Local fishers refuse to give up hope https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2021/feb/09/savemuthupetmangroves-local-fishers-refuse-to-give-up-hope-2261439.html  (09 Feb. 2021) What ails Muthupet mangroves https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2021/feb/08/what-ails-muthupet-mangroves-2260968.html  (08 Feb. 2021) 60% reduction in largest mangrove cover  https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2021/feb/07/60-per-cent-reduction-in-tamil-nadus-largest-mangrove-cover-2260659.html  (07 Feb. 2021)

SAND MINING

Tamil Nadu Don’t lease sand quarries sans mineral content report: HC Madras high court has directed the state government not to grant quarry lease without ascertaining the composition of minerals and obtaining a report from a lab. The court also directed the department of geology and mining to establish its own lab or authorise any lab in this regard. The court was hearing a batch of public interest litigations seeking to prevent illegal and rampant sand quarrying under the guise of savudu quarrying.

The judges observed that excessive sand extraction in river beds or near them will directly impact ecological equilibrium and adversely impact instream biota and riparian habitats. Hence, it is imperative to study replenishment of river bed sand. The judges said that all savudu quarries in the state have been permitted without any lease agreement or ascertaining the composition of the mineral, without mining plan and environmental clearance against the relevant provisions of law.

Availability of sand, if any, in these quarries should be reported to the commissioner of geology and mining, with a copy marked to the court. The commissioner shall take necessary action against officials who granted quarry permits without ascertaining the composition of minerals. The judges directed that there shall not be any quarry operation in the name of colloquial or local terms and any lease should be in accordance with minerals notified under Section 3 of Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act. The judges further directed that any quarry operations shall be permitted only by way of lease agreement as per Article 299 (I) of the Constitution. The judges also directed the government to adapt the Mineral Conservation Rules, 2017, framed by the central government or frame separate rules, as directed by the Supreme Court within 6 months. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/madurai/dont-lease-sand-quarries-sans-mineral-content-report-hc/articleshow/81099730.cms (19 Feb 2021)

Jammu & Kashmir Illegal Sand Mining on RambiAra River Goes on Unchecked RambiAra Nallah, a tributary to the river Jhelum flowing through two south Kashmir districts – Shopian and Pulwama, is being looted by the local sand mafia for many months now. Locals say that all entry and exit points leading to the river were closed by the administration a few years ago. However, one entry point at Lassipora village continues to remain open and provides a safe passage to the sand mafia. Due to the intensive extraction of sand and stones, local agricultural land is eroding rapidly damaging the flora and fauna. The mafia uses heavy machinery to extract sand and illegal mining goes on.

Local activists claim that they have been informing authorities about the issue. However, nothing has changed and no action has been taken yet. RambiAra’s streams irrigate thousands of hectares of agricultural land. The unsustainable, unscientific excavation of riverbed minerals has had a significant impact on the river ecosystem. Despite a ban by the J&K High Court, sand and bajri (pebbles) excavation from many nallahs flowing through south Kashmir goes on unabated. Locals blame authorities of being in nexus with the local mining mafia as they can see authorities turning a blind eye to dozens of heavy machines engaged in the illegal activity. https://www.videovolunteers.org/illegal-sand-mining-on-rambiara-river-in-south-kashmir-goes-on-unchecked/  (14 Aug. 2020)

Kerala Sand mafia attacks on policemen  This one year old report has details of attacks by sand mafia on four policemen in past years in the state in which two were critically injured and two others narrowly escaped the assault. https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/kochi/2020/jan/25/sand-mafia-that-made-life-of-a-policeman-end-up-in-wheelchair-2094175.html  (25 Jan. 2020)

WETLANDS, LAKES, WATER BODIES

Maharashtra Govt notifies 121 ha of mangrove area in Palghar as forest land  In a gazette notification on Feb 5, the govt announced that the 121.78 ha will be handed over to the state forest dept. Earlier, on Jan 13, 1,388 ha of mangrove area in Thane was notified as forest land. The state Mangrove Cell has also notified 1,509 ha in Palghar and 502.95 ha of mangroves land in Kurla as a reserved forest for conservation. A gazette notification to this effect was issued Feb 10, 2021. On Jan 12, the state notified 1,575.16 ha of mangrove lands along the state’s coast. This is in line with a Bombay High Court order directing the govt to hand over all mangrove areas on the govt land to the forests dept for better conservation.

