DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 24 Jan 2022: MoEF’s complete surrender: Rating SEIAA on faster clearances

If rating of the State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAA) of various states were to be done, it has to be based on how rigorous, how transparent, how participatory, how well defined, how consistent, how comprehensive, how rules following has been the functioning of the various SEIAA. Such an exercise has to be done by a panel of independent experts, who are experienced and knowledgeable about the various aspects of environmental governance and functioning of these authorities. In fact the exercise should also include the National EIAA too and the various Expert Appraisal Committees under it. It clearly cannot be what the MoEF has now proposed. What MoEF has proposed is completely against all basic norms of environmental governance and is part of MoEF’s complete surrender to the vested interests and not is not in the interest of environment governance. As the Tribune editorial noted, such blatant disregard of the environment is completely unacceptable. Similarly as the TOI editorial said, SEIAAs need to be independent of both business and governments. They should put the environment first, and last. There is a role of judiciary to step in here and ensure that MoEF does not go down this path.

Rating SEIAA on faster green clearances As part of its larger ‘ease of doing business’ goal, the Centre has decided to incentivise states through rating the respective environment impact assessment authorities on the basis of their efficiency in granting faster green clearance to projects. Under the system, SEIAA will be rated to encourage transparency, efficiency and accountability.

“A perusal of the (rating) criteria, however, reveals that greater weightage is given for projects where due diligence is less,” said environmental lawyer Ritwick Dutta of LIFE. “This (rating system) process will ensure that SEIAA’s aim will be to clear projects at the shortest possible time,” said Dutta while flagging the irony as the real task of SEIAA is to undertake a ‘detailed scrutiny’ of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report and all other relevant information including minutes of the public hearing which takes time.

“This order must be immediately withdrawn lest it makes a complete mockery of whatever sanctity the EIA process still has in the country. Environment ministry, SEIAA and other authorities exist to safeguard India’s environmental security, and not give away the nation’s natural lands to gain brownie points,” said Manoj Misra, retired Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer and founder of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan. “At a time when India has the world’s worst air and water quality, this OM will, if applied, will reduce environmental law compliance to a mere formality. It needs immediate withdrawal,” said Dutta. He noted that the ministry’s decision will put the EC processes in a situation where “getting full marks is bad for the environment and people”. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/centre-to-rate-states-on-faster-green-clearances-environmentalists-seek-withdrawal-of-such-move/articleshow/88999153.cms  (19 Jan. 2022)

TRIBUNE Edit on Jan 21 2022: “The highest rank will be given to the SEIAA which approves projects in the shortest period, has a high rate of clearance, ensures quick disposal of complaints, conducts minimum site visits and asks for fewer ‘essential details’… However, the speed at which projects are okayed should not be the primary criterion to grade the efficiency of a body tasked with curbing environmental degradation… Such blatant disregard for the environment is unacceptable. Due diligence and strict adherence to the guidelines should be mandatory while giving or refusing the go-ahead to projects impacting our ecosystem.” https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/editorials/green-go-ahead-363012  (21 Jan. 2022)

TOI EDIT on this issue on Jan 21 2022 is a bit wishy washy, but these last lines are the crux: “From Uttarakhand to Kerala, SEIAAs need to be independent of both business and governments. They should put the environment first, and last.” https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/toi-editorials/speed-isnt-the-point-environmental-ranking-of-states-based-on-how-swiftly-they-clear-projects-is-not-desirable/  (21 Jan. 2022)

The latest rating system follows a slew of other measures that the ministry of environment has proposed to loosen environmental compliance norms. https://theprint.in/theprint-essential/these-are-the-7-criteria-modi-govt-will-use-for-ranking-states-on-environment-clearance/808592/  (23 Jan. 2022)

Criticising the move, environmentalists warned that the state authorities, whose mandate is to ensure protection of the environment, will now “compete’’ to clear projects swiftly, to increase state rankings. “This order is absolutely absurd. How can you grade an institution that is mandated to protect the environment according to the speed at which projects are cleared? The time frame for clearances was anyway brought down to 75 days, which was a matter of concern, and done with the express purpose of clearing projects at the cost of the environment,” said environmental lawyer Ritwick Dutta.

Under former Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, the time period for providing environmental clearance to a project was reduced from 105 days to 75 days in order to “streamline clearance processes’’. In a reply to Lok Sabha on these clearances in March 2020, Javadekar had said that 69,414.32 hectares of forest land was diverted for non-forest purposes between 2014-15 and 2018-19. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/centre-to-rank-states-on-faster-green-nods-fewer-details-sought-7732358/  (20 Jan. 2022)

Such a ranking system, the memo said, was first tabled during a meeting chaired by the Cabinet Secretary on November 13 to discuss actions taken by the ministry to facilitate “ease of doing business”.

“This sets a dangerous precedent because it will clearly discourage authorities from carrying out site visits to gauge whether environment impact assessments have been properly carried out,” said Stalin D, environmentalist and director of Mumbai-based NGO Vanashakti.

Experts also said that such a rating system stands to reduce the SEIAA to a ‘rubber stamps authority’ where there performance will be judged by the speed with which they facilitate environmental degradation and jeopardising of community livelihoods.

“This Office Memorandum in contrary to the environmental rule of law; violates article 21 and is an arbitrary exercise of power to benefit only business at the cost of environment and people. At a time when India has the world’s worst air and water quality, this office memorandum will, if applied, reduce environmental law compliance to a mere formality. It needs immediate withdrawal,” Dutta said.

This view was echoed by other experts. Kanchi Kohli, of CPR, claimed that such a move will severely constrain the mandate of the SEIAAs under the Environment Protection Act and the EIA notification. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/centre-to-rank-states-on-rapid-green-nods-101642618107029.html  (20 Jan. 2022)

Environment Ministry plan to rank States draws ire. https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/environment-ministry-plan-to-rank-states-draws-ire/article38299173.ece  (20 Jan. 2022)

HYDRO POWER PROJECTS

Arunachal Pradesh Key stakeholders meet to discuss Kurung Hydro Project The government had in 2015 allocated the ambitious 330 MW project on the Kurung River near Muiri Village of Kra Daadi district to the NEEPCO for execution. A meeting between the North East Electrical Power Corporation (NEEPCO) authorities and the locals was held at Dari village in Kra Daadi district on Jan 17 2022. People expressed their resentment over the lackadaisical approaches of the corporation and zero action taken on the ground ever since they visited the site after the project was allotted to them in 2015. NEEPCO is yet to start survey and investigation. The 330 MW Kurung HEP will be a joint venture of the NEEPCO and the Hydro Power Development Corporation of Arunachal Pradesh Limited (HPDCAPL) with the former being the majority stakeholder of the project. https://www.eastmojo.com/news/2022/01/18/arunachal-key-stakeholders-meet-to-discuss-kurung-hydro-project/  (18 Jan. 2022)

Uttarakhand Fears of ‘devastation’ from largest dam on Yamuna River In the last week of December, one of the two turbines at the Vyasi dam was tested, according to Yashpal Tomar, a member of the Yamuna Sanitation Committee (a local civil society organisation). The water level of the Yamuna fell dramatically on the 29th, two days before the turbine was tested. “People were afraid that the Yamuna had dried up completely. The fish came to the surface as the water receded,” says Tomar, describing onlookers “hitting the fish with sticks and some with stones, as they flopped around” so they could take them to eat or sell. “It was a very heartbreaking scene,” he says, his voice trembling.

Women from Lohari village stand in the rising waters of the lake created for the Vyasi project (Image: Varsha Singh)

Bhim Singh Rawat, associate coordinator at SANDRP, monitors the incidence of heavy rainfall like cloudburst in Uttarakhand. He says that from 25-27 August, there was heavy rain across the state. There were at least seven cloudburst incidents in the Ganga-Yamuna basin in Dehradun.The Vyasi project area was also affected. Rajeev Agarwal, executive director for the Vyasi project, told The Third Pole that the boundary wall of the powerhouse building was affected by the extreme weather but there was no damage inside.

Manoj Mishra a former civil servant, and convener of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan (Yamuna Live Campaign) dedicated to the reviving the river and its floodplains, says: “There are apprehensions of devastation due to the Lakhwar-Vyasi project amid natural calamities. Yamuna can still live with Vyasi, not Lakhwar. The future water requirement for Lakhwar is also not logical.” One of the main arguments in support of the project is that it will supply drinking water to five states, especially the National Capital Territory of Delhi. https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/energy/lakhwar-vyasi-project-fears-of-devastation-yamuna-river/  (24 Jan. 2022) The report can also be seen in Hindi here. https://www.thethirdpole.net/hi/energy-hi/lakhwar-vyasi-project-fears-of-devastation-yamuna-river/  (24 Jan. 2022)

Himachal Pradesh SJVN Ltd stated that it earned Rs 34.40 crore as an incentive from its hydropower plants during April-December 2021.”The company has earned Rs 34.40 crore as incentive under the deviation settlement mechanism from 1,500-MW (megawatt) Nathpa Jhakri HPS and 412-MW Rampur HPS (hydropower station) in three quarters of FY 2021-22 (April to December 2021),” stated SJVN chairman and managing director Nand Lal Sharma. https://www.freepressjournal.in/business/sjvn-earns-rs-3440-crore-as-incentive-from-its-hydropower-units  (19 Jan. 2022)

MoEF Agenda of EAC meeting for the River Valley Projects to be held on Jan 28, 2022:

1. Chinki Boras Barrage Combined Multipurpose Project (CCA 131925 ha & 50 MW) in 513651 ha at Tehsil Udaipura Bankhedi & Kareli, Dist Raisen, Hoshangabad, Narsimhapur (Madhya Pradesh) by Rani Avanti Bai Lodhi Sagar Project – Terms of Reference

2. Sitamma Sagar Multi Purpose Project (SSMPP) (320 MW & CCA 2.73 Lakh Ha) in 3122.38 Acres at Village Ammagaripalli, Tehsil Aswapuram, Dist Bhadradri Kothagudem (Telangana) by NTPA to Ce O/O Ce.Irrign.Kothagudem – Terms of Reference

3. Banda Major Irrigation Project (CCA 80,000 ha) in 4699.08 ha located at Tehsil Banda, District Sagar (Madhya Pradesh) by Madhya Pradesh Water Res Dept- Environmental Clearance http://environmentclearance.nic.in/writereaddata/Form-1A/Agenda/2301202221452891FinalAgenda-RiverValley_23ndEAC.pdf 

DAMS

Mekedatu Project Tamil farmers take out anti-Mekedatu rally The Tamil Nadu Cauvery Vivasayigal Sangam (TNCVS), which led the march, slammed both the Congress and the BJP over the Mekedatu issue and demanded that CM M K Stalin and AIADMK leader K Palaniswami “break their silence” on the issue.

The Karnataka Congress has launched a 10-day march over the Mekedatu reservoir issue. (Express File Photo: Jithendra M/TIE)

Christened ‘Mekedatu Besiege Protest,’ the rally, led by TNCVS general secretary P R Pandian, demanded justice for the State, its farmers and people on the Mekedatu issue. After police disallowed the rally to proceed further on the highway towards Bengaluru, about one km ahead of the Tamil Nadu-Karnataka border, Pandian told reporters that the padayatra went against the Supreme Court judgment on the inter-State river water issue. It was against the law and Tamil Nadu, he said. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chennai/tamil-nadu-farmers-take-out-anti-mekedatu-rally-slam-karnataka-cong-for-padayatra-7732708/  (20 Jan. 2022)

Dr Sudarshana Murthy:- The report endorsing the Mekedatu project by experts of Karnataka state Engineers’ Association in a seminar held in Mysuru is baffling as environment experts feel the other way. One of the objections raised is the project falling under the Cauvery river basin and in addition its disastrous impact on the environment.

Considering the cost it is not surprising the politicians, bureaucrats and few vested interests are hell-bent on projects like Mekedatu and Yettinahole no matter even if it has a catastrophic impact on the environment. The recent rains submerged all major cities and Bengaluru was no exception. This only tells us that we have to judiciously harvest rainwater to meet our needs. Is there a plan in place for the future development of Bengaluru? Has anyone thought of decongesting Bengaluru for good? Probably this can be achieved with a lesser cost which in turn benefits other parts of the state.

The government should consult the experts and weigh the merits and demerits before implementing the project without any prejudices. This should not be an issue of prestige between political parties and governments.  https://www.deccanherald.com/state/top-karnataka-stories/endorsement-of-mekedatu-project-by-engineers-body-baffling-1073944.html  (23 Jan. 2022)

Odisha Farmers’ ire over Haldia dam delay echoes in polls Delay in upgradation of the century-old Haldia dam in Mayurbhanj district may become another poll issue in the upcoming rural elections as farmers depending on the project feel deprived of irrigation facilities during rabi season triggering discontentment for years now. The lack of water supply during the winter months has also affected groundnut cultivation which fetches good returns for the growers.

Sources said, the problem has been persisting for 11 years now since the government undertook the dam upgradation project in 2011. Before upgradation of the project started, the dam catered to rabi irrigation and helped farmers grow the lucrative groundnut crop. But later, the dam work lagged and water was stooped for rabi season which did not go down well with farmers. They alleged that despite repeated appeals to the district administration and other higher-ups for speedy completion of the project, none paid heed.

Image source: TNIE

Incidentally, Haldia Dam  comes under Bangiriposi constituency from where Revenue and Disaster Management Minister Sudam Marndi was elected as MLA. As people in the area feel that the Minister too did not pay any heed to their problems despite frequent appeals, sources said the local anger will reflect in the panchayat elections.

Contacted executive engineer of Mayurbhanj Irrigation department Narayan Das informed that the government had provided Rs 270 crore for upgradation of the dam in 2011. Presently, four parts of the work – earth dam, spill wall and two regulators both left and right canals and bridge, have been carried out by a construction agency. It targeted to irrigate more than 5,520 ha land initially but was later extended to benefit farmers of both Mayurbhanj and Balasore districts by connecting with the Subarnarekha Irrigation Project, Das said, adding that the project will be completed by March and become functional from June this year. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2022/jan/23/farmers-ire-over-haldia-dam-delay-echoes-in-polls-2410360.html  (23 Jan. 2022)

Haryana Govt to construct dam in Himachal for reviving Saraswati Shocking: The Haryana Government will construct a dam and a reservoir on 77 acres in Himachal Pradesh near Yamunanagar district’s Adi Badri area, which is situated on the border of Himachal Pradesh. The Haryana Government will spend Rs 215.33 crore on this project and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) will be signed by Haryana and Himachal Pradesh Governments in the presence of Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar and Himachal CM Jai Ram Thakur in Panchkula on January 21. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/haryana/haryana-to-construct-dam-in-hp-for-reviving-saraswati-362760  (20 Jan. 2022)

A portion of the Som river — a tributary of the Yamuna that passes through Adi Badri — will be diverted to the Rs 215-crore dam from where it will flow into the stream of the Saraswati river, Haryana government officials said. “The ground inspection for the dam project has been done by NIH (National Institute of Hydrology) Roorkee, the GSI (Geological Survey of India) and the Central Ground Water Board. A no-objection certificate from the Himachal Pradesh government and other necessary NOCs are under process. The Central Water Commission is working on the designing part of the dam,” an official said.

Last year, the Haryana Saraswati Heritage Development Board had also initiated projects to develop five riverfronts on the rejuvenated Sarasvati river — at Pipli, Pehowa, Bilaspur, Dosarka (on Panchkula-Yamunanagar road) and the Theh Polar (near Saraswati-Sindhu Civilisation archaeological site). The Pipli riverfront will be on the lines of the Sabarmati Riverfront in Gujarat.  https://indianexpress.com/article/india/haryana-himachal-mou-saraswati-river-revival-7732551/  (20 Jan. 2022)

Height of 7 dams to be raised in Mahendragarh The state government has decided to raise the height of seven dams located at Niyamatpur, Nayan, Musnota and Lujota villages in Nangal Choudhary region here and make them concrete with stone pitching work. The move aims at harvesting rainwater and adopting flood control measures to improve the water table, which has already reached an alarming level in several villages of the district. A sum of Rs 9 crore will be spent on the project. “The groundwater level has dropped drastically, especially in Nijampur, Nangal Choudhary and Narnaul blocks of the district due to inadequate steps for recharging groundwater,” sources said.

