DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 090123: Atal Bhujal Yojana just chaff without any wheat?

According to this detailed report, possibly the first independent review of the Atal Bhujal Yojana, a 5-year program of the Union govt for management of groundwater, India’s water lifeline, with over half of the project period completed, seems bereft of the fundamental aspects that the scheme itself says are necessary for any sound foundation of the scheme. The review describes it as a dish full of chaff, without almost any kernels of wheat for some sound reasons. It says hardly 18% of allocated money has been spent on Gram Panchayat level community-led Water Security Plan. Only 4% of the planned Gram Panchayat level trainings have been held, with Gujarat and Haryana holding none. Only 27% of money allocated for Gram Panchayat level Hydrogeological monitoring network has been spent. The data gathering instruments that were required from the beginning of the program have not been installed in over half the planned locations. On Information, Education and Communication activities, only 16% of allocated amount is spent.

More detailed independent review of the program implementation will help, but from the available information so far, the signs do not look particularly promising. Is it due to ineptness or lack of intention? Only time will tell.

Atal Bhujal Yojana failed to follow fundamentals Pratik Kumar  Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABY) is a five-year programme initiated in April 2020 to improve the management of groundwater resources in the water-stressed areas of the selected states. A total of 8,551 Gram Panchayats (GP) of 224 blocks from 80 districts across 7 states are in the ambit of this programme. The core segment of the programme is the preparation and implementation of a Gram Panchayat level community-led Water Security Plan (WSP), the backbone of the Atal Bhujal Yojana. The WSP is a GP-level groundwater balance derived from the measurement of water resources available as well as water utilisation. Based on the water balance, it proposes a potential water management intervention which will be aimed at sustaining groundwater resources. The whole process is also termed ‘groundwater budgeting’. WSP preparation is anchored by a GP-level groundwater management committee and must be accepted through a Gram Sabha resolution.

– There are certain fundamentals laid in the programme’s operational guidelines. the institutional building, strengthening and rigorous capacity-building components were incorporated into the programme. Next, decentralised data-driven decision-making. Establishing a GP-level Hydrogeological Monitoring Network (HMN). The HMN consists of advanced tools like piezometer, digital water level recorder, water flow meter, rain gauge station and lab-based water quality testing. It was believed that data from these units will help the stakeholders in understanding the current and future position of groundwater resources. Also, this will help in accurate and scientific planning and implementation.

– Groundwater management also needs to deal with socio-economic, awareness and behavioural aspects of varied stakeholders. This includes effective participation of all sections of societies with a special focus on the landless, women and marginalised. Also, dealing with the unintended behaviour of users as well as spreading awareness. To achieve this, the programme emphasised conducting Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) activities.

– An in-depth analysis of publicly available information suggests that the programme had achieved the target of WSP preparation, while all activities associated with the fundamentals were significantly ignored. Across all seven states, out of the targeted 8,551 WSPs, a total of 8,074 WSPs are prepared, which is almost 95%. But only 18% of expenditure is made against the total allocated amount.

– For the capacity-building component, a cumulative total of 2,13,126 trainings were planned but only 8,796 are done, which is just 4% of the total. In terms of financial progress, out of the total allocated Rs 169 crore only Rs 13 crore was spent, which is just 7.7% of the total. Haryana and Gujarat have not conducted even a single training at the GP-level.

– Under various financial head under HMN, an approx Rs 332 crore was allocated for the equipment and works of HMN but only 27% of it has been spent, approximately Rs 90 crore.

– The ‘Public Disclosure of Groundwater Data’ includes the data related to groundwater level, water quality and block level hydrogeological reports. Of the total 9,454 occurrences, only 4,381 have been made as of now, which is just 46% of the total. Also, vital data-gathering instruments such as piezometers, digital water level recorders and rain gauge stations haven’t seen the light of the day in almost half of the project area. These were supposed to be the action items of the initial phase of the project.

– For IEC, out of the allocated financial resource of almost Rs 85 crore, only Rs 14 crore is spent, just 16% of the total.

– This is the equivalent of a chef already having served a dish when most essential ingredients were yet to be made available in the kitchen. It is evident that in the hurry to deliver the WSPs, its essential values were kept at bay. What made the programme managers do so can be the subject of further investigations. But it is certain that ABY failed to follow its fundamentals and the consequences could be bitter for groundwater resources as well as the communities. https://thewire.in/government/atal-bhujal-yojana-managing-groundwater  (06 Jan. 2023)

HYDRO POWER PROJECTS

JOSHIMATH DISASTER Char Dham road, Tapovan-Vishnugad HEP & key projects come to a halt Widening of the all-weather Char Dham road between Helang and Marwari was stopped “until further orders” by the Chamoli district administration on Thursday (Jan. 05) after thousands of anxious Joshimath residents blocked the Badrinath National Highway-58 for hours, following a night of vigil and day of protests.  Ongoing construction works under the National Thermal Power Corporation’s (NTPC) 520 MW Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project have been suspended immediately and the Joshimath-Auli ropeway halted “until further orders”. The district administration has also stopped all types of construction activities within the municipal area of Joshimath for now.

Incidentally, the high-powered committee on the all-weather Char Dham Road headed by Ravi Chopra that was formed in August 2019 had red-flagged construction of a bypass there in its report. However, after the matter went to court, the Supreme Court in May 2022 gave permission to go ahead with this stretch. Chopra, reacting to the latest decision on stopping these crucial works, said, “This was necessary. Before any work is started on this stretch, the BRO must conduct detailed and careful geological, geophysical and geotechnical analysis as recommended earlier by the high-powered committee. So far, that detailed investigation has not been done.”

An independent experts’ panel that was formed on the request of Joshimath villagers in June 2022 had also warned about the ongoing works adversely affecting the terrain of the fragile region, replete with “tectonically active slopes”. In a related development, an eight-member expert team led by secretary of disaster management department, Ranjit Sinha, reached Joshimath to take stock of the situation.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/char-dham-road-works-key-projects-come-to-a-halt-in-joshimath/articleshow/96774138.cms  (06 Jan. 2023)

Experts point to old fault lines as Joshimath hits ‘point of no return’  Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP says that even if all the major infrastructure projects are halted and abandoned around Joshimath, then also there is a risk due to the impact of the work already done on the geology, hydrology of the area. Only a detailed study by independent experts can provide clue to the extent of such damage and best course of action. The committee appointed by the govt has no independent experts. https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/joshimath-a-tale-of-unheard-warnings-as-the-area-sinks-beyond-repair-123010800434_1.html  (08 Jan. 2023)

45 minutes Panel Discussion on Joshimath crisis with Barkha Dutt as anchor and panel of 5 that included Prof S P Sati, Kishore Upadhyay (BJP), Garima Dasoni (Cong), HT (SANDRP) and Vaibhav Kala. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQMnw5cqSjk   (09 Jan. 2023)

Giving scientific viewpoint, Research Director Anjal Prakash said he is convinced that the Joshimath caving incident is caused by the hydropower project which has been operational in building the tunnel and is the major cause of concern for residents. “We must leave out some things and look out for other ways for energy generation. The return investment cost in hydropower projects is very less when compared to the cost associated with environmental and ecological damage. Joshimath is a clear example of what one should not do in the Himalayas,” Prakash added. https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/experts-blame-joshimath-disaster-to-rampant-infrastructure-development-123010800590_1.html  (08 Jan. 2023)

Despite decades of studies warning of Joshimath’s geological stress, authorities went ahead with power and road projects writes Anjal Prakash. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/toi-edit-page/who-tunnels-through-a-sinking-town-despite-decades-of-studies-warning-of-joshimaths-geological-stress-authorities-went-ahead-with-power-and-road-projects/  (06 Jan. 2023)

Probe NTPC project, say experts Agitated people took out torchlight processions across Joshimath January 4, alleging that the government was not taking the cracks seriously. They also claimed that NTPC, responsible for the cracks in Joshimath, was being shielded. Locals had earlier protested by keeping the market closed on October 24 last year. Atul Sati, convenor of Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, claimed that a tunnel that is part of the Tapovan-Vishnugad project has hollowed the ground from inside. Locals’ apprehensions were further strengthened when muddy water started to seep from the ground in the Marwadi Ward or Ward 2 of Joshimath town. People suspect that the water is coming from the under-construction tunnel being built uphill.

SP Sati, geologist and head of the Basic and Social Science Department of the College of Forestry, Ranichauri, Tehri Garhwal, told Down to Earth that a sample of water seeping at Marwadi should be matched with the water of the Dhauliganga at Tapovan, where the tunnel of the Tapovan-Vishnugad project starts. Sati noted that fears had been expressed in 2013, that tunnels that were part of hydropower projects could cause disasters in the state. That was the year when such projects had been stopped. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/natural-disasters/sinking-town-probe-ntpc-project-say-experts-as-subsidence-creates-panic-in-joshimath-86971  (05 Jan. 2023)

A multi-institutional team set up by the Uttarakhand State Disaster Management Authority. Piyoosh Rautela (Executive Director) and MPS Bisht (Director, Uttarakhand Space Application Centre), had cautioned of disastrous consequence of an underground tunnel dug by the NTPC for hydropower project in 2009. In the process of tunnel excavation, the machinery punctured the aquifer, resulting in discharge of about 60-70 million litres of water daily. In their report published in Current Science, they clearly stated that this large-scale discharge, the implication of which was negligibly visible around then, will lead to subsidence in future. Rautela was also part of the team who surveyed the area in August this year. https://www.gaonconnection.com/lead-stories/joshimath-sinking-uttarakhand-protests-pushkar-singh-dhami-chamoli-auli-disaster-migration-climate-ecology-51556?3443643   (05 Jan. 2023)

The USDMA study said that the perennial streams, appreciable snow in the upper reaches, and highly weathered gneissic rocks with low cohesive characteristics makes the area prone to landslides. “Flood events of June 2013 and February 2021 had adverse impact on the landslide zone with toe erosion and sliding along Ravigram Nala and the Nau Ganga Nala having increased since the February 7, 2021, flooding of Rishi Ganga,” the study said. Its reference is to the glacial lake burst that caused a flood, resulting in the loss of 204 lives, mostly migrants working on a hydropower project.

The landslide zone was further weakened when Joshimath recorded 190 mm of rainfall in 24 hours on October 17, 2021. The impact of extreme rainfall events is visible in latest satellite data, which shows that mountain streams have expanded their channels and changed course, thereby inducing more slope instability in al already fragile belt. “Huge volume of debris-laden water brought down by the Dhauliganga during a previous flood event (February 2021) has also aggravated the toe erosion along the left bank of the Alaknanda, downstream of its confluence with the Dhauliganga river at Vishnuprayag. This adversely impacted the stability of the slope on which Joshimath town is situated,” the USDMA report said.

Hemant Dhyani, environmentalist and member of Supreme Court appointed High Powered committee (HPC) on the Char Dham Project said despite being fully aware of the geological vulnerability of the area, hydroelectric schemes have been sanctioned around Joshimath and Tapovan, including the Vishnugad HE Project. “The head race tunnel of the project traverses all through the geologically fragile area below Joshimath. A tunnel boring machine (TBM) was employed for excavating the tunnel. On December 24, 2009, it punctured a water-bearing strata some 3 km inward the left bank of Alaknanda near Shelong village. Over a decade back, experts had warned that this sudden and large-scale dewatering of the strata had the potential of initiating ground subsidence in the region. No remedial measures were taken so it is not surprising that the town is sinking,” he explained.

Locals say that in the past decade or so, several new multi-storey buildings have come up in and around Joshimath town. One such building tilted due to subsidence recently. Kailash Joshwal, a resident of Joshimath blamed the construction work on the hydropower project run by National Thermal Power Corporation for the worsening situation with water from the power tunnels seeping into the houses resulting in the widening of the cracks.