In 2005, in an interim order, the court issued the direction. The court reiterated its order in Sept 2018. District bodies are yet to hand over 1,592.8 ha area, while state agencies have failed to transfer approximately 1,147 ha to the forest dept. This month, Vanashakti, an environmental group, filed a petition in the court seeking immediate transfer of all mangrove lands to the forest dept.  https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/maharashtra-notifies-121-ha-of-mangrove-area-in-palghar-as-forest-land-101613459755664.html  (16 Feb. 2021)

Sea water supply cut off to kill mangroves: Activist  The Mangroves in Dahisar creek, which have become fragile due to constant attacks from the land mafia, are facing a fresh threat to their existence. Harish Pandey, an environment activist working with New Link Road Residents Forum, has written to the mangrove protection cell, BMC and local police that major environmental violations such as cutting of mangroves, building of bunds and blocking of sea water have been witnessed in the mangroves of Dahisar West on government land. The access is only from sea and boats, he said. Pandey has asked the mangrove protection cell to immediately take corrective action and book the culprits. https://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/mumbai/crime/sea-water-supply-cut-off-to-kill-mangroves-activist/articleshow/81132513.cms  (21 Feb. 2021)

Kerala Septuagenarian ensures Kole’s wetland status remains intact through farming For academics and researchers coming down to study the Vembanad-Kole wetlands, one of India’s 41 Ramsar sites, their go-to person is a septuagenarian agriculturist Kochu Muhammed. Muhammed coordinates over 130 clusters of farmers for an elaborate process of dewatering, storing and recycling water from the wetlands to facilitate paddy cultivation and maintain water in the wetlands.

The Kole wetland survives with human interference, as paddy cultivation maintains the ecosystem. Kochu Muhammed coordinates over 130 clusters of farmers for an elaborate process of dewatering, storing and recycling water from the wetlands to maintain water in the wetlands. Illustration by Hitesh Sonar for Mongabay.

The Kole wetland survives with human interference, as paddy cultivation maintains the ecosystem. This human intervention, coupled with ensuring natural succession in ownership is important, otherwise, the land would get converted into a forest habitat, say experts. https://india.mongabay.com/2021/02/septuagenarian-ensures-koles-wetland-status-remains-intact-through-farming/  (17 Feb. 2021)

Tamil Nadu Construction of govt buildings halted in Rifle Range wetland in Kotagiri  After local opposition from activists, construction bordering one of the last remaining wetlands in Kotagiri, has been cancelled by the Nilgiris district administration. The wetland, known as Rifle Range in Kotagiri, is said to have originally been 15 times its current size. Due to a lack of protection, the original spread of the wetland has gradually been whittled down and is now said to be just around 8 acres. Though the wetland has diminished in size due to encroaching residential buildings and plantations, it continues to be a source of drinking water for some of the most populated parts of Kotagiri town, with four wells being dug into it.

Local residents who had got together over the last few years to clean up the wetland were shocked to find that it had been dug up and plans were being made to construct a few buildings, including a Primary Health Center. After opposition, the plan to construct buildings on the wetland have been cancelled, confirmed Nilgiris district collector, J. Innocent Divya when contacted on Tuesday (Feb. 16). Ms. Divya said that when the wetland was dug up, it was found that the soil was not suitable for construction, as it was swampy and there were concerns about the stability of any building built on the land.  https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Coimbatore/construction-of-government-buildings-halted-in-rifle-range-wetland-in-kotagiri/article33851145.ece  (16 Feb. 2021)

WATER OPTIONS

Despite initial hesitance about the new method, farmers’ hard work paid off, producing more than double the normal yield (Photo by Barhunkha Mushahary/Village Square)

