DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 21 Feb 2022: UNVIABLE HYDRO STORIES FROM INDIA, BHUTAN, NEPAL, US

One of the key underlying theme of several stories this week is about more resounding evidence from several parts of the world including India (Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Kashmir, NHPC), Bhutan, Nepal, USA and Canada among others, that hydropower projects are no longer even economically viable, besides being socially and environmentally destructive and unacceptable. It is high time that our authorities wake up and realise this soon rather than spending massive amounts of scarce resources on such unviable projects that also work as force multipliers in the changing climate.

As we can see from the stories below, in Kerala 128 hydropower projects are in limbo for decades, and in J&K the centre has not allocated any money from the PM’s package for hydro projects. In Arunachal Pradesh, for the biggest capacity under construction hydropower project of India, 17 years after clearance, even as NHPC claims that it is ready to commission first units in Aug 2022, the bulk of the compensatory afforestation has still not happened, and the MoEF seems to have woken up from its slumber following questions from a journalist! In Bhutan, the government is worried about the cost of power from under construction large hydro projects and viability of selling such high cost power and also implications of the high debt for the nation. In Nepal, after several extensions, GMR is still unable to achieve financial closure or Power Purchase Agreement for the Karnali Hydropower project. Same is the situation with the West Seti Hydropower project. The Pancheshwar Hydropower that was in news during the last Uttarakhand assembly elections is no longer in the news this time. In USA, there is legitimate opposition to New York City importing hydropower from Canada calling it clean and renewable source of power, since, as advocacy groups state there, hydropower is not clean or renewable.

The writing is once again there for anyone to read, but the vested interest driven lobbies are unlikely to read it any time soon.

Kerala 128 HEPs in limbo for decades 128 small hydroelectric projects with an aggregate capacity of 798 MW remain non-starters despite being proposed several decades ago. They do not include large ventures like the 163 MW Athirappilly project. Electricity Minister K Krishnankutty admitted that several small hydroelectric projects are stuck due to “minor issues”. However, he said the government has identified several such projects and implement them in the next 12-18 months.

– Four small hydroelectric projects – Poringalkuthu (24 MW), Thottiyar (40 MW), Bhoothathankettu (24 MW) and Pallivasal (60 MW) will be implemented in 12-15 months, while the foundation stone for the Mankulam (40 MW) project will be laid in the coming week, he said. Tendering process on for: Olikkal (5 MW), Poovaramthodu (3MW), Marippuzha (6 MW).

– “The minor land issues that delayed Chinnar project (24 MW) have been sorted out. Tendering processes for Olikkal (5 MW), Poovaramthodu (3MW), and Marippuzha (6 MW) are on,” he said. He said the 128 small projects were identified for implementation by the Union power ministry over several years in various studies. “However, not all of them are viable and feasible. So, it’s not proper to say all 128 projects are pending,” he said.

– Krishnankutty said that the government is also moving quickly to establish the second powerhouse at Idukki. Consultancy firm WAPCOS Ltd, a PSU under the Union Jal Shakti Ministry, is in the final stages of preparing a detailed project report for the 800 MW project.

– Other pending projects include Bavalippuzha–II (8 MW), Valamthodu (8 MW), Pambar (40 MW), Achankovil (30 MW), Chenkulam augmentation (24 MW), Upper Chenkulam (24 MW), Vakkalar (24 MW), Kakkadampoil-I (20 MW), Karikkayam (15 MW), Keezharkuthu (15 MW) and Nakkayam (12 MW). https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/kerala/2022/feb/14/128-hydroelectric-projects-in-kerala-in-limbo-for-decades-2419045.html  (14 Feb. 2022)

J & K 5 years on, SHPs await central funding The central government has not released a single penny for the construction of small hydro-power projects in Jammu and Kashmir, despite announcing an outlay of Rs 2000 crore under the Prime Minister’s Development Package. With no allocation in the last five years, no small hydropower project could not be developed in J&K post the announcement of the PM package,” said a senior official. An official document of the J&K government accessed by Greater Kashmir reads as “no funds sanctioned/released by GoI for SHPs under PMDP-15 till date.

– “23 Small Hydro Electric Projects (SHPs) identified/selected with a total estimated cost of around Rs 3900 crore (10 SHPs of 10-25 MW: Rs. 2701.83 Cr and 13 SHPs of 2-10 MW: Rs. 1198.17 Cr). 19 DPRs prepared; 4 DPRs under finalization.” “The government of J&K vide various communications dated 12.03.2019, 31.07.2019, 22.06.2020 & 04.06.2021 has requested the MNRE, GoI for sanction of central financial assistance to the tune of 60 percent of the Project cost for each of the SHP. Meanwhile, MNRE has released Rs 5 crore on 10.09.2021 for setting up of one of the SHPs, namely Karnah (12 MW) through the erstwhile normal SHP scheme (not under PMDP). Works under Karnah project in execution.” https://www.greaterkashmir.com/todays-paper/business-todays-paper/5-years-on-small-hydropower-projects-await-central-funding  (16 Feb. 2022)

NHPC seems to accept that big hydro IS NOT RENEWABLE, it now floats NHPC Renewable Energy Ltd that excludes big hydro! The new Company has been registered on Feb 16, 2022. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/renewable/nhpc-incorporates-nhpc-renewable-energy-ltd-for-clean-energy-business/89662496  (18 Feb. 2022)

Bhutan Will Bhutan be able to export electricity in the future? Significant cost escalation and delays with the ongoing hydropower projects have raised concerns as to whether Bhutan will be able to export electricity after commissioning the projects. This has also exerted pressure on the already ballooning national debt. Hydropower debt constituted 73 percent of the total external debt at Nu 162.48 billion (B) as of the end of December 2021.

– The cost of the two major ongoing hydropower projects in the country, 1,200 megawatts (MW) Punatsangchhu-I (P-I) and 1,020MW Punatsangchhu-II escalated to Nu 93.75B from Nu 35B estimated in 2006 and Nu 89.77B from Nu 37B estimated in 2009 respectively. Both the projects are under the inter-governmental (IG) model. https://kuenselonline.com/will-bhutan-be-able-to-export-electricity-in-the-future/  (19 Feb. 2022)

Nepal Govt to give GMR 2 yrs to generate funds for Upper Karnali HEP The government has decided to give the Indian GMR Group two years to generate funds for the Upper Karnali Hydropower Project. The company has been dillydallying for the past few years, yet the government seems helpless to do anything except extending the time. Out of the two years, six months have been given to sell the electricity produced from the project through the power sales agreement (PSA) and 18 months for financial closure. The company told the Nepal committee that the government of Bangladesh had already issued a letter of intent to purchase 500 MW of power for the project that would assure them a return of its investment. GMR also stated that it needed time to find ways to sell electricity to Bangladesh and had spoken with Indian companies NTPC and NNVN. https://english.onlinekhabar.com/gmr-upper-karnali-hydropower-project.html  (17 Feb. 2022)

USA NYC’s Big Clean Energy Plan Is Under Attack From One-Time Advocate The New York City plan to import hydropower from Canada is being opposed. Riverkeeper, a powerful environmental group that initially supported the plan, is now asking regulators to reject the deal, arguing that the hydro dams used to generate power are also significant sources of carbon emissions. The Sierra Club shares many of its concerns.

– Riverkeeper said it turned against the project after evaluating research on emissions from hydropower dams owned by Hydro-Quebec, which will supply the power. The vast reservoirs needed to store the water for hydropower are often created by flooding areas covered in plants and trees; over time, all that organic material will decompose and create carbon emissions. It’s also worried Hydro-Quebec may eventually build new dams, threatening First Nations in the region. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-02-18/champlain-hudson-power-express-plan-to-bring-hydro-power-to-nyc-faces-pushback  (18 Feb. 2022)

HYDRO POWER PROJECTS

Arunachal Pradesh ‘Bulk of Subansiri compensatory afforestation awaited even after 17 yrs’  As of 16 Dec, 2021, the Arunachal Pradesh government had not started the bulk of compensatory afforestation against NHPC’s 2,000 mw Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Project, even after 17 years. For the project, there will be diversion of 3,999.30 ha forest land, with 3,180 ha in Arunachal and the rest in Assam. In a letter to Arunachal forests principal secretary, MoEFCC stated: “Despite the fact that the proposal was accorded in the year as early as 2004, ie, 17 years back, compensatory afforestation is yet to be done.” MoEF has asked for “Compliance report on the conditions stipulated in FC approval dated 12.10.2004.”

– The MoEFCC has also asked that the “state government may provide the project-wise and year-wise details of funds received by the government of Arunachal Pradesh from the national authority/ad-hoc CAMPA under NPV/CA/CAT Plan, etc, so far and status of carrying out approved activities including CA.” The ministry has sought “convincing justification for the delay in carrying out CA and the status of the project implemented till date on the forestland.”

– “The clear felling of trees started from Oct 2021,” the NHPC said. Response from the NHPC and the forest department regarding the delay in compensatory afforestation is awaited. https://arunachaltimes.in/index.php/2022/02/15/moefcc-reminds-arunachal-that-bulk-of-subansiri-compensatory-afforestation-awaited-even-after-17-years/  (15 Feb. 2022)

Decision-makers need to take EIAs seriously The recent passage of the Dam Safety Bill by the Indian parliament will only address part of the problem if environmental impact assessments are faulty. But the Dam Safety Bill regulates dams that have already been constructed, not whether upcoming projects are safe. A useful addition would be for an appropriate authority to undertake a rigorous environmental impact assessment (EIA) during the early stages of decision-making on hydropower projects to ensure the protection of ecosystems and sustainable development.  https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/energy/hydropower-arunachal-pradesh-decisionmakers-need-to-take-eias-seriously/  (04 Feb. 2022)

Rare white bellied heron seen in Kamlang Tiger Reserve -The species is mainly found near small or large rivers, usually with sand or gravel bars, adjacent to the subtropical or tropical broadleaved forest. They are also spotted in lowlands up to at least 1,500 metres, and lakes near wet grasslands. Mainly found in inaccessible and undistributed areas, the birds are generally solitary. However, they may aggregate into small flocks and family groups during winter. https://indianexpress.com/article/trending/trending-in-india/white-bellied-heron-kamlang-tiger-reserve-7772964/  (15 Feb. 2022)

A new species of primate discovered is at risk due to hydropower projects. https://www.thewildlifeindia.com/2022/02/Newly-Discovered-White-Cheeked-Macaque-Face-Threat-From-Hydro-Power-Projects.html  (16 Feb. 2022)

Jammu & Kashmir Book Review: Peer Ghulam Nabi Suhail’s ‘Pieces of Earth’, OUP-2018, p 212, Rs 695. The Book is an ethnographic study of two villages (Badwan and Khapri) of Gurez, a border area, where peasants have not just lost land and livelihood, but also their roots, ever since the announcement of the Kishenganga Hydroelectricity Project in 2002.

– The peasants — dispossessed and displaced — are not just losing land and livelihood, but also their roots. Suhail writes: “When land is needed, people are not” (p. 119). The NHPC, as the evidence provided, is being looked upon as India’s “East India Company” to loot the local resources.

– A peasant protest put it as: “NHPC wants to illuminate Hindustan. Neither Gurez nor Kashmir gets benefit of it. We are helpless.” (p. 113). A former minister equates the NHPC with British East India Company: “NHPC is a cheater…and it is illegally occupying the land here…extracting resources of Kashmir like British East India Company.” (p. 15-16). https://www.outlookindia.com/national/precarious-life-dispossessed-peasantry-and-development-in-kashmir-news-182475  (15 Feb. 2022)

Uttarakhand Vanishing village victim of hydro electric power project  Yet another human-made tragedy is unfolding now at Haat village in Chamoli district. The village traces its origin to Adi Shankaracharya, who is believed to have established the Laxmi Narayan temple there. In 2008-09, it was decided to acquire all the land in the village for the 444 MW Vishnugad Pipalkoti Hydro Electric Power Project to be executed by THDC India Ltd on the Alaknanda river. Even the Archaeological Survey of India has noted that the temple could date back to the ninth or tenth century. The village residents believe Adi Shankaracharya himself built the temple in the eighth century. They claim to have ancient manuscripts inscribed on tamrapatra (copper plates) to support their claim. https://frontline.thehindu.com/environment/vanishing-village-victim-of-hydro-electric-power-project/article38375351.ece  (25 Feb. 2022)

Himachal Pradesh SJVN CMD inaugurated the Beas river diversion work for the Rs 687 Crore 66 MW Dhaulasidh project in Hamirpur district. PM laid the foundation stone on Dec 27, 2021. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/sjvn-cmd-inaugurates-river-diversion-of-66-mw-dhaulasidh-hydro-power-project/89615667  (17 Feb. 2022)

Maharashtra Raju Shetti opposes privatisation of hydroelectric power plant The Mah government has decided to hand over the 27 hydropower projects of small-size capacities to the private firms on a build-operate-transfe (BOT) basis. These power plants were transferred by the state government to the Maharashtra Electricity Generation Corporation Limited (Mahagenco) for 35 years. Now, they have completed 35 years and are transferred back to the water resources department, which has started the process to hire private firms to run and maintain the plants. The policy to privatise hydroelectric power projects is in place since 2005. Farmer Leader Raju Shetti opposed: “The state government is planning to buy the power to be generated from the six plants by the private players at the rates higher than it charges to Mahagenco. It will ultimately increase the power tariffs. We will take up the issue with the higher authorities.”

– The state government has invited quotations for Yeldari, Vaitarna, Bhatghar, Koyna stage 3, Koyna base station, Paithan (Jayakwadi) hydroelectric plants. These six plants have a total capacity of 470.50 megawatts. “We claim that many leaders across political parties are desperate to run the power plants for commercial benefits. We smell a scam similar to the one involving the selling of the cooperative sugar mills to the private firms owned by the political leaders.” https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolhapur/shetti-opposes-privatisation-of-hydroelectric-power-plants/articleshow/89651704.cms  (18 Feb. 2022)

MoEF One Item Agenda of EAC meeting on River Valley Projects to be held on Feb 22, 2022 Teesta Low Dam – I & II (Combined) Hydro-Electric Project 71 MW (2×30+1x11MW) in 170 ha by West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd in Triveni town, Tehsil Rangli Rangliot, Dist Darjeeling-Terms of Reference http://environmentclearance.nic.in/writereaddata/Form-1A/Agenda/1602202251415740FinalAgenda-RiverValley_24thEAC_22-02-2022.pdf 

DAMS

Centre constitutes National Dam Safety Authority The Centre also constituted a 22-member National Committee on Dam Safety which will be headed by the Chairman of the Central Water Commission. The NDSA, which seeks to maintain standards related to dam safety, prevent dam-related disasters and resolve inter-State issues in this regard, has come into force from Feb 18, 2022. The Dam Safety Act, passed by Parliament on December 8 2021, states that a NDSA will liaise with State-level dam safety organisations and owners of dams for standardising safety-related data and practices.