Experts and USDMA pointed out reasons for increase in ground seepage of water from surface, a probable cause for subsidence. First, on-surface anthropogenic activities have blocked natural water drainage systems, forcing water to find new drainage routes. Second, Joshimath town does not have sewage and wastewater disposal system. “The seepage reduces the shear strength of the overburden soil,” said Dhyani. This is visible around Sunil village in Joshimath, where the impact of subsidence is visible on the water pipes, which have bent out of shape. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/geology-to-unplanned-construction-decoding-why-joshimath-is-sinking-101673028772987.html  (07 Jan. 2023)

Demolish worst affected Joshimath homes, expert panel tells Centre, state An eight-member expert panel has recommended that “houses in Joshimath with maximum damage should be demolished, areas which have become inhabitable must be identified and relocation of the people at risk should be done as an immediate measure”. The panel was led by Ranjit Sinha, secretary of the disaster management department. It conducted a field survey of Joshimath on January 5-6,

A senior official, privy to the report submitted both to the Centre and state government, said on Jan 7, 2023: “Prima facie, it appears that at least 25% area of Joshimath, which has a population of about 25,000, has been affected by the land-subsidence problem. A survey to ascertain the intensity of damage (to buildings and sundry structures) is currently underway. It will be put in three categories: severe, moderate and slight.”

– The expert team, which was urgently tasked to assess the damage to buildings and extent of ground subsidence (sinkage) in Joshimath, visited the affected areas during its two-day survey and finalised its report on Saturday, a copy of which is with TOI. It has observed “aggravated damages” in Sunil, Manohar Bagh, Singhdhar and Marwari areas, as compared to the last field survey just some months ago in August 2022. The team also visited Jaypee Colony where an aquifer had burst on the night of January 2 with major turbid water flow of roughly 400 lpm (litre per minute). It has observed an “increased land-subsidence with the burst of the aquifer”. The report said: “The gushing of water flow and the appearance of aggravated cracks coincide.”

– It added: “The burst of water flow, which was traced from Jaypee Colony to Marwari, probably created some underground void space (sic), which has resulted in sinking and subsidence at different spots above and below Jaypee Colony, causing many large cracks — some even a metre deep…Due to this, the retaining walls and foundations of buildings have failed, contributing to cracks in the buildings and on the ground… Yet, the water source is not ascertained. Samples have been collected to determine its source.”

– The team went to the Tapovan-Vishnugad hydropower project site of NTPC as well. “Toe erosion” by the Alaknanda river was observed in Vishnuprayag and the team suggested building a “protection wall” at the toe of the left bank between Vishnuprayag and Marwari. More detailed studies have been suggested, including fresh geo-technical, geophysical and hydrological investigations along with seismic and slope movement monitoring.

– Meanwhile, the number of affected structures — residential, commercial and even temples — which have developed large cracks has increased from 561 to 603 within a span of a mere 48 hours. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/demolish-worst-affected-joshimath-homes-expert-panel-tells-centre-state/articleshow/96821479.cms  (08 Jan. 2023)

The extent to which the National Thermal Power Corporation’s (NTPC) Tapovan-Vishnugad hydropower project and Helang bypass are responsible for over 500 houses in Uttarakhand’s Joshimath town developing cracks must be investigated, experts have said. The cracks started appearing in Joshimath during October 2021. However, the government did not pay attention to them until now, when the situation got out of hand.

– Chamoli district magistrate Abhishek Tripathi have written a letter to NTPC and Hindustan Construction Ltd January 5, 2023, asking them to prepare 2,000 prefabricated buildings to shift people whose houses have developed cracks. Tripathi also issued orders to stop the construction of the Tapovan-Vishnugad Hydro Power Project and Helang Bypass. Earlier, the administration had closed the Joshimath to Auli ropeway, Asia’s largest.

– Locals’ apprehensions were further strengthened when muddy water started to seep from the ground in the Marwadi Ward or Ward 2 of Joshimath town. People suspect that the water is coming from the under-construction tunnel being built uphill. SP Sati, geologist and head of the Basic and Social Science Department of the College of Forestry, Ranichauri, Tehri Garhwal, told Down to Earth that a sample of water seeping at Marwadi should be matched with the water of the Dhauliganga at Tapovan, where the tunnel of the Tapovan-Vishnugad project starts. Tapovan is 15 km away from Joshimath. The tunnel ends at Selang, about 5 km from Joshimath.

– Sati was among the scientists who studied the land subsidence and cracks in Joshimath at the request of the locals. He was accompanied by Naveen Juyal and Shubhra Sharma, associated with the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad. These scientists had said in their report that the slopes around Joshimath are in a very delicate condition and have become unstable.

– In fact, there have been reports of land subsidence in the entire Niti Valley since the Chamoli disaster of February 7, 2021. The incidents intensified after the heavy rains of June and October 2021. In June 2021, reports of subsidence were also reported from Raini, the village of Gaura Devi, the heroine of the Chipko movement.

– There were incidents of land subsidence in Joshimath in the 1970s as well. A committee was then formed under the chairmanship of Garhwal Commissioner Mahesh Chandra Mishra to investigate the cause of the collapse. In his report submitted in 1978, he had said major construction works should not be carried out in Joshimath as well as the Niti and Mana valleys as these areas are situated on moraines. These are places where debris accumulates after a glacier melts. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/natural-disasters/sinking-town-probe-ntpc-project-say-experts-as-subsidence-creates-panic-in-joshimath-86971  (05 Jan. 2023)

Experts blame hydro-power projects, mindless growth “The ongoing crisis in Joshimath is primarily because of anthropogenic activities. The population has increased manifold and so has the tourist footfall. The town does not have a proper drainage system. Besides gradual weathering of fine material between the rocks of debris, water percolation has decreased the cohesive strength of the rocks over the time. This has resulted in landslides, triggering cracks in the houses,” said Y P Sundriyal, geologist and professor, HNB Garhwal University, Uttarakhand.

Sundriyal also blamed construction of the tunnels for hydro-power projects, saying it is being done through blasting that created tremors, shaking debris above the rocks and leading to the cracks. He, at the same time, clarified that the geologists and others are not against development, but it should not have been done at the cost of the natural ecosystem. “Opposition to any government project on scientific facts should not be considered as opposition to the government,” said Sundriyal.

In fact, many environmentalists as well as civil society organisations have been repeatedly warning authorities about the damage caused due to several tunnel and hydro-power projects in and around Joshimath and other parts of Uttarakhand. “Our voices were blatantly ignored and our worst nightmare has come true today. The entire responsibility of Joshimath caving in is on NTPC’s Tapovan Vishnugad Hydro Power Project. Continuous blasting in the tunnels has shaken the foundation of our town. We demand instant action from the government that must include immediate stalling ofthe NTPC project, closure of Chardham all weather road (Haleng-Marwari Bypass) and implementation of NTPC’s pact that insures houses,” said Atul Satti, a local environmental activist. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/experts-blame-hydro-power-projects-mindless-growth-in-ecologically-fragile-region-for-joshimath-crisis/articleshow/96836089.cms  (08 Jan. 2023)

The historic town of Joshimath in Uttarakhand will be gone if an under-construction NTPC project near it is not shelved, a geologist warned at a webinar January 6, 2023. The Tapovan-Vishnugad Hydropower Project as well as the Helang Bypass should be shelved, Navin Juyal said at the webinar. Locals and environmentalists have blamed the subsidence on the project.

Two tunnels are being dug as part of the Tapovan-Vishnugad Hydroelectric Project. One is being dug from Tapovan and the other from Selang. “For this, tunnelling is being done from one side by blasting and on the other with a Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) from Selang. The TBM is still stuck in Selang. This work is being done by a private company due to which the situation has worsened,” Juyal said. The NTPC has argued that the tunnelling has been done only up to four kilometres from Tapovan. But when it comes to studying the activity, independent scientists have been kept away, he noted.

Juyal also pointed to the water that was seeping in the Marwadi ward of Joshimath. He claimed that tunnelling could have been responsible to a great extent for the seepage. The experts at the webinar said Joshimath was not the only town in Uttarakhand that was facing subsidence. There are many others on the brink. But the authorities are not listening to independent scientists.

Hemant Dhyani, convenor of the Ganga Awahan Committee and a member of the Supreme Court’s High Power Committee on the Char Dham project, said after the 2013 Kedarnath disaster, it was agreed that the mountains should not be tampered with. “Our recommendations were accepted in 2014, but not implemented,” he added.

Hydrogeologist and earth scientist Meeta Khilnani said the water seepage in Marwadi was very likely due to gas and water in the tunnel passing through there. That is why there was a need to study this area immediately. “The hydrogeology of Joshimath and the surrounding area has been completely disturbed. Therefore, it is very important to have a comprehensive study before sanctioning any major project. Whereas no study was done here and big projects started,” she added.

Mallika Bhanot, associated with the Ganga Mukti Abhiyan, said there is a need to create eco-sensitive zones in all of Uttarakhand’s valleys on the lines of the Bhagirathi Eco-Sensitive Zone. “But the bureaucracy will have to change its thinking and work with independent scientists,” she said. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/natural-disasters/joshimath-won-t-be-saved-unless-ntpc-s-project-is-shelved-expert-s-dire-warning-86997  (06 Jan. 2023)

The region witnessed a devastating cloudburst — an extreme rainfall in a short time — that resulted in the death of hundreds in 2013 as well as severe flooding in 2021. Experts say fast shrinking glaciers, in part due to climate change, is also another reason the region is hit by repeated disasters.

“Between 2015 and mid-2021, at least 7,750 extreme rainfall and cloudburst instances have been noted in Uttarakhand. Such instances are detrimental to Joshimath as they may increase the number of impacted buildings, eventually exacerbating the vulnerability of the locals,” said Kavita Upadhyay, a water-policy expert who is currently a research associate in the Oslo Metropolitan University’s Riverine Rights project.

Upadhyay, who is from Uttarakhand and lives in the region, said unabated large-scale infrastructure projects as well as uncontrolled tourist inflow have also contributed to land sinking. “The slopes of Joshimath are formed from landslide debris. This means that there’s a limit to which the town can be burdened by buildings or disturbed by activities such as the construction of big infrastructure projects like dams and roads.” https://apnews.com/article/science-politics-india-climate-and-environment-67400f2375f10986e026545f66d38923  (07 Jan. 2023)

Prof. Y P Sundriyal, head of department, Geology, HNB Garhwal University, said: “The government has not learnt anything from the 2013 Kedarnath floods and the 2021 Rishi Ganga flash flooding. The Himalayas is a very fragile ecosystem. Most parts of the Uttarakhand are either located in seismic zone V or IV which are prone to earthquakes. “Climate change is further worsening the matter, with more extreme weather events. We need to have the formation of some strong rules and regulations and moreover forced and timely implementation of these rules. We are not against development but not at the cost of disasters,” Sundriyal said.