Hari Ram Yadav, Soil Conservation Officer, said two each such dams were located in Niyamatpur, Nayan and Musnota, while one was in Lukota. The height would be raised from one to two meters, he added. He said in the rainy season, water flowing from the hill areas caused flood-like situations in many villages located on the foothills. Now, excess water would be stored in dams after raising their capacity to keep the situation in control, he added. Deputy Commissioner Ajay Kumar said, “After raising the height, rainwater in a large quantity can be stored in the dam that will prove useful for the surrounding areas. The Borewell injection system has been put in place in the district to bring down rainwater to the ground,” the DC added.  https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/haryana/height-of-7-dams-to-be-raised-in-mahendragarh-363913  (24 Jan. 2022)

Uttar Pradesh Kanhar dam to displace 2500 families The Kanhar dam project straddling Duddhi is expected to benefit parts of UP, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, the work on it started way back in 1976. 50 000 people in 11 villages are to be affected. Large number of affected people have still not accepted the compensation, have been demanding more just Rehabilitation. Even dam authorities even now claim acquisition of 65% of required land. The project had been launched at an estimated cost of Rs 27.75 crore, which has since swelled to Rs 2,000 crore. According to the project blueprint, a 39-metre high and 3.2km-long dam will be constructed to store 0.15 million acre-feet of water. It also entails construction of 121 km of canals to irrigate over 35,000 hectares, benefiting 108 villages. Overall, around 2,500 families will be displaced by the dam. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/in-ups-sonbhadra-11-villages-prepare-to-vote-one-last-time/articleshow/88960834.cms  (18 Jan. 2022)

Sukwa dam in Bundelkhand bags global heritage honour Sukwa-Dukwan dam has been recognized as a World Heritage Irrigation Structure by the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID). An over 100-year-old British-era engineering marvel, the structure boosted agriculture and economic development in the water-stressed Bundelkhand region. The dam was chosen because it qualifies as a structure built more than a century ago and the features remain unchanged and are still serving the purpose for which it was constructed. Built in 1906, it has a capacity of more than 2 lakh hectares every year. The weir serves irrigation and drinking water needs of Jalaun, Jhansi and some parts of Hamirpur districts. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/sukwa-dam-in-bundelkhand-bags-global-heritage-honour/articleshow/88865021.cms  (13 Jan. 2022)

INTERLINKING OF RIVERS

Bharat Dogra on Ken Betwa Link: https://bit.ly/344oFOM  (19 Jan. 2022)

INTERSTATE WATER DISPUTES

Godavari Water Dispute Telangana says no to Centre’s plan to divert Godavari water The Telangana government has objected to the proposal to draw Godavari water from Icchampally in the state. The National Water Development Corporation (NWDC) has proposed to draw 247 tmcft from Godavari and divert it to Krishna and Pennar basins as part of project to link Godavari and Cauvery. “During the general body meeting of the NWDC on Wednesday (Jan. 19), the Telangana government argued that there is no excess water available in Godavari at Icchampally. To confirm this, we have suggested to conduct hydrology study to know the water availability for which the Centre agreed,” a senior official from Telangana irrigation department, who participated in the virtual meeting said. The state government had already informed the NWDC that they were against the proposal in principle as the Centre should consider diverting Godavari water from Icchampally only after meeting the requirements of Telangana. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/telangana-says-no-to-centres-plan-to-divert-godavari-water/articleshow/89007248.cms  (20 Jan. 2022)

Cauvery Water Dispute Karnataka opposes phase two of Tamil Nadu’s Hogenakkal project On Jan 20, 2022, Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin said that a DPR will be prepared for the second phase of the Hogenakkal project that will cover Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts at an estimated cost of Rs 4,600 crore. Karnataka has decided to oppose it saying that 64 km long Hogenakkal is part of the Karnataka-TN border and such a project has to be taken through CWC/ Supreme Court. https://www.deccanherald.com/state/karnataka-politics/karnataka-opposes-phase-two-of-tamil-nadu-s-hogenakkal-project-1073210.html  (21 Jan. 2022)

Karnataka All-party meet in Feb to discuss inter-state water disputes: CM Speaking to media persons after a video conference on inter-state water disputes with his ministerial colleagues, legal experts and senior counsels who represent the state in the water disputes before the courts, Bommai said Saturday that the meeting discussed disputes related to the Krishna, Cauvery river basins and the Mahadayi project which are before the courts. Another video conference would be conducted to discuss all these issues by the end of January.

“We will discuss with legal counsels, our Water Resources Minister and Law Minister about the progress of the legal fight so far. How we should move ahead. What measures need to be taken to implement the projects in the interest of the state. Some cases are at a crucial stage, so we need to discuss once again with legal experts and leaders of the Opposition. We will formulate our stand after discussing all these issues at an all-party meeting to be held in the first week of February,” the CM said. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/bangalore/all-party-meet-in-feb-to-discuss-inter-state-water-disputes-karnataka-cm-7737531/  (23 Jan. 2022)

IRRIGATION

Gujarat Govt approves project for additional Narmada water supply to Kutch district The government provided administrative approval for a phase 1 project worth Rs 4,369 crore for the use of additional one million acre feet of the Narmada river water for the border district of Kutch on Jan 18 2022. The approval has been sanctioned keeping in view the present operation of the Kutch branch canal– which is a part of the Narmada main canal, the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) said. The river water will be diverted to 38 small and medium irrigation schemes through a proposed 337.98-km pipeline to irrigate around 2.81 lakh acres of land, covering 77 villages in six talukas of the Kutch district. https://theprint.in/india/guj-govt-approves-project-for-additional-narmada-water-supply-to-kutch-district/806233/  (18 Jan. 2022)

The farmers under the banner of Bhartiya Kisan Sangh had recently protested in all the talukas of Kutch with the demand to provide Narmada water for irrigation. The farmers in Kutch are dependent on monsoon for farming and they could take only one crop in a year. After the availability of irrigation water, the farmers will be able to take two to three crops in a year. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/rajkot/gujarat-kutch-farmers-to-get-narmada-water-for-irrigation/articleshow/88971857.cms  (18 Jan. 2022)

Telangana Cabinet clears irrigation projects worth Rs 2,251 cr The State Cabinet held a lengthy discussion on various projects proposed by the Irrigation Department and approved allocation of Rs 2,251.12 crore for their completion.

Among these newly approved projects, the Cabinet allocated Rs 388.20 crore for construction of a link canal from Mallannasagar reservoir to Tapaspalli reservoir in Siddipet district. The Cabinet also revised the estimated cost of the Chanaka Korata Barrage which is being constructed on the Painganga River in Adilabad district to Rs 795.94 crore. The Cabinet also approved a revised estimate of Rs 669 crore for the proposed Gattu Lift Irrigation Scheme in Jogulamba Gadwal district and to call for tenders for the project works.

The proposed Ghanpur branch canal as part of the Mahatma Gandhi Kalwakurthy Lift Irrigation Scheme, has been allocated with Rs 144.43 crore. About Rs 44.71 crore was sanctioned for the restoration of Pedda Cheruvu tank at Buddharam village in Gopalpeta mandal in Wanaparthy district. The administrative sanction was given for the construction of 11 check dams in Wanaparthy and Jogulamba Gadwal districts at a cost of Rs 27.36 crore. https://telanganatoday.com/telangana-cabinet-clears-irrigation-projects-worth-rs-2251-cr  (17 Jan. 2022)

URBAN RIVERS

Mangaluru Tender to manage solid waste dump at Pachanady finalised This information was given to a division bench of the High Court presided over by Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, when the PIL filed by Karnataka State Legal Services Authority came up for hearing on Tuesday January 18. Additional advocate general Dhyan Cjhinnappa, who presented arguments on behalf of the city corporation, said that tender for clearing and managing the solid waste has been finalized. He said that if the tender amount is over Rs 50 crore, it needs to be put before the finance department.

The division bench which considered this submission, made it amply clear that if the process is not completed in stipulated time and work is not started, the city corporation commissioner will have to be personally present in the high court. The hearing was adjourned to February 10. The high court had earlier instructed the CPCB to collect samples of water from Phalguni river and Maravoor dam which reportedly are contaminated by water flowing from the waste dump, and submit test report. The bench which got angry at the long time sought, ordered the board to file the report without fail before adjourning the hearing. https://www.daijiworld.com/news/newsDisplay?newsID=916829  (19 Jan. 2022)

RIVERS

WATERMARK: An 1810 painting by J. Hammer of the Hooghly at Serampore

West Bengal River. Giver. Thine An exhibition to capture the wealth of River Hooghly’s heritage. https://www.telegraphindia.com/culture/the-telegraph-reports-on-an-exhibition-to-capture-the-wealth-of-river-hooghlys-heritage/cid/1848746  (23 Jan. 2022)

Himachal Pradesh The rise and fall of a great river A resident of TIRTHAN valley in Himachal Pradesh, a tributary of Beas River writes about the need to preserve this river. https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/explore/story/71457/the-rise-and-fall-of-a-great-river  (23 Jan. 2022)

YAMUNA Delhi Yamuna water too toxic to treat for 134 days last year According to data from the Wazirabad water quality monitoring laboratory, the city witnessed 22 ammonia spike episodes spread over 134 days last year, during which ammonia levels went above 1 ppm level. Cumulatively, for over 3 months during 2021, DJB reported ammonia levels higher than the maximum treatable limit, the data shows. DJB’s plants have the capacity to treat up to 0.9 ppm levels of ammonia in raw water.

A senior DJB official said, “The problem is witnessed throughout the year, but the concentration of ammonia recorded in winters (between December and March) is relatively higher.” “We try to divert water from other sources to dilute the raw water to keep the operations running at the treatment plants. Ozonation plants are also being set up to increase the treatment capacity to up to 4ppm of ammonia to help deal with the periodic problem,” the official said asking not to be named.

The data from Wazirabad pond shows that ammonia levels stayed above 1 ppm for 16 days in January 2021, and for 27 days in February, 19 days in March and 13 days in April. The DJB report shows that 15 smaller disruption periods varying between 2 to 6 days were observed between May and November 2021. Of the total 935 MGD of Delhi’s daily water supply– over 230 MGD is supplied by Chandrawal and Wazirabad plants both of which draw water from Wazirabad pond fed by Yamuna water. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/delhi-news/delhiyamuna-water-too-toxic-to-treat-for-134-days-last-year-101642616963126.html  (20 Jan. 2022)

Domestic sewage to blame for 80% of river pollution Domestically generated sewage is the main reason for the Yamuna’s pollution and contributes to more than 80% of the total effluents being discharged into the river, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) has said in reply to an RTI query. The RTI revealed that DPCC is currently monitoring the Yamuna’s quality in nine locations as well as 24 drains, including two coming from UP, that discharge effluents into the river on a monthly basis.

“Delhi’s estimated sewage generation is 720 MGD. The responsibility of proper treatment and disposal of sewage lies with DJB. There are 34 operational STPs and about 515 MGD is being treated through these,” the RTI reply said. It added that interceptor sewers have been laid to trap the sewage being discharged through sub-drains, namely Najafgarh drain, the supplementary drain and Shahdara drain. DPCC also said in the RTI that there are 13 common effluent treatment (CET) plants catering to 28 industrial areas and 24 redevelopment areas. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/domestic-sewage-to-blame-for-80-of-river-pollution/articleshow/88960352.cms  (18 Jan. 2022)

Pollution in Yamuna has worsened with the faecal bacteria level being at a record high of 14 times than what existed three months ago. This has been revealed by the December 2021 water quality status report by DPCC.  The analysis by DPCC’s Water Laboratory showed there were 41 STPs of DJB of which 35 were operational. However, only eight were complying with the prescribed standards. Sewage generation from 22 major drains was 3,273 MLD, while the installed treatment capacity of STPs was 2,715 MLD. But only 2,182 MLD sewage was being actually treated. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/yamuna-dirtier-than-it-was-3-months-ago/articleshow/88938920.cms  (17 Jan. 2022)

With faecal bacteria level being at a record high of 14 times than what it was 3 months ago, the pollution in the Yamuna has worsened, as per the December 2021 water quality report issued by DPCC. Reportedly, Yamuna becomes more contaminated when the river water exits the city. At the time of entry, DO, BOD, faecal coliform, among others are within the permitted limit. However, at the time of exit, all high-level effluents add to its contamination. The faecal coliform level during the entry was 1,400 MPN/100ml as compared to 2500 MPN/100 ml which is the maximum limit. Furthermore, at the time of exit, not only it was 28 times higher than the desired limits but also 580 times more than the maximum permissible limits. https://www.timesnownews.com/delhi/article/delhi-yamuna-drowning-in-pollution-with-14-fold-rise-in-faecal-coliform-levels-in-3-months-reveals-dpcc-report/850271  (17 Jan. 2022)

In yet another reminder of the degrading habitat health of the Yamuna, fewer bird species were spotted this year during the annual bird census on the river between Wazirabad Barrage and Nizamuddin Bridge, considered a birding hotspot. However, the census on Friday found the total number of birds had increased despite the presence of fewer species.

The Asian waterbird census conducted by Wetland International counted a total of 2,052 birds belonging to 24 species against 1,194 birds of 29 species last year in the same month. According to an ecologist, while the January rains spurred a number of shallow water migratory birds — pied avocet, ruff, little stint, little-ringed plover, common redshank, common greenshank, among them — to leave the area, a degraded river habitat deterred others from making Delhi their winter camp. Though there were more birds on the stretch than last year, the census noted that the overall population comprised mostly two species: the black-headed gull and white-headed gull. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/species-count-dips-on-yamuna-more-birds-bring-little-solace/articleshow/89065900.cms  (23 Jan. 2022)

RIVERS BIODIVERSITY

Arunachal Pradesh New lizard species discovered The new genus and species, Protoblepharus Apatani, was discovered by the team who earlier discovered the Salazar pit viper and several other new species of snakes and lizards from the state, which were found during their expedition in 2019. The team found the new skink genus and species under fallen longs in Talle Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. This is the fifth new species of reptile to be described by the team from surveys made in a single expedition in 2019. The rapid survey yielded five new species in a survey of a month and a half. This highlights the poor nature of herpetofauna documentation in the region.  https://www.deccanherald.com/science-and-environment/new-lizard-species-discovered-in-arunachal-pradesh-1072519.html  (19 Jan. 2022)

FISH, FISHERIES, FISHERFOLKS

Need to increase domestic consumption and exports of fish: Fisheries Minister India is the second largest fish producer in the world with a production of 14.16 million tonnes during 2019-20. Jatindra Nath Swain, secretary – fisheries, Department of Fisheries, highlighted that the fisheries segment provides nutritional security to people. He said fish production has grown from around 4 million tonnes in 1991-92. The government is targeting to increase fish production to 22 million tonnes in the next 4-5 years, he added.

– The secretary highlighted that the government has launched a Rs 20,050 crore ‘Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana’, comprising central share of around Rs 9,400 crore, state share of nearly Rs 5,000 crore and beneficiaries contribution of over Rs 5,000 crore, to be implemented from 2020-21 to 2024-25 in all states/Union Territories. https://www.newindianexpress.com/business/2022/jan/21/need-to-increase-domestic-consumption-and-exports-of-fish-says-fisheries-minister-2409667.html  (21 Jan. 2022)

Kerala Miss Kerala not endangered: aquarists A section of aquarists and ornamental fish breeders are surprised that the Denison barb (Miss Kerala), a native freshwater fish species commonly found in parts of Karnataka and Kerala, has been included in Schedule I of the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021. The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in December last.