– The Gazette notification on Feb 17 2022 said the Authority will be headed by a chairman and assisted by five members to lead its five wings — policy and research, technical, regulation, disaster and resilience and administration and finance.

– The Centre also constituted a 22-member National Committee on Dam Safety which will be headed by the Chairman of the Central Water Commission. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/centre-constitutes-national-dam-safety-authority/article65061558.ece  (18 Feb. 2022)

Emmanuel Theophilus of FB post comment:- Isn’t there a serious problem with the CWC heading every single committee? They are in all the committees that identify dam projects, supply flow data, commission EIAs, decide on seismic hazard and so on. How will they ever find fault with their own decisions?

Tamil Nadu Farmers association question the Dam Safety Act and ask about the continuation of the Cauvery Management Authority. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/farmers-question-cauvery-water-management-authoritys-status/article65065192.ece  (19 Feb. 2022)

Mullaperiyar Dam Kerala seeks review of 2014 judgement Kerala has sought a review, if necessary, by a large bench of the SC, of the 2014 SC verdict on Mullaperiyar dam, invoking Precautionary Principle and mentioning the Feb 2021 Chamoli disaster of Uttarakhand, saying the only solution is a new dam, in place of existing dam. Kerala has submitted to SC an affidavit to this effect. It has also mentioned the changing rainfall pattern, considering the rainfall during 2018-2021. https://theprint.in/india/kerala-seeks-review-of-2014-judgement-on-mullaperiyar-dam-issue-demands-new-dam/836087/  (18 Feb. 2022)

Minister for Water Resources Duraimurugan on Friday (Feb. 18) said the State government will not give up its rights over the Mullaiperiyar dam and that Kerala cannot build a new one since it would violate Supreme Court ruling. His statement came following Kerala Governor’s address in the Assembly, where he said the government would take steps to build a new dam. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2022/feb/19/kerala-rakes-up-mullaiperiyar-wont-give-up-rights-tn-water-resources-minister-duraimurugan-2421237.html  (18 Feb. 2022)

The Tamil Nadu government on Friday, February 18, strongly condemned neighbouring Kerala’s announcement to construct a new reservoir in the place of the existing Mullaiperiyar dam and said the move was arbitrary and amounted to contempt of Supreme Court order. Lashing out at Kerala for the announcement, state Water Resources Minister Duraimurugan said Tamil Nadu would oppose it in all aspects. Kerala government’s announcement to build a new dam in the place of the existing one is arbitrary and unacceptable,” he said. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/kerala-announcing-new-mullaiperiyar-dam-arbitrary-contempt-court-tamil-nadu-161146  (18 Feb. 2022)

AP water resources authorities have been asking the Odisha and Chhattisgarh states to conduct a public hearing as nearly 1,000 hectares located in agency areas would be affected under the influence of Polavaram project once it gets executed due to the impounding of water. — DC Image/C. Narayana Rao

Polavaram Project Centre agrees to keep ‘Stop Work’ order in abeyance for 2 yrs An example of how the environment laws and regulations in India are a joke. Since 2011 there is stop work order for Polavaram dam from MoEF, but it has been kept in abeyance every year and now it is extended to July 2023! Amazingly, several petitions against the project remain pending before various courts including the SC! https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/politics/180222/polavaram-centre-agrees-to-keep-stop-work-order-in-abeyance-for.html  (18 Feb. 2022)

INTERLINKING OF RIVERS

Ken-Betwa Linking Govt forms panel, SPV to implement KBL Centre has set up a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) and a 20-member steering committee to complete the Ken Betwa project on inter-linking of rivers (ILRs). SC is headed by ‘Jal Shakti’ (water resources) ministry’s secretary and comprised of four other secretaries of different ministries including environment. The project will be implemented by the SPV – Ken-Betwa Link Project Authority (KBLPA) – headed by a CEO of additional secretary rank. Both these bodies were constituted last week. “The rehabilitation and resettlement of project affected families and land acquisition for the projects within their territorial jurisdiction shall be carried out by respective State governments in a time bound and transparent manner as per the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, the respective State government policy and Environmental Management Plan,” said gazette notification on the constitution of the SC and the Authority, issued on Feb 9, 2022. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/government-forms-panel-spv-to-implement-ken-betwa-project/articleshow/89579830.cms  (15 Feb. 2022)

Ken Betwa Link Project Who Benefits & Who Loses? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TknNLr1qfI8&t=623s  (16 Feb. 2022)

Telangana Conduct hydrology study, then link rivers: Govt The Telangana government asked Union jal shakti ministry to conduct a hydrology study first on availability of water in Godavari river at Icchampally before taking up linking of Godavari and Cauvery river basins. V Mohan Kumar, chief engineer, inter-state water (ISW) issues, irrigation department, said Godavari waters could be diverted only after meeting the requirements of Telangana. “We have informed the jal shakti ministry officials to first conduct water assessment studies in the Godavari, especially at Icchampally. The state has an entitlement of 968 tmcft of water in Godavari basin” Kumar said. He attended a meeting on interlinking of rivers conducted by NWDA in Delhi on Feb 18, 2022. Along with Telangana, the NWDA had invited irrigation officials from AP, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Karnataka.

– NWDA was planning to draw 7 BCM from Godavari river and divert the waters to Krishna and Pennar basins as part of linking of Godavari and Cauvery basins. The Telangana government has been arguing that there was no excess water available in Godavari river at Icchampally. Chairman of Central Water Commission AK Sinha said in the meeting that only the unutilised waters of Chhattisgarh to an extent of 4 billion cubic meters (BCM) may have to be considered for diversion in view of the concerns raised by Telangana and AP. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/conduct-hydrology-study-then-link-river-basins-telangana-govt/articleshow/89676054.cms  (19 Feb. 2022)

Karnataka Allocate our share of water before taking up river linking In the meeting convened by Union Water Resources Secretary Pankaj Kumar to discuss the proposal for linking Godavari- Krishna, Krishna-Pennar, and Pennar-Cauvery on Friday (Feb. 18), Karnataka said all issues raised by the state should be addressed by the Centre before going ahead with projects. In the meeting Water Resources Department officials from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry were also present.

Before taking up Krishna-Pennar and Pennar-Cauvery linking, the Water Resources Ministry also address the issues of requirement of water in drought hit areas of the state, Cauvery Niravari Nigama (CNN) Managing Director K Jayaprakash said in the meeting. Opposing Godavari-Krishna linking, Telangana said if the Centre goes head with this project, 50% availability of water should be allocated to it, sources in the Jal Shakti Ministry said. Telangana also demanded modification of the existing DPR of Godavari-Krishna linking project. Andhra Pradesh demanded that lower riparian state should get sufficient quantity of water while Tamil Nadu demanded 200 tmc feet of water as its share in river linking project. https://www.deccanherald.com/state/top-karnataka-stories/allocate-our-share-of-water-before-taking-up-river-linking-project-karnataka-to-centre-1083082.html  (19 Feb. 2022)

INTERSTATE WATER DISPUTES

Krishna Water Dispute Karnataka moves SC The Karnataka government on Friday (Feb. 18) moved the Supreme Court seeking setting up of a bench to hear a plea relating to the dispute over the allocation of water of Krishna river, flowing in states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana, after two judges recused themselves on January 10. The judges, who recused themselves, were upset with the tone and tenor of mails and letters against them for being part of the bench to decide the water dispute.

A bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana took note of the submissions of senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for Karnataka, and said that he will consider setting up the bench for the case. The bench, also comprising justices A S Bopanna and Hima Kohli, inquired whether the parties can amicably settle the dispute. Divan said the main issue would require adjudication from the bench itself and some of the ancillary matters may be settled. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/180222/karnataka-seeks-setting-up-of-bench-in-sc-to-deal-with-krishna-river-w.html  (18 Feb. 2022)

RIVERS AS NATIONAL WATER WAYS

Tripura Rs 24 cr sanctioned for dredging in Gomati river: Official The Ministry of Shipping has sanctioned over Rs 24 crore for dredging in the Gomati river and setting up 10 jetties for a waterway project. From Sonamura in Tripura’s Sepahijala district to Daudkandi in Bangladesh, a 93 km waterway has been proposed for the Gomati, a transboundary river. A nearly 15.5 km stretch of the proposed waterway needs dredging to operationalise the route, while only 1.5 km lies within India.  https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/infrastructure/centre-sanctions-over-rs-24-crore-for-dredging-in-gomati-river-to-boost-indo-bangla-waterway-project-official/articleshow/89544399.cms  (13 Feb. 2022)

RIVERS

SANDRP Blog नदियां हमसे कुछ कहना चाह रही हैं, बशर्ते हम गौर से सुनें साल 2006 की बात है। मैं छत्तीसगढ़ की शिवनाथ नदी के 22.6 किलोमीटर हिस्से के निजीकरण की खबर पर रिसर्च कर रही थी। एक सवाल सहज ही मेरे मन में कौंधा कि आखिर नदियां क्या हैं? महज पानी का स्रोत या जीवित इकाई? वे राज्य की संपत्ति हैं या किसी की निजी बपौती? या कहीं वे उस पर आश्रित लोगों की साझा संपत्ति व सांस्कृतिक धरोहर तो नहीं? इसके कई सालों बाद बिहार में चम्पा नदी के पुनरुत्थान के लिए चल रहे अभियान ने मेरा ध्यान खींचा। मैं इस अभियान से जुड़ी, चम्पा के बारे में अधिक जानने की इच्छा बलवती हुई। जब मैंने नदियों पर काम शुरू किया, तब सोचा नहीं था कि उनके पास मुझे बताने के लिए इतना कुछ था। जो मैंने जाना, उसमें से कुछ पाठकों से साझा करना चाहती हूं।

हाल के दिनों में नदियों को जोड़ने से होने वाले फायदे-नुकसान पर काफी गहमागहमी है। शहरीकरण के कारण नदियों के किनारे को कूड़ा फेंकने के काम में लाया जा रहा है। दूसरी तरफ कुछ नदियों के सौंदर्यीकरण के नाम पर उनके कंक्रीट-किनारे बनाए जा रहे हैं। आधुनिकता ने ना केवल बांधों को बढ़ावा दिया, बल्कि जल के प्रति समाज की सोच को भी प्रभावित किया। इस प्रक्रिया को बाढ़ मुक्ति अभियान के दिनेश मिश्र ‘लैंग्वेज गैप’ का नाम देते हैं। वे कहते हैं पानी और मौसम सम्बंधी जो समझ मछुआरों और नाविकों के पास है, उसे हम आज तवज्जो दे पाने में असमर्थ हैं। ऐसे में ज्ञान का आधार केवल तर्क न होकर अनुभव भी हो, यह कोशिश हमें करनी होगी। उदाहरण के तौर पर, राजस्थान के लापोड़िया और मप्र के देवास इत्यादि क्षेत्रों में परंपरागत ज्ञान-परंपरा पर आधारित सामुदायिक जल संचयन के प्रयोग अनुकरणीय हैं।

बिहार और झारखण्ड जल के मामले में समृद्ध-समाज हैं पर साथ ही कई दिक्कतें भी हैं- चाहे वो बिहार में अक्सर आने वाली बाढ़ हों या झारखण्ड में गिरता भूजल स्तर। दोनों ही राज्य विकास के पथ पर अग्रसर होने के क्रम में जल के रखरखाव को लेकर परंपरागत ज्ञान से क्रमशः दूर होते जा रहे हैं। बाढ़ के साथ जीने वाला समाज इसे समस्या के तौर पर देखने लगा और नदियों को बांध से बलवत बांधने की प्रवृत्ति बढ़ती गई।  https://bit.ly/3ByreVZ  (20 Feb. 2022)

Dr. Ruchi journey of Champa river work started with SANDRP

Jharkhand एक अधूरी परियोजना में अटकी पीढ़ियों की जिंदगी SANDRP के संयोजक और नदी विशेषज्ञ हिमांशु ठक्कर ने दामोदर नदी की दिशा को मोड़े जाने के असर के सवाल पर मोंगाबे हिंदी से कहा, “किसी नदी को डायवर्ट करने से उसका कितना असर पड़ेगा यह उसके डीपीआर के अध्ययन से पता चलेगा, लेकिन नदियों की दिशा मोड़े जाने से उसमें बाढ़ की संभावना बढ़ जाती है। ऐसा किए जाने से आसपास की जैव-विविधता पर असर पड़ेगा। आसपास के कुछ इलाके डूब क्षेत्र बन जाएंगे। उन्होंने कहा कि ऐसी परियोजना के पर्यावरण एवं सामाजिक प्रभावों का आकलन का अध्ययन करने के बाद ही इस पर केंद्रित प्रतिक्रिया दी जा सकती है। ठक्कर कहते हैं, “जलवायु परिवर्तन की चुनौतियों को देखते हुए सबसे पहले तो इस तरह की परियोजना पर अमल होना ही नहीं चाहिए और कोई नई कोयला खनन कार्य शुरू नहीं किया जाना चाहिए। बेहतर यह होगा कि किसानों की अधिग्रहित की गयी जमीन को कृषि योग्य बनाकर उन्हें वापस कर दिया जाए।“ https://hindi.mongabay.com/2022/02/16/40-years-of-wait-for-villagers-in-jharkhand/ (16 Feb. 2022)

Maharashtra A call for collective rejuvenation of river  The 80 km long Waghadi river flows through the district’s Ghatanji and Yavatmal blocks of Yavatmal dist in Vidarbha. One of the six tributaries of the Painganga, the Waghadi was once considered the area’s lifeline. Changes in land-use and degradation along the river’s catchment areas have decreased its water supply and duration of flow, turning it into a non-perennial river.

– In 2013, through feasibility studies conducted in the Ghatanji block, FES identified the extent to which the conditions and distribution of natural resources had been disturbed in the area. Continuous degradation had destroyed soil fertility, especially in the river’s catchment areas. After gathering adequate information of the ground realities in Ghatanji, the FES team’s immediate focus was to improve the governance of the common water sources in the block. They decided to undertake the rejuvenation of the Waghadi River that had gone dry.

– Thus, in 2014, FES facilitated the formation of Waghadi Bachao Abhiyan, a Multi-Actor Platform (MAP) including stakeholders from the state government to rural communities, to raise awareness and support the revival of the river and improve governance of common water resources in the region.

The block-level forum brought together representatives from the government, Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) members, civil society organizations, community leaders, representatives of various peoples’ groups such as farmers, teachers, advocates, and the community at large.

Organized every 2 months, the MAP meeting provided these stakeholders with an opportunity to understand the proposed work and its intended benefits. In addition to empowering the communities with information and the necessary capacity building, the team also met with relevant state ministers, the Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA), and bureaucrats to propose and underscore the need to revive the Waghadi river. https://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/waghadi-bachao-call-collective-rejuvenation-river  (19 Jan. 2022)

Godavari unfit even for bathing: NGT  For the second time in six months, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) made disturbing observations about the level of Godavari river pollution, saying the water was not fit enough even for bathing, let alone for drinking in a case filed by petitioner Kiran Kamble in 2019.. During its hearing on Feb 11, NGT pulled up the Maharashtra government and the civic body of Trimbakeshwar (the origin point of the river) for their failure in preventing discharge of wastewater into the river despite orders issued in the past two years.