Assam SRI helps paddy farmers reap rich harvest Switching to SRI method has helped them harvest more than twice the normal yield. Modhupur is a remote village located near the foothills of Eastern Himalayas in Baksa district of Assam. The families that cultivated paddy using SRI method for the first time got a minimum for 40% increase in yield. https://www.villagesquare.in/2021/02/17/paddy-farmers-reap-rich-harvest-through-sri-cultivation/  (17 Feb. 2021)

GROUNDWATER

Punjab Derabassi groundwater not fit for drinking  Groundwater in Derabassi and Zirakpur is highly affected by chemical weathering of rock minerals, is hard and alkaline in nature and not fit for drinking and irrigation in many pockets, according to a study conducted by an independent agency. The results all the water samples were below the acceptable limit of BIS (2012) and WHO (2006) have been sent to CPCB and ministry of environment, forest and climate change.

The agency had taken the samples from 30 locations and aquifers to assess hydro-chemical parameters of groundwater in February 2020. The study said Derabassi has around 300 industries and brick kilns. Waste water from some of these industries is flowing into a drain crossing between Derabassi and Bhankarpur, the study said, terming industries the main cause of groundwater contamination.

The study said people living in the Ghaggar river basin are facing waterborne diseases as effluents from chemical units have polluted the river, considered a major aquifer for groundwater recharge. The quality of Ghaggar river water was not suitable to withstand aquatic life and not fit for domestic uses, the study said. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/punjab-derabassi-groundwater-not-fit-for-drinking-says-study/articleshow/81132645.cms  (21 Feb. 2021)

URBAN WATER

Gurugram  GMDA proposes slew of measures to boost groundwater recharge, experts sceptical The Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA), in a bid to increase the city’s groundwater recharge capacity by up to five times, has proposed a slew of measures including channelising creeks, and creating check dams as well as eight new ponds. The GMDA has also proposed the construction of 183 additional recharge wells to arrest the flow of stormwater and to reduce the run-off from the area. The report states that 100 recharge wells, along with ponds and creeks, will be made to recharge around 1,088,640 cubic metres in a year. 83 more recharge wells along with drains will help in additional recharging of around 272,954 cubic metres per year. The officials will also work on reviving 26 ponds under the jurisdiction of the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram.

However, environmentalists have raised concerns about the plan proposed by the development authority. Vaishali Rana, a city-based environmentalist, on whose petition the NGT had asked the authorities concerned to prepare a plan, said, “The petition was about boxing and narrowing down of the Badshahpur drain, which has not been addressed in the report. The narrowing down of the drain has heavily led to the compromise of its carrying capacity and groundwater recharge capacity. The report talks about the creation of an alternate drain to increase carrying capacity of Badshahpur drain, which needs new land to be acquired and we do not know how many years that might take.”

Rana further said that the report does not mention the Ghata Jheel, which is an existing pond of about 150 acres and an integral water body. “The report says that over 950 acres of land will be revived as ponds and lakes, but it does not mention anything about the Ghata Jheel which is an interlinking water body of the Badshahpur drain. There are encroachments to a great extent on the lake, but still, over 150 acres of land which is part of the Jheel, can be restored even now. This only shows how a deep study has not been done before preparing the report,” said Rana.  https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/gurugram-news/gmda-proposes-slew-of-measures-to-boost-groundwater-recharge-experts-sceptical-101613929758572.html  (21 Feb. 2021)

Leachate from landfill site spills outside boundary Leachate from the rear side of Bandhwari landfill site situated on Aravalli land has been spilling outside its boundary on to the adjoining road. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/gurugram-news/leachate-from-landfill-site-spills-outside-boundary-blocks-local-road-access-101613584442933-amp.html  (17 Feb. 2021)

WATER POLLUTION

Coimbatore Farmers seek action against units polluting water bodies The issue of textile processing units discharging effluents into Kalingarayan Canal was raised by farmers during the grievances redress meeting held at the Collectorate here on Friday (Feb. 19). The meeting that was conducted after 10 months was chaired by Collector C. Kathiravan. Members of Kalingarayan Pasana Sabai said that recently over 30 units were sealed for discharging effluents into the canal and other water bodies. They wanted action against the violators and also wanted processing units to function five km away from the water bodies. They sought an automatic pollution detector installed in the canal. Members of Keel Bhavani Pasana Sabai wanted the concrete lining project dropped as it would affect the recharging of groundwater. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Coimbatore/farmers-seek-action-against-units-polluting-water-bodies/article33883174.ece  (19 Feb. 2021)

Opinion Steps need to be taken to use wastewater for aquaculture, irrigation by A L Ramanathan Almost 50 to 80 per cent of wastewater goes untreated into streams, rivers and groundwater, which hinders our development capabilities and affects our food security.