Aquarium enthusiast Beta Mahatvaraj of Chennai, who has been documenting the native Indian fish species for years, points out two issues in the Bill. He says the scientific name Puntius denisonii, given against the common name Denison barb, is wrong; it should have been Sahyadria denisonii. Even then, the species is found in the States of Kerala and Karnataka. He doubts whether the species can be considered endangered based on the available data. “Inclusion in Schedule I is literally a ban. It is like how you cannot keep a tiger at home,” he argues. https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/miss-kerala-not-endangered-aquarists/article38295881.ece  (20 Jan. 2022)

SAND MINING

Assam This highlights Sand mining reports by SANDRP and also shows how the menace of mindless sand mining is ruining the rivers and people of Assam. https://www.sentinelassam.com/editorial/saving-our-rivers-from-illegal-mining-574515  (24 Jan. 2022)

Uttar Pradesh माफ़िया के ख़िलाफ़ ख़बर की तो पत्रकार पर चढ़ा ‘बुलडोज़र’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kI1FUtNjwAE  (24 Jan. 2022)

Local media clips on illegal mining going on in Yamuna river at Mamor, Kairana.

Haryana Man dies, father injured as boulder falls on them A 26-year-old man died and his 50-year-old father was injured after a huge boulder fell on them at an illegal stone quarry in Jainpur village of Mahendragarh district in the Aravalis. The accident took place on Wednesday (Jan. 19) morning, hours after a blast carried out to break the rocks. The accident comes a couple of weeks after five persons were killed in a landslide in the Dadam mines of Bhiwani. Sources said while the boulder crushed Subash under it, it missed his father, Jagdish, by a whisker as he managed to jump to one side. He, however, suffered grievous injuries in the legs.

The police said six members of the same family from Rajasthan worked at the illegal stone quarry. Since the area comes under the Aravalis, it is managed by the forest department. Villagers asked why the administration had woken up to illegal mining now when it had been taking place for years. “Almost every day, we hear an explosion to break the rocks. It happens both in the night and morning. A siren is sounded and the workers are required to leave the place before the blast is carried out. In the last 4-5 years, the number of blasts has increased manifold,” said a villager.

Villagers doubted if the police vigil would continue for long. “There have been deaths in the past as well, but they have brushed them aside. They hardly take action. In the end, they arrest poor workers like us. But the private contractors move about freely,” the villager said. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/gurgaon/man-dies-father-injured-as-boulder-falls-on-them/articleshow/89027373.cms  (21 Jan. 2022)

Punjab CM’s nephew raided in mining case ahead of elections CM Charanjit Singh Channi’s nephew and several others were raided today (Jan. 18) by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with illegal sand mining, just weeks before state elections. The ED has filed a case of money laundering and is investigating several people with political links, officials said.

The raids come in the middle of intense campaigning in Punjab, which will vote on February 20. The results will be declared on March 10. Illegal sand mining has been one of the talking points in the Punjab campaign. The ruling Congress has been accused by its former CM, Amarinder Singh, of links to the trade. https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/punjab-chief-minister-s-nephew-raided-by-probe-agency-in-illegal-sand-mining-case-weeks-before-polls-2714052  (18 Jan. 2022)

ED seized about Rs 6 crore in cash during the action out of which around Rs 4 crore was recovered from a Ludhiana located premises linked to Bhupinder Singh alias Honey, the nephew of Channi’s sister-in-law.

The ED action, the sources said, has been initiated after taking cognisance of a 2018 FIR of the Nawanshahr (Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar district) Police and some other such police complaints against some companies and individuals alleged to be involved in the business of illegal sand mining in the state. A number of truck drivers and other operatives involved in the extraction and transportation of sand were named as accused in these police FIRs.. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/illegal-sand-mining-ed-raids-multiple-locations-in-punjab-362296  (19 Jan. 2022)

Rupnagar, formerly known as Ropar, is said to have been founded by Raja Rokeshar during the eleventh century, who named the town after his son Rup Sen. An ecologically sensitive district on the foothills of Shivalik Hills, two of its three assembly constituencies (Anandpur Sahib and Rupnagar) share border with Himachal Pradesh. Known for its rich forest, flora and fauna, water bodies and wetlands, the district is currently facing environmental degradation. With river Sutlej flowing through it, sand mining remains a major issue. The sub-mountainous areas in the district constitute ‘Kandi Belt’ where water scarcity — both for drinking and irrigation — is a major problem.

The sub-mountainous Changar area in this constituency has been facing water scarcity for decades. Nearly 30 villages in Changar belt of Anandpur Sahib do not have access to clean water for drinking and irrigation both, even as the constituency has Nangal hydel channel, Anandpur hydel channel and Sutlej passing through it. In summers, people from 30 villages of Changar belt are forced to leave their homes and move closer to Sutlej to have access to water. Sand mining on banks of Sutlej, environmental degradation, declining water table and green cover loss are other issues. https://indianexpress.com/elections/punjab-polls-district-khalsa-panth-cm-illegal-sand-mining-7734364/  (21 Jan. 2022)

A boat rig to pump out sand along with water at a quarry in Faridkot. This leads to deep earth excavation, much beyond the permissible limit. – The Tribune file photo

The cartelisation of the business of mining minor minerals from riverbeds, leading to high prices of sand and gravel, had cost the previous Akali Dal-BJP dispensation a near rout in the 2014 General Election and was one of the reasons for their humiliating defeat in the 2017 Assembly polls. The Congress had stormed to power on the promise of doing away with the “mining mafia” and bring the rates of sand and gravel down. But the lure of this “gold” is something that the political class seems unable to ignore. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/illegal-mining-hollows-punjab-govt-claims-362100  (18 Jan. 2022)

ED recovered Rs 10 crore in cash from directors of a private firm – Providers Overseas Consultants. But the firm’s financial records for the year 2019-20, as accessed by The Indian Express, show its total revenue from operations to be around Rs 18.38 lakh with a total loss of Rs 4.74 lakh after meeting its expenses.

The company also showed total indebtedness of Rs 3.88 lakh. Providers Overseas Consultants had filed its last balance sheet with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs on February 15, 2021 for the year 2019-20, while the balance sheet for FY 2020-21 is yet to be filed. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/jalandhar/illegal-sand-mining-firm-recorded-rs-4-74-lakh-loss-in-2019-20-ed-recovered-rs-10-cr-from-its-directors-7738531/lite/  (24 Jan. 2022)

Madhya Pradesh Contracts of 31 sand mines canceled as contractor defaults on royalty Administration in Khargone district cancelled contracts of all the sand mines operating in the district with immediate effect. Mining officer Sawan Chouhan said that the move was taken in compliance with the Rule 15(1) of the MP Sand (Mining, Transport, Storage and Trade) Rules, 2019. The contractor has defaulted on the due royalty of the mined sand since October so the administration undertook the action. On receiving a communication from the directorate, collector Anugrah P issued orders to the SDMs of the district to take the possession of the approved sand mines on Tuesday (Jan. 4).

Chouhan said that now the contractor will have to remove the available sand within a month from the date of termination or cancellation of the contract as per rules. Mineral at the storage site can also be forfeited if he fails to do so. Process of canceling 36 Nakas of the contractor is also underway. Soon all the blocks will be cancelled, said an official. The contract was signed by Mining Corporation Limited, Bhopal to RK Gupta Construction and Engineers Private Limited from June 10, 2020 to June 30, 2023. https://www.freepressjournal.in/indore/khargone-contracts-of-31-sand-mines-canceled-as-contractor-defaults-on-royalty  (05 Jan. 2022)

WETLANDS, LAKES, WATER BODIES

SANDRP Blog India’s Wetlands Overview 2021: Gross Misuse of even Ramsar sites Wetlands are important part of hydrological cycle and play critical role in water purification, climate moderation, biodiversity conservation and flood regulation apart from offering innumerable environmental services to aquatic, wildlife and human beings for which they are also referred as ‘kidneys of the earth’. There are more than 2 lakh wetlands in India covering nearly 4.6 per cent of its geographical area.

Despite their essential services and significance, the already neglected wetlands eco-system have been facing multiple existential threats. As part of its annual overview for 2021, SANDRP in three part series attempts to highlight the state of wetlands in India during past one year. This first part compiles the 10 top critical reports representing the present day status of wetlands across the country. https://sandrp.in/2022/01/19/indias-wetlands-overview-2021-gross-misuse-of-even-ramsar-sites/  (19 Jan. 2022)

The second part highlights the top ten Wetlands India stories about Government actions in 2021 from media reports, including some positive and some adverse decisions taken by various state governments and centre. https://sandrp.in/2022/01/19/top-ten-india-wetlands-stories-about-govt-actions-in-2021/  (19 Jan. 2022)

This third part of Wetlands Overview 2021 provides details of top ten judicial interventions in India in 2021 regarding wetlands. https://sandrp.in/2022/01/21/top-ten-judicial-actions-on-india-wetlands-2021/  (21 Jan. 2022)

Maharashtra Centre asks state wetland authority to act on herbicide use in Powai Lake The union environment ministry has instructed the state government, via its State Wetland Authority, to act on complaints against the use of glyphosate-containing herbicides in Powai Lake, which were first raised last year by city-based NGO Vanashakti. The NGO was informed about the same on January 12 by a senior scientist with the MoEF, after it highlighted a November 2021 permission letter by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), allowing the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to proceed with spraying glyphosate in a “judicious” manner to control the growth of invasive weeds.

Stalin D, director of Vanashakti, which first raised the issue, said, “The lake is a crocodile habitat. You need to seek necessary clearances from the wildlife department, which BMC has clearly not done. Water hyacinths are invasive, but to remove them you need to first stop the entry of raw sewage into the lake, which has also not been achieved by BMC.” He added, “Bioaccumulation studies may tell you when the level of glyphosate in the water crosses detectable levels, but the more effective way to tackle the issue is through arresting the pollution source, not introducing known contaminants into a natural environment.” https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/mumbai-news/centre-asks-state-wetland-authority-to-act-on-herbicide-use-in-powai-lake-101642688196192.html  (20 Jan. 2022)

Forest dept to take over mangroves in Dharavi area Officials said that around 20-25 hectares of mangrove area in Dharavi, which currently falls with the planning authority MMRDA, will be taken control of by the forest department for better protection. The area forms a part of the Mahim creek sanctuary. Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray, who is also the suburban guardian minister, took a leading role in getting the mangrove protection cell to take over the mangroves.

Virendra Tiwari, Additional Chief Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Mangrove Protection Cell) said, “Last year, we acquired 281 hectares from CIDCO and nearly 500 hectares from the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation in Gorai and Manori, 1,387 hectares in Mira Bhayander, Uttan and Thane. We are deploying guards from the Maharashtra Security Force to protect them. Now, we plan to acquire more mangrove-covered areas in Dharavi.”

Environmentalist Nandakumar Pawar said, “This will be a good step. We have been repeatedly demanding that all government agencies should give mangroves in their custody to the forest department. The forest department has expertise. They may not have the manpower, but they can protect the area from further destruction. The Thane Creek Wildlife Sanctuary has been taken over by the forest department and the protection has been better.”  https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/forest-dept-to-take-over-mangroves-in-dharavi-area-7726874/  (17 Jan. 2022)

Mangroves killed with JCBs as Kharghar locals harvest farming options Kharghar locals and city activists have complained to various state authorities about massive destruction of mangroves and a wetland site taking place in areas near sectors 16, 17, 25 among others which actually comes under CRZ due to the existence of inter-tidal zone. However, environmentalists have stated that local villagers are using JCBs to simply crush mangroves and make agricultural farming plots, while bunds are being created to do shrimp farming by making smaller water tanks.

While a Bombay high court-appointed panel is looking into the issue, the state forest secretary has received the complaint as it is happening on a large scale. Activists said they may resort to a “peaceful” protest as they cannot see further environmental degradation that will directly affect wetland birds and wildlife like golden jackals seen in these parts.

Member of court-appointed Mangroves Protection Committee, D Stalin, said: “I inspected the damaged Kharghar sites last year, after. It is surprising that no government action was taken in spite of personally reporting this matter…” “A massive land grab is going on at Kharghar node. We have sent an urgent complaint to the chief minister’s office which emailed back to us that the forest secretary has been told to also look into this issue. So, we are hopeful,” said B N Kumar of NatConnect Foundation. NatConnect Foundation and Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan have complained to the CM about the destruction in progress at Kharghar  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/navi-mumbai/mangroves-killed-with-jcbs-as-locals-harvest-farming-options/articleshow/88906795.cms  (15 Jan. 2022)

Acting swiftly on the complaints of Kharghar residents about the massive destruction of mangroves and a wetland site in the intertidal area in Navi Mumbai, the state revenue officials have lodged an FIR under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

Local greens said that the investigation must also get into the details of the mangrove destruction and the officials concerned should keep a close watch on the area where the illegal activities have been going on. Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan pointed out that the creek and the mangrove fall under CRZ-1 and that no one has any business to fiddle with the free flow of tidal water. The organised, planned prawn and crab culture ponds cutting into mangroves is an act of certain vested interests and not ordinary fishing community people, Pawar said and called going to the root cause of this menace. “These kinds of illegal activities bring a bad name to the law-abiding and simple fishing community,” he said.

The state forest department has declared about 53 per cent of the 32,000-hectare mangroves as protected forest. About 16,000 hectares of mangroves have been categorized as private property which leaves about 3,000 hectares under government control that need to be declared as forest. The hundreds of hectares of mangroves under the now de-notified Navi Mumbai SEZ are yet to be accounted for, Kumar said. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/navi-mumbai/navi-mumbai-maharashtra-govt-files-fir-in-kharghar-mangroves-and-wetland-destruction-case/articleshow/88974584.cms  (18 Jan. 2022)

Site of mangroves destruction at Sector 25 in Kharghar. Revenue officials registered a case under the Environment Protection Act against unidentified persons. (HT PHOTO)

Taking cognisance of the Hindustan Times report published on January 15, the Revenue officials registered a case under the Environment Protection Act against unidentified persons for the destruction of mangroves and illegal shrimp (prawns) farming ponds in the creek area in Kharghar. The FIR filed by Revenue Circle Officer, Pandurang Kachre at the Kharghar police station, mentions that after HT report, a team of revenue and forest officials conducted an on-the-spot check of the site confirming the destruction of mangroves.

A cursory check of Google images indicated that the mangroves might have been destroyed during 2005-09. But the prawns’ culture ponds have been freshly noticed, the FIR said, and registered a case under Section 15 of the Maharashtra Environment Protection Act, 1986. The section stipulates a five-year jail term for the violators, if convicted. HT, in its report titled “CM Thackeray asks forest secretary to look into complaint against mangrove destruction” had drawn attention to the destruction of mangroves in Kharghar. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/mumbai-news/unidentified-persons-booked-for-mangroves-destruction-illegal-shrimp-farming-in-kharghar-101642517451058.html   (18 Jan. 2022)

Garbage dumping ground in mangroves area of Uran to be beautified The nearly four-hectare garbage dumping ground in the mangroves area of Uran across Mumbai harbour would soon be beautified following a Bombay High Court order and then handed over to the forest department. Uran Municipal Council (UMC), which was at the receiving end of the greens for allegedly dumping garbage on mangroves and wetland at Bori Pakhadi, has initiated the process of scientific closure of the dumping ground through bio-mining and bio-remediation process.

Following a tender, a private firm has been entrusted with the contract for separating wet garbage for compost and the rest for scientific disposal. The work costing ₹10.50 lakh started on January 21 and is expected to be completed in three months. Santosh Mali, chief executive officer of UMC, said, “The dumping ground plot at Bori Pakhadi had been given to UMC in 2007 by Raigad Collector. In 2011, there were litigations and objections by local residents on the stench. Meanwhile, mangroves that were not there earlier, too, came up nearby due to the presence of the creek. A PIL was then filed by Hanuman Koliwada Machchimar Vikas Sanstha Maryadit in 2018.”