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The NGT has directed the state chief secretary to take necessary action and submit a compliance affidavit on the status by email on April 30. The next hearing is on May 18. The NGT, in its hearing, stated that the generation of sewage in the Godavari is in the range of 4.5-5 MLD, while the Trimbak Municipal Council has arrangements to treat only 1 MLD sewage. The remaining untreated sewage is discharged into the river. The polluted water may also have a serious negative impact on the Nandur Madhmeshwar bird sanctuary, which is a Ramsar site. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nashik/godavari-water-unfit-even-for-bathing-green-tribunal/articleshow/89651410.cms  (18 Feb. 2022)

Jammu & Kashmir Massive Sinkhole Swallows Freshwater Stream A popular trout angling stream has suddenly disappeared in Kashmir after it was swallowed by a massive sinkhole. Experts say it has caused immeasurable damage to aquatic life, including to trout fish.

The administration has enforced restrictions under section 144 and asked people not to venture near the sinkhole as nobody knows the outlet of the sinkhole and people are worried that it may cause a collapse of land due to denudations and threaten life and property in the area.

After the sudden death of a freshwater stream, around a 20 km long stretch of a famous trout stream in the Anantnag district has dried up. Locals fear for their safety as it appears the entire stream has been swallowed by the sinkhole. Efforts by the administration to divert water have not succeeded.

“The river has disappeared. The government should do something. We are worried about drinking water and irrigation. Even our land can collapse. What’s the guarantee our village is safe?” said Bashir Ahmad, a local. https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/massive-sinkhole-swallows-freshwater-stream-in-kashmir-locals-puzzled-2771797  (16 Feb. 2022)

The famous Brengi stream in the Kokernag area of Anantnag district has been draining into a sinkhole since early this week. Brengi is sought after by anglers for its brown trout, and the phenomenon has left the downstream portion dry, killing fish in large numbers. The sinkhole is believed to have been caused by the chemical dissolution of limestone rocks in the river.

– The experts, from the Kashmir Irrigation and Flood Control Department and the Department Of Mining And Geology, said the vertical hole in the stream was a natural phenomenon, not caused by climate change. Dr Reyaz Ahmad Dar, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Kashmir, said: “Beneath boulders in any river or stream, there’s a layer known as ‘limestone’. Limestone’s composition is calcium carbonate, which is very prone to solution or chemical activities. Because of limestone’s chemical solution, it usually develops holes, one of which is the sinkhole which we’re currently witnessing in Brengi. So it’s completely natural and people shouldn’t worry about it.” https://thefederal.com/states/north/jammu-and-kashmir/sinkhole-swallows-a-stream-in-kashmir-is-climate-change-to-blame/  (17 Feb. 2022)

District authorities said around 50 cusecs of water was draining into the sinkhole at the moment. Three teams from Kashmir University, NIT, and the Geology Department have visited the spot to prepare a report, after which the government will decide on how to fill the sinkhole.

– In May 2021, a gigantic sinkhole popped up in Santa Maria Zacatepec in Mexico. The pit, initially about 15 feet in diameter, grew beyond 400 feet wide and 150 feet deep. The Mexican government had to send in soldiers to keep people 2,000 feet from the hole, which is 50 feet deep. Another horrifying instance of a sinkhole incident was in Xining, China back in January 2020. Six people died and another 16 were injured after the enormous sinkhole swallowed a bus and a number of pedestrians in central China. According to state media, the sinkhole stretched nearly 10m (32 feet) in diameter. https://www.firstpost.com/india/how-a-flowing-stream-disappeared-into-the-ground-in-kashmir-all-you-need-to-know-about-sinkholes-10385831.html  (18 Feb. 2022) 

The sinkhole has led to complete disruption of its water flow and large-scale death of trout (fish of salmon family) downstream. The February 11 incident triggered anxiety among people who feared water shortage in the coming months. The local administration initially tried to fill the sinkhole, but gave it up after realising sinkholes are naturally occurring geological events and pose no immediate danger.

A similar event was reported 27 years ago when it was found that the water of the Brengi stream, which disappeared in the fissures of limestones at Dewalgam, is the real source of the famous Achabal spring in Anantnag. For scientific understanding of the sinkhole, the government has formed four teams of experts who visited the spot and conducted tests including using a Proton Precession Magnetometer.

Experts believe it to be a natural phenomenon formed due to the gradual chemical dissolution of limestone rocks in the river. “This is a highly karstified area of the western Himalayas which is vulnerable to such sinkholes,” said Prof Ghulam Jeelani, Head of the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Kashmir, who is part of the expert team.

“If we are not able to find the outlet of these channels or there is a blockage, it can lead to a sudden burst of water causing localised floods,” Jeelani said. However, they have suggested geophysical and gravity surveys to ascertain the path of the cavity-underground river system and to prevent any disaster. Geology Professor Hamidulah Wani of women’s college in Pulwama says there can be several sinkholes in the area but they appear once they collapse fully. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/j-k/sinkhole-kills-fish-triggers-panic-371173  (19 Feb. 2022)

As the trout-rich water of Brengi stream has vanished into a massive sinkhole, thousands of fish have died in the stream due to non-availability of water, leaving locals and experts in a lurch as they fear the numbers may gradually rise if a remedy to the sinkhole problem isn’t found.

Talking to Kashmir Observer, a local said that due to formation of this sinkhole, thousands of fish have died till now. “The riverbed of the stream was jammed up with dead fish.” Tanveer, who wishes to be known by his first name, told Kashmir Observer. “By the time, department [Fisheries Department] officials arrived at the spot, these fish had already died. The officials had then requested the professional local fishermen to save the rest of the fish by relocating them to a water-abundant portion of the stream.”

“A large number of fish species including trout have perished in the dying stream as they were found on the river bed of the stream when the water was being sucked by the whirlpool formed due to the sinkhole.” Jehangeer Ahmed, another local said. “Saving those fish was in no one’s hand but by delaying filling of this sinkhole, the administration is increasing a threat on aquatic life.”

However, officials say that they saved as many fish including trout as they could and relocated them to other water bodies. “As soon as the fisheries department was informed by the officials on ground, we dispatched a team to safeguard the aquatic life. However by the time we reached the spot, a good number of fish had died but many were still in the pool downstream. We shifted them to safer destinations. These things are beyond one’s control. Whatever measures and steps we were supposed to take, we took them swiftly,” Mohammad Sidique Wani, Deputy Director, Department of Fisheries, told Kashmir Observer.

He further added, “Majority of the fish that had died due to non-availability of the water were the local fish and their seeds. Trouts have also died but their number is relatively less as in this season when water flow is less, these trout fish migrate to a spot where the gush of water is higher. The department along with the other expert team have been working day and night to come up with a plan that will subside the threat created by the sinkhole on the local population and on aquatic life especially the trout. However, until a solution is found, the threat on aquatic life will continue to remain as that is absolutely in no one’s hand.”

As per the official, for now the threat on trout is less as they had already migrated from the 20-km stretch that has dried. “But, if the stream isn’t restored to its original form by next month, the threat on fish including trout will rise to an unprecedented level as the glaciers will start melting and the water flow will increase that will simultaneously push these fish to the downstream part.”

As per reports, the expert team at the site of the incident has also found another cavity that has hampered the artificial channel that the department had laid down for flow of water downstream. Meanwhile, the locals fear that the number of dead fish will increase because of the sinkhole, if the Government doesn’t come up with an on-time solution. “This sinkhole not only poses threat to aquatic life but also to the local population as the Brengi Nallah water is used by the local population for daily activities. This stream is known for its trout richness. By next month, the water flow will increase and the rush of trout fish in the 20-km stretch will increase but if the sinkhole is still there, the trout will either perish or will be sucked into the sinkhole.” Bashir Ahmed, a local said. https://kashmirobserver.net/2022/02/17/thousands-of-trout-fish-perish-in-kokernag-sinkhole/  (17 Feb. 2022)

Trout farming is one of the major activities of the department. The annual trout production touches 262 tonnes. After trout’s introduction in the Valley’s streams, it took J&K another eighty years to think of farming the trout. It was only in the early 1980s that the fisheries department, for the first time established an ambitious trout project at Kokernag with the assistance of the then European Economic Commission. It is the second-largest trout fish farm in Asia. The annual production from the farm has reached a whopping 125 tons. Officials say the sinkhole is happening at the different streams and it will not have any impact on the farm.

Locals say the Brengi stream irrigates thousands of kanals of agricultural and horticultural lands and drying up of it poses a serious threat to these areas. https://www.outlookindia.com/national/brengi-river-in-kashmir-disappears-into-a-sinkhole-kills-trout-in-large-numbers-news-183005  (18 Feb. 2022)

Administration has started tracer studies with the help of experts from National Institute of Technology (NIT), Srinagar. Anantnag DC Piyush Singla said the study might also throw light over the source of springs in the region besides the underground topography. “We are conducting advanced tracer studies. This may throw light on the epochal underground KARST topography. Interesting findings like source of springs may be on the offering,” Singla said in a social media post.

Kokernag SDM Sarib Sehran said the experts from Kashmir University and NIT suggested tracer studies to find out where the water was going after entering the sinkhole. He said a six- member team from NIT Srinagar has started the study from Saturday (Feb. 19) and is being facilitated by revenue and irrigation and flood control departments. He said they will also simultaneously fill the sinkhole with suggestions from the NIT team and the process should not take more than a week. “We have some 6-7 days till the water will start rising (as the spring sets in and snow starts melting). The team will also help us in an approximate design as to how we will fill it up. It should remain stable. They will suggest us the grading along with our flood control department to fill this up,” he added.

Ghulam Jeelani, professor and head of department of earth and environmental sciences, University of Kashmir, said “South Kashmir requires mapping of this underground cavern system. Today, it happened in the stream; tomorrow it can happen in the built up area. It can be done using foreign collaboration by conducting cave diving and geophysical surveys,” he said. Sehran acknowledged that the experts also suggested long-term studies. “They have suggested more studies, but those will take time as they will have to be entire south-Kashmir based. That is a long-term thing,” he added. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/chandigarh-news/jk-tracer-studies-begin-to-find-out-path-of-water-entering-anantnag-sinkhole-101645392732693.html  (21 Feb. 2022)

Odisha Permanent construction on Mahanadi floodplains Banned NGT has ordered a ban on permanent construction on the floodplains of the Mahanadi river until further orders. The order came following a petition filed that called the Baliyatra River Front Improvement (BRFI) project, under which the construction was being conducted, an attempt to monetise the river bed for commercial purposes. The plea further stated that the project will reduce the water-retention capacity of the river at Jobra Barrage at Cuttack and ruin the environment and riverine ecosystem. https://weather.com/en-IN/india/news/news/2022-02-12-ngt-bans-permanent-construction-on-mahanadi-rivers-floodplains  (12 Feb. 2022)

The NGT ordered the constitution of a 7-member committee comprising environmentalists to study the ecological and hydrological aspects and vulnerability of reclaiming the floodplains of the river and make detailed recommendations identifying the steps required for protecting the floodplain zone. The committee has been directed to submit its report within three months. The tribunal asked both the applicant as well as the Odisha government to place their respective point of views before the committee. The CPCB would be the nodal agency to carry out the entire exercise.

Pradip Kumar Pattnaik had moved the NGT, alleging sand filling in the Mahanadi river bed within the water area of Jobra Barrage at Cuttack could cause damage to the environment and the riverine ecosystem. According to the petitioner, the project called BARFI is an attempt to monetise the river bed for commercial purposes, which will reduce the water retaining capacity of the river at Jobra Barrage at Cuttack. The project would also obstruct free flow of water at the river bed, besides causing floods in the city. In a similar case filed in NGT, Biswajit Mohanty, environmentalist, alleged the BARFI project envisaged filling up of the river area close to the embankment with sand. About 72 acres of land had been reclaimed at Jagatpur. The river bed height has been raised by dumping huge quantity of sand, and the river has been pushed back into the middle. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/ngt-directs-odisha-not-to-undertake-permanent-construction-in-mahanadis-flood-plain-area/article65051730.ece  (15 Feb. 2022)

Meghalaya Clean, rejuvenate Wahumkhrah & Umshyrpi rivers: HC The division bench of the High Court of Meghalaya has observed that immediate steps should be taken to clean and rejuvenate the Umshyrpi and Wahumkhrah rivers. The Court made the observation on Wednesday (Feb. 16) while hearing a suo motu PIL in response to the efficient management of cleanliness & hygienic conditions in Shillong City. The state government, the Shillong Municipal Board and the Defence respondents were represented by their respective counsels.

The Court asked the state government to be more proactive and instructed the Defence authorities to come out with a strategy to undertake cleanliness and awareness campaigns/ drives all over the city since several parts, including the areas around Bara Bazar to Mawlai and some of the other commercial areas in the down market localities, need a lot more than what has been done. The Court asked the amicus curiae appointed in the matter to coordinate with the respondents and other appropriate authorities and asked both the state and the amicus curiae to file individual reports in the next hearing, indicating how the matter has been carried forward. https://theshillongtimes.com/2022/02/17/clean-rejuvenate-wahumkhrah-umshyrpi-rivers-high-court/  (17 Feb. 2022)

Kerala 44 establishments polluting Konothupuzha As many as 44 establishments in Thripunithura Municipality have been found letting untreated water into the Konothupuzha, according to authorities. The violators include vehicle service stations, commercial establishments, and apartment owners. Lapses in wastewater management in these establishments came to the fore after the SPCB found higher levels of total coliform count, indicating faecal contamination, in samples collected from various points. The municipal authorities have informed the board that notices had been served on violators. Based on the findings of the health wing of the civic body, all the 44 illegal outlets into the waterbody have been closed.

The municipal authorities said a surprise squad had been constituted to check if similar such illegal outlets have been directed into the Konothupuzha. Officials of the health wing will be part of the squad. The proceedings for installing 10 surveillance cameras at select points along the Konothupuzha have been completes. Around ₹7.5 lakh has been earmarked for the project in the current financial year. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/over-40-establishments-at-thripunithura-found-letting-waste-water-into-konothupuzha/article65058620.ece  (17 Feb. 2022)

Himachal Pradesh Antibiotic residue in river, 37 firms in dock At least 37 pharmaceutical industries operating in the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh belt have been found non-compliant with the inlet norms of common effluent treatment plant (CETP). Some antibiotics like azithromycin, ciprofloxacin, ofloxacin, levofloxacin etc. were found significantly present in the final discharge of the CETP into the Sirsa river. Antibiotic residue of azithromycin was considerably present in the river both upstream (2.5ug/litre) and downstream (2.1ug/litre), with further rise in the Nalagarh area (2.9ug/litre).