The projected future scenarios for wastewater are dark water quality will be deteriorating further by 2030 under all scenarios. Population growth was found to have the highest impact on future water quality deterioration, while climate change had the lowest, although not negligible.

The best option in the present-day condition in India is natural pollution control. People-friendly and cost-effective methodologies for mitigation of water pollution need to be developed or refined through continuous research and development. Similarly, technologically simple, cost-effective and energy-efficient STPs for community and individual household levels are of urgent necessity. https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/water-recycle-irrigation-pollution-7191441/  (16 Feb. 2021)

ENERGY OPTIONS

Govt aims to produce 40 GW power through rooftop solar in next 1.5 years PM Narendra Modi on Feb 18, 2021 said the government aims to produce 40 GW of solar power in the next one-and-a-half years through rooftop solar projects. Already, 4-GW solar capacity is installed through rooftop solar projects… 2.5 GW will be added soon.

– PM Modi said that under the PM-KUSUM scheme, farmers were becoming energy entrepreneurs and the goal was to create 30-GW solar capacity through small plants in the farmers’ fields. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/renewable/govt-aims-to-produce-40-gw-power-through-rooftop-solar-in-next-1-5-years-pm-modi/81094331  (18 Feb. 2021)

Gadkari urges power minister to reconsider restriction on solar rooftop projects The power ministry had recently issued a gazette notification directing states to henceforth allow net metering only for solar rooftop projects with capacity lower than 10 KW. Those with higher capacity needs to shift to gross metering. With most solar rooftop installations in the commercial and industrial (C&I) segment being above 10 KW, developers had strongly protested the step.

– “The notified rules will implode the market,” Distributed Solar Power Association (Dispa), a body of solar rooftop developers, said in a recent letter to the power minister. “The industry is even fearing that these rules shall be subjected to interpretation on the already operating and under construction projects and shall stall the rooftop PV market from achieving the 40 GW targets set under the segment,” it said. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/renewable/gadkari-urges-power-minister-to-reconsider-restriction-on-solar-rooftop-projects/81101840  (19 Feb. 2021)

ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE

West Bengal Will strike down EIA notification exemption for some road projects: SC  The Supreme Court on Thursday (Feb. 18) noted that it was inclined to nullify the Centre’s notification which exempted the authorities from undertaking Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) in case a road project is less than 100 kilometres long, PTI reported. The court made the observation while hearing a petition against the felling of more than 300 trees for the construction of railway over bridges in West Bengal and the widening of a highway on the Indo-Bangladesh border.

The bench headed by CJI SA Bobde said it was concerned about degradation of the environment because of road projects and suggested waterways as an alternative. The court said that a lot of trees would be cut for the road-widening project and “prima facie we inclined to strike down the notification [about the exemption from EIA]”, according to PTI. The bench noted that in case it was inevitable to undertake a road project, the value of every tree should be built into the project’s cost. https://scroll.in/latest/987322/sc-says-it-is-inclined-to-strike-down-centres-notification-on-eia-exemption-for-some-road-projects  (18 Feb. 2021)

Report RTI reveals MoEF&CC cleared 3 highway proposals disregarding WII’s views As part of the eight-lane Delhi-Mumbai Greenfield Highway project under Bharatmala, the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) has approved forest land diversion for three highway proposals in Rajasthan’s Ranthambhore and Mukundara Tiger Reserves. Along with this, the proposed highways will cut across the Gandhi Sagar, Bhainsrorgarh and National Chambal Sanctuaries in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The government is moving ahead with these projects, despite the warning from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII). As per WII, the highways would fragment wildlife habitats in the two reserves and will not only impact tigers, but a host of other wildlife. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/wildlife-biodiversity/rti-reveals-moef-cc-cleared-3-highway-proposals-disregarding-wii-s-views-75250  (28 Jan. 2021)