During the hearings, the Court asked the State Government to provide an alternate dumping site. The government has facilitated the use of CIDCO dumping ground at Chal village in Panvel taluka. UMC decided to remove the almost 15-year-old garbage dumps and hand over the area to the forest department. The scientific closure process has begun. The entire area will be properly levelled and handed over to the forest department for conserving the mangroves. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/mumbai-news/garbage-dumping-ground-in-mangroves-area-of-uran-to-be-beautified-101642853862652.html  (22 Jan. 2022)

Not just Panje, there are no wetlands in entire Uran Taluka: Uran tehsildar  Even as environmentalists have been raising issues of mangroves destruction and debris dumping at Panje in Uran, which they call a wetland, Uran tehsildar Bhausaheb Andhare has vehemently denied the allegations and stated that not just Panje but the entire Uran Taluka has no wetlands. CIDCO has leased around 3,000 acres of land in Dronagiri node to Navi Mumbai SEZ in 2006-07 that includes 523 acres of land near village Panje, Funde and Dongri and 377 acres of land in Bokadvira commonly termed as “Panje Wetland” by NGOs.

Panje land is the largest parcel of land leased to NMSEZ. This is one of the premium lands available with NMSEZ having a waterfront as well as the view of Mumbai skyline. Panje would be accessible from Gateway of India in about 30 minutes by speed boat once the facilities are created. There have been several complaints lately by the greens claiming violation of norms at Panje and attempts to destroy what they call the wetland.

Refuting the claims, Andhare said, “Not a single area in the entire Uran Taluka has been notified as a wetland till date. No area of NMSEZ figures in the wetland list as well. “There were salt pans and paddy fields here in Uran previously. Raigad Collector has given an affidavit in the High Court giving a list of wetlands in Raigad District. There is no mention of any such wetland in Uran taluka. CIDCO, too, has repeatedly stated that Panje land is not a wetland.”

Andhare claimed that flap gates have been installed in the area to ensure free flow of tidal water from the creek. Water comes in during high tide and then recedes. It has nothing to do with the presence of any wetland. According to Andhare, “The issue here is of the fishing community that wants water flow and also local villagers who want a cricket ground which often results in differences.” Commenting on the complaints by the greens, Andhare said, “Allegations should be based on facts. How can they term the area as wetland when there is no notification to the effect? Every time there is a complaint or allegation, I personally check on them. Blaming the authorities and hyping things will not help. We should all act responsibly.” https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/mumbai-news/not-just-panje-there-are-no-wetlands-in-entire-uran-taluka-uran-tehsildar-101642076459340.html  (13 Jan. 2022)

Make efforts to declare Lonar crater lake as wetland: HC With a view to provide better protection and conservation to Lonar crater lake, the Nagpur bench of Bombay high court on Thursday (Jan. 06) directed its development committee (LCLDC) to make efforts to declare it as a wetland. The move came after principal chief conservator of forests and member-secretary of Maharashtra State Biodiversity Board, Praveen Srivastav, pointed out that there is a Wetland Authority established under the ‘Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017’, whose duties and functions are to identify the eligible water bodies and notify them.

“We direct the committee to consider the suggestions provided by Shrivastav and move the concerned authority for the lake’s notification as wetland, if it has not been notified so as yet. We request the committee to take into consideration the suggestions given by the Biodiversity Board through its chairman or member-secretary regarding a plan for its conservation and preservation. We also request that Srivastav may be invited in the next meeting as a consultee expert,” a division bench comprising justices Sunil Shukre and Anil Pansare said.

While providing some valuable information about the lake, believed to have formed about 50,000 years ago due to a meteorite impact, Srivastav emphasised on a comprehensive plan to be prepared to restore and preserve its original ecology. “If that is to be done, it would be necessary that study and analysis of various reports of the experts is made. Also, the steps necessary for implementing the suggestions given by them can be included in the LCLDC’s plan. Except for the deficiency regarding setting up of a research laboratory, the plan submitted before us is satisfactory and it answers almost all the concerns expressed so far about the lake’s future,” the bench said.

The judges directed LCLDC to modify the development plan on the lines suggested by them and after incorporating the suggestions given by Srivastav send it to the Maharashtra government for approval. “The whole exercise of modification of the plan, its submission to the government and sanction being accorded by it, shall be completed within four months. After the approval, its implementation shall be started within two weeks and completed in five years as suggested by the panel,” the judges said. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/make-efforts-to-declare-lonar-crater-lake-as-wetland-hc/articleshow/88764302.cms  (08 Jan. 2022)

Greens raise concern over large-scale landfill at Savarkhar wetland Environmentalists have raised an alarm over a fresh massive destruction of the migratory birds destination, the Savarkhar wetland in Uran, where they claim a large-scale landfill is in progress. “Scores of truckloads of earth and debris are being deposited on the 15-hectare water body and it is a serious situation,” said Dilip Koli of traditional fishing community, Paaramparik Machimar Bachao Kruti Samiti.

NatConnect Foundation and Shri Ekvira Sai Pratishtan have sent a mail to the CM, the environment department and the High Court-appointed Mangrove and Wetland committees. They have also sent the GPS photographs and video of the landfill. There has been landfill going on in the area for some time, but the authorities have been in a denial mode, said BN Kumar, director of NatConnect Foundation.

“The burial of Uran wetlands has disturbed the fragile ecological balance here as the migratory and local birds are forced to struggle for landing places for roosting and nesting. In fact, the Karal Gram Panchayat had, in July, appealed to Uran Tehsildar to look into the landfill at Savarkhar that is causing intermittent floods in the village, said Nandkumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/mumbai-news/greens-raise-concern-over-large-scale-landfill-at-savarkhar-wetland-in-uran-101639225543040.html  (11 Dec. 2021)

Turtles found dead at Gauripada Lake in Kalyan Around 50 turtles were found dead at Gauripada Lake in Kalyan (W) on Saturday (Jan. 22) afternoon. As soon as the turtles were found dead, locals informed the forest department, whose officials rushed to the spot. The representatives of Wild Animal and Reptile Rescue (WARR) also joined the rescue operations. As per WARR members, six turtles were rescued alive from the lake on Saturday evening.

“As of now, we have recovered around 50 dead turtles from the lake and the search operations are still under way. The locals claimed that the turtles were found dead since Friday. We have also informed the local civic body and the pollution control board to select the samples of the water and check the cause of the incident,” said RN Channe, Kalyan forest range officer. “All the turtles that were found dead are Indian flapshell turtles. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/mumbai-news/turtles-found-dead-at-gauripada-lake-in-kalyan-101642865266478.html  (22 Jan. 2022)

Caught in fishing nets, sea snakes are dying along the Malvan coast In a recent study, marine biologists forewarn a decline in sea snake populations at the Malvan coast, a major landing port in southern Maharashtra. The authors flag that mechanised vessels are likely to be the main cause of this decline.

Sea snakes caught as bycatch. | Chetan Rao/Mongabay

“Sea snakes play an intermediary role in the ecosystem. They are prey and predators of marine fauna,” informed Chetan Rao of Dakshin Foundation, Bengaluru, and lead author of the study. Marine snakes are geographically widespread species that are critical to reef and coastal ecosystems in tropical and subtropical waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans. Their removal from the system could warp the trophic balance, Rao added. Being predators, they feed on various herbivorous marine fauna but are mainly piscivores (fish eaters). Sea snakes control the fish populations, preventing over-consumption of planktons and keeping the balance in check.

But, due to a lack of data, the understanding of the influence of sea snakes on the marine ecosystem is limited. The study was conducted between January 2016 and December 2018 at Malvan, a central part of the Konkan coast which has a shallow and extended continental shelf that is formed of estuaries, mangrove forests, coral outcrops and shallow water habitats occupied by sea snakes. https://scroll.in/article/1015304/caught-in-fishing-nets-sea-snakes-are-dying-along-the-malvan-coast-of-maharashtra  (19 Jan. 2022)

Gujarat Govt to work towards getting Ramsar site recognition for important wetlands At the first meeting of the reconstituted State Wetland Authority on Tuesday (Jan. 18) it was decided that action will be taken for important wetlands of Gujarat to be recognised as Ramsar sites after carrying out necessary assessment. The meeting was held at Gandhinagar under the chairmanship of Forest and Environment Minister Kiritsinh Rana, an official release said. Gujarat has three Ramsar Sites – Nalsarovar, Thol and Wadhwana. The meeting was also attended by Minister of State for Forest Detailed discussion was also held in the meeting on conservation of wetlands of Gujarat. Environment Jagdish Panchal and top officials of concerned departments. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/gandhinagar/state-to-work-towards-getting-ramsar-site-recognition-for-important-wetlands-7730498/  (18 Jan. 2022)

Kerala Illegal wetland filling goes unchecked in Kozhikode The special squads constituted in various panchayats in Kozhikode district to check illegal filling of wetlands and paddy fields have largely remained inactive. Conversion of such illegally filled areas into garden land is also rampant thanks to poor surveillance. Environmental organisations attribute the trend to official apathy coupled with the involvement of influential politicians. Complaints against suspected individuals and firms are being ignored, they said.

“Many village and panchayat officials are not familiar with the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland (Amendment) Act. As a result, complaints are not taken up for spot action,” said a functionary of the Kerala Paristhithi Samrakshana Samiti. He added that an awareness programme had to be organised for land revenue officials to familiarise them with the rules. Complaints are also on the rise against wetland filling in the name of road development. Environmental activists pointed out that the ongoing construction of the Perambra Bypass was a classic instance where local residents were up in arms against large-scale filling of wetlands.

An action committee member said there had been similar attempts near the Kottuli wetland too. “It was the local police who finally acted against the illegal act and booked a private landholder who attempted to fill nearly eight acres along the Kozhikode Bypass. Revenue officials arrived at the spot only after the earth removers and goods carriers were impounded,” he claimed. Meanwhile, Revenue department sources said there was no negligence on the part of the squads in exposing illegal land filling. According to them, the frequency of inspections was reduced in some villages owing to staff shortage and workload. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kozhikode/illegal-wetland-filling-goes-unchecked-in-kozhikode/article38309199.ece  (22 Jan. 2022)

Experts flay KCA’s move to ‘reclaim’ wetland Experts noted that Kerala Cricket Association’s (KCA) act of giving permission to the irrigation department to dump sediment extracted from Vembanad lake, on the former’s property at Edakochi is in violation of coastal regulation zone (CRZ) rules. They said the move is to reclaim the entire 22 acres of wetland in the guise of allowing dumping of sediment in the area.

Former vice-chancellor of Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (Kufos) B Madhusoodhana Kurup said a committee constituted by the Kerala Coastal Zone management Authority had denied KCA permission to construct an international cricket stadium on the site at Edakochi as it falls under CRZ 1 category. Kurup was a member of the committee. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kochi/experts-flay-kcas-move-to-reclaim-wetland/articleshow/88676692.cms  (04 Jan. 2022)

KCA moving on with its effort to recover wetlands The KCA has approved a measure to reclaim a large part of wetlands in Edakochi, which would eventually lead to large-scale destruction of mangroves in the Vembanad wetlands. KCA’s plan to create an international stadium of 22 acres has been revived by preparing to fill the sediments from the Vembanad lake, which will be desilted very soon.Since it was found to be in violation of the coastal control zone (CRZ)-1 rules, the ministry of environment and forests led by Jairam Ramesh rejected the effort.The irrigation department is now planning to dredge and deepen the 1.5-kilometer stretch of the Vembanad Lake from Kannangattu Island to Edakochi in the first phase at a cost of Rs 1.2 crore.

Because the water department could not find a better place to dump the sediments collected from the lake, the KCA’s wetland was dumped in the lake.In the assembly, K Babu MLA submitted a proposal for the lake to be deepened. Fishermen also reported that they were unable to operate boats on this stretch of water due to the accumulation of sediments and water that also floods into the houses nearby. The issue could only be addressed by removing the sediment, and the KCA has given us permission to dump the sediment on their property in Edakochi, according to a major Irrigation official in Ernakulam. https://thetimesbureau.com/the-kca-is-moving-on-with-its-effort-to-recover-wetlands-in-edakochi-202201/  (02 Jan. 2022)

Bleak future ahead for Kochi  Thanks to climate change, the Kochi-Vembanadu belt may become less hospitable in another hundred years. Rising sea levels, extreme rainfall events and intense tidal flooding can have undesirable consequences for this economically and strategically important and ecologically sensitive region.

Vembanadu Wetland Ecosystem:- 6 major rivers originating from the Western Ghats empty into this Ramsar site. It plays a crucial role in regulating water flow from the hills and plains into the Arabian sea and helps control floods in the region. The rising sea level in Kochi can slow water discharge into the lake, thereby aggravating the flooding of the rivers. Due to incessant rains and landslides in Koottikkal, in October, there were unprecedented floods in towns like Mundakkayam and Kanjirappally.

Closing the shutters of Thanneermukkam bund in summer (to save rice fields of Kuttanadu from seawater inundation) and opening them in the rainy season (to avoid floods in Kuttanadu) have the unintended consequence of intensifying tidal flooding in the Kochi-Vembandau belt. Taking cognisance of the recent weather-related disasters and predictions of IPCC, it is likely that the worst is yet to come. The unique physiography and demography of the region will make things even more difficult. https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/kochi/2022/jan/19/bleak-future-ahead-for-kochi-thanks-to-global-warming-2408430.html  (19 Jan. 2022)

Delhi Fewer bird numbers, species at Najafgarh lake this year Over the past two years, the jheel has recorded a fluctuating number of bird species. In 2020, for instance, only 54 species were recorded, lower than the number spotted last year. Only 9,453 birds were counted in 2020, even lower than the numbers recorded this year. T K Roy, AWC Delhi coordinator for Wetlands International, pegs the lower numbers on local factors like large-scale, excessive fishing in the jheel which disturbs the birds, along with a possible change in migratory patterns due to climate change.

Manu Bhatnagar of the INTACH said fishing is one of the issues since depletion of the fish population leaves fewer resources for the birds, and the fish tend to attract birds to the wetland. “The quality of water coming from the Haryana side is very bad. There’s untreated industrial effluent coming from Manesar, and under-treated sewage, which leaves low oxygen and poor quality of water. These are factors that affect bird populations,” he said.

INTACH first approached the NGT in 2014 regarding the rejuvenation of the Najafgarh lake, and filed another application in 2019 saying that both the Delhi and Haryana governments had not taken any measures, and asked the tribunal to direct both governments to declare the jheel a “wetland/waterbody”. The two governments were then directed to form environment management plans for the lake. The two plans were prepared, and a joint management plan was submitted to the NGT in December last year, Bhatnagar said. The matter is slated to be heard next on January 21. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/fewer-bird-numbers-species-najafgarh-lake-7732531/  (20 Jan. 2022)

West Bengal STR authorities set free GPS-tagged turtles for observation Sunderbans Tiger Reserve authorities on Tuesday (Jan. 18) tagged GPS transmitters to a batch of 12 “highly threatened” northern river Terrapin turtles, also known as the “Batagur Baska”, and set them free in a quiet location with an objective to understand its survival and dispersal patterns. This GPS tagging and tracking endeavour is the first ever in the country made for any species of freshwater turtle, and is slated to pave the way for large-scale release of the breed in the near future, STR sources explained.

Turtles tagged with GPS transmitters being released in the Sunderbans. Telegraph Picture

The Sunderbans has a significant population of tigers and saltwater crocodiles. Being the largest contiguous mangrove forest in the world, it has elaborate networks of rivers, channels, islands, and forest swamps forming the lower Ganges-Brahmaputra delta along the Indo-Bangladesh border, posing considerable challenges for the manual tracking of the released animals.