“The ongoing crisis in Joshimath is primarily because of anthropogenic activities. The population has increased manifold and so has the tourist landfall. The infrastructure development has been going on unchecked. The construction of the tunnels for hydropower projects is being done through blasting, creating local earthquake tremors, shaking debris above the rocks, leading to the cracks,” Sundriyal said. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/joshimath-grave-reminder-environment-being-destroyed-to-extent-irreversible-experts/articleshow/96835128.cms  (08 Jan. 2023)

“Atkins had first written about Joshimath’s location on landslide debris in the Himalayan Gazetteer in 1886. Even the Mishra Committee in its report in 1976 had written about its location on an old subsidence zone,” director of the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology Kalachand Sain said. After the evacuation of people in affected areas to safety, microzonation of the town, replanning of its drainage system and rainwater outlets besides assessment of rock strength among others should be undertaken, Mr Sain suggested. https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/expert-on-reasons-behind-sinking-of-uttarakhands-joshimath-3670440  (07 Jan. 2023)

Ravi Chopra: I think that Joshimath is a huge disaster. It is not over. It is still evolving. I still believe that the assault on the Himalayas is on. That is because no effort is being made to undertake economic growth projects in a sustainable and equitable manner. So, you can very much say that this is a vindication of my earlier stand. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/interviews/natural-disasters/ravi-chopra-on-joshimath-nature-has-decided-that-enough-is-enough–87000   (07 Jan. 2023)

Environmentalist Mallika Bhanot said sensitive areas should be marked out in a master plan. Construction work should be undertaken in these areas only on the basis of such a master plan. She also raised concerns about environmental impact assessments (EIA) in the Himalayas. “We have to see if a new project will add to the impacts of ongoing works as well as anthropogenic activities in a certain area. A cumulative EIA should be done in such cases. The way EIAs are done at the moment has to change,” Bhanot added. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/urbanisation/after-joshimath-it-could-be-karnaprayag-nainital-and-other-uttarakhand-towns-next-say-experts-87002  (08 Jan. 2023)

Kalachand Sain, director of the Dehradun-based Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology said a long-term response plan should involve a detailed microzonation plan, identifying the risks in different places. “According to the risk assessment, activities would have to be very strictly regulated. It is possible that some areas are found to be no longer safe for human settlements. But the bottomline is that a business-as-usual scenario is just too dangerous now,” he said. https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/loose-soil-tremors-choked-drainage-joshimath-alarm-bells-rang-for-years-8367921/  (08 Jan. 2023)

There have been reports of houses developing cracks near the sites of many hydropower projects in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. Even Bhutan, which has showcased its run-of-the-river hydropower projects as environmentally friendly, has towns with cracked buildings. Beyond just the impact of large hydropower projects is the way that expert advice and warnings, often of the government itself, is put aside in the rush to build infrastructure in the fragile Himalayan landscape. While there may be short-term profits for some construction firms, the long-term risks and costs are borne by the residents of these regions as well as by the state exchequer. It is past time that experts are listened to before the disasters rather than asked what to do after the disasters they predicted have happened. https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/energy/joshimath-disaster-of-ignoring-risks-in-the-himalayas/  (09 Jan. 2023)

Joshimath declared ‘landslide-subsidence zone A high-level meeting called by the PMO on decided that the immediate priority in Joshimath – hit by land subsidence – should be safety of people living in the affected area. Further, the state government should establish a clear and continuous communication channel with the residents, the PMO is learnt to have told senior state government officials.

“We have informed the PMO that while the Joshimath case requires further study and investigation, it so far seems like a combination of factors that has led to the sinking. These include the fact that the area was already sensitive, being in seismic zone V, being a sloped area, having loose soil and having been stressed due to recent climatic and non-climatic influences. This includes changes in climate that have led to heavy rainfall, major erosion in the region and anticipated landslides. Then, of course, there are anthropogenic activities like the increase in structures and drainage. It is also possible that the region is continuing to experience the release of energy from the 1999 Chamoli earthquake which was 6.8 on the Richter scale,” said another official. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/joshimath-uttarakhand-pm-modi-help-landslide-subsidence-zone-8368998/  (09 Jan. 2023) Central government agencies and experts are assisting Uttarakhand to prepare plans to deal with the Joshimatj PMO said on Sunday (Jan. 08) after holding a high-level review meeting. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pmo-holds-high-level-meet-on-joshimath-subsidence/articleshow/96828346.cms  (08 Jan. 2023)

Residents of the “sinking town” Joshimath wrote to CM Pushkar Singh Dhami and district magistrate thrice last month, alerting them about the repercussions of blasts in the tunnels of the NTPC hydel project nearby. “Yes, residents did write to me and the CM. I visited the area also in December, but honestly didn’t know what to do. Because we needed to first ascertain why the cracks are happening. Otherwise, any action we take without knowing the cause might backfire also. That’s why I couldn’t take any action,” Chamoli District Magistrate Mr Himanshu Khurana responded. https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/joshimath-latest-update-uttarakhand-town-sent-out-sos-before-it-started-sinking-3673501  (08 Jan. 2023)

Families in the ancient village of Haat in Chamoli district, barely 40km from the holy town of Joshimath, are living in constant fear. After Joshimath, they feel that their small village will start to “sink” too. And local villagers say that the “signs are ominous”. Haat traces its origin to Adi Shankaracharya, a great religious scholar and teacher, believed to have established the Laxmi Narayan temple here over a 1,000 years ago. The village is also locally called Shankaracharya’s ‘Chhoti Kashi’. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/adi-shankaracharyas-chhoti-kashi-may-sink-too-say-locals-in-joshimath/articleshow/96803575.cms  (07 Jan. 2023)  Joshimath crisis worsens. https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/joshimath-ground-report-in-uttarakhands-sinking-town-locals-camp-out-on-cold-nights-in-fear-3669970  (07 Jan. 2023)

According to this report of Jan 7, 2023, the work on NTPC Hydro project and Chardham Highway has been ordered to stop since Jan 5, but the work is only stopped on papers, on ground work is going on. https://www.bhaskar.com/national/video/joshimath-sinking-uttarakhand-chamoli-landslide-update-cm-dhami-7-jan-130768880.html ; https://arya-tv.com/joshimath-sinking-uttarakhan/  (06 Jan. 2023)

Cracks on walls and buildings were first reported in 2021, as Chamoli experienced frequent landslides and flooding. As per reports, the Uttarakhand government’s expert panel in 2022 found that several pockets of Joshimath are “sinking” owing to man-made and natural factors. The panel’s findings stated that ground subsidence — a gradual settling or sudden sinking of the earth’s surface due to the removal or displacement of subsurface materials — has induced structural defects and damage in almost all wards of the city.

Reports of residents protesting against the ‘gradual sinking’ of Joshimath emerged on December 24 last year. A rally was taken out alleging the administration is not taking any corrective steps after a survey by the city’s municipality revealed that cracks have appeared in over 500 houses in the town over a year, rendering them inhabitable. On December 27, a team of experts conducted an on-the-spot inspection of the town. The five-member team comprising senior officials, geological experts, and engineers inspected the buildings which have developed cracks, spoke to the affected people, and gave their feedback to the district administration.

Latest reports indicate that at least 66 families have fled the town while 561 houses have reported cracks. Two hotels have been shut down. A government official said that over 3000 people have been affected so far. Studies have blamed natural factors such as worn-out rocks, the location of the city, and human-induced rapid construction of buildings, hydropower projects, and national highways, etc. for the current situation. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/dehradun-news/explained-cracks-on-buildings-why-is-uttarakhand-s-joshimath-sinking-101673013588753.html  (06 Jan. 2023)

चमोली 2021 की आपदा में तपोवन-विष्णुगाड जलविद्युत परियोजना और तपोवन-पीपलकोटी जलविद्युत परियोजना प्रभावित हुई थी। जोशीमठ के लोगों का मानना है कि इस आपदा के बाद ही घरों में दरारें पड़नी शुरू हुईं। परियोजना के लिए एनटीपीसी टनल का निर्माण कर रहा है। वर्ष 2022 में जोशीमठ का सर्वे करने वाली स्वतंत्र वैज्ञानिकों की कमेटी में शामिल पौड़ी के एचएनबी गढ़वाल विश्वविद्यालय में भू-विज्ञानी डॉ एसपी सती कहते हैं “पिछले साल सर्वेक्षण के दौरान हमने जलविद्युत परियोजना के लिए बनाई जा रही टनल से रिसाव की बात को ज्यादा तरजीह नहीं दी थी। स्थानीय लोग उस समय भी बार-बार टनल से पानी लीक होने की बात कह रहे थे। लेकिन अभी जिस तरह से इतने अधिक पानी का रिसाव हो रहा है,  ऐसा लगता है कि यह टनल से ही रिस रहा पानी है”।

“ऐसा हो सकता है कि 2021 आपदा के बाद ऋषिगंगा नदी में आई बाढ़ से टनल में जो वॉटर लॉक हुआ है, वही पानी रिसकर जोशीमठ की पहाड़ी में पहुंचा है। पानी पहाड़ी की लूज़ मिट्टी को ट्रिगर कर रहा है जिससे भूधंसाव हो रहा है। सौ फीसदी ऐसा ही हो रहा हो, ये नहीं कह सकता, लेकिन अपने अनुभव से मुझे लग रहा है कि इसका बड़ा रोल है”।  एसपी सती कहते है “जोशीमठ टाइम बम था ही, आज नहीं तो कल उसे नीचे आना ही था। लेकिन ट्रिगरिंग घटना 7 फरवरी 2021 को हुई। जोशीमठ के साथ ही कर्णप्रयाग, गोपेश्वर, मुनस्यारी, धारचुला, नैनीताल, भटवाड़ी, घनसाली जैसे बहुत से पहाड़ी शहर और सैंकड़ों गांव इस तरह के खतरे की जद में हैं। पिछले 20-22 सालों में जिस तरह से पहाड़ों को काटा जा रहा है और बेतरतीब सड़क निर्माण किए जा रहे हैं, इससे सारे स्लोप भूस्खलन के लिहाज से रि-एक्टिवेट हो गए हैं। ये irreversible यानी कभी न बदला जा सकने वाला नुकसान हो गया है”। https://hindi.newsclick.in/index.php/Joshimath-Cracks-widening-from-houses-to-roads-construction-work-stalled-people-being-sent-to-safer-places  (06 Jan. 2023)

Good to see this Edit in The Times of India on Jan 6, 2023 recommending review of the major hydropower projects and other such infrastructure projects in ecologically fragile himalayan areas like Joshimath in Chamoli dist of Uttarakhand. Unfortunately, the edit talks about tunnel of a thermal power project when it is for hydropower project. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/toi-editorials/jolt-from-joshimath-govts-have-finally-woken-up-to-a-hill-town-being-on-the-brink-of-an-ecological-disaster-but-more-needs-to-be-done/  (05 Jan. 2023)

‘Serious’, says CM as locals say ‘living on atom bomb’ Anxious residents of Joshimath held an “urgent” press conference in Dehradun on Monday (Jan. 02) to demand for their “immediate rehabilitation” and urged the state government to address the causes behind the town’s “sinking”. Taking cognisance, CM Pushkar Singh Dhami has sought a detailed report from the district magistrate of Chamoli, Himanshu Khurana. “Once we get the report, we’ll take a call on either shifting or rehabilitating the affected families,” Dhami said.

Terming it an “extremely serious matter”, the CM has also instructed officials to provide the required relief to local residents as well as traders “who were facing financial losses,” and come up with a comprehensive solution plan.

Convener of Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti (JBSS), Atul Sati, said, “Joshimath has a population of about 25,000 with over 5,000 houses. All of us are now living on a ticking ‘atom bomb’ that can explode any moment. The base of our town is sinking. In the past 10 days, over 70 houses have developed cracks. Cracks are also visible on the national highway, government school as well as hospital.” ‘Aquifer is now devoid of water, unable to support the load above it’.

Residents alleged that one of the major reasons behind the cracks was a 12km long tunnel of NTPC Tapovan-Vishnugad 520 MW hydropower project. The tunnel starts some 15km away from Joshimath in Tapovan where it has a barrage. It ends at Selang, about 5km away from Joshimath, where the NTPC’s power house lies.

Sati added: “On March 17, 2010, in presence of JBSS members, under the mediatorship of the then Union power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and NTPC, the power corporation had agreed that the tunnel was witnessing water seepage from a punctured aquifer, leading to drying of water sources in Joshimath.