Polluted water body in the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh industrial area. The Tribune

During the post-monsoon sampling, deterioration in the water quality downstream of the effluent treatment plant was observed. As per a study conducted by the joint committee constituted by the NGT, 111 antibiotic units are being monitored by the SPCB. Of these, 37 were found non-compliant with respect to limits prescribed for discharging waste into the CETP. The study expressed concern over the situation since it is adversely affecting public health and environment. The units have been directed to monitor active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) and take remedial steps. The SPCB has been told to enforce law against the violators. The NGT also recommended that all pharma units of the BBN area should be connected to the CETP. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/antibiotic-residue-in-river-37-himachal-pradesh-firms-in-dock-370468  (13 Feb. 2022)

EDIT Environmentalists, pollution boards, the green tribunal and courts have red-flagged the public health and environment degradation issues in the Baddi area as the toxic residue is even seeping into the soil and groundwater. But, sadly, a foolproof solution has remained elusive. The situation on the ground continues to deteriorate. Strict action against the violators and compliance with green norms are urgently needed. For, at the present rate, the pollution is headed towards a disastrous point of no return. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/editorials/sarsa-river-toxic-370782  (18 Feb. 2022)

GANGA Uttarakhand Chairman of Supreme Court Appointed High Power Committee on Char Dham Highway Project in Uttarakhand, Ravi Chopra explains in this excellent interview on NDTV why he resigned from the committee and what are the key problems in unnecessary widening of the Roads. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDqRMxfePI4

MoJS 4 Feb. 2022:-Guidelines on location of industries from rivers. New guidelines say that industries shall not be located within the river flood plain. Earlier it was 1/2km from floodplain industries rivers floodplains.

Centre bans new industries in river floodplains, Ganga projects exempted The Centre has decided to ban the establishment of industries in river floodplains, changing earlier guidelines that industrial sites shall maintain at least 0.5 km distance from flood or modified floodplain affected by the dam. The MoEF has come up with guidelines for siting industries that are in close proximity to the river said that the aspect related to siting of industries was deliberated in the Ministry, and suggestions were sought from different ministries including Ministry of Jal Shakti (MoJS).

The guidelines said that the activities undertaken under the Namami Gange Programme like construction, development, renovation of STPs, bathing ghats, crematoria, and toilets for pollution control abatement of river Ganga and its tributaries are not prohibited. It further said that any development project taken by the Ministry of Jal Shakti under the said program is also exempted from these guidelines. “Industries shall not be located within the river floodplain corresponding to one in 25 years flood, as certified by concerned district magistrate from state water resource department or any other officer authorized by the state government,” said the directive issued by the ministry.

According to the last revised “environment guidelines for industries” of the ministry with regard to siting of industries prescribed that industrial sites shall maintain at least 1/2 km, from flood or modified floodplain affected by the dam in the upstream or by flood control systems. “The NGT while considering restoration of measures to Yamuna and Ganga rivers dealt with the issue of floodplains and had said that it is necessary to call upon the authorities to demarcate the floodplain for the flood of once in 25 years and to prohibit any kind of development activity on the area in question,” the ministry said while issuing new guidelines.  It also said that the court in another order observed: “till the demarcation of the floodplains and identification of permissible and non-permissible activities by the state government of this judgment, we direct that 100 meters from the edge of the river would be treated as no development/construction zone.” https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2022/feb/18/centre-bans-new-industries-in-river-floodplains-ganga-projects-exempted-2421051.html  (18 Feb. 2022)

Natural farming will be promoted along river corridor: FM Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday (Feb. 01) said natural farming will be promoted along the Ganga river corridor. In her Budget Speech 2022-23, she also informed that two lakh anganwadis will be upgraded for improving child health. https://www.financialexpress.com/budget/budget-2022-natural-farming-will-be-promoted-along-ganga-river-corridor-says-fm/2422283/  (01 Feb. 2022)

YAMUNA Delhi Proposal for solid waste processing plant on floodplains rejected The EDMC had sought approval to set up the solid waste processing and disposal facility on around 31 acres at Ghonda Gujran in East Delhi, which was rejected by the Principal Committee constituted on the orders of the NGT to monitor the rejuvenation of the Yamuna. It has recommended that the EDMC look for other ways to manage waste, and the land that was to be used for the waste processing facility may be retrieved for the riverfront development project being implemented by the DDA.

EDMC commissioner Vikas Anand had told the Principal Committee that 2,600 tonnes per day of waste is generated in the EDMC area, and only 1,300 tonnes per day could be processed at the Ghazipur landfill, with no land available to process the remaining waste. In 2019, the DDA had allotted land at Ghonda Gujran for setting up a waste management facility. The DDA had later noted that part of the allotted land is in the ‘once in 25 years floodplains’ (likely to flood once in 25 years), and land use of the allotted land would have to be changed from ‘recreational’ to ‘utility’.

Experts on the committee found the proposal to be unviable. As per the minutes of the committee’s meeting held last month, Professor C R Babu of the Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystems said “it will be suicidal to allow solid waste management facility on active floodplain of river Yamuna in Delhi, where the river is already highly fragile.” He told the committee the proposed site is in the active floodplain and is surrounded by water bodies. If the project is implemented, “it shall lead to much more degradation of the ecology and environment, and shall pollute the river and groundwater, in terms of sedimentation load and other factors,” as per the minutes.

On a site visit for the DDA’s floodplain restoration project, expert members of the committee had noted that two villages, Garhi Mandu and Usmanpur, are on the floodplains. The committee has suggested that these villages should be relocated and the area should be restored. A K Gosain, Professor Emeritus, IIT-Delhi, also told the committee that, during the site visit, it was noticed that “huge plantation activities as a part of compensatory plantation are being carried out in the floodplain area of the river. Also, such dense large tree plantation is not recommended in active floodplains as it will convert it to mono-culture dense forests. This shall also cause obstruction to the flow of the river.

Therefore, the Delhi government should be directed that such compensatory activities be prevented in the floodplain and if required, be only carried out in the outermost area of it, where floodwater reaches only in 1 in 50 years or so.” The panel has also directed the PWD to submit details of the proposed project for an elevated road on the floodplains from Wazirabad to the DND flyway. Chief Engineer (Flyover), PWD, told the panel that it is meant to decongest the Ring Road. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/east-mcd-setback-proposal-solid-waste-processing-plant-yamuna-floodplains-rejected-7780615/  (19 Feb. 2022)

ISP nears completion The Interceptor Sewer Project (ISP), a project approved by the Delhi Cabinet more than a decade ago to trap and treat the sewage is mostly complete, except for a stretch in Seelampur that will be completed by March, according to a senior DJB official. However, the treatment capacity for the trapped sewage is yet to be fully operational. The cost of the ISP, which is the trapping system, is around Rs 1,395 crore, the official said. This is excluding the cost of the work on the STPs. According to a progress report prepared by EIL in 2011, the contractual completion of the project was to have been in February 2012, and the anticipated completion was to have been between 2013 and 2014.

Out of the 242 MGD of waste water that the project was expected to trap and treat, around 170 MGD is being treated, according to a report submitted by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) to the Ministry of Jal Shakti in December last year. Work at the Kondli, Rithala, and Coronation Pillar STP is underway and expected to be complete by December 2022, and the capacity to treat the remaining sewage will be available only once these are commissioned, the DJB official said. The capacity of these existing STPs is being enhanced.

Going by the DPCC report, the estimated quantity of sewage generated in the city is 720 MGD, and the existing treatment capacity at 34 STPs is 577 MGD, leaving 143 MGD of waste water untreated. Of the existing capacity, only 514 MGD is utilised. In December, 22 STPs did not comply with the treatment standards prescribed by the DPCC.

Environmentalists are skeptical about the impact, if any, that the project might have on the river. “The existing STPs are not working properly and do not meet the standards prescribed for treated water. The project was conceived a long while ago based on sewage output of those times. Since then, the output has increased and the treatment gap will still remain,” said Diwan Singh, environmentalist who has been associated with water conservation projects.

According to the minutes of a meeting held last month of the Principal Committee appointed on the orders of the NGT to monitor the cleaning and rejuvenation of the river, Prof A. K. Gosain, Professor Emeritus, IIT Delhi, told the committee that the work being done by the DJB to trap natural drains and control the entry of untreated sewage into the river, “will remain a temporary measure” till a sewerage master plan is implemented for the city. “DJB has to complete the laying of sewers so that sewage shouldn’t get discharged into existing stormwater channels,” as per the minutes of the meeting. Manoj Misra, convenor of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, said, “The STPs are not ready. Even if EIL says they have done their job, if the STPs are not ready, what is the point. Besides, not all drains were taken into account under this project.” https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/djbs-interceptor-sewer-project-nears-completion-7781937/  (20 Feb. 2022)

DPCC to intensify online check to cut pollutant inflow DPCC currently has 18 stations but it has submitted an action plan to CPCB, seeking Rs 21 crore for setting up 44 additional stations at major drains, outlets of industries, Najafgarh drain, and supplementary drains in Delhi. The capital has around 100 drains, and of these, 18 major drains fall directly in the Yamuna. The setting up of new online continuous water quality monitoring systems will take the total number to 62.

In its report, which was submitted to the union ministry of Jal Shakti, DPCC said it has taken action against 1,509 water-polluting industries or units between January to November 2021. Of these units, 1,430 industries were located in conforming areas, while remaining in the non-conforming areas. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/dpcc-to-intensify-online-check-to-cut-pollutant-inflow-into-yamuna/articleshow/89709855.cms  (21 Feb. 2022)

Walks, sand art in DD awareness events this weekend The DDA is set to organise a series of nature-oriented events along the Yamuna floodplains from February 19 to March 6 under Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav to commemorate 75 years of India’s independence. As per officials, the events will involve citizens of all age-groups, with the intent to connect them to the river and spread awareness of its significance.

“The scheme focuses on bringing back the river to its pristine state and reviving the connection of the river with its people,” said a senior official. DDA, under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, as a part of ‘Smart Cities, Smart Urbanization’ is celebrating this through a series of events, based on the theme of ‘Rejuvenation of River Yamuna floodplains’.

The inaugural event, Azaadi Darshan, a sand art workshop will be organised on February 19 at Kalindi Aviral, one of the DDA’s Yamuna projects near DND Flyway. Renowned sand artist Manas Kumar Sahoo will lead the event, and engage school children. Another event in the series, said officials, is a nature walk on February 20 at Yamuna Biodiversity Park (Phase-2). https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/delhi/2022/feb/19/walks-sand-art-in-dda-yamuna-awareness-events-this-weekend-2421324.html  (19 Feb. 2022)

‘Homeless’ Farmers In the floodplains of Yamuna along the 22-km long stretch of the river inside the administrative boundaries of Delhi, a community of thousands of tenant farmers tills the land in the shadow of the megacity. Farming activity continues around the year in a diversified, multi-crop system with minimal or zero use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Primarily, vegetables of numerous kinds are produced here but many farmers grow flowers, fruits, and herbs as well.   https://vikalpsangam.org/article/work-satisfaction-for-delhis-homeless-farmers/  (27 Jan. 2022)

Haryana Ran water into 180 km channel of Saraswati by taking Chautang water: HSHDB Haryana Haryana Sarasvati Heritage Development Board (HSHDB) has claimed that it has managed to run water into about 180 kilometres (km) palaeochannel of Saraswati river from Radaur area of Yamunanagar district to Kaithal district in Haryana. As per the information given by HSHDB vice-chairman Dhuman Singh Kirmach, the water in the above-said section of Saraswati channel has been taken from the Chautang river head at Uncha Chandana village in Yamunanagar district. Chautang river, a tributary of Saraswati on its palaeochannel comes from Bilaspur and Sadhaura areas of Yamunanagar district, receives water from Shivalik hills, fields of its catchment areas during the rain, and some treated water of villages too. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/ran-water-into-180-km-channel-of-saraswati-by-taking-chautang-river-water-claims-hshdb/articleshow/89596905.cms  (15 Feb. 2022)

RIVERS BIODIVERSITY

Bihar-W Bengal Mahananda river survey records 190 dolphins A November 2021 survey of the Ganges river dolphin in the Mahananda river may help close the existing information gap in the IUCN Red List Assessment for the dolphin species. Dolphin mortality due to entanglement in nets and oil-baited hook lines continues to remain a challenge in the river. Unregulated sand mining, pollution, solid waste dumping and construction of embankments for flood control have negatively impacted Mahananda ecology and the survival of dolphins and other riverine species. https://india.mongabay.com/2022/02/mahananda-river-survey-records-190-dolphins-warns-of-fishing-threats-to-red-list-species/  (17 Feb. 2022)

Meghalaya New lizard species found in military cantonment A new species of lizard discovered by a team of researchers in Umroi Military station in Meghalaya has been named in honour of the valour of Indian army. The new species discovered as part of the research team’s efforts to uncover herpetofaunal diversity of North East India was given scientific name as Cyrtodactylus exercitus (In Latin exercitus means army). The English name of the species was given as Indian army’s bent-toed gecko.

“North East India is now home to 16 species of bent-toed gecko,” said Jayaditya Purkayastha, a herpetalogist and general secretary of Help Earth, an NGO based in Guwahati. The team discovered another species of bent-toed gecko from Siaha district in Mizoram and was named after the district. The new species from Mizoram has been given a scientific name as Cyrtodactylus siahaensis and English name as Siaha bent-toed gecko. The finding of the study was published in European Journal of Taxonomy recently. https://www.deccanherald.com/science-and-environment/new-lizard-species-found-in-military-cantonment-in-meghalaya-named-in-honour-of-indian-army-1082844.html (18 Feb 2022)

Haryana Rare wild cat caught on camera in Rewari The rusty-spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus), listed as ‘near threatened’ by the IUCN, has been spotted in the Aravalis in Rewari, its first sighting in south Haryana. According to experts, it is the smallest cat species and is found only in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. It was earlier spotted in December 2014 and April 2015 in Yamunanagar’s Kalesar National Park.

The elusive wild cat was sighted last week by a camera trap set up by an assistant wildlife researcher at Ashoka University. Rakesh Ahalawat had installed several such cameras around Manethi village in Jhajjar within a radius of 5km last week to evaluate the presence of wildlife in the Aravalis. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/gurgaon/rare-wild-cat-caught-on-cam-in-aravalis/articleshow/89577572.cms  (15 Feb. 2022)

Maharashtra 6 turtles rescued from well with polluted water Animal rights activists rescued six turtles from a polluted well in Kopar Khairane after receiving a tip-off about the distressed marine creatures. It took the activists two days to locate all six turtles and rescue them. The activists, who have also informed the local forest officials, added that these six turtles had been carelessly put inside the well which later became very polluted as no maintenance was carried out. Left stranded inside the well, the turtles were forced to depend on whatever food was thrown inside by those who visited the garden. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/navi-mumbai/six-turtles-rescued-from-well-with-polluted-water/articleshow/89650885.cms  (18 Feb. 2022)

SAND MINING

SANDRP Blog Riverbed Mining India 2021: 2 Bridges Collapsed, 23 Threatened This compilation of media reports shows that at least two bridges one each in Uttarakhand and Jharkhand have collapsed in 2021 largely due to illegal riverbed mining operations. Similarly, the reports reveal at least 23 bridges – 5 each in Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh and one each in Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have either been damaged majorly or facing damages on account of rampant sand quarrying.