The Northern River Terrapin is widely regarded as one of the most endangered freshwater turtles in the world. Only a handful of animals are extant in the mangrove swamps and tidal rivers of the Sunderbans spanning southeast India and southwest Bangladesh. STR officials claimed the Baska turtle population declined precipitously owing to unsustainable harvesting. With few wild adults, the species now reportedly teeters on the brink of functional extinction. https://www.telegraphindia.com/west-bengal/sunderbans-tiger-reserve-authorities-set-free-gps-tagged-turtles-for-observation/cid/1848338  (20 Jan. 2022)

The baska population “declined sharply due to unsustainable harvesting”, the official said, adding that the species now teeters on the brink of functional extinction.  A joint exploration by a team of TSA Programme and STR in 2008 found a cohort of eight males, three females, and one juvenile batagur baska in a pond in Sajnekhali, Roy said.

“In the Sajnekhali pond, we had started with 12 turtles and now the number has gone up to 370. We aim at reaching 1,000 in captivity by next year. The GPS tagging will enable real-time monitoring of the turtles and help get information about their reproduction and the way they adapt to the environment,” he said. https://www.hindustantimes.com/environment/more-endangered-turtles-to-be-released-with-gps-tags-in-bengal-s-sundarbans-101642770524250.html  (21 Jan. 2022)

In 2009, officials at the STR and TSA started a breeding program at Sajnekhali after overfishing led to a rapid decline in their numbers. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/videos/toi-original/sunderbans-endangered-river-terrapins-released-into-the-wild-with-gps/videoshow/89015067.cms  (20 Jan. 2022)

Himachal Pradesh Road alignment proposals for bridge over Gobind Sagar lake finalised Two road alignment proposals for the construction of a road bridge over the Gobind Sagar lake between Lathiani and Bihru in Una district and the spots for the two ends of the 840-metre bridge have been finalised. The bridge will reduce the distance between Una and Hamirpur districts by about 20 km and also allow road access to people living in villages around the reservoir, who now use boats as means of transport.

According to the highways authorities, the bridge will be built in two parts, the first 440-metre part to be supported by cables and the remaining carried on pillars. Meanwhile, the government, through the Kutlehar Tourism Development Society, has proposed to set up a tourism hub near Bihru on the banks of the reservoir. The facilities like adventure water sports, angling, bird watching and nature trekking are also proposed.  https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/road-alignment-proposals-for-bridge-over-gobind-sagar-lake-finalised-362150  (18 Jan. 2022)

Assam Deepor Beel waits for demarcation Locals of Guwahati’s Deepor Beel have stated that the Government cannot carry out any act of eviction of the encroachers until proper boundary demarcation of the Ramsar site and wetland area has been made. The wetland was declared a Ramsar site in 2002, but the area to be considered under it has not been demarcated even after almost two decades.

Assam Tourism Minister, Bimal Borah on December 20 informed at the ongoing winter session of the Assam Legislative Assembly that encroachers from Deepor Beel will be evicted within the next 10 days to develop the wetland into a tourist spot. Amongst the developments made will be the construction of a bird watch tower and the introduction of 100 houseboats on the water body. https://www.guwahatiplus.com/exclusive-news/guwahati-deepor-beel-wetland-and-ramsar-site-boundaries-still-await-proper-demarcation  (27 Dec. 2021)

Jammu & Kashmir CS Tells NGT To Personally Oversee Wetland Execution Plans No doubts , NGT, a long time back issued directions regarding lot of issues, which are in possession of CTN but had never bothered by J&K bosses as usual, however, now, Chief Secretary, J&K has told the Principal Bench of the NGT that he would personally oversee the wetland execution plans in Kashmir. A petition on this issue ‘Raja Muzaffar Bhat versus State of J&K’ listed before the tribunal is pending disposal before the NGT for almost 3 years. The petitioner has prayed for the prevention of unscientific dumping of waste and encroachment of Wullar, Hokersar, and Kreentchoo Chandhara wetlands.

The chief secretary assured the tribunal that the execution of action plans would be overseen on regular basis by him along with Commissioner Secretary Environment and Forest. The counsel of the petitioner told the NGT that the J&K government had not acted upon the previous orders and advisories of the tribunal as only paperwork was being done and wetlands like Wullar and Hokersar, in particular, were being encroached and polluted by was solid and liquid waste dumping.

The NGT further said that monitoring of steps for compliance of rules about such wetlands ought to be at district level by the District Magistrate at state-level by State Wetland Authority and at national level by National Wetland Authority. We are confident that such initiatives in monitoring will go a long way in protecting the wetlands which have significant environmental functions. https://www.crosstownnews.in/post/71329/cs-jak-tells-ngt-principal-bench-to-personally-oversee-wetland-execution-plans.html  (29 Nov. 2021)

GROUNDWATER

Study Excessive groundwater extraction causing parts of Delhi-NCR to sink Around 100 sq km of area in the national capital region has high risk of ground displacement, with the largest of these, of around 12.5 sq km, is in southwest Delhi’s Kapashera, barely 800m away from the airport, researchers have found using satellite data.

The rate of “sinking of land” in the neighbourhood near the airport is accelerating and the subsidence feature is rapidly expanding towards the airport, potentially threatening it, the researchers from IIT Bombay, German Research Centre for Geosciences, Cambridge and the Southern Methodist University, US said in a study titled Tracking hidden crisis in India’s capital from space: implications of unsustainable groundwater use, which was published in the peer-reviewed Nature journal. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/delhi-news/excessive-groundwater-extraction-causing-parts-of-delhi-ncr-to-sink-study-101642441000326.html  (18 Jan. 2022)

URBAN WATER

Pune Treated water use mandatory for construction Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) is the first municipality in India to mandate the use of treated water for construction sites instead of using groundwater or potable water. Although the builders have welcomed the move, they have pointed out some practical and logistic issues like tanker availability, water quality, transport cost and storage at site. With a positive attitude, the civic body is willing to address the practical problems faced by builders and supply the treated water free of charge except for transportation costs. PMC has five to six times more treated water capacity than construction demand, and moving forward, tanker owners will be asked to paint treated water tankers in different colors. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/pune-news/now-treated-water-use-mandatory-for-construction-101641995333144.html  (12 Jan. 2022)

Mumbai Centre’s process to take action against illegal GW business stalled Despite the Central Groundwater Authority’s (CGWA) directive to well and water tanker owners in Mumbai — who are illegally exploiting groundwater for commercial use and sale — to take its NoC by paying the stipulated late fees or face legal action, BMC commissioner Iqbal Chahal following a meeting between water tanker owners with environment minister Aaditya Thackeray, has stayed the process. The CGWA guidelines to regularise groundwater use has been in place since September 2020. Similarly, NGT too had ordered in March 2017 that the well and tanker owners involved in commercial sale must take CGWA’s NoC before seeking BMC nod. Individual wells used for pure domestic purposes are not included in this process.

Thackeray had called the virtual meeting with Chahal and Mumbai Tanker Association members in order to persuade tanker owners to withdraw their strike citing it as a hurdle to ongoing infrastructure projects, a BMC insecticide department has revealed in its reply to a query placed by crusader against illegal groundwater use Sureshkumar Dhoka regarding actions taken as per CGWA guidelines. Dhoka said as per estimates over 2,000 tankers and nearly 10,000 well owners in Mumbai may have been involved in the illegal groundwater extraction, commercial use and sale business worth Rs 10,000 crore. On record, he said BMC has a list of only 251 wells from where such an exploitation is happening illegally. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/mumbai-centres-process-to-take-action-against-illegal-groundwater-business-worth-over-rs-10000-crore-stalled/articleshow/88997954.cms  (19 Jan. 2022)

BMC completes digging India’s smallest diameter sewer tunnel The BMC on Monday (Jan. 17) completed India’s smallest diameter sewer tunnel dug in Mumbai by Earth Pressure Balance (EPB) Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM). “Till now, 80 per cent work of this project has been completed and the entire work is planned to be completed by December 2022. The length of the sewer tunnel is 1,857 metre, whereas its internal diameter is 2.60 metre and outer diameter is 3.20 metre,” said an official.

“The sewer tunnel is expected to cater a flow of 72 MLD in future. The tunnel is designed considering the future flow upto 2051. There is a shaft at Mahim causeway junction to divert future sewage flow from Chimbai pumping station to the proposed tunnel. The sewage leading to Jay Bharat pumping station will be diverted to Bandra through the proposed sewer tunnel. The capacity of the sewer line from Bandra-Khar locality will be increased. The maintenance cost of the Jay Bharat pumping station at Khar (west), Chimbai pumping station at Bandra (West) will be saved. The sewage flow through the sewer tunnel will reach Bandra by gravity,” the official added. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/bmc-completes-digging-indias-smallest-diameter-sewer-tunnel-in-mumbai/articleshow/88957011.cms  (17 Jan. 2022)

Thane TMC served legal notice for water crisis The Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) has been served a legal notice by two of the residents of Ghodbunder Road in view of the existing water woes in this area. The residents claimed that the corporation has failed to keep its promises to the Bombay High Court. The notice claimed that the civic body had assured the HC in 2017 that it would form a committee to look into the water issues of Ghodbunder residents, following which the court had permitted new constructions on this road that were stopped for over a year due to water woes.

The notice issued by Madhu Narayananunni, resident of Kavesar, and Dattatray Ghadage, resident of Manorama Nagar, claims that neither any such committee was formed till date nor was a single meeting held to resolve the water issue. They have asked the TMC to form a committee in the next seven days and conduct a meeting or else they would approach the High Court pointing out this as a contempt of court. A PIL was filed in the High Court three years ago to stop new construction activity on Ghodbunder Road unless the corporation provided them water connections. TMC has assured the court that the city has enough water for these complexes. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/mumbai-news/thane-municipal-corporation-served-legal-notice-for-water-crisis-of-ghodbunder-road-residents-101642689451071.html  (20 Jan. 2022)

Bengaluru People living on city’s periphery do not want Cauvery water The government agency responsible for supplying water to Bengaluru spent a big chunk of money (about Rs 3,000 crore) setting up the water and drainage infrastructure in the 110 villages that make up about 225 square kilometres of the BBMP area. The BWSSB has laid 2,810 kilometres of water pipelines, 1,365 kilometres of underground drainage lines and built 10 ground-level reservoirs. The project has been in the making for more than a decade now and has been designed for the next 30 years. It’s up and running in 51 of the 110 villages. As against the target of 71,938 water connections in 51 villages, the BWSSB has been able to sell only 19,573 connections or just 27%.

Cauvery water pipeline work. Credit: DH File Photo

According to a senior BWSSB engineer, the main reason for people’s indifference is that many of these villages get free borewell water from the BBMP or elected representatives. Another engineer working on the water project said that the Beneficiary Contribution Charge (BCC) levied by the BWSSB in addition to the connection charges could also be deterring property owners. The BCC starts from Rs 5,000 for a residential unit of 600 square feet and goes up proportionately as per the area of the dwelling and the number of floors. “This is a big deterrent for apartment complexes and large housing societies because the BCC is calculated for every flat,” the engineer added. The state government allowed the BWSSB to collect the additional fee so that it can recover the huge investment made in setting up the water infrastructure.

Then there is the problem of unauthorised connections. The agency wants to wait until 2023 when the Cauvery water project will be rolled out in all the 110 villages. “As of now, we supply the Cauvery water just once or twice, that too for a few hours. It’s possible that many residents are waiting for a more frequent water supply. We hope things would improve,” an official said. https://www.deccanherald.com/city/top-bengaluru-stories/why-people-living-on-bengalurus-periphery-do-not-want-cauvery-water-1073689.html  (23 Jan. 2022)

Mysuru City to get water from Kapila Southern parts of Mysuru will soon get drinking water from the Kapila river. Urban development minister Byrathi Basavaraj on Jan 21 2022 gave the green signal for the Rs 150-cr project proposed by the Karnataka Urban Water Supply and Drainage Board. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mysuru/southern-mysuru-to-get-water-from-kapila/articleshow/89049581.cms  (22 Jan. 2022)

Shimla Households to be linked with sewerage network in a year  Shimla Jal Prabandhan Nigam Limited (SJPNL) has prepared a DPR worth Rs 219 crore for the World Bank-funded project that will involve replacing the existing four inch pipelines with six inch pipes and laying the pipes in the unconnected areas. “We have sent the DPR to CPHEEO in Delhi and are expecting clearance in the next 15 working days. Once we have the go-ahead, we will float global tenders for the job,” said the official.

The Tribune photo

Apart from replacing the old pipes and laying new ones in the yet unconnected areas, three STPs will be retrofitted through the World Bank funding. “The STPs at Summerhill, Annadel and Snowden will be retrofitted to upgrade the technology. Old parts will be changed to enhance the efficiency of these STPs,” the official said. “Through AMRUT funding, STPs at Dhalli, Malyana and Lalpani will be upgraded and their capacity will be enhanced,” the official said. Apart from the existing 6 STPs, 4 more STPS are in the pipeline. “2 in Mashobra, 1 each in Panthaghati and Totu are in the pipeline,” he said, adding that the city would have total of 10 STPs.  https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/shimla-households-to-be-linked-with-sewerage-network-in-a-year-362747  (20 Jan. 2022)

17 green belts to be thrown open for construction The 17 “no construction” green belts of the state capital, considered to be the lungs of the town, will be thrown open for the construction of two-and-a-half storeyed residential buildings after around 22 years.

In its order on September 30, 2015, the NGT had not just ruled out the possibility of allowing even a partial relaxation in the ban, but had also pulled up the state for not undertaking a study to assess the carrying capacity of Shimla hills.

Interestingly, about a decade ago, there was a move to increase the number of green belts within the Shimla Planning Area from 17 to 100. However, the then Draft Shimla Development Plan, prepared after holding several round of consultations with all stakeholders, kept gathering dust and was never approved. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/shimlas-17-green-belts-to-be-thrown-open-for-construction-362401  (19 Jan. 2022)

Government is all set to notify the draft Shimla Development Plan (SDP) even though it contravenes the NGT ruling that banned fresh constructions in the town’s core area and restricted new buildings in the Shimla Planning Area to two-and-a-half storeys.

On October 13, 2021, the NGT turned down a plea by the Himachal Pradesh High Court for allowing reconstruction of its old building, located in congested core area of the town. The green court also didn’t allow the government to install a lift, ramp and a parking at the Secretariat here. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/shimlas-new-devp-plan-goes-against-ngt-order-362116  (18 Jan. 2022)

Urban Development Minister Suresh Bhardwaj chaired a meeting of Town and Country Planning Department to review the final draft of the SDP. “During the meeting Proposed Zoning Regulations and Building By-laws for various development activities as a part of Draft Development Plan 2041 were discussed point-wise. He said that the building guidelines of whole Shimla are divided mainly into core area and non-core area. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chandigarh/govt-reviews-final-draft-of-shimla-development-plan-7728376/  (17 Jan. 2022)

Shimla witnesses season’s heaviest snowfall https://www.indiatvnews.com/news/india/shimla-himachal-pradesh-heaviest-fresh-snowfall-mcleod-ganj-imd-temperatures-drop-2022-01-23-755899  (23 Jan. 2022)

Till Saturday (Jan. 22) evening, 147 roads – 108 in Lahaul and Spiti, 24 in Mandi, eight in Kullu, five in Chamba and one each in Shimla and Sirmaur district – were closed and with fresh snow, the number is likely to go up. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/snow-in-shimla-and-adjoining-areas-147-roads-blocked-in-himachal-363732  (23 Jan. 2022)

Delhi PWD kicks off project to overhaul capital’s drainage system The Public Works Department (PWD) has started preliminary work on redeveloping the drainage system in a bid to resolve waterlogging woes that plague the capital every monsoon — beginning with the Najafgarh basin, which covers 123 drains.  “We are kicking off work from the Najafgarh drain basin. The tender process to appoint a consultant has begun; they will study the entire basin area and the drains covered under it. The objective of the consultancy service is to provide solutions as per the framework of the drainage master plan and a system where no waterlogging occurs in the NCT of Delhi-Najafgarh Basin,” said the official. Tenders for appointing consultants for the two other basins will also be floated.