They decided to provide Rs 16 crore to Joshimath for water arrangements. And under the same MoU, they further agreed to insure houses. But they haven’t done this till now.” Joshimath Municipal Board chairperson, Shailendra Panwar, said, “The work on the tunnel started in 2006 and in 2009, a tunnel boring machine was trapped, leading to bursting of an aquifer which discharged water at a speed of 600 ltrs/ sec. The tunnel is still under construction. After the 2010 Raini flash floods, the entire project was disrupted.”

NTPC officials had recently taken local media persons to show them the tunnel and claimed that it was all dry now, and the “sinking” is not due to their project. Speaking about the NTPC tunnel issue, noted state environmentalist, Ravi Chopra, said, “The puncturing of a huge aquifer inside the Joshimath mountain area is like the pricking of a water balloon. Just as water will leak out of the balloon and it will gradually collapse, a similar phenomenon may have occurred inside the mountains. The aquifer is now devoid of water and is unable to support the load above it, leading to subsidence of the area.” https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/joshimath-serious-says-uttarakhand-cm-pushkar-singh-dhami-as-locals-say-living-on-atom-bomb/articleshow/96694906.cms  (03 Jan. 2023)

संवेदनशील हिमालयी क्षेत्र में बसा जोशीमठ असल में कभी भूस्खलन से जमा हुई मलबे के पहाड़ पर बसा है. नाज़ुक भूगर्भीय बनावट के बावजूद यहां लोगों का बसना जारी रहा. बहुमंजिला इमारतें, घर और होटल तो बने ही, हाइड्रो पावर प्रोजेक्ट और चारधाम यात्रा मार्ग जैसे भारी भरकम प्रोजेक्ट भी बने हैं. गंगा की बड़ी सहायक नदी अलकनंदा यहां बहती है और आसपास का इलाका कई छोटी बड़ी नदियों का बहाव क्षेत्र है, जिस कारण भूकटाव होता है. इसका असर निश्चित रूप से पिछले कई सालों से धंस रहे जोशीमठ पर दिखा है.

यहां यह बताना ज़रूरी है कि करीब 50 साल पहले 1976 में, गढ़वाल के तत्कालीन कमिश्नर एमसी मिश्रा की अध्यक्षता में एक कमेटी बनी जिसने आज खड़े संकट की पहले ही चेतावनी दी थी. तब कमेटी के जानकारों ने पूरे क्षेत्र का अध्ययन कर यहां सड़कों की मरम्मत या किसी तरह के निर्माण के लिये पहाड़ों से भारी पत्थर न हटाने की सलाह दी थी, और कहा था कि खुदाई और ब्लास्टिंग न की जाए. पेड़ों को अपने बच्चों की तरह पाला जाए.  मिश्रा कमेटी में सेना, आईटीबीपी और सीमा सड़क संगठन के अधिकारी और जानकार थे, जिन्होंने आज दिखाई दे रहे हालात की पूर्व चेतावनी दी थी. लेकिन पिछले 30-40 सालों में चमोली जिले और खासतौर से जोशीमठ के आसपास वही सब किया गया, जिसकी मनाही थी. https://hindi.newslaundry.com/2023/01/04/uttarakhand-badrinath-joshimath-in-crisis  (04 Jan. 2023) Joshimath Crisis: A man-made disaster? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5oLIwJV0y4&t=3s  (06 Jan. 2023)

More recently, in June 2021, an independent committee formed on the request of local residents surveyed the area and said, “further excavation works would sink Joshimath”. The committee that included geologist Navin Juyal, who’s a member of the Supreme Court-appointed panel to review the Char Dham all-weather road project, also recommended an elaborate survey by multiinstitutional experts.

Uttarakhand State Disaster Management Authority eventually constituted a multi-institutional team for a geological and geotechnical survey of the town in August 2022. The team gave its report in September, pointing out Joshimath is “built on an unstable foundation – a thick cover of landslide material – which can give way in case of heavy rain, tremors, unregulated construction or more footfall”. Besides the weak natural foundation, it said, the many homes, resorts and small hotels that have mushroomed along the Joshimath-Auli road “without regard to the town’s carrying capacity” are making the ground sink.

Many residents also blame Joshimath’s troubles on the construction of a 12 km-long tunnel for National Thermal Power Corporation’s (NTPC) Tapovan-Vishnugad 520 MW hydropower project. This project was hit by a flash flood in February 2021, killing over 200 people. The tunnel starts at the project’s barrage in Tapovan, 15km away from Joshimath, and ends at its powerhouse in Selang, about 5km from the town. Atul Sati, convener of Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, says, on March 17, 2010, NTPC had admitted “the tunnel was witnessing water seepage from a punctured aquifer, leading to the drying of water sources in Joshimath”.

Noted environmentalist Ravi Chopra told TOI the punctured aquifer inside the Joshimath mountain area would act like a leaking balloon. “Just as water will leak out of the balloon, causing it to gradually collapse, a similar phenomenon may have occurred inside the mountains in the area. ” While Chopra said, “The aquifer is now devoid of water and is unable to support the load above it,” NTPC officials recently took local media persons to the tunnel and claimed it was dry, so Joshimath was not ‘sinking’ due to the project.

That’s no solace for Joshimath’s residents who are now seeking “immediate rehabilitation” and looking for help to save their picturesque town. Chandravallabh Pandey, a 65-year-old resident, said, “Work on the all-weather road and hydropower plants continues unabated, further aggravating the already precarious situation. It is from sheer carelessness of all the governments that we are at risk now. Why did they even allow multi-storey buildings and so much construction despite being alerted decades ago?” https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/why-gateway-to-badrinath-is-sinking-under-its-own-weight/articleshow/96751040.cms  (05 Jan. 2023)

Dave Petley on Joshimath Land sinking: A rapid inspection of the site suggests a host of underlying landslide concerns with this slope on which the town is situated.  The large scoop missing from below the town in the centre right of the image is particularly intriguing for example.  History tells us that slope problems are often greatly exacerbated by urbanisation, including disruption to the drainage, the uncontrolled discharge of water and undercutting of slopes. Unfortunately, managing a landslide on this scale is likely to be very expensive. It is of course worth noting as well that this is an area of significant seismic hazard, so the potential behaviour of these slopes during a major shake should also be factored in. https://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/2023/01/04/joshimath-1/  (04 Jan. 2023) The causes of most landslides are complex, and it is very likely that this will be the case here.  It is probably unwise to blame a single element for what is happening.  It is likely to be a combination of multiple factors, acting in concert.  Lessons need to be learnt of course, but for now there needs to be focus on a range of timescales. https://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/2023/01/08/joshimath-a-complex-landslide-environment/  (08 Jan. 2023)

Cracks have reportedly developed in as many as 561 houses in Joshimath as a result of continued land subsidence in the town, stated the District Disaster Management Department. Following the appearance of cracks in the houses, a total of 66 families are reported to have migrated from Joshimath as of now. “Now the process of increasing cracks in Singhdhar and Marwadi has started. Badrinath NH near Singhdhar Jain locality and JP Company Gate in Marwadi, near the forest department check post, is continuously cracking. This crack is increasing every hour which is worrying,” said Joshimath Municipal Chairman Shailendra Pawar. https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/uttarakhand-cm-dhami-to-visit-sinking-joshimath-promises-necessary-action-3665052  (05 Jan. 2023)

PIL seeks immediate rehabilitation of affected residents A public interest litigation has been filed in the Delhi High Court seeking constitution of a high powered joint committee under the chairmanship of a retired High Court judge and representatives of all relevant ministries seeking inspection of Joshimath area affected due to climate and infrastructural changes. The plea also seeks rehabilitation of the residents. Moved by a Delhi based lawyer Rohit Dandriyal, the plea states that nearly 500 families living in Joshimath are either risking their lives by still living in their houses or are looking for accommodation at other places in cold weather conditions. It is the petitioner’s case that he wrote a representation on January 6 to the Ministries of Road Transport and Highways, Home Affairs and Power, New & Renewable Energy, requesting them to constitute the said committee, in view of the construction of Vishnuprayag hydro electric plant project and national highway. The plea states that the said construction activity in Joshimath in the past years violated the fundament rights of the residents. https://www.livelaw.in/news-updates/plea-delhi-high-court-high-power-joint-committee-joshimath-affected-areas-218377  (08 Jan. 2023)

जोशीमठ भू-धंसाव को लेकर ज्योतिष्पीठ के जगद्गुरु शंकराचार्य स्वामी अविमुक्तेश्वरानंद सरस्वती महाराज ने अपने अधिवक्ता के माध्यम से सुप्रीम कोर्ट में पीआईएल दाखिल की है। उन्होंने जोशीमठ में हो रहे भू-धंसाव पर चिंता जाहिर करते हुए कहा कि ज्योतिर्मठ भी इसकी चपेट में आ रहा है। उन्होंने प्रदेश सरकार से भू-धंसाव से प्रभावित परिवारों को त्वरित राहत पहुंचाने और उनके पुनर्वास की समुचित व्यवस्था करने की मांग की है। ऐतिहासिक एवं पौराणिक सांस्कृतिक नगर जोशीमठ खतरे में हैं। एक सप्ताह से जमीन धंसने से 500 से अधिक मकान प्रभावित हुए हैं। मकानों में दरारें आ गई हैं। https://dainikuttarakhand.in/2023/01/07/joshimath-case-reaches-supreme-court-shankaracharya-swami-avimukteshwaranand-files-pil/  (07 Jan. 2023) जोशीमठ में भू-धंसाव की चपेट में ज्योतिर्मठ परिसर के बाद अब शंकराचार्य माधव आश्रम मंदिर के शिवलिंग में दरारें आ गई हैं। परिसर के भवनों, लक्ष्मी नारायण मंदिर के आसपास बड़ी-बड़ी दरारें पड़ गई हैं। ज्योतिर्मठ के प्रभारी ब्रह्मचारी मुकुंदानंद ने बताया कि मठ के प्रवेश द्वार, लक्ष्मी नारायण मंदिर और सभागार में दरारें आई हैं। इसी परिसर में टोटकाचार्य गुफा, त्रिपुर सुंदरी राजराजेश्वरी मंदिर और ज्योतिष पीठ के शंकराचार्य की गद्दी स्थल है। https://dainikuttarakhand.in/2023/01/07/cracks-in-shivling-of-shankaracharya-madhav-ashram-temple-increased-scope-of-landslide/  (07 Jan. 2023)

Himachal Pradesh Leaking tunnel puts lives of 200 tribals in danger The year-old leakage from the Bajoli-Holi hydroelectric project’s headrace tunnel has put a village at risk in the Bharmour tribal region of Chamba district. Since December, deep cracks have appeared on the land within 100 metres of Jharauta as a forewarning of sinkhole or landslide. The village is located below the 15-kilometer-long and 5.6-metre-wide tunnel and in its alignment, while the project belongs to GMR Group. On December 19, 2021, tunnel testing had triggered seepage, landslides, and mudslides in the village. Tunnel testing hazards are common at dam sites, but this testing cracked the village walls and demolished six homes, after which the affected families moved to makeshift quarters or tents. The protests at the village forced the state government to send its geologist Sarit Chander to the site but a proper survey could not begin.

Jharauta’s Anoop Kumar said: “We have alerted the local officials, but we fear what will happen during the rains. Just one landslide is enough wipe out this entire village of 25 families and 200 people, but the government is yet to accept our demand for a geological survey to let us know if it was safe to live in the village. It will help us decide whether to vacate our houses or stay. If we must relocate, we’ll need the government’s help.” Chander said: “At that time, the project officials said they will repair the tunnel and compensate the affected families. A fresh study is required into why the seepage hasn’t stopped. The cracks develop when a heavy discharge of water causes the loose lower strata of land to slide. If cracks have developed around the village, then a fresh survey is necessary.”