There are reports claiming several more bridges in Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Bihar and Himachal Pradesh officially either damaged or facing risk of collapse due to ongoing sand mining operations. Interestingly, in most of cases the collapse or risk of collapse of these bridges is ‘waiting to happen disaster’ as each and every report suggests, however the responsible agencies seem to remain unconcerned. There could have been more of such incidents in 2021 about which we could not find reports. The figures of bridges damaged, collapse in this compilation is not exclusive or final but just an indicator of multipronged impacts of unsustainable riverbed excavation across the country.

Overall, illegal riverbed mining menace has become hydra-headed disaster for the country’s rivers and people. The brazen loot of finite natural, common riverbed resources is not only causing massive losses to public exchequer but the damaged infrastructures is leading to additional massive losses, problems and expenses, consuming huge amount of tax payers’ hard earned money often double the amount spent on building these public properties. https://sandrp.in/2022/02/18/riverbed-mining-india-2021-2-bridges-collapsed-23-threatened/  (18 Feb. 2022)

Odisha Illegal sand mining, a theft of govt. revenue and an offence: NGT The illegal sand mining activity amounts to theft of government revenue and is liable for prosecution under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, the Eastern Zone bench of the NGT ruled while disposing of a petition on the alleged illegal sand mining in Kharasrota river in Masudpur Mouza of Jajpur district. The Odisha State Pollution Control Board is directed to conduct computation of Environmental Compensation and royalty and other dues and recovery of the same from the violator state, the NGT bench comprising Amit Sthalekar and Saibal Dasgupta ordered in a 15-page judgment.

“Illegal mining of sand is not only theft of Govt. revenue inviting prosecution under the appropriate provisions of the IPC but also invites prosecution under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering At, 2002”, the NGT bench ruled. “Whosoever directly or indirectly attempts to indulge or knowingly assists or knowingly is a party or is actually involved in any process or activity connected [proceeds of crime including its concealment, possession, acquisition or use and projecting or claiming it as untainted property shall be guilty of offence of money-laundering”, the green tribunal’s judgment noted quoting relevant portions of Prevention of Money-Laundering Act. https://www.thestatesman.com/cities/bhubaneshwar/illegal-sand-mining-theft-govt-revenue-offence-ngt-1503039645.html  (19 Jan. 2022)

Goa NGT raps Govt on sand mining notice NGT has expressed its displeasure at the state environment impact assessment authority (SEIAA) for failing to respond even after two months to the tribunal’s notice. The Goa authority had been asked by the NGT to file its say in response to an appeal challenging a green clearance granted for sand mining in Goa. The appellant, Goa river sand protectors’ network (GRSPN), challenged the environment clearance granted by the Goa-SEIAA allowing sand mining in four river stretches in the state.

“The matter was earlier considered on November 10, 2021. The tribunal issued notice which was accepted by respondent no 1, the Goa-SEIAA, which granted the environment clearance,” the tribunal said. “No response has been filed even though a period of two months has passed. There is no explanation for such failure,” the NGT said.

The tribunal has said that it is refraining for now from quashing the environment clearances due to non-submission of say by the Goa-SIEAA. It has given the Goa authority one week’s time now to respond. “Instead of quashing the impugned environment clearances for the above reasons by way of indulgence, last opportunity is granted as prayed to enable response, if any, to be filed within one week,” the NGT has stated. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/no-explanation-for-such-failure-ngt-raps-state-on-sand-mining-notice/articleshow/89672933.cms  (19 Feb. 2022)

Rajasthan EC paves way for riverbed sand mining Environment clearance issued to as many as 60 mining areas has paved the way for legal mining of bajri (riverbed sand) in Rajasthan, more than four years after the Supreme Court banned the sand mining activities in riverbeds until a scientific replenishment study was completed. The mining will start in almost all riverbeds of the State after the completion of necessary formalities.

Additional Chief Secretary (Mines and Petroleum) Subodh Agarwal said here on Monday (Feb. 14) that a notification had been issued for extending the validity of letters of intent for mining leases from 13 months to 68 months. 6 new mining leases have been issued in Jalore, Bhilwara, Rajsamand and Tonk districts. According to a rough estimate, there is a demand of 70 million tonnes of riverbed sand in the State. With the issuance of leases for all the 60 mining areas, the issue of shortage of sand will be completely resolved, providing relief to the construction and real estate sectors and generating revenue worth Rs.600 crore for the State government.

Mr. Agarwal said the permission had been issued in the 60 cases recommended by the Expert Appraisal Committee as per the directions of the Supreme Court. Mines Department’s Additional Director B.S. Sodha will monitor and coordinate all the cases related to riverbed sand. The Mines Department has stopped collecting departure tax from the trucks loading the sand, effectively prohibiting illegal mining. The State government has also brought a policy on manufactured sand (M-sand), while giving the industry status to the units producing it for construction works and reducing the dependence on riverbed sand. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/environmental-clearance-paves-way-for-riverbed-sand-mining/article65049699.ece  (14 Feb. 2022)

Tamil Nadu DVAC says it had obtained sanction to prosecute official  The Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) informed the Madras High Court on Friday (Feb. 18) that it had obtained the approval from the Additional Chief Secretary, Industries department, to register a case against an official who served as Assistant Director in the Geology and Mining department, in a case of illegal mining. Recording this, Justice G Chandrasekaran closed a criminal original petition from Gnanarajan of Upparpatti village in Theni district, who prayed for a direction to the DVAC to register a case on his complaint dated July 15, 2021 and proceed further against the accused.

In his petition, Gnanarajan alleged that government properties to the extent of Rs 500 crore were looted by the officials. Former deputy CM O Panneerselvam and his associates had carried out illegal mining of gravel sand, he had alleged. They had also converted the government land as their own property by changing the patta and creating false documents by misusing and abusing their official power, the petitioner further alleged. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chennai/tamil-nadu-illegal-sand-mining-dvac-madras-hc-7780842/  (19 Feb. 2022)

HC grants bail to Kerala bishop and 5 priests The Madras high court on Tuesday (Feb. 15) granted bail to a bishop and five priests from Kerala who were arrested by CB-CID officials in Tamil Nadu in connection with an illegal sand mining case in Tirunelveli. The court granted bail to all the six petitioners by taking note of the fact that it had earlier granted anticipatory bail to the main accused, Manuvel George, and a few others in connection with this case. In 2020, Manuvel George obtained permission from the authorities for a stock yard to store minerals. However, by exploiting the licence, he was involved in quarrying river sand from a nearby check dam and the adjacent patta land in Therku Kallidaikuruchi village in Tirunelveli district.

The sub-collector of Cheranmahadevi inspected the site and assessed that 27,773.66 cubic metres of sand had been illegally quarried. The sub-collector imposed a penalty of Rs 9.57 crore. The Kallidaikuruchi police had registered a case against Manuvel George and several people. While hearing a batch of petitions seeking to prevent illegal sand quarrying at Therku Kallidaikuruchi village, a division bench of the HC took serious note about the involvement of several officials from revenue, mines, police and agriculture departments in facilitating the illegal sand mining and, therefore, transferred the case to CB-CID on July 20, 2021. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/illegal-sand-mining-case-madras-high-court-grants-bail-to-kerala-bishop-and-five-priests/articleshow/89592588.cms  (15 Feb. 2022)

Bihar Villagers including women, teens handcuffed by police for opposing sand mining says this report. ग्रामीणों का कहना है कि बालू उठाव से बरसात के दिनों में उनके गांव पर खतरा मंडराने लगता है। गांव के तीन कोने से होकर नदी गुजरती है। बालू उठाव से नदी किसी भी कोने से गांव में तांडव मचा सकती है। इस वजह से हम विरोध कर रहे हैं।

गया में आढ़तपुर गांव के चारों ओर मोरहर नदी बहती है। गांव के दक्षिणी छोर पर नदी की बालू की बंदोबस्ती खनन विभाग की गई है। बंदोबस्ती से ग्रामीणों में भय बन गया कि बालू के उठाव के बाद नदी की धारा तेज हो जाएगी। इससे कटाव होगा और गांव का वजूद विलुप्त हो जाएगा। इस भय को लेकर लगातार ग्रामीण खनन को लेकर विरोध कर रहे हैं। जबकि, खनन से पूर्व सीमांकन को लेकर दो बार अधिकारियों का दल सशत्र पुलिस बल के साथ घाट पर गया था, लेकिन ग्रामीणों ने पुलिस को सीमांकन करने नहीं दिया था। https://www.bhaskar.com/local/bihar/gaya/news/bihar-news-know-the-story-of-police-brutality-in-gaya-opposing-sand-lifting-129411166.html  (17 Feb. 2022)

Women Handcuffed In Illegal Sand Mining Crackdown Several villagers were arrested on Tuesday (Feb. 15) in Gaya district after they clashed with police officers assisting government officials in the auction of sand mines. As villagers started throwing stones at them, the police used batons and tear gas shells to disperse the mob. Some of them sustained minor injuries in the clashes, said police. A video showing men and women sitting on the ground, handcuffed, has sparked outrage online.

To tackle illegal sand mining in the state, the State Mining Corporation had earlier this month initiated a process of conducting an environmental audit of all sand mining sites. Private entities, which have been engaged to carry out the exercise, will use technology and drones to inspect the sand banks. https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/illegal-sand-mining-several-including-women-handcuffed-arrested-in-bihars-gaya-2772993  (17 Feb. 2022)

The women were part of a group of nearly 100-150 villagers who had allegedly pelted stones targeting government officials and police personnel during demarcation of mining ghats of the Morhar river at Adhatpur village under Belaganj block in the district on Wednesday (Feb. 17). At least 10 police personnel were injured when they were allegedly attacked with stones and sharp-edged weapons. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/patna/womens-hands-tied-for-attacking-cops-in-gaya/articleshow/89651511.cms  (18 Feb. 2022)

Himachal Pradesh Illegal mining to be major poll plank in Kangra valley Panchayats, environment bodies and local NGOs are opposing illegal mining in Jaisinghpur and Sulaha areas. They have threatened to boycott political parties having links with the mafia and those responsible for encouraging illegal quarrying. Also, those helping the mafia in getting permission for the installation of stone crushers etc will be boycotted, they say. In a midnight raid on the mafia last week, 18 vehicles were seized and 22 persons were arrested. Rivers like Neugal and Beas are the worst affected, despite the fact that the NGT has imposed a complete ban on mining in these rivers.

An Executive Engineer of the IPH Department admits that illegal mining is posing a serious threat to several irrigation and drinking water supply schemes in Palampur and Thural divisions. The 400-year-old Kirpal Chand Kuhal, originating from the Neugal, which feeds over 30 panchayats comprising hundreds of villages of Palampur, Bhawarna and Daroh blocks, is in danger because of continuous mining in the catchment areas of the Neugal near the Kandi bridge. Quarrying has also resulted in large-scale deforestation, landslides and flash floods. Also, hundreds of villagers in Jaisinghpur are suffering pulmonary diseases because of the large-scale pollution caused by the stone crushers in the area. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/illegal-mining-to-be-major-poll-plank-in-kangra-valley-369108  (12 Feb. 2022)

Rules governing mining of sand, stone and other minor minerals have been amended by the BJP-led Himachal Pradesh government in the backdrop of a strike by civil contractors. https://www.newsclick.in/himachal-govt-ignores-ecological-concerns-tweaks-rules-ease-sand-and-stone-mining  (20 Feb. 2022)

Sikkim Is sand mining rampant? Forest Dept clarifies The Forest Department Wednesday (Feb. 16) organised a press conference and claimed that it has collected around Rs. 64 lakh in 2020-21 as fine for illegal use of excavators (JCBs) at the riverine sites allotted for surface collection of sand and stones. Additional chief secretary-cum-PCCF M.L. Srivastava said the collection of Rs 64 lakh as penalties illustrate the action taken by the forest department against illegal JCB operations.

He claimed it was challenging for the forest department to monitor sand and stone collection at every site due to less manpower in the field. “Big boulders at the quarrying sites cannot be manually extracted into the trucks. So at certain sites, especially for important government projects, we have given permission to use of JCBs for loading the stones on trucks. But if the JCB is used for digging on the river, we seize it and impose fines. We have taken action against illegal sand mining and illegal use of JCBs,” he said. The operation hours of excavators have also been revised to 11 am-4 pm, and using such heavy machines outside of this time frame is illegal and liable for penalities.

“We must also understand that we have less number of field staff. We are operating with 50% less Forest Guards than actually required given the vast area of Sikkim that comes under the Forest department. Around 82% of Sikkim is forest area and it is very challenging for a mere 165-odd forest guards to cover this entire area. Despite this, we are working very hard. Very soon, we are recruiting more forest guards,” said the PCCF. At the press meet, senior forest department officials added that many of the sand and stones collected were used for government projects. https://www.eastmojo.com/sikkim/2022/02/16/is-deforestation-and-sand-mining-rampant-in-sikkim-forest-dept-clarifies/  (16 Feb. 2022)

Meghalaya Illegal mining prohibited South West Khasi Hills Deputy Commissioner C Kharkongor has directed immediate stop on illegal mining activities and transportation of minerals in the district. According to the directive, “All individuals/party/groups/firms involved in mining/quarrying of minor minerals without any license of mining lease holder issued by competent authority should immediately stop their quarry/mining activities.” It may be mentioned that the order also directed all persons possessing mining licenses to strictly adhere to the conditions of the licenses granted. https://theshillongtimes.com/2022/02/18/illegal-mining-prohibited-in-swkh/  (18 Feb. 2022)

Assam Threats to the Kulsi river Indiscriminate and illegal mechanised sand mining, unplanned industrial growth and construction activities have destroyed the Kulsi river, the unique habitat of the endangered Ganges river dolphin (Platanista gangetica gangetica) in Kamrup district, Assam; the water depth has fallen below one metre in 35 locations and in 9 of these the river is virtually dry. Experts have warned that the residential population of the national aquatic animal is on the verge of extinction in the Kulsi. Besides, destruction of the river ecology and its riparian areas has turned thousands of fishermen living in nearby villages into daily-wage earners. https://frontline.thehindu.com/environment/the-threats-the-kulsi-river-in-assam-is-facing/article38401148.ece  (25 Feb. 2022)

Illegal sand extraction continues unabated In Assam, a section of contractors are doing river mining using pumping machines and excavators, which is completely against the Forest Act. According to guidelines, only manual mining must be done as it offers employment opportunities and does not affect the river bed or the ecosystem of the river. Also Read – Combating corruption among government servants in Assam But sand is being extracted illegally from the Kopili and Kolong rivers in Morigaon district under Dharamtul forest division by some contractors using machines and extractors.