Besides, a hydraulic study to test soil and water, and a topographical survey of existing pipelines, drains, and other possible stormwater disposal systems at all probable waterlogging locations will be conducted. Once the consultants are engaged, the DPR will be ready in 9 months and solutions will be implemented by the respective road, drain-owning agencies — PWD, MCD, DSIIDC, DDA, DJB and other departments concerned. The city’s entire drainage system will be redeveloped by 2025 under the master plan, said the official.  https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/pwd-kicks-off-project-to-overhaul-capitals-drainage-system-7728785/  (18 Jan. 2022)

Gurugram GMDA to lay 50km pipeline to use treated waste water The urban environment division of GMDA will install the high-density polyethylene pipeline with hydrants by connecting them to the master line of treated water, already laid along major roads of the city. These hydrants will be installed with a spacing of 30 metres, the officials said, adding that the pipeline will be laid using trenchless technology, a method used for installing or replacing pipelines with a minimum disruption on the surface.

Gurugram, a dark zone district, has been seeing a reduction in the groundwater level for the past few years. (HT archive)

Subhash Yadav, head of GMDA’s urban environment division, said, “Our aim is to install pipelines for treated water across the city. In areas falling under GMDA, treated water will be used for upkeep of green belts and in areas under Municipal Corporation of Gurugram, it will be used for horticulture activities and maintenance of parks. Our target is maximum utilisation of treated water so that it does get wasted as run off to the Najafgarh Lake. This year we plan to lay 50km long pipeline which will be increased gradually every year.”

The GMDA has been trying to increase the use of treated waste water in green belts, construction sites and parks in the city. During the ninth authority meeting held in December last year, the chief executive officer had said that at present, 64% of treated waste water is being used in Gurugram for different purposes like in green belts, industries, rejuvenation of water bodies, among others. Gurugram generates 243 MLD of treated waste water at present. Under the ‘reuse of treated waste water policy’ of the Haryana government, every municipality has been given a target of using at least 25% of treated water by 2022. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/others/gmda-to-lay-50km-pipeline-to-use-treated-waste-water-in-gurugram-101642583299558.html  (19 Jan. 2022)

Leachate from Bandhwari site forming ponds in Aravallis: Activists Environmentalists on Monday (Jan. 17) alleged that leachate from the Bandhwari landfill had formed ponds in the Aravalli forest area over the past few weeks, posing an environment hazard and a threat to the wildlife in the area. They said small mining pits in the area were also found to be filled with leachate. Sunil Harsana,a resident of Mangar village, which in the vicinity of the landfill, said, “There are at least three leachate ponds in this area that were formed in the past six months and leachate is also being discharged into old mining pits near the Bandhwari village. This area, which is a continuation of the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary, has frequent wildlife movement and studies have found the presence of leopards, jackals, nilgai and smaller mammals here. The leachate is destroying the natural watering holes of these animals.”

On visiting the spot on Saturday, HT found a dark oily liquid flowing on to on the road nearby the landfill, where around 1,800 tonnes of waste is dumped daily from Gurugram and Faridabad. The landfill also has about 2.5 million tonnes of legacy waste, according to environmentalists and Municipal Corporation of Gurugram. Vaishali Rana, a city-based environmentalist, who has been raising this issue of leachate with the authorities, said, “We have reported at least eight times in the past three years about leachate being discharged into the surrounding Aravalli forests, which is a crucial wildlife movement area. This has become a regular affair by the authorities concerned, thereby destroying the sensitive wildlife habitat and the Aravalli forests. Last year, the pollution control board had tested samples from these ponds and found high levels of toxins in it, but no action has been taken till now.”

Meanwhile, officials of Ecogreen Energy, the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram’s concessionaire for waste management at the Bandhwari landfill, said that rainwater mixed with leachate spilt outside the landfill and accumulated. Sanjeev Sharma, the spokesperson for Ecogreen Energy, said, “A wall that is being built by the MCG on the outskirts of the landfill had breached due to rain last week because of which rainwater mixed with leachate spilt outside and got accumulated. The work for the wall got delayed due to extreme weather, but we are helping them and the water is being cleared out.” https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/gurugram-news/leachate-from-bandhwari-site-forming-ponds-in-aravallis-green-activists-101642445441754.html  (18 Jan. 2022)

GMDA is working to develop a sustainable environment management plan with focus on the urban population needs till 2041, said officials on Sunday, adding that the plan will be ready by June this year. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/others/gmda-to-make-environment-mgmt-plan-for-gurugram-city-in-six-months-101642967224095.html  (24 Jan. 2022)

The district administration has decided to prepare a water plan by March this year keeping in view the declining groundwater levels in the district and the estimated population growth by 2041, said officials on Friday (Jan. 21). Deputy commissioner of Gurugram Yash Garg, while chairing a meeting in this regard on Friday, appointed nodal officers from different departments and asked them to submit a detailed report of the current demand and supply of water and other resources from the entire district to the GuruJal Society by January 31.

GuruJal society is an integrated water management initiative of the district administration. “The depleting groundwater level in Gurugram is a matter of concern. Double the amount of water is being wasted in the district, than what gets recharged. In such a situation, the district water plan needs to be made considering the population standards for the next 20 years,” said Garg.

The deputy commissioner said that the data received from different departments will be assessed by mid-February and a draft will be prepared. This draft will be shared on a public domain for taking citizen feedback from February 25 till March 1, and thereafter, the final district water plan will be shared with the Haryana Water Resources Authority (HWRA) in the first week of March.

Gurugram has been a dark zone district and has seena reduction in the groundwater levels for the past few years. A dark zone refers to an area where the groundwater level has dipped beyond the acceptable parameter in a block. An area is first identified as critical before it is declared a dark zone. According to HWRA, 98 out of 200 villages in Gurugram are under the severely stressed category due to over-extraction of groundwater. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/gurugram-news/gurugram-to-chalk-out-water-plan-by-march-to-reduce-stress-on-groundwater-101642793859939.html  (22 Jan. 2022)

On Tuesday (Jan. 18), the HWRA directed the Gurugram administration to come up with an action plan for increasing the groundwater level in the district. Asserting that the district needs to focus on the use of treated waste water, the authority also asked the district administration to form a sub-committee, under the district water harvesting committee, which will submit daily reports which can be used to make a water action plan for Gurugram.

“Serious efforts will have to be made to utilise the waste water in Gurugram city. Keeping in mind the future of the coming generations, efforts need to be made from now on with a better water plan. Gurugram is the financial capital of the state, and special focus should be given for water harvesting here. A concrete strategy must be adopted regarding the depleting groundwater level and water harvesting in Gurugram,” Keshni Anand Arora, chairperson of HWRA, said during a virtual meeting on Tuesday.

Arora added that the departments working in the field of water harvesting should collaborate with NGOs and other institutions if needed. Yash Garg, deputy commissioner of Gurugram, apprised the HWRA chairperson that the district administration was keeping an eye on violation of water harvesting rules and action is also being taken against the violators based on surprise checks. During the meeting, officials also discussed the installation of water recharging system in the city parks, as a measure to increase groundwater level.

Gurugram, a dark zone district, has been seeing a reduction in the groundwater level for the past few years. Between 2014 and 2018, the groundwater table in the district fell by two-and-a-half metres. According to pre-monsoon data from the agricultural department’s groundwater cell, the groundwater table in the district dropped by 0.27 metres between June 2019 and June 2020 and was at 29.86 metres. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/others/hwra-asks-gurugram-to-focus-on-increasing-use-of-treated-water-in-city-101642583300341.html  (19 Jan. 2022)

WATER POLLUTION

Maharashtra NGT slaps Rs5cr penalty on CSTPS In a landmark judgment against the highly polluting Chandrapur Super Thermal Power Station (CSTPS) here, the Pune bench of NGT has directed Mahagenco to deposit interim compensation of Rs5 crore and take remedial measures to curb air, water and land pollution within three months.

The NGT bench comprising chairperson justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, judicial members justice Sudhir Agrawal, justice Brijesh Sethi, expert members Prof A Senthil Vel and Dr Afroz Ahmad has directed formation of a joint committee of members from regional offices of MoEFCC, CPCB, MPCB. The committee will monitor remedial action, and have access to the compensation from past violations too, considering the period of violations, based on the financial capacity of CSTPS. The bench has clearly warned it will close down the polluting units of CSTPS if the respondent fails to comply with the directives, apart from initiating prosecution.

The order states that if necessary steps for preventing continuing pollution are not taken within three months, CSTPS will pay further compensation of Rs1 crore per month for next three months. If the non-compliance continues beyond six months, the joint committee may increase the amount of compensation progressively and/or close operation of polluting activity till compliance, apart from prosecution. The tribunal has further stated that the interim compensation will be subject to final compensation being assessed by the joint committee, after following due process. The amount of compensation will be deposited with MPCB to be utilized for restoration of environment and health of the area.

The orders also directs the joint committee to get a health impact assessment study for Chandrapur conducted by coordinating with the principal secretary, health department, or with the involvement of any other medical institutions or experts. In the light of such study, plan should be prepared for relief to victims and for improvement of health in the area. Apart from the project in question, other projects in the polluted area should be required to contribute to the improvement of environment and public health in such proportion as may be found viable and reasonable, the NGT order states.

The tribunal has said the joint committee may meet within one month. The committee will be free to conduct proceedings online, except for visits to the site, and coordinate with any other authorities or expert or institutions, and interact with stakeholders. The committee will also monitor compliance in accordance with the law. The joint committee may file a report of compliance status among other things with regard to the air quality, installing of FGD, pollution due to dust from the mining area during movement of raw material to the plant, water pollution due to slurry of fly ash, and fly ash utilisation and management between July 31 to August 15 with the registrar, Pune Bench, who may, if necessary, place the matter before the bench for any further directions. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/ngt-nails-cstps-for-high-pollution-slaps-rs5cr-penalty/articleshow/89026479.cms  (21 Jan. 2022)

Odisha Farmland in Sambalpur contaminated by breach in slurry pond Several acres of farmland near an integrated steel plant in the Sambalpur were submerged in iron ore slurry after the tailing pond wall was breached on Thursday (Jan. 21) evening, locals said. No loss of life has been reported so far but a security guard is missing. Officials said farmland at Banjhiberana village next to the 2.5 MTPA steel plant of JSW Bhushan Power and Steel Limited at Thelkoloi area of Sambalpur district came under several inches of sludge containing iron ore slurry due to the breach.

Rengali tehsildar Damayanti Sahoo who visited the spot said she could see at least 20-30 acres of farmland submerged under the iron ore slurry while two ponds were contaminated. “In one of the ponds, I could see dead fishes floating. Tomorrow, we will do a thorough survey of the damage,” said Sahoo.

A company official said the iron slurry generated from beneficiation plant is pumped to the pond from where further disposal and waste recovery is carried out. ( Image sourced by HT)

A company official said the iron slurry generated from beneficiation plant is pumped to the pond from where further disposal and waste recovery is carried out. “But due to breach of the wall of the pond, thick low-grade Iron ore slurry spread into the compound of tailing pond and further to some adjacent land. As of now, the slurry discharged from the pond is under control and no more discharge of slurry is taking place. For better handling of slurry, a project is being carried out to install a paste thickener to reduce the volume of slurry,” the official said.

Officials at the regional office of the state pollution control board have not commented on the slurry pond breach. In October last year, residents of Thelkoloi village staged a demonstration protesting the alleged dumping of fly ash in open areas by the company. The villagers complained that the ash was causing respiratory problems and irritation in the eye, forcing the villagers to stay indoors. Besides, drinking water sources are also getting contaminated due to fly ash. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/farmland-in-odisha-s-sambalpur-contaminated-by-breach-in-slurry-pond-101642794038816.html  (22 Jan. 2022)

Tripura 5 packaged drinking water bottling plants closed over safety issues Authorities have closed five packaged drinking water bottling plants – three in Agartala and two in Belonia – district headquarters of south Tripura over safety and licence issues. Joint teams comprising medical, drug control and food safety officials are conducting raids on the plants and ordering their immediate closure if rules and guidelines are breached. These factories had multiple issues from hygiene to essential documents to water distillation. The government had earlier issued instructions to the departments concerned after gross breach of safety issues have been reported. The plants have mushroomed across Tripura over the past decade in the absence of checks and inspection. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/5-packaged-drinking-water-bottling-plants-closed-in-tripura-over-safety-issues/article38314939.ece  (23 Jan. 2022)

Meghalaya Protest against waste management project The resident of Raid Madan Kyrdem in Ri-Bhoi district, on Thursday (Jan. 20) , have come out in protest against the proposed Solid Waste Management project at Mawlawai village for the second time stating that the site of the project is the source of water for several villages of Raid Madan Kyrdem. Villagers from Mawlawai, Kyrdem, Mawkyrdep, Klew and Mawbsein along with placards assembled at the Madan Kyrdem playground to raise their protest against the project which was also attended by the local legislator, George B Lyngdoh. https://theshillongtimes.com/2022/01/21/protest-against-waste-management-project/  (21 Jan. 2022)

Uttar Pradesh Clean water not political agenda Clean and available water has never been a dominant election issue for any party, despite some of the worst indices in the country. A month from the start of a 7-phase election in India’s most populous state, Gaon Connection travels to villages to explore the issues that affect the daily lives of the rural citizens. https://en.gaonconnection.com/uttar-pradesh-assembly-elections-rural-villages-tap-water-health-jal-jeevan-mission-yogi-adityanath-akhilesh-yadav/  (14 Jan. 2022)

Report A failed attempt to create an equally sanitary India This is the introduction to a 24-part series starting next week, covering the sanitation crisis in each Indian state. Each part will be accompanied by a visual documentary on the specific state, highlighting the effects of the Swachh Bharat Mission and the continuation of manual scavenging in India. The series is based on the Rehabilitation Research Initiative (RRI India) and South Asian Labour Network (SASLN) study in 27 states, between 2017 and 2021.  https://thewire.in/government/a-failed-attempt-to-create-an-equally-sanitary-india  (18 Jan. 2022)

JJM RURAL WATER SUPPLY

Arunachal Pradesh Water supply augmentation project launched in Miao Almost 50 percent of the work is nearing completion, and by June 2022 the residents here and in adjoining areas can hope to get regular and safe drinking water supply. However, looking at the forest being destroyed upstream of the source, the possibility of the source drying up gradually cannot be ruled out.