The fragility of local geology has compelled Manshi Asher of Himdhara environmental organisation to advocate quick remedial action by the government and GMR. Asher, who visited the village last year and released a fact-finding report on the leaking tunnel, said: “Most EIA (environment impact assessment) reports about the hydroelectric projects fail to do genuine assessment of the impacts such as landslide, earthquake, and sinkhole disaster. All these are real threats to this village, so the government and the company should listen to the villagers.” She said the project was in the Bharmour region of high landslide activity. In her report, she had called for scientific impact analysis by “reliable and competent research agencies”. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/shimla/leaking-tunnel-puts-lives-of-200-tribals-in-danger-in-himachal-pradesh/articleshow/96754548.cms  (05 Jan. 2023)  बजोली-होली विद्युत परियोजना से झडौता गांव पर विस्थापन खतरा ! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rom_xw0ROv4  (03 Jan. 2023)

The Chamba district administration has asked the state geologist to study and submit a report on the threat posed to habitations at Jharauta village in Holi tribal area of the district due to a leakage in the tunnel of the Holi Bajoli power project.

Manshi Asher, an environment activist, says that the project management should rehabilitate people living above the tunnel. Their lands have not been acquired for the project as the tunnel is going below them. However, their livelihood and habitations are threatened. The project management and the government must declare them as affected populations and give them complete rehabilitation pack for relocation of their houses and livelihood. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/threat-to-houses-geologist-to-study-leakage-in-chamba-project-tunnel-468532  (08 Jan. 2023)

Rs 2,614 cr investment for Sunni dam HEP approved “The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by PM Narendra Modi has approved the investment for 382 MW Sunni Dam Hydro Electric Project by SJVN Ltd, for an estimated cost of Rs 2,614.51 crore, including Rs 13.80 crore as budgetary support from Government of India for the cost of enabling infrastructure,” an official statement said on Jan 4, 2023. Ex-post facto approval is given for cumulative expenditure incurred amounting to Rs 246 crore till January 2022, it added. The project cost of Rs 2,614 crore included hard cost amounting to Rs 2,246.40 crore, Interest During Construction (IDC) and Financing Charges (FC) of Rs 358.96 crore and 9.15 crore. The revised cost sanctions for cost variations due to quantity changes (including additions/ alterations/ extra items) and time overruns due to the developer shall be capped at 10 per cent of the sanctioned cost. https://www.outlookindia.com/business/centre-approves-rs-2-614-crore-investment-for-sunni-dam-hydro-power-project-news-250786  (04 Jan. 2023)

Meghalaya Ganol HEP inaugurated CM Conrad K Sangma on Wednesday (Jan. 04) inaugurated one of the three units of the 22.5 MW Ganol Hydro Power Project in the West Garo Hills, adding 7.5 MW power to the state’s grid. The remaining two units are expected to be completed in coming months. The CM called the inauguration of the project a “historic and landmark” day for Garo Hills and stated that the project cost over Rs 560 crore. The Ganol Hydroelectric Project harnesses the natural flow of the Ganol River near Tura. https://www.eastmojo.com/meghalaya/2023/01/04/meghalaya-cm-inaugurates-ganol-hydro-power-project/  (04 Jan. 2023)

Goa Mulling hydroelectric project on Mhadei: CM  CM Pramod Sawant on Jan 3, 2023 said the state government is seized of the Mhadei issue and assured that it would fight for the river’s preservation and conservation. He further said that the government, as part of its 50-year projection, is planning to install a hydroelectric project on the river, for which a panel of experts has already been appointed. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/mulling-hydroelectric-project-on-mhadei-cm/articleshow/96719843.cms  (04 Jan. 2023)

Report 175 GW renewable energy capacity target missed by 30%  India’s renewable capacity addition exclusive of large hydro was supposed to reach 175 GW, but reached 122 GW, 30% below target. Annual solar and wind capacity addition has averaged around 9 GW over the last five years, against target of 19 GW. Wind capacity addition has averaged 2 GW, suffered since 2017. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/renewable/india-missed-175-gw-renewable-energy-capacity-target-by-30-per-cent-bridge-to-india/96740844  (04 Jan. 2023) The target, set in 2015, was 175 gigawatt (GW) of renewable energy capacity to be set up in the country by the year 2022. This included 100 GW from solar power, 60 GW from wind power, 10 GW from bio-power and 5 GW from small hydro power. India has achieved 119 GW. Out of this, 62% of the solar power target (62 GW of proposed 100 GW), 70% of the wind power target (42 GW of 60 GW), 107% of the bio-power target (10.7 of 10 GW) and 98% of the small hydro power sector target (4.9 of 5 GW), had been achieved by November 30, 2022. https://www.factchecker.in/context-check/status-check-has-india-achieved-its-goal-of-175-gw-renewable-energy-by-2022-847822  (30 Dec. 2022)

DAMS

Polavaram Project NHPC to take up study on diaphragm wall The National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) would take up a study on the Polavaram irrigation project’s diaphragm wall across River Godavari at Polavaram in Eluru district to ascertain its present status. The diaphragm wall measures a 1.5 metre thickness with a 40-80 metre depth and stretches to a length of 1,400 metres. Nearly a 600-metre stretch of the wall suffered damage in two segments when the river was flooded. The NHPC team of experts would pass electric waves through the wall to gauge the fitness of the structure.

– If there’s any damage or if the wall was filled up with material like sand instead of concrete, the tests would take note. If so, water resources authorities feel the way forward is to reconstruct the damaged portions of the diaphragm wall and connect these to the undamaged portion. They are also having an option of taking up construction of the new diaphragm wall for the entire stretch, parallel to the existing one. A decision could be taken based on the study results.

– The experts are expected to also take up technical studies like seismic tomography to ascertain the ability of the structure to withstand high pressure from the water stored for distribution via pipes or canals for various requirements. The NHPC study would take a month’s time, followed by another 45 days for preparation of the report.  https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/020123/nhpc-to-take-up-study-on-polavarams-diaphragm-wall-soon.html  (02 Jan. 2023)

Madhya Pradesh Protest against proposed Basania dam Locals in Mandla district are protesting against the proposed Basania dam which is being built at Mohgaon in Mandla, claiming it will affect more than 2700 families of 31 villages.

The local residents have also formed a group for the protests named Basania Bandh Virodh Sangharsh Samiti, on Monday (Jan. 02) a team of private firm that has been given the work for dam had reached the villages for survey but locals did not let them conduct the survey work. Later administrative officials also reached the spot and assured people that work will not start till the demands of locals are not addressed. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/locals-protest-against-proposed-dam-in-mandla-fear-it-will-hit-31-villages/articleshow/96724776.cms   (04 Jan. 2023)

Rajasthan Modi Illakhar dam in danger due to illegal mining खनन को बंद करवाने को लेकर ग्रामीण पिछले काफी समय से स्थानीय प्रशासन के अलावा जिला कलेक्टर व जनप्रतिनिधियों को भी अवगत करवा चुके हैं, लेकिन प्रभावशाली खनन माफियाओं के आगे ग्रामीणों की नहीं चल पाने के कारण बांध के पास भारी मात्रा में मशीनों से खनन किया जा रहा है।

उन्होंने बताया कि बांध के पास मशीनों व हैवी ब्लास्टिंग से खनन होने से बांध की चारदीवारी में खतरा उत्पन्न हो गया है तथा भविष्य में बांध में पानी की मात्रा अधिक आने से बांध का टूट भी सकता है। जिससे ग्रामीणों को काफी धन हानि का सामना करना पड़ेगा। बांध के पास भारी मात्रा में मशीनों द्वारा किए जा रहे खनन को लेकर ग्रामीण कई बार स्थानीय प्रशासन व खनन विभाग को भी अवगत करवा चुके हैं, लेकिन बांध के अस्तित्व को बचाने को लेकर प्रशासनिक स्तर पर कोई ठोस कदम नहीं उठाए जा रहे हैं। https://www.bhaskar.com/local/rajasthan/jhunjhunu/khetari/news/due-to-mining-the-existence-of-modi-elakhar-dam-which-quenches-the-thirst-of-a-dozen-villages-is-in-danger-save-dam-sangharsh-samiti-held-a-meeting-and-warned-of-agitation-130750935.html  (02 Jan. 2022)

There was a news report on illegal mining threat to the same dam about two years back: आठ साल से बांध क्षेत्र में चल रहे खनन को रुकवाने काे लेकर दो बार प्रशासन की ओर से जांच में लीपापोती को लेकर क्षेत्र के लोगों में आक्रोश है। इसके खिलाफ क्षेत्र में जल्दी ही अभियान चलाए जाने का फैसला किया गया है। लोगों की मांग पर इस बार सांसद नरेंद्र कुमार ने मुख्यमंत्री अशाेक गहलाेत काे पत्र भेजा है। पहले कालाभुजा बांध टूटा था, अब मोड़ी इलाखर का डर सामाजिक कार्यकर्ता रणवीर मान बताते हैं कि मोड़ी इलाखर बांध 1995 में बना और अगले ही साल जोरदार बारिश में भर गया। इससे पहले अवैध खनन केे कारण अंग्रेजों के समय में बना कालाभुजा बांध 2010 में पानी के दबाव से टूट चुका छा। उस बांध का पानी मोड़ी इलाखर बांध में आया और ओवर फ्लो हाेने से इलाके में नुकसान नहीं हुआ। इस बांध से क्षेत्र का भूमिगत जल स्तर बढ़ गया। लेकिन लगातार खनन हाेने से इस बांध की प्राकृतिक दीवार नष्ट हाेने का खतरा पैदा हो गया है। इस आशंका के कारण खनन बंद करवाने की मांग कर रहे हैं। https://www.bhaskar.com/local/rajasthan/sikar/jhunjhunu/news/cmo-order-to-probe-mining-in-modi-ilakhar-dam-area-again-128229032.html 

Jharkhand DVC to set up 2 GW of floating solar Damodar Valley Corp. (DVC) has identified 2 GW of floating solar potential across reservoirs at its Maithon, Panchet, Tilaiya and Konar dams. DVC has secured approval to build 990 MW of floating solar under India’s Ultra Mega Renewable Energy Power Parks (UMREPP) scheme. It will soon launch a tender for some of this capacity. https://www.pv-magazine.com/2023/01/06/indian-hydropower-producer-to-set-up-2-gw-of-floating-solar/  (06 Jan. 2023)

INTERLINKING OF RIVERS

INTERSTATE WATER DISPUTES

Godavari Water Dispute Differences on water availability continues  Differences between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh continued over availability of water in the Godavari Basin as also the former’s plea for clearances for a few projects during the Godavari River Management Board (GRMB) meeting held here on Jan 3 2023. According to Special Chief Secretary (Irrigation) of Telangana Rajat Kumar, AP had insisted upon study of water availability in the basin before giving nod for Telangana’s projects. Telangana authorities had explained that there were studies conducted by WAPCOS and other agencies. However, it was agreed to refer the matter to the Central Water Commissio (CWC) n to take up a professional study so that the availability was assessed.