The local people have protested against this many times but the district authorities are yet to take any action in this matter. The same is happening in Bongaigaon district under Kochugaon forest division, where despite public protests, some contractors continue to extract sand from the Hel River using pumping machines and dumpers. This is also happening in Dhemaji district where excavators (JCB) are being used to mine various rivers, and in Dibrugarh district where the Buridihing River is being mined illegally using machines. https://www.sentinelassam.com/topheadlines/illegal-sand-extraction-from-rivers-across-assam-continues-unabated-574365   (23 Jan. 2022)

Karnataka Minutes of public hearing held on 16 Dec. 2021 regarding sand mining in Tonga river Shivamogga district.  https://kspcb.karnataka.gov.in/sites/default/files/inline-files/Buklapura%20Sand%20Mining%20of%20K.N.N.L%20SHM_EPH%20Proceedings%20%28English%29.pdf 

WETLANDS, LAKES, WATER BODIES

SANDRP Blog Maharashtra Wetlands Overview 2021: Mumbai Civil Societies’ Untiring Efforts to Protect Wetlands, Mangroves Civil Society groups in Maharashtra and particularly in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai have been doing exemplary work protecting the wetlands and mangroves for past several years.

In 2021 too, the citizens kept raising multiple issues impacting the threatened wetlands and mangroves. The year also saw some positive outcomes. This report highlights the significant efforts by the civil society groups, relevant steps by the state government and judiciary during 2021. https://sandrp.in/2022/02/16/maharashtra-wetlands-overview-2021-mumbai-civil-societies-untiring-efforts-to-protect-wetlands-mangroves/  (16 Feb. 2022)

MoEF Integrated project for wetlands, biodiversity allocated ₹31 cr for 5 yrs Funded by the Global Environment Facility Trust Fund (GEFTF), Rs 31.13 crore has been allocated for the Integrated Management of Wetland, Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services project for a period of 5 years. Three wetlands are included in the project: Sasthamcotta Lake in Kerala, Harike Lake in Punjab, and Kabartal in Bihar. GEFTF will provide funds to the tune of Rs 19.02 crores, divided equally among the three wetlands. https://www.livemint.com/news/india/integrated-project-for-wetlands-biodiversity-allocated-rs-31-crore-for-5-years-11644493119375.html  (10 Feb. 2022)

Andhra Pradesh Forest department seeks help to stop pelican deaths With death of spot-billed pelicans continuing at Telineelapuram swamp in Srikakulam district, the forest department has sought support from the WII (Dehradun), Zoological Survey of India, Kolkata, BNHS and a few other organisations and departments to stop their mass mortality. Telineelapuram is a designated Important Bird Area (IBA) where migrant species have been succumbing to nematode infestation (invertebrate roundworms) since December.

Forest officials said the IBA is also home to painted storks (mycteria leucocephala) which have not been infected with the worms so far. Spot-billed pelicans are dying at the IBA for the past few weeks. Locals say the death toll crossed 100, but the forest department personnel put the toll at 78. Officials said a total of 268 pelicans, including 94 chicks, have been spotted at IBA and that they are expected to be homebound by May.

Speaking to TOI, chief conservator of forests, Visakhapatnam, P Rama Mohan Rao said the pelican deaths were mainly due to parasitic infections as per post-mortem report.  Forest officials said specimens of the dead spot-billed pelicans were sent to the National Avian Forensic Laboratory (SACON-Coimbatore) for scientific study. The forest officials also wrote letters to the fisheries and veterinary departments to explore solutions as the winged visitors feed on the fish that are largely found in the water bodies of over 500 acres. “The pelican birds can hold a big fish (5kg) with its mouth and swallow it. We have found the worms in the fish and the same worms were found in the dead pelicans too,” they added. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/visakhapatnam/forest-dept-seeks-help-to-stop-pelican-deaths/articleshow/89334991.cms  (04 Feb. 2022)

Tamil Nadu Why only one wetland complex declared as protected site under Ramsar Convention: HC The Madras High Court on Thursday (Feb. 17) wanted to know why only one wetland complex, the Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary, in Tamil Nadu had been declared as a protected site under the 1971 Ramsar Convention to which India is a signatory, though it is estimated that wetlands were spread over 9,02,534 hectares working out to 6.92% of the total geographic area of the State. First Division Bench of Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice D. Bharatha Chakravarthy directed Additional Advocate General J. Ravindran to apprise the court within two weeks about the status of a recent proposal forwarded by the State government to the MoEF for declaring 13 more significant wetlands in the State as Ramsar sites.

The judges also wanted to know by when all wetlands in the State would be demarcated and notified under the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules of 2017 so that they could be protected and preserved under the statutory provisions. The questions were raised during the hearing of a suo motu writ petition taken up by the court in 2017 for conserving and protecting the wetlands. Senior counsel P.S. Raman, who had been appointed as an amicus curiae in the case, said the suo motu writ petition was taken up by the court following Supreme Court orders. He said, areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt including areas of marine water with a depth not exceeding six metres at low tide had been defined as wetlands. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/why-only-one-wetland-complex-in-tn-declared-as-protected-site-under-ramsar-convention-wonders-hc/article65059672.ece  (17 Feb. 2022)

In a suo motu writ petition for conservation of wetlands in Tamil Nadu, Madras High Court has asked the state government to submit a status report on the proposal to the Union Govt for declaring 13 sites as ‘wetlands of international importance’ under the RAMSAR Convention. The matter was taken up in 2017 by the High Court pursuant to Supreme Court directions for the protection of wetlands. https://www.livelaw.in/news-updates/madras-high-court-wetlands-conservation-ramsar-convention-192229  (18 Feb. 2022)

Meghalaya HC bats for preservation of Umiam Lake, terms it ‘vital’ The High Court has observed that the preservation of Umiam Lake is ‘vital’ as is the preservation of the delicate ecology surrounding the waters, including smaller seasonal waterbodies that form, and the flora and fauna thereat. The Court’s observation comes during hearing of the PIL in relation to the cleanliness of Umiam Lake on Tuesday (Feb. 15).

The division bench of the High Court, in its order, stated that the state government has to chalk out a road map for the preservation of the larger waterbody and the smaller seasonal ones around the lake; and demarcate zones where construction can be permitted at a distance of 150 to 200 meters from the edge of the water at its highest level and subject to conditions pertaining to sewage not seeping into the Umiam waters. The bench observed that at any rate, greater executive action is necessary than what is perceived to be in place at the moment.

“As much as the tourist footfall increases in the state, there is a need for sustaining the tourism industry without disturbing or distressing the environment or the ecology. Again, this needs extensive executive planning,” it said. “Let the matter appear a week hence so that it gets the attention that it deserves from the State Government. List on February 23, 2022,” the order stated. https://theshillongtimes.com/2022/02/16/hc-bats-for-preservation-of-umiam-lake-terms-it-vital/  (16 Feb. 2022)

Opposition on Wednesday (Feb. 16) questioned the government on the whereabouts of Rs 19.33 crore meant earmarked for maintenance of the Umiam Lake. “The beautiful Umiam Lake has turned into a dumping ground. It seems an oxymoron almost that the state, known for its rich ecology, is ignorant towards pollution of the water bodies. Can the CM answer where did the amount of Rs 19.33 crore meant for maintaining the lake go?” the AITC questioned. https://theshillongtimes.com/2022/02/17/where-is-money-earmarked-for-umiam-lake-aitc-asks-govt/  (17 Feb. 2022)

Kerala Vembanad wetland system shrinking drastically: Report The depth of the lake has diminished to an average of 3 metres from 9 metres over the past few decades that also saw a sharp fall in its fish wealth, says a study. The floods of 2018 and 2019 aggravated the situation, and currently all areas, other than major boat routes and ship channels in Kochi, have lost their depths. The drastic fall in the depths may ultimately lead to the death of one of the largest ecosystems in the country, warns the four-year-long study by the Centre for Aquatic Resource Management and Conservation (CARMC) of the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (Kufos).

TNIE

“Unscrupulous filling of the wetland also contributed in the lake losing its area. The fish wealth too registered a drastic fall. Around 150 to 200 fish species were identified in the lake in the 1950s and it has declined to below 100 now. Fish species like pearl spot, freshwater prawn, mullet, crab, catfish, anchovy, salmon, silver belly, sole fish, and shellfish in the lake are hit by the accumulation of silt in the bed. The natural process of accumulation of silt inside the paddy polder was stopped after the construction of strong outer bunds,” the report said. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/kerala/2022/feb/03/vembanad-wetland-system-shrinking-drastically-report-2414562.html  (03 Feb. 2022)

Uttar Pradesh YEIDA earmarks 25 ha for Dhanauri wetland protection The Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority (YEIDA) has identified 25 hectares for the development and conservation of the Dhanauri wetland, a natural habitat of state bird sarus crane, in line with the WII recommendations. The decision was taken at a meeting in presence of the forest department officials and other stakeholders on Monday (Feb. 14). Earlier, the forest department has submitted a proposal with the Central government to develop the wetland as a Ramsar site. According to officials, a total of 20 hectares of the wetland will be protected by the YEIDA while 4.5 hectares will be earmarked for villagers’ use. A 50-metre-wide green belt will also be developed along a 100-metre road passing through the area, forest officials said.

Birder Anand Arya, who was present in the meeting, however, has expressed concern about the YEIDA plan. Credited for identifying the birding site in 2014, Arya said, “In 2017, the Supreme Court had granted protection to all wetlands which are over 2.3 hectares. But the Dhanauri wetland is spread across 150 hectares. This (25 hectares) area is located where the surface water is visible, but the wetland is not just this. It also comprises the marshland adjoining it and the entire ecosystem. I have pointed all these concerns during the meeting.”

Currently, the wetland’s boundary has not been defined and the State Wetland Authority is yet to extend protection to Dhanauri under the Wetland Conservation and Management Rules, 2017. On Tuesday (Feb. 15), divisional forest officer PK Srivastava said, “The process to notify it as a wetland is under process. Last month, a letter was sent to the state wetland authority seeking approval to identify the wetland as Ramsar site.” The YEIDA chief executive officer (CEO) has asked the forest department to earmark the area to be declared a bird sanctuary after deciding its feasibility, Srivastava said. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/noida/yeida-earmarks-25-hectares-for-wetland-protection-in-dhanauri/articleshow/89602156.cms  (16 Feb. 2022)

Sarsai Nawar Wetland attracting migratory birds Etawah’s Sarsai Nawar Wetland, which ecosystem was almost collapsed and later restored by noble efforts of environment enthusiasts, is now attracting thousands of Sarus cranes and other migrating birds. These birds use this wetland to rest and feed during their cross-continental journeys. “The wetland area of 161.27 hectare was almost destroyed. What we saw over there in 2012 wasn’t enough for birds to stay while they travel long distance,” said Prabhat Mishra, deputy director, National Savings in Agra division.

Mishra’s worry for the wetland got support from the then district magistrate, Vidya Bhushan, who asked for a plan to restore it. “The initial plan was of over ₹35 lakh but we did complete the work in a record 7 days and in just ₹3.5 lakh,” he said. The degraded wetland was revived and declared Ramsar site. Under the National Wetlands Conservation Programme (NWCP), 115 wetlands have so far been identified by the ministry of environment, including Sarsai Nawar Jheel, in Takha block of Etawah, one of the hotspots for Sarus in India. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/lucknow-news/sarsai-nawar-wetland-once-lost-its-shape-now-attracting-migratory-birds-101645212171736.html  (19 Feb. 2022)

Himachal Pradesh Despite curbs, locals grow crops in Pong wetland area Cultivation on vacant land surrounding the Pong Dam wetland is prohibited but locals are growing crops hundreds of acres acquired by the Bhakhra Beas Management Board (BBMB) for the past several years. However, nothing has been done to check the malpractice. Enquiries reveal that the offenders are cultivating the land in over 30 gram panchayats on the banks of the Pong wetland. The BBMB had given compensation to the displaced persons, whose land was acquired for the construction of the Pong Dam over five decades ago. The offenders use tractors for sowing crops. They even use combine machines for harvesting. All these activities are considered dangerous and inimical to the winged visitors.

MR Sharma, a local environmentalist, laments that he had approached the BBMB and the wildlife authorities several times seeking steps to curb the malpractice but in vain. Sharma has been engaged in the crusade against illegal activities since 2015. He claims that information procured under the RTI Act from the BBMB reveals that due to illegal cultivation on the banks of the wetland, silt deposited in the dam is threatening its existence. Moreover, pesticides being used in growing crops are also harmful for migratory birds. He says that the offenders with political links have encroached upon the BBMB land and even fenced the area with barbed wires. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/despite-curbs-locals-grow-crops-in-pong-wetland-area-370227  (16 Feb. 2022)

Jammu & Kashmir Migratory birds leaving earlier amid warmer temperatures Owing to warmer temperatures and decreased precipitation in Kashmir this winter, migratory birds have started leaving the Himalayan valley early this year. Wildlife officials say that there has been a marginal decrease in the number of migratory birds this year, compared to last winter, as there has been a dip in rain and snowfall.

This was observed in a census of migratory and other endemic birds nesting in the valley wetlands conducted by wildlife officials and experts on February 12. “We are yet to arrive on the final figures, but approximate figure of migratory birds this year is around 10 lakh, compared to 11 lakh last year. This winter has been relatively warm and precipitation was less, hence the marginal decrease,” said wildlife warden, wetlands, Ifshan Dewan.

The wetlands in the valley had seen large-scale poaching of migratory birds during the early years of militancy. However, now vigilance has been stepped up and encroachments on wetlands have also come down to a large extent. The wildlife department has also established control rooms to stop poaching of birds.

Kashmir’s winter pans out in three stages starting from late December, with the harshest 40-day period called Chillai Kalan ending on January 30. Currently, the Valley is going through 20 days of Chillai Khurd or moderate cold period which will be followed by 10 days of mild cold. Overall, this Chillai Kalan was warmer and comparatively better than the past few years, as per meteorologists. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/chandigarh-news/migratory-birds-leaving-kashmir-earlier-this-year-amid-warmer-temperatures-101645041322366.html  (17 Jan. 2022)

Bihar Statewide waterbird census across 58 wetlands The counting of water birds in wetlands is being done by the department of forests with technical support from the BNHS and Wetlands International. This is the first time a waterbird survey is being done by the state forest department. There are 58 identified wetlands in the state and while some, such as the Baraila in Vaishali districts, Kusheshwarstgan in Darbhanga and Nagi-Nakti dam area in Jamui district, have been drawing migratory birds from Siberia, Mongolia and Africa, the Kabar lake in Begusarai district was in 2020 declared a Ramsar site.