Himachal Pradesh Uranium deposits found at 2 sites  The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has confirmed that “small deposits” of uranium were found at Kasha Kaladi in Shimla and Tileli in Mandi district. While Kasha Kaladi has an estimated 200 tonnes of triuranium octoxide, which is enough to produce 170 tonnes of uranium, Tileli has 220 tonnes of triuranium octoxide (186 tonnes of uranium). The largest deposit in the state (364 tonnes of triuranium octoxide) is at Rajpura in Una district.

The size of the find has put Himachal Pradesh at the 10th position among 11 states in the country where uranium has been traced. Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Meghalaya occupy the top three positions, respectively. Earlier, uranium extracts were found during digging operations at Lambehra village in Hamirpur district. The Himachal Industry Department claims that uranium deposits had been found at 11 locations, including Hamirpur. There is, however, no mention of the village among the sites listed by Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (Hyderabad), the exploration arm of the DAE. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/nation/uranium-deposits-found-at-2-himachal-pradesh-sites-212973  (16 Feb. 2021)

‘Lava’ flowing out of Kullu village An uncommon “volcanic eruption” in the Lafali panchayat of Anni subdivision in Kullu district released lava-like substance downhill, a video of which was shared widely on Tuesday (Feb. 16). There is no history of volcanic activity in Himachal but the video has stunned the viewers.

Himachal Pradesh State Centre on Climate Change principal scientific officer S S Randhawa ruled out volcanic activity and said the unusual incident might be due to either the burning of a carbon shell or tectonic activity. He said even earthquakes could have shifted tectonic plates and raised the underground temperature to open a fissure vent.

Leading geologist Ritesh Arya said: “The Himalayas were formed with 2,400 kms of magma flow about 5 crore years ago. Magma lies 4km below the earth and the new spot is about 2km above the surface, so chances are it’s something else but it can even be magma.” After watching the video a few more times, he said either high-voltage charge from the transmission line or a lightning bolt that hit the pole might have melted the abundant silicates in the local rock. “This is actually called fulgurite. It is produced by melting of natural silicates generated through very high temperature by lightning, or leakage of high-tension electricity wires. I think here lightning is the major cause,” he added.

In June 2014, Kangra reported something similar. Flames and a lava stream spewed out of a hill 100 metres from Gadiyada village. State geologists had confirmed that as “small magmatic activity” and the Geological Survey of India (GSI) had sent a team over. Volcanic activity is rare but magmatic flow is not new to the state. The hot sulphur springs of Manikaran, Kalath, Tattapni, and Vashishth prove there is magma underneath. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/shimla/lava-flowing-out-of-kullu-village-video-goes-viral/articleshow/81008768.cms  (17 Feb. 2021)

Uttarakhand Govt to seek SC nod for felling over 1.5 lakh trees The presence of around 1.5 lakh trees on the firelines in the upper reaches of the Himalayan state has emerged as a major cause of concern for forest officials who are now considering chopping off the ‘problem trees’ so that the wildfires don’t spread. The firelines were set up by the British, and have been maintained by the forest department. However, they are not managed above 1000 meters altitude as a Supreme Court ruling of 1981 has banned green tree felling above this height.

Data of forest department accessed by TOI indicates that since October last year, over 400 hectares of forest land has been gutted in wildfires while four lives have been lost in almost 350 incidents of jungle fires.