Such study and the requirements in the two States would also help take up decisions on the river interlinking proposals, Mr. Rajat Kumar said. On the proposal for installing telemerty equipment, he said it was agreed for five inter-state points in the first phase and 18 other locations in the second phase. He stated that there was ample availability of water in Godavari and need for early clearances for Chanakha-Korata, Chowtpally Hanmanth Reddy and Chinna Kaleshwaram projects under implementation as the delays were escalating their cost. AP ENgr in Chief said, the plea of Telangana for clearances for another reservoir in the upstream of Kaddam project and Modikunta Vagu would be duplication as sufficient water was available for the projects and there was no need for going for new lifting. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/ts-ap-agree-to-study-of-godavari-water-availability/article66335290.ece  (03 Jan. 2023)

Sutlej-Yamuna Link CMs’ meet fruitless The decades-old issue regarding construction of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal for river water-sharing between Punjab and Haryana was nowhere near resolution on Wednesday (Jan. 04) with a crucial meeting of the CMs of the two states called by the Centre to evolve a consensus remaining inconclusive. At the meeting convened by Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, as per the directions of the Supreme Court to resolve the matter through mediation, Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann said the state “could not share what it did not have”. The SC has listed the issue for January 19. It had last September given the Centre four months to get Punjab and Haryana to arrive at a mediated settlement. Shekhawat convened two meetings (one in October and the other today), but both remained inconclusive. The water dispute started in 1966 when Punjab and Haryana came into being after the Punjab Reorganisation Act. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/no-spare-water-says-mann-build-canal-insists-khattar-467416  (05 Jan. 2023)

Even as Khattar said that the SYL canal should be built and the Haryana government will apprise the Supreme Court about Punjab’s reluctant attitude over the issue, Mann proposed in the meeting that he had an alternative solution to the contentious problem – to construct a YSL (Yamuna Sutlej Link) to supply water to Sutlej from Yamuna so that Punjab’s river, which is just a trickle now, could also be revived.

Punjab CM also demanded a fresh tribunal to assess the availability of water stating that Haryana was getting more water despite Punjab having a 60% share vis-a-vis Haryana’s 40%. The CM said that the next hearing is on March 4. By that time the tribunal should check availability of water. The meeting was called by Shekhawat after a meeting between Mann and Khattar in October remained inconclusive. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chandigarh/not-a-drop-of-water-to-share-construct-ysl-revive-sutlej-too-mann-tells-shekhawat-8362053/  (05 Jan. 2023)

A day after Punjab and Haryana failed to reach an agreement on the construction of the Sutlej Yamuna Link canal, PM Narendra Modi on Thursday (Jan. 05) said water should be an issue of cooperation and coordination between the states. Addressing the first national conference of state water ministers convened by the Centre to discuss and prepare for the looming water crisis, the PM urged governments to ensure people’s participation in the water conservation movement along the lines of Swachh Bharat campaign. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/nation/water-should-be-an-issue-of-cooperation-coordination-between-states-pm-modi-says-a-day-after-syl-stalemate-between-punjab-haryana-467614  (06 Jan. 203)

Mahadayi Water Dispute What is the reason behind the dispute? In 1980, farmers in Dharwad and Gadag districts of Karnataka launched a movement to demand drinking water from the state government. The movement was in protest of the government’s failure to provide water despite collecting a betterment levy. In response to the agitation, then Chief Minister Gundu Rao appointed a committee headed by Opposition Leader SR Bommai to address the issue. The Bommai Committee subsequently recommended the linking of the Mahadayi to Malaprabha. However, no progress was made on the recommendation until 1989, when SR Bommai became the Chief Minister of Karnataka. He signed a memorandum of understanding with the Goa government to construct a dam near Kalasa in Karnataka. This project also did not move forward due to the brief duration of the Bommai government.

The original plan for the Kalasa-Banduri project was to divert water from the Mahadayi river to the Malaprabha river and store it in the Navilatirtha dam in Dharwad. The project was proposed in the 1980s, but faced opposition from the state of Goa, which argued that it would cause ecological damage to the state. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/explainer-mahadayi-river-dispute-between-karnataka-and-goa-171578  (04 Jan. 2023)

The Kalasa Banduri Nala project aims to divert water from Mahadayi to satisfy the drinking water needs of Belagavi, Dharwad, Bagalkot and Gadag districts. Though the project was first proposed in the early 1980s, it has remained on paper owing to a dispute between Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra. As per plans, barrages are to be built against Kalasa and Banduri streams — tributaries of Mahadayi — and water diverted towards Karnataka’s parched districts. Mahadayi originates inside the Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary in the Belagavi district of Karnataka and flows into the Arabian Sea in Goa. https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/karnataka-goa-mahadayi-water-sharing-row-explained-8358827/  (03 Jan. 2023)

Goa is sending an all-party delegation to meet PM Modi in New Delhi to campaign against Karnataka beginning work on 2 projects on the Mahadayi river. An over 4 decades-long dispute is on the brink of eruption once again. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwt2CRlNfg0  (05 Jan. 2023) Goa BJP on Tuesday (Jan. 03), announced the launch of a state wide signature campaign to leverage pressure on the Centre to revoke the CWC nod. On Monday (Jan. 02), the Goa cabinet had also passed a resolution to not allow Karnataka to transfer water from Mahadayi basin until the Supreme Court decides on the petition filed by the Goa government challenging the award of the Mahadayi Water Dispute Tribunal, which allowed the southern state to divert 3.9 TMC water from the river’s basin.  https://www.deccanherald.com/national/west/goa-bjp-to-start-signature-campaign-to-pressurise-centre-over-kalasa-banduri-nod-1177650.html   (03 Jan. 2023)

Maharashtra-Karnataka Raise height of dams on rivers flowing into Karnataka: Jayant Patil  Speaking in the Maharashtra Assembly here on Tuesday (Dec. 20), Nationalist Congress Party leader Jayant Patil said that Maharashtra should raise the height of the upstream dams to “rein in” the neighbouring state. We should reply to what the Karnataka CM says in the same language. If they have so much attitude, then we will raise the height of dams on Koyna and Warna rivers and that of all the dams in Satara and Kolhapur districts. They (Karnataka leaders) would not be brought under control otherwise,” the former Maharashtra water resources minister said. “If Karnataka holds us to ransom, then we have water, he added. https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/raise-height-of-dams-on-rivers-flowing-into-karnataka-ncp-s-jayant-patil-122122100135_1.html  (21 Dec. 2022)

IRRIGATION

Gujarat Narmada Canal now breaches in Bharuch district, the media calls it breach of corruption in Narmada Canal. https://gujarati.abplive.com/videos/news/gujarat-bharuch-gap-of-corruption-in-narmada-canal-farmer-s-crop-in-water-at-dabhari-village-of-bharuch-813985  (02 Jan. 2023)

Madhya Pradesh L&T bags contract for 2 lift irrigation projects L&T Construction has bagged an orders to execute two lift irrigation projects to irrigate 2.05 lakh ha of culturable command area covering more than five hundred villages of Dewas and Dhar districts on a turnkey basis. The scope includes survey, design, engineering, procurement, construction of pump houses, laying of rising and gravity mains, distribution network and SCADA for controlling and regulating the entire system. The micro irrigation projects will lift 60 cumecs of water from the Narmada River to irrigate the farmlands, benefitting 3 lakh farmers in the process. https://www.projectstoday.com/News/LT-bags-contract-for-lift-irrigation-projects-in-Madhya-Pradesh  (03 Jan. 2023)

URBAN RIVERS

Mula-Mutha; Pune Riverfront devp means concrete canal Sarang Yadvadkar on Pune Riverfront Development: It’s not only about the cost. It’s about our safety from floods. It’s about irreversible environmental destruction. It’s about our day-to-day life. We definitely want beautiful rivers, but before that they should flow clean and even prior to that, they should be safe. https://punemirror.com/pune/others/riverfront-devp-means-concrete-canal/cid1672780330.htm  (04 Jan. 2023)

NGT in Pune wants amended nod to river rejuvenation project in 7 weeks The NGT in Pune on Wednesday (Jan. 04) set a seven-week time frame for the civic body and the State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) to complete the process for an amended environmental clearance to the ambitious Mula, Mutha and Mula-Mutha river rejuvenation project.

Taking note of the PMC’s submission that it had moved the SEIAA for an amended clearance and its submission that the clearance would be processed in 8 to 12 weeks, the bench observed that stopping all construction activities would “entail financial loss which can be avoided”. Especially, when it has not quashed the environment clearance granted November 16, 2019 and has permitted the PMC to seek an amended clearance.  We further make it clear that no new work order would be issued by PMC (for raising construction of any kind till the amended environmental clearance has been obtained by them,” the bench of Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh and expert member Vijay Kulkarni stated. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/ngt-in-pune-wants-amended-nod-to-river-rejuvenation-project-in-7-weeks/articleshow/96777309.cms  (06 Jan. 2023)

NGT quashes RFD review petition NGT has disposed of the petition filed by environmental activists, demanding stopping of work in the Mula-Mutha river. At the same time, the NGT has also asked the PMC to take amended environmental clearance before issuing new work orders. The NGT bench headed by Dr Vijay Kulkarni and comprising Dinesh Kumar Singh issued the latest order on the review petition. “No new work order will be issued for raising any work till the amended environment clearance is obtained,” the order stated.

Earlier in November, the NGT had dismissed a petition filed against the project, allowing the PMC to resume work. Environmental activist Sarang Yadwadkar had then filed a review petition, seeking a stay on the ongoing work. Yadwadkar said, “We had objected to the project as the PMC did not get proper environmental clearance. But our petition got disposed on Wednesday. The NGT has given permission to the civic body for the ongoing work but at the same time, has asked the civic body not to issue new work orders till the amended environmental clearance is obtained.”

Another PMC officer on condition of anonymity said that the civic body will be able to complete most of the work before the monsoon. Pune’s riverfront development project is the largest in the country, covering 42 km of the river width. PM Modi had laid the foundation stone of the riverfront development project in March 2022. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/pune-news/riverfront-development-ngt-quashes-review-petition-asks-pmc-to-continue-with-existing-work-101672938625466.html  (05 Jan. 2023)

Goa Panjim riverfront’s urban green lungs under pressure Among three major projects planned in Panjim are repurposing of the Campal children’s park, a passenger ropeway project and leasing out of a park area for tourism purposes. Residents and NGOs claim that the projects, all of which are along the city’s iconic waterfront, will lead to privatisation of public spaces. The expansion of the entertainment tourism industry in Panjim, including casinos and cruises, has come with traffic gridlocks and loss of public waterfront spaces. https://india.mongabay.com/2023/01/panjim-riverfronts-urban-green-lungs-under-pressure-from-entertainment-tourism/  (02 Jan. 2023)

RIVERS

SANDRP Blog Rivers of Poems by Lori Udall Rivers are an enduring symbol of life and time passing, eternity. We often reference rivers as a metaphor for a life’s journey or for the many journeys we take physically, spiritually and and symbolically.  As those reading this blog well know, rivers are the lifeblood of the planet, on which millions of communities depend for their livelihoods, drinking water, irrigation, water for animals, food, hydropower, waterways, fish, as well as their cultural, religious, aesthetic and social needs. https://sandrp.in/2023/01/03/river-of-poems/  (03 Jan. 2023)

Maharashtra 1 held for releasing chemicals in Kasadi river The Kalamboli police have arrested a 61-year-old tanker driver for allegedly releasing chemicals in Kasadi river in the Roadpali area around 04.30 am on Dec. 17. The police seized the tanker and around 29,000kg of sulphuric acid worth Rs49,000. The chemical was brought in from an industrial chemical manufacturing company from Mahad, the police said.

The driver was identified as Balbir Ram Singh, a native of Himachal Pradesh. On questioning, he named Harrtz Organics in Mahad, Raigad. The owner of the tanker was also booked and has been identified as Balwant Singh Bhullar, a resident of Kalamboli. A case has been registered against the driver and owner of the tanker under the Indian Penal Code for endangering the life and safety of others and the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

Kasadi river flows from Taloja to Belapur creek and in the past fishermen as well as environmentalists have alleged the presence of industrial pollutants in it. Nandakumar Pawar, the head of Sagar Shakti, Marine Division of Vanashakti, said this is a regular phenomenon in this area where no authority has any control. BN Kumar, the Director of NatConnect Foundation, said this is only the tip of the iceberg as the malaise is deep-rooted.