S Sudhakar, the Gaya forest division conservator and nodal officer of the water birds counting project, said that earlier, the counting of water birds in the state used to be done by the Wetlands International with the support of BNHS, but only half a dozen wetlands of the state were covered. Nearly a dozen teams of experts and bird guides have been formed to conduct the survey, and each team has been given the responsibility to handle survey in two-three districts. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/patna-news/bihar-conducts-statewide-waterbird-census-across-58-wetlands-101645162301301.html  (18 Feb. 2022)

Delhi In a decade, wetland area increased by 9.3% The National Wetland Decadal Change Atlas, prepared by Space Applications Centre and released earlier this month, has stated that the total wetland area in Delhi increased by 9.3% in the decade following 2006, mainly on account of transformation of the category and rejuvenation or developmental activities.The report revealed that the total wetland area, which was 2,537 hectares in 2006-07, stood at 2,773 hectares in 2017-18 — a jump of 236 hectares. While the natural inland wetland area increased by 24 hectares, from 1,333 hectares to 1,357 hectares, the manmade inland wetland area saw a significant rise and went up from 1,204 hectares to 1,416 hectares in the same period. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/in-a-decade-wetland-areain-delhi-increased-by-9-3/articleshow/89600579.cms  (16 Feb. 2022)  

Madhya Pradesh Bhopal’s Upper Lake left to shrink & choke Disbanded capital project administration (CPA) is yet to be officially transferred to the Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC), according to senior BMC and CPA officials. Recently on World Wetlands Day, January 28, BMC top officials pledged to ‘safeguard the UNESCO project wetlands of Bhopal’ and also took a pledge to keep the city clean.

However, on the other side Upper Lake built by Raja Bhoj, an alarming rate of encroachment is taking place. The BMC pledge to keep city clean also needs to find headway to save the eco-diversity. Even with the CPA, BMC has been entrusted with ten tasks to preserve the Wetlands and lake, as per UNESCO documents and funding received through international agency about two decades ago. BMC has a lake conservation wing which also is entrusted with dredging, desilting and spill into the cachement area of the lake.

Basic monitoring would provide the BMC and administration a sound basic to clear encroachment. “We have not received any complaints of encroachment. Action would be taken, if true,” said BMC additional commissioner, Pawan Singh. Use of drones and other tech to keep tabs on illegal developments, is something, that the BMC does not practise, he replied. Other wings of BMC have routinely deployed drones. It included the inauguration of cable bridge. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/upper-lake-left-to-shrink-choke-garbage-encroachments-on-wetland/articleshow/89627318.cms  (17 Feb. 2022)

Maharashtra Concerns over gun shots around Kharghar wetlands Five air gun shots heard by environmentalists early morning around the Kharghar wetlands opposite Sector 19 have once again brought to the fore the threats posed to the migratory birds visiting the city. The activist raised the matter by tweeting and tagging authorities like Navi Mumbai Police and State Cabinet Minister, Aaditya Thackeray, for immediate intervention. The tweet garnered attention with other activists also rallying for attention to the city wetlands.

They also expressed their concern on the matter and suggested the possibility of bird poaching. “Even in the past, there were instances when partially burnt carcasses of mongoose and other wild animals were found in this area. Bird poaching cannot be ruled out. I have personally witnessed around six months back a man using air guns to shoot in the area thronged by flamingoes and other endangered species of migratory birds,” said another activist, Nareshchandra Singh. Activists alleged that the authorities were turning a blind eye to the rampant commercialisation of the wetlands. When contacted, the CIDCO nodal officer said the issue was being raised with the seniors. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/mumbai-news/environmentalists-concerned-over-gun-shots-heard-around-kharghar-wetlands-101645100767310.html  (17 Feb. 2022)

Govt seeks Ramsar site status for Thane creek The state mangrove cell has prepared a proposal to this effect which CM Uddhav Thackeray approved and will send to the Centre. The state proposes to get a 65 sq km area of Thane creek designated as Ramsar site, of which 17 sq km is a flamingo sanctuary. The remaining 48 sq km was notified as environmentally sensitive last year. Maharashtra’s Nandur Madhmeshwar Sanctuary was designated as a Ramsar site in January 2020, followed by the Lonar Crater Lake in November the same year. Thane creek will be the third, if the Centre approves the proposal. https://www.mid-day.com/mumbai/mumbai-news/article/maharashtra-govt-seeks-ramsar-site-status-for-thane-creek-23214817  (18 Feb. 2022)  

WATER OPTIONS

The tightly knit tribal society also advocates community action for solving issues (Image: AKRSP)

IWP Revival of a tribal practice for water resource development Collective action for water resource development through Halma by tribal groups. https://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/revival-tribal-practice-water-resource-development-0  (15 Feb. 2022)

Maharashtra A village came together to address water crisis This captures how the residents of Ramanwadi village in Maharashtra’s Kohlapur district turned their situation around after struggling with an acute water crisis for years.

– The water crisis turned acute from the late 1990s. “Around 2004, only 2.5 acre land was under perennial irrigation and crop production was very low,” said Aruna Patil, the village sarpanch. The Gram Panchayat formed a committee in 2008 to tackle this persisting problem. “An ingenious structure was formed to source water from the nearest natural spring using pipes,” she said. HOWEVER, it lead to sugarcane production increasing from 75 Tons in 2004 to 1000 T in 2012. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/water/scarcity-to-abundance-how-a-maharashtra-village-came-together-to-address-water-crisis-81611  (18 Feb. 2022)

GROUNDWATER

Tamil Nadu IIT- Madras designs plan to ‘inject’ dam’s surplus water into ground to prevent seawater intrusion Using the hydro-geology of dry Thisaiyanvilai region of the district, IIT – Madras has proposed to ‘inject’ excess water getting discharged from Nambiyar dam during the monsoon into the ground through good number of open wells through ‘Rapid Recharge Technology’ which is expected to provide credible and everlasting solution to seawater intrusion into the land. Local villagers have been practicing this ad-hoc method of well recharge during intense monsoon. They claim that this practice increased the local water table in 10 to 15 km radius from the well.

A preliminary assessment by IIT Madras indicated that subsurface geology of the region was likely a ‘Fractured / Karst aquifer,’ which has hydraulic conductivities that are orders of magnitude larger than conventional aquifers. This unique hydro-geology of Thisayavilai taluk and surrounding areas enables rapid recharge during floods. The recharged water will be stored below ground and retrieved during dry season.

 “Currently, while groundwater recharge is practiced only during episodic (about once every 4 – 5 years) extreme flood events in one well, it is possible to design a system that can recharge the aquifer annually (every monsoon season) through multiple injection well systems. Such a system of annual aquifer recharge will facilitate sustainable water use in the dry summer months. Further detailed studies are required to develop and optimize this flood and drought mitigation technology,” Dr. Venkataraman Srinivasan said. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/iit-madras-designs-plan-to-inject-dams-surplus-water-into-ground-to-prevent-seawater-intrusion/article65062993.ece  (18 Feb. 2022)

The rapid groundwater recharge technology proposed for this study area is different from conventional rainwater harvesting or well recharge. For example, in Chennai, groundwater recharge is practised in every household by collecting rooftop rainwater. This comprises 1000s of recharge structures, each capable of recharging about 1,50,000-2,00,000 litres of rainwater over a good monsoon season.

In contrast, the proposed recharge technology at Ayankulam village will consist of a few dozen wells, with each well capable of recharging 1,50,000 to 2,00,000 litres of water every minute during floods , the release said. https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/science/iit-m-researchers-propose-use-of-rapid-groundwater-recharge-technology-in-tn-village/article65062163.ece  (18 Feb. 2022)

Blog Managing Alluvial Aquifers: Key contemporary challenges in Groundwater governance Alluvial aquifers are the life and livelihood of millions and more importantly, the vital elements for ecological wellbeing. But groundwater development practices of the past few decades had made a significant dent in such an essential resource. Sustainable groundwater governance in alluvial aquifers is the need of the hour but with a caution i.e. “they are alluvial aquifers and they are notably different from any other form of aquifer”.

It is important to configure the management intervention into the alluvial aquifers considering the biophysical characteristics of resource units, socio-economic conditions of users, geopolitical circumstances of state and ecological concerns of the geographical region as stated above. Ignorance of any such factors or just copy-pasting the mainstream groundwater management practices might end up futile. https://paaniwalibaat.wordpress.com/2022/02/20/managing-alluvial-aquifers-key-contemporary-challenges-in-groundwater-governance/  (20 Feb. 2022)

URBAN WATER

Gurugram Housing society declared unsafe A housing society with over 700 flats, constructed by the state-owned NBCC (India) Ltd, will be demolished after it was declared unsafe for habitation. Confirming “structural and construction lapses”, Deputy Commissioner of Gurugram Nishant Yadav on Wednesday (Feb. 16) announced that residents of Sector 37 D-based NBCC Green View society have been asked to vacate by March 1, following a meeting with 140 flat owners and NBCC (India) Ltd officials.

The decision to demolish the society comes days after a portion of a housing complex named Chintels Paradiso in Gurugram’s Sector 109 collapsed, leaving two women dead. NBCC (India) chairman and managing director PK Gupta said, “It is shocking as to how a society of 700-800 flats could deteriorate in four to five years. The IIT Delhi team (which surveyed the building) said it was high chloride levels in water that lead to corrosion. After the first inspection, we wanted to get it repaired, but (there was) COVID-19 and then rains led to waterlogging. “…when we started, we were shocked at the amount of damage that had happened by then. Even the IIT Delhi team was aghast,” Gupta said. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/gurgaon/gurugram-housing-society-built-by-state-owned-nbcc-declared-unsafe-residents-asked-to-vacate/articleshow/89623873.cms (16 Feb 2022)

Mumbai Fix GPS on tankers to curb discharge of effluents in water bodies To take action against tankers discharging untreated effluents into nullahs and water bodies, the Ambernath MIDC (Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation) has asked every company to install Global Positioning System (GPS) in its tankers to track and ensure they don’t operate during the prohibited night hours. MIDC has also joined the local police to act against such activities legally. The Thane commissioner of police has prohibited movement of chemical tankers in Ambernath, Badlapur, Dombivli regions between 6pm and 6am.

Waldhuni River is polluted. Ambernath MIDC tells companies to fix GPS on tankers to curb discharge of effluents in water bodies. (RISHIKESH CHOUDHARY/HT PHOTO)

In November 2014, more than 600 residents living in Ulhasnagar Ambernath’s Vadolgaon fell sick after the Waldhuni River flowing along this area released toxic fumes in the air. Following this, the Ambernath police had even claimed that tankers entering the MIDC region during night hours discharged untreated effluents into the water body. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/mumbai-news/ambernath-midc-tells-companies-to-fix-gps-on-tankers-to-curb-discharge-of-effluents-in-water-bodies-101645195194605.html  (18 Feb. 2022)

Hyderabad Langar Houz lake to sport a new look to wow visitors The water body was once filled with sewage and hyacinth, but the lake in the Golconda area is now set to sport a new look with the GHMC planning to restore and beautify it. For years, the lake, spread over 41 acres, has been polluted with sewage coming in from areas like Tolichowki, Dhankota, Ramdevguda, Rethi Galli and the nearby colonies. This apart garbage and construction waste are dumped in it.

The GHMC’s Entomology wing carried out a cleaning drive for 15 days and removed hyacinth and tonnes of debris. The authorities directed officials to take up beautification work of the lake and development of the park. The entomology wing is also carrying out anti-larval activities using drones. Along with hyacinth, the floating trash has also been cleaned. The GHMC is preparing to spend around Rs 4 crore to transform the water body to attract visitors. The proposed works include fencing, de-silting, walking and cycling track, treatment of water inlets and diversion of sewage. Officials said it would take at least more than a year to beautify the lake. The de-silting work is yet to be carried out. The proposal is also to conserve the environment round it. https://www.thehansindia.com/news/cities/hyderabad/hyderabad-langar-houz-lake-to-sport-a-new-look-to-wow-visitors-729929  (19 Feb. 2022)

The revival of the water body was set off after a few alert citizens pointed out the condition of the lake to Municipal Administration and Urban Development Minister KT Rama Rao, who in turn directed Mayor G Vijaya Laxmi to inspect the water body and do the needful. The Mayor, who adopted the water body, has now supervised the revival process that saw the GHMC Khairatabad Zone and various wings of the civic body making joint efforts by deploying staffers and machinery. https://telanganatoday.com/ktrs-quick-response-gives-langer-houz-lake-a-fresh-lease-of-life  (18 Feb. 2022)

JJM/ RURAL WATER SUPPLY

Punjab 92% households covered Punjab and Himachal are on the verge of joining the club of states, including Haryana, to provide hundred per cent coverage under the ‘Har Ghar Jal’ programme of Centre’s flagship Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM). The data prepared by Jal Shakti Ministry states that while Punjab has achieved 99 per cent coverage, Himachal Pradesh has crossed the 92 per cent mark. Besides Haryana, every rural household has been provided with tapped water supply in Telangana, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Puducherry, Dadar & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/92-households-covered-under-jal-jeevan-mission-371112  (19 Feb. 2022)

WATER

Maharashtra Govt approves regional Yeola water supply scheme The govt has approved a regional water supply scheme for 41 villages in Yeola taluka and has directed the local authorities to submit the proposal for the new regional scheme for another set of 18 villages in the taluka. Water supply minister Gulabrao Patil approved the scheme at the cost of Rs 162 crore for 41 villages including Rajapur, as a result of which these villages will get a steady drinking water supply on regular basis.

For this water supply scheme, the water will be pumped from the Nandurmadhameshwar dam. A total of 3.737 million cubic meter of water has been reserved for the same. Bhujbal said land will be required to bring water from the pick-up weir to Panhalesathe and the district administration is taking steps required for the same. The water supply minister has further directed the authorities to provide detailed reports about the 18 villages waters supply scheme, including Dhulgoan village. The state government has already proposed the funds of Rs 58 crore for the project but would be sanctioned once the project is finalized. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nashik/state-govt-approves-regional-water-supply-scheme-in-yeola/articleshow/89651415.cms  (18 Feb. 2022)

FLOOD 2021

Tamil Nadu When deluge came on the dry Palar The incessant rain during the past week in parts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, where the rivers flow through, and release of surplus water from dams have led to flash floods. Along Palar, close to 6,000 people have been shifted over the weekend. Thenpennaiyar reported breaches in check dams in several places, damaging crops and killing people.

The river reached a record high, carrying 1.05 lakh cusecs of water from Palar anicut after heavy rainfall and surplus outflow from water bodies along its course upstream in Andhra Pradesh. The towns and villages along the Palar and its tributaries witnessed such fury of nature after three decades. The only time the river’s flow touched close to one lakh cusecs was in 1991, when Palar anicut released 98,128 cusecs (one cusec is 28.3 litres per second) of water.