Though Miao is a fast developing town, the residents consistently face the brunt of drinking water crisis. The drinking water tapped from M’pen area simply cannot meet the needs of the population that is growing exponentially. Since most colonies in the township are bereft of the basic amenity, the residents, especially the womenfolk, are regularly seen standing in queues to collect their share of water. Owing to the crisis, most households in the township are forced to rely on spring waters, streams and even the Noa-Dehing river for drinking, bathing and washing.  https://arunachaltimes.in/index.php/2022/01/21/water-supply-augmentation-project-launched-in-miao/  (21 Jan. 2022)

Rajasthan There is pipeline, tap. But where is the water? Synopsis:- The dashboard of the Jal Jeevan Mission appeared to have some gaps. Interaction with a few village sarpanchs in Jodhpur district reveals that the reported coverage under the mission doesn’t match the ground reality. There is no source of water supply nearby and villagers are forced to buy tankers to fulfil their needs. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/prime/economy-and-policy/the-ground-realities-of-jal-jeevan-mission-there-is-pipeline-tap-but-where-is-the-water/primearticleshow/89071543.cms 

WATER

‘We Have Forgotten Our Water In Every Way Possible’ Author Mridula Ramesh talks about how, historically, India was aware of how special water was and had devised ways to manage it in a decentralised manner, which is also needed today to solve India’s water crisis. https://www.indiaspend.com/indiaspend-interviews/we-have-forgotten-our-water-in-every-way-possible-798638  (19 Jan. 2022)

Tamil Nadu Reservoirs have enough water to last 10 months With enough water in its four reservoirs to last for the next 10 months, the Metrowater has decided to sustain its daily supply of 1,000 million litres of water to households in core and added areas. In January 2021, it was supplying only 830 million litres daily. A senior Metrowater official said this is the second consecutive year wherein the combined reserve of Poondi, Cholavaram, Red Hills and Chembarambakkam lakes has reached 10,000+ million cubic feet of water (mcft) in January. As on Tuesday (Jan. 18), the reserve stood at 10,909 mcft; in January 2021, it was 10,481 mcft. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/reservoirs-have-enough-water-to-last-ten-months/articleshow/88983420.cms  (19 Jan. 2022)

AGRICULTURE

Our food in jeopardy Rahul Banerjee: Six years ago Subhadra Khaperde and I began farming ourselves on our land in Pandutalab village. Even though earlier also we had a fairly good understanding of what ails agriculture in this country and globally, actual hands on agriculture on the ground has considerably enhanced our knowledge of the travails of farming. Here is an essay based on our experience and reading on the problems of agriculture which has been published recently in the Canadian journal Montreal Serai. https://montrealserai.com/article/our-food-is-in-jeopardy/  (04 Jan. 2022)

Rajasthan School dropout to design syllabus for agriculture universities  Hukumchand Patidar, conferred the Padma Shri in 2018 for helping turn his native village of Manpura into a fully chemical-free farm patch, has been included in the national curriculum committee set up by the Indian Council for Agriculture Research because of his expertise in growing organic oranges, pulses, onion, coriander and fennel. The bulk of his farm produce is exported to Europe. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/school-dropout-to-design-syllabus-for-agriculture-universities/articleshow/88962869.cms  (18 Jan. 2022)

Report Wheat farmers switch to other crops Besides mustard, growers are shifting to crops such as onion and garlic. The latest sowing data on wheat show a drop in the coverage of the main rabi season crop. https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/economy/agri-business/beyond-wheat-sowing-data-new-trend-emerging-in-foodgrains-cultivation/article64905435.ece  (17 Jan. 2022)

Telangana Paddy farmers begin to switch to other crops For over 3 decades, agricultural experts have been calling for the reduction of paddy area in the rabi season, except in areas where it is not possible to grow any other crop. They cite two reasons: One, the country’s granaries are overflowing with stocks of rice. Two, paddy grown in rabi yields. https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/economy/agri-business/finally-paddy-farmers-begin-to-switch-to-other-crops/article64927993.ece   (21 Jan. 2022)

NORT EAST MONSOON 2021

IMD South India got highest rains since 1901 The India Meteorological Department (IMD) Saturday (Jan. 22) declared that as the rainfall associated with the northeast monsoon came to an end, south India had received 579.1mm rain, the highest since 1901. The October-December 2021 season was a historically wet one, with south India recording a whopping 171 per cent surplus rainfall–579.1mm, the highest ever since 1901, as per the Statement of Annual Climate of India 2021, released by the IMD.

Since the monsoon’s onset on October 27 and December 31, Kerala recorded 109 per cent and 26 per cent surplus rain in 2021 and 2020 respectively. Karnataka last year recorded a surplus of 104 per cent rainfall compared with what it received in 2020. This season Tamil Nadu and Puducherry recorded 59 per cent excess, while in 2020 it was six per cent. Coastal Andhra Pradesh and Yanam received 40 per cent and 24 per cent excess rain in 2021 and 2020 respectively. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/northeast-monsoon-over-south-india-highest-rains-since-1901-7736847/  (22 Jan. 2022)

Chennai says goodbye to rain after 74% excess showers Meteorologists said the monsoon has extended to January at least in six seasons since 2001; that is: 2001, 2005, 2009, 2013, 2017 and 2020. City recorded 1,360.4mm of rainfall between October and December against the normal 784mm, receiving an excess of 74%. Tamil Nadu received 711.6mm against 448mm, getting an excess of 59%. So far in January, Chennai has had an excess rainfall of 160%, with 42.5mm against the normal 20.2mm while Tamil Nadu has had a 134% surplus rainfall with 32.1mm against 13.7mm. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/city-says-goodbye-to-rain-after-74-excess-showers/articleshow/89049326.cms  (22 Jan. 2022)

Jammu and Kashmir 22 WDs this winter so far  Since southwest monsoon’s withdrawal on October 8, 2021, J&K saw 22 Western Disturbances (WDs) till mid-January. 5 of the WDs were seen in October while 4 in November, 8 in December and 5 till 15 January. As per data obtained from independent weather forecasters, though December saw the highest number of WDs, most of them were feeble. J&K, which received a good amount of rain and snow in the first week of January, received 5 WDs till January 15, while at least 3 more WDs are likely till the end of the 4th week of this month.

Among all WDs, the strongest ones were witnessed on October 22-23, 2021, with its main activity over the Kashmir region, and January 3-5, 2022, with its main activity over the Jammu region. Most of the WDs that have passed through J&K this season have been very weak leading to deficit rainfall and snowfall.

Last winter, J&K witnessed 22 WDs between Dec 2020 and Jan 2021, most (8) being in January, while 7 WDs in December and February each. The Spring season of 2021 saw 23 WDs, 08 in March and April each, 07 in May. The summer season recorded just 19 WDs, the lowest being in July with 05 WDs, 07 each in June and August. The lowest number of WDs in the year 2021 were witnessed in the month of September with mere 4 WDS.

Despite so many WDs in the previous year, J&K have recorded below normal rainfall. Rainfall was deficient in most of the months of the year 2021. Overall, winter 2020-2021 ended on a below normal note with 37% deficient rainfall. So far this winter, the UT has been receiving a good amount of precipitation. As per the Meteorological data, there was an 8% recent deficit in the month of December, on the other hand, 162% surplus rainfall in the month of January so far. https://www.greaterkashmir.com/todays-paper/front-page/jk-witnessed-22-western-disturbances-this-winter-so-far  (20 Jan. 2022)

URBAN FLOODS

Chennai Roads that may not crumble in first rain So far, after the deluge in 2021, 803 roads have been laid. These are not only of good quality but were laid as per all specifications detailed in the tender document and as per specifications of the Indian Road Congress, the apex body that lays down the criteria for such work.

And, 853 more good roads will be laid in the coming month, Greater Chennai Corporation promised Bitumen quality, road thickness, milling, compacting and right temperature of road mix are among key parameters for a good road. These were not just ignored, but rarely tested in the past. The process was marred by corruption and irregularities such as reduction of bitumen quantity, usage of adulterated bitumen and irregularities in slopes of the road from the centre to the corners. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/chennai-finally-gets-roads-that-may-not-crumble-in-first-rain/articleshow/88985969.cms  (19 Jan. 2022)

The Union ministry for road transport and highways has approved an additional Rs 2.4 crore for repairing national highway stretches in TN damaged during the recent floods. NH stretches across the state, particularly those connecting Chennai with Madurai, Bengaluru and Coimbatore, were battered by unprecedented rain in November. Some of them were temporarily closed due to excessive flooding. Potholes started to show up, making the commute dangerous. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/2-4-cr-more-to-fix-rain-hit-nhs-in-tn/articleshow/88961328.cms  (18 Jan. 2022)

LANDSLIDES

Jammu & Kashmir A large rock slab topple Dave Petley on Large Rock Slab topple at 4.10 pm on January 7, 2022 following heavy rains on NH 44 at the Ban Toll Plaza between Samba and Kunjwani (32.838, 74.940). https://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/2022/01/20/slab-topple-1/  (20 Jan. 2022)

ENERGY OPTIONS

Power Ministry Leh-Kaithal green energy transmission corridor cleared The proposal allows for setting up of a 5 GW transmission link from Pang (Leh) to Kaithal (Haryana).  The project, which also includes 12 GWh of battery energy storage system (BESS), is to be completed in five years. The estimated project cost is around ₹27,000 crore. State-run transmission giant Power Grid is the implementing agency for the project. The scheme is under the regulated tariff mechanism (RTM). The proposal was cleared by the National Committee on Transmission (NCT) on January 3, 2022. The project will provide 76 per cent utilisation of transmission capacity and will help evacuate 13 GW of RE generation (9 GWp of solar and 4 GW of wind).

In November last year, Power and Renewable Energy Minister R K Singh had reviewed the implementation of the 10 GW RE project along with its evacuation plan. PM Modi had announced setting up of a 7.5 GW solar Park in Ladakh, which was subsequently enhanced to 10 GW.  For setting up of RE projects, around 20,000 acres of land at Pang is being provided by the union territory of Ladakh, while availability of additional 20,000 acres of land at Pang would be explored based on inputs provided by Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI). Ladakh will receive revenue annually for leasing the land for the RE project.  https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/power-ministry-clears-leh-kaithal-green-energy-transmission-corridor/article64906313.ece  (17 Jan. 2022)

ENVIRONMENT GOVERNANCE

Supreme Court Will govt create an all-India environment service A bit strange from SC: A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M M Sundresh sent notice to the Union government on a PIL by Samar Vijay Singh, who through senior advocate K Sultan Singh argued that the Subramanian Committee recommendations for establishment of National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and State EMA to monitor implementation of environmental protection measures in every project at ground level would go a long way in arresting the continuous assault on the environment and forests posing huge threat to the country. Justice Kaul’s initial reaction to the PIL – “Do we take over governance” – was mollified through a long discussion initiated by Justice Sundresh and finally the bench said “though it is doubtful whether any mandamus can be issued (by the Supreme Court), but we are inquiring whether the Centre has decided to accept the recommendations of the Subramanian Committee.” https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/will-govt-create-an-all-india-environment-service-asks-supreme-court/articleshow/89050262.cms  (22 Jan. 2022)

Most experts are extremely critical of the recent changes in policy being made following the recommendations. “The creation of dedicated environmental services or creating new legal frameworks like those suggested in the TSR report, may not be able to offer any solution to deeper problems surrounding environmental decision making. The legal standards to protect environment are being routinely lowered down and institutions are being required to focus on granting approvals rather than taking proactive measures to protect the environment. In an environment when committees like the TSR report recommended minimising environmental scrutiny by relying on utmost good faith, there is little new regulators or dedicated government departments can do. The protection of the environment can only be emboldened through clear intent and only by mainstreaming and upstreaming it into economic planning,” said Kanchi Kohli, legal researcher at Centre for Policy Research. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/most-policies-being-implemented-by-environment-ministry-driven-by-tsr-subramaniam-report-101642848222504.html  (22 Jan. 2022)

As part of 55 specific recommendations in its report submitted to the ministry, the Subramanian committee had in November, 2014 suggested creation of an Indian Environment Service, as an All India Service, even as the country already has Indian Forest Service to do similar jobs. The panel contended that Indian Forest Service may, on the other hand, encourage specialization in various aspects of forestry and wildlife management, among the members of the service, as well as familiarity with all aspects of management of environment. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/high-level-panels-suggestions-on-green-issues-rejected-by-parliamentary-committee-in-2015/articleshow/89053683.cms  (22 Jan. 2022)

SC notice to Centre on mandatory compliance of RTI law A Supreme Court bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M M Sundresh sought a reply from the Centre on the petition filed by K C Jain. The petitioner asked the court to direct the government to ensure compulsory implementation of Section 4, and more particularly Section 4(2) mandating public authorities to suo moto disclose vital information about their functioning. He said Section 4 is the soul of the RTI Act, without which, the transparency law remains an ornamental legislation. https://www.deccanherald.com/national/sc-notice-to-centre-on-mandatory-compliance-of-rti-law-1073253.html  (21 Jan. 2022)

Report ‘Forest Report misses the forest for the trees’ Ritwick Dutta spoke to DH’s Kalyan Ray on the State of the Forest Report released by the MoEF last week. Excerpts: Even within recorded forest areas (Reserved Forest, Protected Forest and Protected Areas), it is not possible to know about the quality of forest cover from the report, which clearly states: Agricultural crops like sugarcane, cotton etc adjacent to forest and occurrence of weeds like lantana within forest areas causes mixing of spectral signatures and often make it difficult to interpret and delineate the forest cover precisely’. To put it bluntly, the FSI Report is not worth the paper on which it is printed if it can’t distinguish natural forests from cotton and sugarcane fields.  https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/panorama/forest-report-misses-the-forest-for-the-trees-1072089.html  (17 Jan. 2022)

Amid criticism from experts of its methodology to map forest cover in the country, the Forest Survey of India (FSI) said the forest cover is estimated from the field inventory data, which corroborate the figures obtained from satellite-based interpretation.

Critics, however, questioned the FSI’s claim with one of them, M D Madhusudan, ecologist and co-founder of the Nature Conservation Foundation, even highlighting that the purported gains come largely from FSI’s “problematic and perverse redefinition of ‘forest’ to include tea gardens, coconut plantations, urban built-up areas, native grasslands wrecked by invasive trees, and even treeless desert scrub”. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/forest-cover-estimate-based-on-field-data-forest-survey-of-india/articleshow/89082180.cms  (24 Jan. 2022)

Missing the forest for the trees:- An analysis of rising forest cover in India State of Forest Reports, 1987–2021 by Madhusudan MD https://mdmadhusudan.medium.com/missing-the-forest-for-the-trees-37a94c13ab8c  (19 Jan. 2022)

Why India is gaining trees and losing forests https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/counting-trees-properly/articleshow/89022405.cms  (20 Jan. 2022)

Based on conversations with experts, The Wire Science was able to identify four particular problems: definitions, unverifiable data, trees in tiger habitats and forests in the northeast. More importantly, this means there are doubts about whether India’s forest cover has really increased and, by extrapolation, whether the Indian government could be using a flawed report to shore up its progress on climate commitments. https://thewire.in/environment/why-experts-arent-convinced-by-indias-new-state-of-forest-report  (17 Jan. 2022)

Proposed changes to Wildlife Act will weaken it The second big problem is that the Bill will render the existing ‘State Boards for Wildlife’ defunct, the LIFE wrote in its assessment. The State Boards of Wildlife currently manage the conservation and protection of wildlife at the state level. The state chief minister sits atop the board and is supported by 20+ members, including of the state legislature, NGOs, conservationists and representatives of the state forest departments and tribal welfare.

Instead, if the Bill is passed, it will set up a ‘Standing Committee’ of the State Board of Wildlife – headed by the respective state forest minister and 10 members nominated by the minister. The Standing Committee will thus be able to function with just two members – the minister and an appointed member – if need be. https://thewire.in/environment/why-the-environment-ministrys-proposed-changes-to-wildlife-act-will-weaken-it  (20 Jan. 2022)

West Bengal Biodiversity board attempts to bring back traditional crop varieties Equipped with knowledge about the traditional practices and bio-resources in the form of People’s Biodiversity Registers, experts from the West Bengal Biodiversity Board (WBBB) are now trying to revive some of the traditional varieties of paddy, pulses, vegetables, fruits and medicinal plants. This, experts say, will not only help farmers to bring down dependency on chemical fertilisers and thereby increasing profit, but also help fight the vagaries of nature including flood, rising salinity and drought triggered by climate change and global warming.

“Take paddy for example. Almost six to seven decades ago farmers in West Bengal used to grow at least 5000 varieties of desi or traditional paddy. But now we can find only around 460 varieties. We have probably lost the rest as no one grows them now. One can only find high yielding varieties,” said HS Debnath, chairman of the WBBB.

Experts from the biodiversity board, however, stumbled upon dozens of these traditional varieties and the knowledge associated with them after People’s Biodiversity Registers were prepared by the biodiversity management committees comprising people at the village, block and district levels. West Bengal now has 3380 such registers which is a dossier containing comprehensive account of local bio-resources along with related traditional knowledge and practices of the area.