July 28 2022: Mystery shrouds the death of hundreds of fish and crabs in the creek at Bhendkhal in Uran taluka of Raigad district. The locals alleged a chemical tanker was washed here. Dec 16, 2022: Hundreds of fish were found dead in a creek in Bhendkhal in Uran taluka last week. Locals alleged chemical was released from a tanker. Nov 2017: A stray dog turned blue after a swim in the Kasadi river. Environmentalists claimed the high presence of chemicals affected the dog’s fur. https://www.freepressjournal.in/mumbai/navi-mumbai-water-pollution-threat-looms-as-1-held-for-releasingchemicalsin-kasadi-river  (21 Dec. 2022)

GANGA Uttar Pradesh अधिकारी गंगा की सफाई कर नहीं पा रहे या करना ही नहीं चाहते इलाहाबाद हाईकोर्ट ने गंगा प्रदूषण मामले में जिम्मेदार अफसरों पर गंभीर टिप्पणी की है। कोर्ट ने कहा कि अफसर गंगा की सफाई नहीं कर पा रहे हैं या करना ही नहीं चाहते। कोर्ट ने सरकार का पक्ष रखने के लिए महाधिवक्ता को बुलाया है। बीते एक नवंबर को कोर्ट ने विभिन्न विभागों के हलफनामों में विरोधाभास को देखते हुए महाधिवक्ता को सभी की तरफ  से एक हलफनामा दाखिल कर स्पष्ट पक्ष रखने का आदेश पारित किया था। अपर महाधिवक्ता अजीत कुमार सिंह सरकार का पक्ष रखने आए तो सुनवाई टालते हुए कोर्ट ने कहा महाधिवक्ता स्वयं आएं। साथ ही शुक्रवार छह जनवरी को पुन: सुनवाई की तिथि तय की है।

याचिका पर अधिवक्ता विजय चंद्र श्रीवास्तव सुनीता शर्मा व शैलेश सिंह ने पक्ष रखा। इनका कहना था कि कल छह जनवरी से माघ मेला शुरू हो रहा है। कोर्ट के आदेश के बावजूद गंगा में स्नान के लिए पर्याप्त पानी नहीं है। गंगा का पानी गंदा है और श्रद्धालु मेला क्षेत्र में आ चुके हैं। अधिकारी कोर्ट आदेश का पालन नहीं कर रहे। पॉलिथीन बैन की खानापूरी की गई है। नालों का गंदा पानी सीधे गंगा में जा रहा है।

न्याय मित्र वरिष्ठ अधिवक्ता अरुण कुमार गुप्ता ने कहा कि गंगा की स्वच्छता के नाम पर अधिकारी केवल पैसे खर्च कर रहे हैं। गंगा स्वच्छ नहीं हो रही हैं। उन्होंने कोर्ट को बताया कि सीवेज ट्रीटमेंट प्लांट्स की शोधन क्षमता से दोगुना पानी आ रहा। 60 फीसदी सीवर सीवेज ट्रीटमेंट प्लांट से जोड़े गए हैं । शेष 40 फीसदी सीवर सीधे गंगा में गिर रहा है। नालों के बायोरेमिडियल शोधन की अधूरी प्रणाली से खानापूरी की जा रही है। केवल गंगा में पानी छोड़ने मात्र से गंगा साफ नहीं होंगी। कहा कि राजापुर, नैनी सहित कई ट्रीटमेंट प्लांट से फ्लो 120 एमएलडी आ रहा है, जबकि क्षमता 60 एमएलडी की है। कोर्ट को बताया कि एसटीपी से भी पानी शोधित नहीं हो पा रहा है। नगर निगम केवल एक ड्रम रखकर खाना पूर्ति कर रहा है। माघ के दौरान केवल 4000 क्यूसेक पानी छोड़ने से गंगा का जल शुद्ध नहीं हो पाएगा। https://www.amarujala.com/uttar-pradesh/allahabad/high-court-officials-are-not-able-to-clean-ganga-or-do-not-want-to-do-it?pageId=1  (05 Jan. 2023)

गंगा प्रदूषण को लेकर हाई कोर्ट में दाखिल जनहित याचिका पर सुनवाई करते हुए कोर्ट ने गंभीर टिप्पणी की। सरकार की तरफ से पेश हुए अपर महाधिवक्ता अजीत कुमार सिंह से कोर्ट ने पूछा कि जल की शुद्धता के मामले में क्या किया गया? उन्होंने सरकार का पक्ष रखा। न्याय मित्र, वरिष्ठ अधिवक्ता अरुण कुमार गुप्ता ने कहा, ‘गंगा की स्वच्छता के नाम पर अधिकारी केवल पैसे खर्च कर रहे हैं। गंगा स्वच्छ नहीं हो रही हैं।’ उन्होंने कोर्ट को बताया कि सीवेज ट्रीटमेंट प्लांट की शोधन क्षमता से दूना पानी आ रहा। 60 प्रतिशत सीवर सीवेज ट्रीटमेंट प्लांट से जोड़े गए हैं, शेष 40 प्रतिशत सीवर सीधे गंगा में गिर रहा है। नालों के बायोरेमिडियल शोधन की अधूरी प्रणाली से खानापूरी की जा रही। केवल गंगा में पानी छोड़ने मात्र से गंगा साफ नहीं होगी। https://www.jagran.com/uttar-pradesh/allahabad-city-high-court-strict-on-ganga-pollution-asked-what-has-been-done-in-the-case-of-water-purity-23285087.html  (06 Jan. 2023)

NMCG PM Chairs NGCl Meet Via Video Conferencing The Prime Minister inaugurated 7 sewerage infrastructure projects (20 STPs and 612 km network) at a cost of more than Rs 990 crore. These projects will add the sewage treatment capacity of over 200 MLD in the State of West Bengal. Prime Minister also laid the foundation stone for 5 sewerage infrastructure projects (8 STPs and 80 km sewerage network) to be developed under NMCG at an estimated cost of Rs 1,585 crore. These projects will add 190 MLD new STP capacity in West Bengal.

Recognizing the bad situation of the River Adi Ganga infamous sly known as TollyNala, a project has been approved by NMCG at an estimated cost of Rs. 653.67 crore that includes construction of modern sewerage infrastructure comprising of 3 STPs of 10 MLD, 11.60 MLD and 3.5 MLD capacities. This project is 100% centrally sponsored. PM Shri Modi informed that over 1,000 waterways are being constructed in India and conveyed that our aim is to make modern cruise ships sail in Indian rivers.

Ms. Mamta Banerjee, CM of West Bengal raised the issue of river bank erosion in some areas of West Bengal and requested the Centre to formulate a mechanism for flood control and management programme in consultation with the States. She also flagged the issue of erosion and related issues in coastal belt in West Bengal and asked the Centre to help the States technically and financially to formulate a framework for protection of coastal regions through appropriate financial support. Mr. Tejashwi Yadav, Deputy CM, Bihar flagged the issue of siltation in Bihar and urged the Centre to roll out necessary guidelines in consultation with the States to address the issue. https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1887938  (01 Jan. 2023)

PM to inaugurate Kashi tent city virtually on Jan 13 Established on a 100-hectare area opposite the ghats of Varanasi towards Ramnagar, it has the capacity to accommodate 200 people and is equipped with Swiss cottages, broadly of three categories—Ganga Darshan Villas, premium tents and super deluxe tents, officials with the Varanasi Development Authority (VDA) said.

Kaushal Raj Sharma, divisional commissioner, said after its inauguration on January 13, bookings for the tent city will be made open for the public from Makar Sankranti onwards. Makar Sankranti is on January 14. The 900-square feet Ganga Darshan Villas are the largest and can be booked at ₹20,000 per person for one night and two days. The package for premium tents and Super Deluxe tents, both measuring 500 square feet, is ₹14,000 and 12,000 respectively.

Initially, the plan was to complete the work before Deepawali 2022. But, following the prolonged flood-like situation in the Ganga and due to technical reasons, the tent city could not be established in accordance with the initial deadline, officials with VDA said. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/lucknow-news/pm-modi-to-inaugurate-kashi-tent-city-virtually-on-jan-13-101673079645543.html  (07 Jan. 2023) PM Narendra Modi is set to virtually flag off the world’s longest river cruise ‘Ganga Vilas’ – from Varanasi to Dibrugarh via Bangladesh – on January 13. Covering a distance of nearly 4,000 km in 50 days, the cruise will stop at several world heritage sites and pass through several national parks and sanctuaries, reported ANI citing officials. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/pm-modi-to-flag-off-world-s-longest-river-cruise-ganga-vilas-on-jan-13-details-101673139757139-amp.html  (08 Jan. 2023)

YAMUNA Delhi is trying to turn a drain into a river Once called the Sahibi river, the drain enters the national capital near Dhansa in Southwest Delhi and runs through parts of West, Central and North Delhi before meeting the Yamuna near Wazirabad. The Najafgarh drain covers  57 long kilometres in Delhi. Near where the drain enters Delhi is the Najafgarh jheel, a transboundary wetland straddling the Haryana-Delhi border. Cleaning the Najafgarh drain includes everything from improving the sewerage network in many parts of the city, ensuring that existing sewage treatment plants meet norms for treated water, setting up additional sewage treatment plants, and keeping garbage away from the river, according to a senior Delhi Jal Board (DJB) official.

– A start has been made with efforts to clean a 11.38-km stretch of the drain from Basai Darapur to Timarpur in North Delhi, which is not far from where it meets the Yamuna. An official of the Irrigation and Flood Control (I&FC) department in-charge of the project said that “partial desilting” of the drain is being done with around 20 boats that are fitted with “rakers” that rake up the silt and carry it with the flow of the drain towards the Yamuna. A small stretch of around 2.3 km from near Mall Road to Timarpur is likely to be inaugurated later this month and a recreational boating service is likely to be launched. The possibility of using the drain to transport goods is also on the anvil, but plans have not been finalised.

– The challenge with the Najafgarh drain is also the historical sludge that has accumulated in the drain along with management of solid waste, the DJB official said. Cleaning of waste that lies along the banks of the drain is also underway. The I&FC department official said that around 1,800 tonnes of solid waste was cleared from the banks and handed over to the MCD, but heaps of waste still remain along the banks of the drain.

– “There are 126 drains that meet the Najafgarh drain, and the roughly 12 km between Timarpur and Basai Darapur where work is underway has around 52 smaller drains that meet it,” he said. Along a little more than 5 km between Timarpur and Bharat Nagar, there are 32 inlets, of which 10 are storm water or dry inlets and five have been intercepted or trapped. The remaining 17 have not been intercepted yet.

– A total of 40 decentralised STPs are likely to come up, some within the Najafgarh drainage zone itself and others in the northwest and west areas — for some, land has been allotted but for some land is yet to be allocated, the official added. The Najafgarh drain has a flow or discharge of around 452 MGD. Of this, around 252 MGD is treated effluent from STPs and 105 MGD is being discharged from Haryana through two drains including the Badshahpur drain, according to data with the DJB.