Many culverts and bridges across Palar and its tributaries were damaged. For instance, the broken Madanur-Gudiyatham bridge is forcing people to take a detour of more than 20km. An iron bridge had to be built by the district administration after the links to Melalathur, Pattu and Olakasi villages were cut off. Exploitation of the river is another major reason for the large-scale damage. Social activist A Manoharan says that indiscriminate sand mining has caused havoc to the system as bridges give way. “The miners are all waiting for the water to recede,” he said.

Palar river, which has borne the brunt of tanneries and other industries, also remains a major source of drinking water for the northern districts with a number of wells dotting the river bed and pump houses on the banks running uninterruptedly to supply water. It is so taken for granted that small makeshift markets were operating on the riverbed near Arcot bridge. On Friday, many of them suffered losses, reminding everyone that business at the cost of the river comes with a risk. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/tamil-nadu-when-deluge-came-on-the-dry-palar/articleshow/87902029.cms  (25 Nov. 2021)

Madhya Pradesh सिवनी में लोकार्पण से पहले ही बह गया तीन करोड़ की लागत से बना पुल बाढ़ के सैलाब के आगे हाल ही में 3 करोड रुपए की लागत से प्रधानमंत्री ग्राम सड़क योजना की भीमगढ़-सुनवारा सड़क में वैनगंगा नदी पर बना पुल ताश के पत्तों की तरह बाढ़ के पानी में बह गया है। बरबसपुर हरदुली से सुनवारा सड़क में एक माह पहले यह पुल बन कर तैयार हुआ था। करीब डेढ़ सौ मीटर लंबा उधा स्तरीय ब्रिज शुक्रवार (Aug. 28) व शनिवार (Aug. 29) को हुई जोरदार बारिश व भीमगढ़ डैम से पानी छोड़े जाने के बाद बैनगंगा नदी में आई बाढ़ में बह गया है। 2 साल पहले पुल का निर्माण कार्य शुरू हुआ था, जिसका लोकार्पण होना बाकी था।

प्रत्यक्षदर्शियों के मुताबिक डैम से पानी छोड़े जाने के बाद नदी के निचले हिस्से में आई बाढ़ के कारण पुल के 10 फीट ऊपर तक पानी बहने लगा था। वैनगंगा नदी के प्रचंड वेग को पुल नहीं झेल सका। पुल का ऊपरी हिस्सा (स्लैब) बाढ़ के पानी के साथ बह गया। वही टाइप के नीचे खड़े किए गए टी गार्डर भी बाढ़ में ध्वस्त हो गए। पुल के कई मीटर लंबे अपार्टमेंट व पेयर नदी में पानी कम होने ले बाद पत्थरों के बीच अस्त व्यस्त पड़े नजर आए।

क्षेत्र के ग्रामीणों ने एक माह पहले बने पुल के निर्माण में भ्रष्टाचार के आरोप लगाए हैं। ग्रामीणों का कहना है कि प्रधानमंत्री ग्राम सड़क इकाई दो के ठेकेदार ने गुणवत्ता विहीन निर्माण कार्य कराया था जो बाढ़ व पानी का दबाव नहीं झेल सका। अधिकारी इस मामले में जांच के बाद कार्रवाई की बात कह रहे हैं। ठेकेदार कंपनी एसडीह्वी कंस्ट्रक्शन भोपाल को 306.80 लाख की लागत से पुल निर्माण का ठेका दिया गया था।

बाढ़ के कहर से भीमगढ़ बस्ती व निचले क्षेत्र में बाढ़ से केवलारी को सबसे ज्यादा नुकसान हुआ है। डैम से छोड़े जा रहे पानी के रास्ते में मौजूद भीमगढ़ से कॉलोनी तक की कंक्रीट सड़क भी उखड़ कर पानी के साथ बह गई है। सड़क का करीब 500 मीटर का हिस्सा बह जाने से कॉलोनी व भीमगढ़ के बीच संपर्क टूट गया है। भीमगढ़ में 100 से अधिक घरों में पानी भरने के कारण गृहस्थी तहस-नहस हो गई है। केवलारी क्षेत्र में भी दुकानदारों व आबादी इलाकों में जलभराव के कारण लोगों को खासा नुकसान उठाना पढ़ रहा है। https://www.naidunia.com/madhya-pradesh/seoni-bridge-collapse-in-mp-bridge-destroyed-in-flood-water-before-inauguration-in-seoni-district-6280921  (31 Aug. 2020)

ENVIRONMENT GOVERNANCE

Mongabay Given land for power, Pavagada residents now powerless Lack of access to solar power in project-affected villages brings out striking similarities between the handling of solar and fossil fuel-based energy systems. https://india.mongabay.com/2022/02/given-land-for-power-pavagada-residents-now-powerless/  (14 Feb. 2022)

Tamil Nadu Govt says ‘no’ in SC to neutrino observatory project Tamil Nadu has made clear to the Supreme Court that it does not want the Indian Neutrino Observatory (INO) to be set up in a sensitive ecological zone in the Western Ghats at great cost to wildlife, biodiversity, and by ignoring the local opposition and public agitations to the project. The State said the project would be a source of distress to the shy tigers and cause “enormous” irreversible damage to the already bogged down Western Ghats.

The affidavit filed by the State Environment Department, through advocate Joseph S. Aristotle, in the apex court shows that the State, starting with the district officer and right up to the Chief Minister, is against the project. The CM had, in fact, met the PM in June 2021 with a request not to implement the project. A team led by Member of Parliament T.R. Balu had also met the Ministers of industries and forests, in September last year to convey the State’s stand against the project. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tn-says-no-in-supreme-court-to-neutrino-observatory-project/article65059219.ece  (17 Feb. 2022)

Auroville Working Committee members claim that the planned RoW requires the felling of over 150,000 trees and shrubs of tropical dry evergreen forest species, some of which are endangered trees. Photo by Special Arrangement/ Mongabay India

Environmental conflict threatens iconic Auroville Midnight action on a contentious development plan rattled the residents of Auroville in December 2021. The Auroville community is divided on the Master Plan pursued by officials. Aggrieved residents petitioned the NGT of South Zone. After a series of short-term stays against further development, the NGT has reserved its final ruling. https://india.mongabay.com/2022/02/environmental-conflict-threatens-iconic-auroville/  (19 Feb. 2022) 

Karnataka Activist seeks deemed forest status for Western Ghat areas Social activist Gireesh Achar has asked the Karnataka Forest Department, the state revenue department and the Union environment ministry to accord deemed forest status to Kan, Jungle, Soppinabeta and Kumki. Achar, who has been leading campaigns against the “illegal encroachment” of forest areas in Shivamogga, has said that he will move court if his request is not entertained. Kan, Jungle and Soppinabetta are patches of minor evergreen forests in the Western Ghat region of Karnataka. Kumki constitutes government lands which are adjacent to agricultural lands. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/bangalore/karnataka-activist-seeks-deemed-forest-status-western-ghat-areas-7780092/  (18 Feb. 2022)

Telangana Haritha Nidhi pay cuts from April Months after announcing the Telangana Haritha Nidhi, the Green Fund designed to give impetus to the massive plantation activity and provide sustainability to the ongoing Haritha Haram, the State government on Friday released a GO to deduct the contributions from the salaries/honorariums of public representatives.

GO Ms 17, issued by the Finance department, said that the deductions would be made in April, payable in the month of May from this financial year and the pattern would be followed each year. While a sum of Rs 6,000 per annum will be deducted from the salaries/honorariums of Members of Parliament, Legislative Assembly and Council, Chairpersons of various corporations as well as Zilla Parishad, Mandal Praja Parishad etc., Rs 1,200 and Rs 300 would be deducted from the salaries of Indian Administrative Service officers and State government employees respectively.  https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/telangana/2022/feb/19/telangana-haritha-nidhi-pay-cuts-from-april-this-year-2421253.html  (19 Feb. 2022)

SOUTH ASIA

Pakistan River Ravi project draws ire from environmental activists Ravi River Urban Development Project (RRUDP) is envisioned by the current ruling government, as an innovative and efficient solution in one its major urban centers ⁠— Lahore. However, the project has been met with criticism from environmentalists and activists as well as being involved in a legal tussle between the provincial Punjab Judiciary and the country’s apex judiciary, the Supreme Court.

Farmers protest the Ravi River Urban Development Project at Sheikhupura, Punjab

– The RRUDP is envisioned as a 41,308-hectare (102,074-acre) planned city, which would make it Pakistan’s second planned city after the country’s capital, Islamabad. The project boasts rehabilitation of the Ravi River into a perennial freshwater body and is expected to be the largest riverfront of the world when finished.

– On January 25 2022, the Lahore High Court (LHC) scrapped the ambitious RRUDP, declaring several provisions of the Ravi Urban Development Authority (RUDA) Act 2020 unconstitutional. In an uncharacteristically quick-fire response, just six days later the Supreme Court suspended the LHC’s initial order to halt the RRUDP until RUDA rectified and amended their legal lacunas. https://www.dw.com/en/pakistan-river-ravi-project-draws-ire-from-environmental-activists/a-60809786  (17 Feb. 2022)

River Ravi in Pakistan is the most polluted river in the world, followed by water bodies in Bolivia and Ethiopia, a US-based research academy has said. In its study, the University of York monitored 1,052 sampling sites along 258 rivers in 104 countries across all continents to quantify the presence of pharmaceutical ingredients – paracetamol, nicotine, caffeine and epilepsy and diabetes drugs – in these ecological environments.

– The highest mean cumulative concentration was observed in Lahore, capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province, at 70.8 µg/L, with one sampling site on the Ravi River reaching a maximum cumulative concentration of 189 µg/L. This was followed by La Paz river in Bolivia (68.9 µg/L mean, 297 µg/L maximum) and the river system in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (51.3 µg/L mean, 74.2 µg/L maximum), according to the study. The most common contaminants were paracetamol, nicotine, caffeine and epilepsy and diabetes drugs in the river, according to the study which was published in the journal of Washington-based National Academy of Sciences. Rivers in Iceland, Norway and the Amazon rainforest were recorded as the cleanest. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/world/ravi-in-pakistan-is-the-most-polluted-river-in-the-world-study-370424  (16 Feb. 2022)

THE REST OF THE WORLD

At only 20 years old, María Barrios decided she wanted to be a fisher, a job that has long been considered men’s work (Image: Celina Mutti Lovera / Territorios y Resistencias)

AMERICA Female fishers persevere as the Paraná’s water level drops Amid an extraordinary loss of flow on the Paraná river in Argentina, a cooperative seeks to improve incomes for women in artisanal fishing.  https://dialogochino.net/en/climate-energy/51063-parana-river-argentina-women-fishers/  (11 Feb. 2022)

GERD Ethiopian Dam Starts Generating Power A controversial hydroelectric dam built on the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia will officially begin generating power on Feb 20, 2022 as the construction project reaches 80% completion. Ethiopia’s national broadcaster reported Saturday that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which the country has been constructing on the Blue Nile River, will officially begin generating electricity Sunday for the first time. The project has been under construction for 10 years. The reservoir filling started two years ago. Its completion may take 2-3 more years and full reservoir filling much longer. Downstream countries Egypt and Sudan are concerned about the downstream impacts, including reduced flows. https://www.voanews.com/a/ethiopian-dam-starts-generating-power/6450945.html  (19 Feb. 2022)

Study Drugs have dangerously polluted the world’s rivers, scientists warn The scientists measured the concentration of 61 active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) at more than 1,000 sites along 258 rivers and in 104 countries, covering all continents. Only two places were unpolluted – Iceland and a Venezuelan village where the indigenous people do not use modern medicines. The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is by far the biggest to date and represents the impact on river pollution of 470 million people. The researchers concluded: “Pharmaceutical pollution poses a global threat to environmental and human health.” Previously, almost all the measurements had been taken in western Europe and North America but the latest research showed API pollution is often much higher elsewhere. The work included 36 countries in which APIs were measured for the first time, particularly in Africa and South America.

Hotspots with very high levels of APIs included Lahore in Pakistan, La Paz in Bolivia, and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. Madrid in Spain was in the top 10% of places with highest cumulative concentrations, and Glasgow, UK, and Dallas, US, were in the top 20%. The highest drug concentrations were found in low-to-middle income countries, including India and Nigeria. The researchers think this may be because people in these nations have enough income to buy pharmaceuticals, but live in places without good sewerage systems, which can remove drugs but are expensive.

The study did not include measurements of illegal drugs such as cocaine and MDMA, which have been detected in rivers at levels harmful to wildlife, although future analysis of the samples may do this. The researchers are looking to extend the number of countries covered, as the Covid-19 pandemic halted their surveys. They are also increasing the number of drugs measured and hope to assess levels in rivers across the year in order to examine seasonal trends. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/feb/14/drugs-have-dangerously-polluted-the-worlds-rivers-scientists-warn  (14 Feb. 2022)

Plastic and chemical pollution has exceeded the “limits” of the planet The torrent of man-made chemical and plastic waste worldwide has massively exceeded limits safe for humanity or the planet, and production caps are urgently needed, scientists have concluded for the first time. https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/photos/environment/plastic-and-chemical-pollution-has-exceeded-the-limits-of-the-planet-study-8124031.html  (17 Feb. 2022)

Netherlands Tatas face Dutch probe over alleged surface water pollution Dutch public prosecutors on Wednesday (Feb. 2) said they had launched a criminal investigation into the Dutch arm of Tata Steel and another company for alleged “intentional and unlawful” pollution of surface water. In a statement, they said they had informed Tata and Harsco Metals Holland BV of the investigation following a number of complaints.

Prosecutors said they had informed the companies that they had started the probe for alleged “intentionally and illegally introducing hazardous materials into the ground, air or surface water, with danger to public health as a possible result”. The decision follows a complaint by a lawyer representing 800 persons and organisations against the companies, filed in May 2021. https://www.telegraphindia.com/business/tatas-face-dutch-probe-over-alleged-surface-water-pollution/cid/1850449  (04 Feb. 2022)

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

Also see: DRP News Bulletin 14 Feb. 2022 & DRP News Bulletin 07 Feb. 2022

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

One thought on “DRP NB 21 Feb 2022: UNVIABLE HYDRO STORIES FROM INDIA, BHUTAN, NEPAL, US

  1. After Nehru, we haven’t got a true visionary leader.
    Siphoning out public fund in unviable projects is not “development”.
    Earlier when I was looking for updates about Pancheshwar project, one sentence of news made me happy ie due to India Nepal border dispute, that project is stalled.
    I can’t tell anyone how angry I feel when I read reports of mass tree felling, char dham road widening, building dams in higher Himalayan eco-fragile zones. The half-hearted projects on Bhagirathi beyond Uttarkashi town shows how irresponsible these authorities really are. Dead bodies are still coming out from Tapovan tunnel after one year of disaster and in their own report, NHPC has admitted that out of 206 confirmed dead, 140 were NHPC workers.

    Like

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