As per the data, the state has 100-feet-wide fire lines spread over 2463.510 km, 50-feet- wide fire lines spread over 2472.34 km, 30-feet-wide fire lines spread over 2085.68 km and remaining smaller ones are spread over an area of 12,145.84 km. According to the authorities, the most challenging is clearing of the 100-feet-wide forest lines as they have robust trees. Scientists of Forest Research Institute have supported the contention that green felling be allowed, pointing out that absence of felling has “reduced carbon absorption in the area where green felling stopped since 1981.”  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/in-order-to-minimise-wildfires-in-higher-reaches-ukhand-to-seek-sc-nod-for-felling-problem-trees-on-british-era-firelines-dotted-with-over-1-5-lakh-trees/articleshow/81139835.cms  (22 Feb. 2021)

CLIMATE CHANGE

Study Most Indian districts vulnerable to extreme climate events The study, carried out at the national level and including India’s first district-level vulnerability profiles, found more than 75% of the country’s 718 districts – home to more than 638 million people – are vulnerable to extreme climate-related events like intense rainfall, storms, floods, droughts, etc.  https://science.thewire.in/environment/most-indian-districts-are-vulnerable-to-extreme-climate-events-study/  (17 Feb. 2021)

SOUTH ASIA

Bhutan High probability of Uttarkhand-scale flood With over 70 percent of the settlements in the valleys and major hydropower projects development along basins, a glaciologist with the National Hydrology and Meteorology Centre (NCHM), Toeb Karma, said that a flood of Uttarakhand-scale was likely to occur in Bhutan. He said that the Mangdechu project was at a higher risk.  Mangdechu has five potentially dangerous glacial lakes upstream. “Mangdechu is a flashy river and the gradient is high.”

– In flashy rivers, floods occur and recede suddenly in a short period of time. NCHM estimates show that, from the monitoring room in Jongthang to Mangdechu dam site, the flood will only take about 50 minutes, and 88 minutes from Jongthang to the power plant. According to reports, if the moraine dam breaches at Thorthormi lake, there will be 53 million cubic metres of water rushing down. https://kuenselonline.com/high-probability-of-uttarkhand-scale-flood-in-bhutan/  (18 Feb. 2021)

Nepal Mega dam is a mirage Plans to build Nepal’s biggest hydropower project was been delayed by politics for 10 years, but now it is on hold because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 263-m high dam on the Budi Gandaki River will be the world’s tenth tallest, and impound a reservoir 45km long displacing 50,000 people, to generate 1.200MW of electricity. But the $2.5 billion project is in doubt because of delays and doubts about its viability. https://www.nepalitimes.com/banner/nepals-mega-dam-is-a-mirage/  (20 Feb. 2021)

THE REST OF THE WORLD

Report Setting rivers free Long free-flowing rivers are increasingly rare. These serpentine giants should support entire ecosystems and allow the unobstructed movement of energy, materials, and wildlife in their waters and in the surrounding landscape.

NOTE: DAMS ON THE UPPER YANGTZE WERE NOT INCLUDED IN THE ASSESSMENT.
TED SICKLEY AND RYAN MORRIS, NGM STAFF. SOURCES: GÜNTHER GRILL AND BERNHARD LEHNER, NATURE, MAY 2019; WALTER IMMERZEEL/ NAT GEO

But humans have been harnessing their immense power for centuries, building so many dams and reservoirs, and so much other infrastructure, that now only 37 percent of the world’s rivers over a thousand kms long (621 miles) still run free. Just how much these obstructions disrupt connectivity can vary throughout a river, but understanding their many consequences is crucial to restoring these ecosystems. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2021/03/see-which-of-the-worlds-10-longest-rivers-still-run-free/  (09 Feb. 2021)

By  Marco Hernandez,  Simon Scarr and  Katy Daigle/ Graphics Reuters

Messy business of sand mining explained  A 21st century construction boom is driving unregulated sand mining around the world – eroding rivers and coastlines, disrupting ecosystems and hurting livelihoods. https://graphics.reuters.com/GLOBAL-ENVIRONMENT/SAND/ygdpzekyavw/  (18 Feb. 2021)

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

Also see: DRP News Bulletin 15 Feb. 2021 & DRP News Bulletin 08 Feb. 2021

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

One thought on “DRP NB 22 Feb 2021: Case against NTPC for criminal negligence in Tapovan Project?

  1. I guess that’s right step now since SC already had taken a step towards stopping dams/barrages in Upper reaches of Uttarakhand.
    Added to that, a higher compensation for the family members of the deceased.
    These marginalised people from Uttarakhand villages, Northern Bihar and UP are truly paying price of government apathy. It needs to be stopped.

    Like

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