“Now that we have the PBRs in hand, we are trying to revive whatever remains of the traditional varieties. It could be paddy, pulses, fruits, vegetables and even medicinal plants. We have already managed to identify around 100 paddy varieties. But first we are trying to register the varieties under the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Right Act so that the rights of the farmers are protected,” said Debnath. While around 14 have already been registered, another 74 are in the queue, officials said. Each variety is differentiated by identifying more than 50 morphological characteristics and around eight biochemical characteristics, so that they are distinctly separate from the nearest similar variant. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/west-bengal-biodiversity-board-attempts-to-bring-back-traditional-crop-varieties-101642396115626.html  (17 Jan. 2022)

Delhi Biodiversity Council holds first meeting The recently constituted Delhi Biodiversity Council, which has the mandate of “regulating access to biological resources for commercial utilisation” and supervising the formation of People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBRs), had its first meeting on Friday (Jan. 14). The first priority of the council would be the setting up of four Biodiversity Management Committees, corresponding to the three municipal corporations and the New Delhi Municipal Council, said professor C R Babu of the Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystems at Delhi University, who is the Chairperson of the biodiversity council.

Conservation biologist Neha Sinha said, “The Biological Diversity Act was passed in 2002 and since then we have not had much progress. The PBR is documentation of all the biodiversity in a place. It includes what people eat, what is grown, and the flora and fauna. In cities, it’s a little different…it is significant for Delhi in terms of documenting the native flora and fauna. We are also bigger than most cities and we have the Aravallis and the Yamuna. These are natural topographies that make it rich in terms of migratory birds and wildlife, and if the PBR is done, we would have a better handle on all of this.” https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/delhi-biodiversity-council-holds-first-meeting-7724102/  (15 Jan. 2022)

Jammu & Kashmir District panels to prepare zonal Master plans for 5 ESZ J&K government has accorded sanction to the constitution of the district level committees for preparation of the zonal Master Plans for five Eco-Sensitive Zones (wildlife sanctuaries, national parks), notified by the MoEF. These five Eco-Sensitive Zones included Jasrota wildlife sanctuary in Kathua; Rajparian wildlife sanctuary in Anantnag, Hirpora wildlife sanctuary in Shopian; Ramnagar wildlife sanctuary in Jammu and Kishtwar High Altitude national park. https://www.greaterkashmir.com/todays-paper/state/distt-panels-to-prepare-zonal-master-plans-for-5-eco-sensitive-zones-of-jk  (21 Jan. 2022)

Sikkim NGT stays multilevel parking construction “In our opinion, the matter requires consideration. Issue notice to the respondents, returnable within four weeks. All the Respondents shall file their counter-affidavits within four weeks. List on March 2. We direct that till the next date of listing there shall be a stay on construction in the area,” the Tribunal ordered.  As per the plea filed by Basnett through advocate Pratap Shanker, an illegal multilevel car parking-cum-shopping hub is being constructed at Old West Point School Area near Hotel Hungry Jack in Gangtok.

It was contended that the under-construction multilevel parking is to the extent of fourteen storeys but at no point of time can construction be more than five and a half storeys in height, as per April 2021 notification of the Sikkim Government. She said that the construction is “wholly impermissible”. She further contended that earthquakes of 4.5 to 5.5 magnitudes on the Richter Scale commonly hit the area as the state comes under Seismic Zone IV – a zone of considerable vulnerability, as per a 2011 study. Therefore, the parking complex of 14 storeys is a “grave threat to the fragile ecology of the area and also to the life and limb of the people residing there”, she stated. https://www.outlookindia.com/national/ngt-stays-multilevel-parking-construction-in-sikkim-seeks-centre-s-response-news-33765  (19 Jan. 2022)

Uttarakhand Environmental issues have failed to dominate the campaign in an eco-fragile state. https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/himalayan-questions-the-hindu-editorial-on-the-absence-of-environmental-issues-in-uttarakhand-assembly-elections-campaign/article38305097.ece  (22 Jan. 2022)

CLIMATE CHANGE

Report Centre lists districts vulnerable to climate crisis Climate Hazards and Vulnerability Atlas of India released by the ministry of earth sciences, the first of its kind, will aid in disaster preparedness as extreme weather events rise in the wake of the climate crisis, scientists said. “There is no change in the number of cyclones affecting the west coast, but the severity of cyclones developing over the Arabian Sea has increased,” Pai said. “These have been captured in our maps.”

The atlas is expected to mitigate the effects of 13 most hazardous meteorological events – cold wave, heat wave, thunderstorms, flood, drought, fog, wind hazard, dust storm, snowfall, hail storm, lightning, extreme rainfall and cyclone – that can cause extensive damage. There are 640 climate vulnerability maps in the atlas. For a visual display of the climate vulnerability maps, the weather bureau has used geographic information system tools at the office of climate research and services office in Pune. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/centre-lists-districts-vulnerable-to-climate-crisis-in-india-s-first-weather-hazard-atlas-101642444901702.html  (18 Jan. 2022)

Gujarat Climate change making salt farming unsustainable  Climate change is expected to drastically alter the lives of future generations. But, its effects are already visible across the world. In the Little Rann of Kutch, a generation of farmers have been harvesting salt for centuries. But over the years, unpredictable rainfall, rising temperatures and frequent dust storms have reduced their yield, making it harder to sustain this practice. https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/watch-how-climate-change-is-making-salt-farming-unsustainable/article38271158.ece  (14 Jan. 2022)

Study  Climate Change Could Open Up ‘Rivers in The Sky’ Over East Asia According to the researchers’ models, rainfall events in East Asia will be more frequent and more severe in the coming decades as the planet warms up. More water will be transported through the air, and more precipitation will land on the ground. “We find that both the atmospheric river-related water vapor transport and rainfall intensify over the southern and western slopes of mountains over East Asia in a warmer climate,” write the researchers in their published paper.

A radar scan showing atmospheric river movement. (Y. Kamae et al., Geophysical Review Letters, 2022)

“Atmospheric rivers will bring unprecedented extreme rainfall over East Asia under global warming.” Generally speaking, atmospheric rivers pick up moisture from warmer areas and deposit it over colder regions. Their movements are controlled by changes in wind and temperature – just the sort of changes that climate change can bring about. https://www.sciencealert.com/climate-change-could-open-up-rivers-in-the-sky-over-east-asia  (23 Jan. 2022)

‘Other side’ of Amazon forest drought New findings published by MSU researchers examine how climate change shapes the future of the world’s largest rainforest and the impacts drought has on the forest growing on various soil water and water table conditions.

Amazon forests are globally important for carbon storage, the climate system, and biological diversity. As such, the importance of studying how these ecosystems respond to climate change, particularly drought, is well recognized. However, research frequently neglects a critical component of the hydrological cycle—groundwater.

This oversight is surprising considering the wide range of hydrological conditions that exist across the Amazon basin—from forests growing over deep water tables where soil water can become scarce, to seasonally inundated forests where soil water remains plentiful year-round. Failure to assess Amazon forest drought responses across the full gradient of soil water availability limits scientists’ ability to predict the future of these forests. https://phys.org/news/2022-01-side-amazon-forest-drought.html  (19 Jan. 2022)

“Doomsday glacier” irreversibly melting A new interview with researcher David Holland, an atmospheric scientist at New York University, reveals just how quickly the Thwaites Glacier is melting. Nicknamed the “Doomsday Glacier,” Axios reported this morning that the West Antarctica ice shelf could melt in as quickly as a few decades, unleashing the inland ice it holds back into the ocean and raising sea levels by several catastrophic feet. “It could fall apart quickly, in decades, or it could be centuries,” Holland told the pub. “And the only way to really know that is through this research.” https://futurism.com/the-byte/doomsday-glacier-melting  (21 Jan. 2022)

SOUTH ASIA

India-Nepal No China involvement is India’s caveat for buying power from Nepali plants  As Nepal’s private sector plans to sell electricity in India’s power exchange market, India has communicated to the independent power producers that they must ensure there will be no Chinese components in their hydropower projects. “The Indian side has been flatly telling us that they won’t buy electricity from projects with Chinese investment and even projects built by Chinese contractors,” an IPPAN office bearer said.  “We have discussed the matter with officials of the Indian embassy and the Central Electricity Board of India and they made it very clear that they are unlikely to buy electricity from projects with Chinese investment.”

– Nepal’s effort to sell electricity from other Upper Tamakoshi, Upper Bhotekoshi and Marshyangdi whose combined installed capacity stands at 582.1MW failed with Indian authority pointing out the involvement of Chinese contractor particularly in the case of Upper Tamakoshi Project, according to a senior official of the authority. https://kathmandupost.com/money/2022/01/20/no-china-involvement-is-india-s-caveat-for-buying-power-from-nepali-plants  (20 Jan. 2022)

India-Bangladesh Think Teesta conservation beyond geopolitics, hydropower development: Experts While speaking at the virtual inaugural session of the three-day 7th International Water Conference on Teesta River Basin, they said state parties should assess the morphology and hydrology of the basin and give priority to its ecosystem before undertaking any infrastructural development project such as the construction of run-off-the-river dams. https://www.tbsnews.net/bangladesh/infrastructure/resolve-teesta-issue-bilaterally-ainun-nishat-360124  (20 Jan. 2022)

Nepal In Kathmandu, a struggle for water amid worsening floods In Kathmandu, residents face the dual challenges of freshwater aquifers running dry, and increasingly unpredictable monsoons causing flash floods. The combination of climate change and a rapidly growing urban population is straining an already overwhelmed municipal water system, forcing many residents to have to buy water by the tank at high prices. An ambitious project to pipe water to the city from a nearby river was shut down within months of its long-delayed start — a victim of the monsoon floods that destroyed a dam and water treatment plant. Another solution being explored is rainwater harvesting, which proponents say should be complemented by restoration of Kathmandu’s green areas and restrictions on drawing groundwater. https://news.mongabay.com/2022/01/in-kathmandu-a-struggle-for-water-amid-worsening-floods/  (17 Jan. 2022)

ASIA

Turkey Non-hydro renewables overtake hydro for first time Non-hydro renewable generation, which includes wind, solar and bioenergy, has doubled in Turkey since 2017, and overtook hydropower for the first time, according to a report released by Britain-based think tank Ember. “Drought also played a role in the shift between hydro and non-hydro renewables,” said the report released on Jan. 20. Decline in hydropower has been compensated by gas power in Turkey. While hydro share decreased from 26 percent to 17 percent, gas increased from 23 percent to 33 percent year over year in 2021 and pushed the share of fossil fuels to 65 percent in 2021. https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/non-hydro-renewables-overtake-hydro-for-first-time-170949  (22 Jan. 2022)

Finland Restoring river ecosystems Chopping down trees is not how most people would expect a river restoration project to begin, but Janne Raassina – who is expertly using a chainsaw to take down four or five earmarked trunks around the Särkkäjoki River in remotest eastern Finland – explains that the rotting wood will be hugely useful to the ecosystem. This is a huge buffet for insects, and it’s something that has been missing in our nature for 100 years,” he says. “We are creating the food chain from scratch.”

Finland is the most heavily forested country in Europe, with about 76% of its land area cloaked by trees. However, this impressive statistic disguises the ecological damage that has been inflicted by the forestry industry over the last century or so.

Janne Raassina and his colleagues move rocks from the riverbank into the water. Photograph: Sophie Yeo/The Guardian

The old growth has almost entirely vanished, replaced by the skeletal monocultures of commercial plantations; today, less than 5% of Finland’s forest cover is more than 120 years old. These are a pale imitation of the lichen-laden, berry-filled forests of old – and the wildlife has suffered as a result.

Rivers have been another casualty of Finland’s rapid industrialisation. From the 1850s, before the age of roads and rail, its waterways were engineered into unobstructed channels to create a vast fluvial transport network. Rapids were removed and bends straightened to allow logs to float hundreds of miles downstream for processing. The supply of dead wood that would once have fed into the rivers dwindled as the surrounding birch, pine and spruce was cleared.

Though timber floating stopped by the 1980s, its legacy of sterility persists: the diversity of habitats that would have existed throughout the meanders and wetlands of a natural river system never returned, and the forestry industry continues to deprive these ecosystems of their dead wood. Studies of individual rivers have shown, in some cases, the complete decimation of once-thriving populations of fish.

The stream that flows before us looks healthy enough, but, says Raassina, it is ecologically dead. All the creatures you would expect to see here – including fish, mayflies and other insects – have vanished. An investigation into the tributaries of the Lieksanjoki River failed to return a single brown trout. “We’re basically starting from zero. Our nation has been so shortsighted,” says Raassina. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jan/22/finland-restoring-river-ecosystems-rewilding  (22 Jan. 2022)

THE REST OF THE WORLD

USA As flood risks increase, time to recognize the limits of levees Davenport, Iowa has embraced this approach. With a population of over 102,000, it is the largest U.S. river city without levees or a permanent floodwall. Instead Davenport has emphasized adapting to flooding by increasing public green spaces in the flood zone and elevating buildings that flank the Mississippi River.

Kansas City and other towns could advance this discussion by moving beyond strictly commercial visions of their waterways and considering this question: What does a healthy river of the future look like? https://theconversation.com/as-flood-risks-increase-across-the-us-its-time-to-recognize-the-limits-of-levees-118326  (16 July 2019)

Water firm fined £240,000 over County Durham sewage discharges Northumbrian Water company has been fined £240,000 after a damaged manhole led to two unauthorised sewage discharges into a stream. Untreated sewage leaked into Coundon Burn in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, on 13 March 2017. A member of the public rang Northumbrian Water after seeing effluent in the stream, and the firm – which had a turnover of £834.6m that year – sent workers to free a sewer blockage.

But it is likely they only succeeded in forcing it further down the pipe, and there was a further overflow about 320 metres downstream the next day. Workers only managed to remove the blockage after they used equipment to break into the Victorian pipework, finding that a brick entangled in sewage “rags” had caused the buildup, Newcastle crown court heard. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jan/19/water-firm-fined-240000-over-county-durham-sewage-discharges  (19 Jan. 2022)

In Sewage, Clues to Omicron’s Surge Tracking the virus in wastewater is helping some cities and hospitals respond to the most recent wave of the coronavirus, but a more coordinated national effort is needed, experts say. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/19/health/covid-omicron-wastewater-sewage.html  (19 Jan. 2022)

Tribes Are Leading the Way to Remove Dams and Restore Ecosystems Like Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe many other tribes have looked to the success of the Elwha River dam removals in bringing down fish-blocking dams in their lands as well, including along the Snake River and the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest.

Together, the country’s 2 million dams block access to more than 600,000 miles of river for fish. And by 2030, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that 80% of those dams will be beyond their 50-year lifespans. Given how obsolete and potentially dangerous this infrastructure will be, not to mention its negative effects on declining fish stocks, the best solution for many aging dams is to simply remove them. But bringing down a dam is a big job. https://www.yesmagazine.org/environment/2021/07/14/tribes-remove-dams-restore-ecosystems  (14 July 2021)

Report Plastic crisis needs binding treaty Pollution from plastics is a global emergency in need of a robust UN treaty, according to a report. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) says there’s a cascade of evidence of harm from plastics. It argues that the plastic pollution threat is almost equivalent to climate change. The air we breathe now contains plastic micro particles, there’s plastic in Arctic snow, plastic in soils and plastic in our food. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-60026748  (18 Jan. 2022)

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

Also see: DRP News Bulletin 17 Jan 2022 & DRP News Bulletin 10 Jan 2022  

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

One thought on “DRP NB 24 Jan 2022: MoEF’s complete surrender: Rating SEIAA on faster clearances

  1. Regarding “seaplane on the Ganges at Varanasi”
    According to model code of conduct, even newspapers cannot publish articles about any upcoming projects which has not been followed.

    Like

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