– Manu Bhatnagar, principal director of the natural heritage division at INTACH, said, “The 1865 excavation of Sahibi nadi downstream of Najafgarh Jheel earned it the name of Najafgarh drain. The river used to function during the monsoon, feeding the Najafgarh jheel all the way from north of Jaipur. To ensure that it is navigable, you first need clean water in the drain, beautiful banks and depth. Intercepting the drains that flow into it could also reduce the draft in the Najafgarh drain and that will have to be considered. The water through the bed of the drain recharges the aquifers.” https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/how-delhi-is-trying-to-turn-a-drain-into-a-river-8367980/lite/  (08 Jan. 2023)

RIVERS BIODIVERSITY

Report When Diatoms Create a Forest. https://themeaningofwater.com/2022/12/18/when-diatoms-create-a-forest/  (18 Dec. 2022)

FISH, FISHERIES, FISHERFOLKS

Tamil Nadu Photo expo on indigenous fish species on Jan 13 A photo exhibition of fish species indigenous to India, scheduled to commence in Chennai on January 13, intends to throw light on the lesser-known fish species of Tamil Nadu, such as the Tambraparani Barb and Rohani Barb along with others found throughout India. Aquarium enthusiast Beta Mahatvaraj, who has been documenting native fish species and their habitats in the country over the past two decades in association with the Chennai Public Aquarium, plans to display over 150 portraits of freshwater and brackishwater fish species and their habitats at the Chennai Public Aquarium at the Eco Park in Chetpet. “We are planning to display portraits and posters of native fish species on four themes. Those found along the Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats and those found only in Tamil Nadu and other parts of India, including the Northeastern States,” Mr. Mahatvaraj said. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/photo-expo-on-indigenous-fish-species-to-be-held-on-january-13/article66334484.ece  (03 Jan. 2023)

Tamil Nadu Alien mussel species invade Ennore wetlands Eleven of 52 fishing sites in Ennore have been infested by an alien mussel species, wiping out valuable fisher resources like locally prevalent yellow clams (manja matti) and green mussels (pachai aazhi). Identified as ‘Mytella strigata’ or Charru mussels native to South America the mussels threaten to spread their tentacles into the ecologically sensitive Pulicat lake, which attracts migratory birds annually.

Around 11 of 52 fishing sites in Ennore infested by an invasive mussel species native to South America | Express

Fishers and activists suspect unchecked discharge of ballast waters from ships visiting the Kattupalli ports may have resulted in the spread. Responding to this allegation, Tamil Nadu State Wetland Authority Deepak Srivastava said the wetland catchment and drainage system need to be studied to fix accountability. “An integrated management plan will be prepared to address the livelihood loss.”

A few years ago, Kerala too reported damage due to the spread of this species. Surveys found the presence of the Charru mussel in the state’s backwaters, including Kadinamkulam, Paravur, and Ponnani. Gradually, Ashtamudi Lake a Ramsar site in Kollam was deemed the worst hit. Here, the mussel replaced the Asian green mussel and the oyster ‘Magallana bilineata’. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2022/dec/28/alien-mussel-species-invade-ennore-wetlands-fishers-livelihood-on-line-in-tamil-nadu-2532387.html  (28 Dec. 2022)

Report Floatovoltaics or floating solar projects can have impact on aquatic biodiversity and on livelihoods of people dependent on fisheries and boatspeople. The cost is 15-30% higher than terrestrial plants. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/renewable/are-floatovoltaics-the-future-of-solar-power/96679766  (02 Jan. 2023)

SAND MINING

Jammu & Kashmir Illegal mining devastates fragile river ecosystem Illegal mining is fast silting up Hokersar wetland as Doodh Ganga passes through this wetland, which is a designated Ramsar site. Flow of silt has also converted a vast chunk of Hokersar wetland into marsh, disturbing the habitat of lakhs of migratory birds. The Wildlife Department last year even shot a letter to District Mineral Officer Budgam to stop illegal mining in Doodh Ganga but the Mining department failed to act.

Bhat said on an average a riverbed mineral block is auctioned for mere Rs 1.30 crores for five years. “The contractors want to earn crores in months. They are openly involved in unfair trade by excavating minerals at nighttime, using JCBs, and selling material at exorbitant rates. The idea behind allocation of these contracts was to give employment to local people. This is mentioned in Mining Rules 2016 and SEIAA guidelines as well, but it is simply a loot and plunder,” Bhat said.

All rivers and streams have a stable hydraulic regime, which governs course and parameters such as bed slope, width, depth of flow. Any mining of minor minerals boulder, gravel and sand has to be done in consideration of the entire regime of the river and its regenerative capacity of minor minerals. “This is to be based on EIA to avoid any damage to aquatic ecology of the stream and its biotic life. If this is not done in above consideration it will adversely affect the hydraulic parameters and aquatic ecology of the river or stream which can cause erosion of sides during floods and even result in changing the course of river at the cost of flooding living habitats on its banks or even washing away the same which come in the alignment of redefined course,” said Ajaz Rasool, a hydraulic engineer and environmentalist. https://www.greaterkashmir.com/todays-paper/front-page/illegal-riverbed-mining-devastates-kashmirs-fragile-river-ecosystem  (05 Jan. 2023)

Jharkhand Sand mafia attacks police, tries to run them over with tractor The sand mafia attacked police officers when they tried to prevent the illegal mining of sand from Barakar river in Hazaribagh district. BDO-CO Prem Chand Sinha, ASI Ram Mahato and the police force were assaulted and attempted to be run over with a tractor. A police officer’s gun was snatched and thrown into the river, which was later recovered. In connection with the incident, Sinha lodged an FIR against 100 unidentified people involved in illegal sand mining and seven named accused in the Chauparan police station. Sinha alleged that the attackers snatched his gold chain, ring and Rs 4,000. He was also threatened he would be killed if he attempted to thwart sand mining. The accused who were named include Dwarika Mahato, Sanjay Yadav, Vicky Yadav, Vinod Yadav, Mahendra Saav, Ravindra Rana and Indradev Yadav.

Four such attacks on the police by the sand mafia have come to light in the state within the last two months. On December 24, a Hyva truck carrying sand illegally tried to run over SDPO Manish Chandra Lal and his team in Sisai police station area of Gumla. The truck hit Lal’s car injuring the policemen present in the vehicle. On December 12, sand smugglers attacked Officer In-charge Hiralal Tubid and other policemen in Budhai police station area of Deoghar district. The smugglers attacked the team when they seized a sand-laden tractor near Jagdishpur rail gate and Sugapahari rail gate. The two accused, identified as Sachin Yadav and Mehboob Khan, were arrested later. Earlier on November 12, the mafia tried to mow down SDO Alok Kumar and Circle Officer (CO) Nidhi Rajwar when they asked the truck driver to stop for checking at a highway in Bishunpura in Garhwa district. The accused driver was later arrested near Nagar Untari HP Petrol Pump. https://argusnews.in/article/national/jkhand-sand-mafia-attacks-police-tries-to-run-them-over-with-tractor  (05 Jan. 2023)

Uttar Pradesh Woman killed after truck rams into her scooter A tragic incident occurred in Banda district on Wednesday (Jan. 04) when a lady government officer died on the spot after her two-wheeler vehicle was hit by a truck. The truck, which was loaded with sand, reportedly dragged her scooter for about 500 meters before the fire started. Despite efforts to extinguish the flames, the woman’s body was severely burned. https://zeenews.india.com/india/after-kanjawhala-case-up-woman-killed-after-truck-rams-into-her-scooter-drags-it-for-500-metres-2557763.html  (05 Jan. 2023) This painful accident took place on Mawai bypass of Banda city Kotwali area, where at 7:30 pm Pushpa Devi, a resident of Lucknow, who was posted as a clerk in Chaudhary Charan Singh Agricultural University located on Mawai bypass, was out to pick up some vegetables, when a high-speed dumper coming from behind reached the bypass and trampled the scooty while overtaking. During this accident, the scooty rider got stuck in the wheel of the truck along with the scooty and got dragged for about 3.5 km. https://apnlive.com/india-news/up-banda-truck-drags-woman-scooty/  (05 Jan. 2023)

बांदा शनिवार (Dec. 10) तड़के शहर से करीब चार किलोमीटर दूर बांदा-टांडा हाईवे में फोरलेन बाईपास चौराहे पर गिट्टी भरा डंपर और बालू भरा ट्रक टकरा गए। डंपर ट्रक से टकराकर गड्ढे में जा घुसा। हाई मास्क खंभा भी क्षतिग्रस्त हो गया। दोनों वाहनों के चालक और क्लीनर को मामूली चोटें आईं। कुछ देर बाद पहुंच वाहन स्वामियों ने क्रेन की मदद से क्षतिग्रस्त डंपर और ट्रक को किनारे किया। इसके बाद आवागमन बहाल हो सका। उधर, खंभा टूटने से बाईपास समेत तिंदवारी रोड की लगभग पांच घंटे बिजली बाधित रही। https://www.amarujala.com/uttar-pradesh/banda/banda-dumper-and-truck-collided-in-fog-highway-stalled-for-two-hours-banda-news-knp7328012107  (10 Dec. 2022)

बांदा सोमवार (Nov. 14) की सुबह करीब आठ बजे मर्का थाना क्षेत्र के औगासी गांव निवासी शकीला (30) पत्नी रवि निषाद दो साल के बेटे अंशू को लेकर हैंडपंप से पानी भरने गई थी। बेटे को हैंडपंप के पास बने मंदिर के चबूतरे पर बैठाकर पानी भर रही थी। तभी बस्ती के अंदर से फतेहपुर की ओर जा रहा बालू से भरा ओवरलोड ट्रक पुल पर चढ़ने के लिए सामने से आ रहे ट्रक को साइड देने में गड्ढे में उतरकर पलट गया। इससे अंशु, सुरतिया (70), बेटा गुलाब (48), बाइक से फेरी लगाने वाला मनीष (25) निवासी मंठा, विद्या देवी (45) निवासी औगासी बालू में दब गए। मंदिर और करीब में बना शौचालय भी क्षतिग्रस्त हो गया। घायलों को निकालकर एंबुलेंस से सीएचसी बबेरू पहुंचाया। यहां अंशु को डॉक्टर ने मृत घोषित कर दिया।

औगासी घाट पर छह माह पहले नवनिर्मित पुल से वाहनों का आवागमन शुरू हो चुका है। हालांकि पुल का अब तक उद्घाटन भी नहीं हुआ है। यहां से वाहन मध्य प्रदेश समेत फतेहपुर, कानपुर, लखनऊ व इलाहाबाद जाते हैं। पुल से दिन-रात बालू भरे ओवरलोड ट्रकों का निकलना जारी है। कुछ ट्रक बस्ती के अंदर होकर गुजरते हैं, जिससे यह हादसा हुआ है। सपा विधायक विशंभर सिंह यादव ने कहा कि औगासी के नवनिर्मित पुल का अब तक लोकार्पण भी नहीं किया गया है। शासन-प्रशासन की अनदेखी से बालू से भरे ओवरलोड ट्रकों आवाजाही शुरू हो गई है। इससे आए दिन दुर्घटनाएं हो रहीं हैं। ओवरलोडिंग इन घटनाओं के लिए जिम्मेदार है। ओवरलोडिंग से बस्ती के लोगों को खतरा है। https://www.amarujala.com/uttar-pradesh/banda/banda-overloaded-truck-full-of-sand-overturns-innocent-killed-four-injured-banda-news-knp7283004197  (14 Nov. 2022)

बांदा जिले के नरैनी थाना क्षेत्र में सुबह साइकिल से टहलने निकले बुजुर्ग को बालू भरने जा रहे ट्रक ने कुचल दिया। हादसे में उनकी मौके पर ही मौत हो गई। मोहल्लावासियों ने ट्रक चालक को पकड़कर पुलिस के हवाले कर दिया। कस्बा के कृष्णा नगर अतर्रा मार्ग निवासी फूलचंद हलवाई (72) बुधवार सुबह करीब छह बजे साइकिल से अतर्रा मार्ग पर मॉर्निंग वॉक करने निकले थे।

वह सीताराम समर्पण महाविद्यालय के सामने बायीं पटरी पर जा रहे थे। इसी दौरान सामने से आए तेज रफ्तार ट्रक ने कुचल दिया। उनकी घटना स्थल पर मौत हो गई। घटना की जानकारी पर पहुंचे परिजनों ने कोतवाली पुलिस को सूचना दी। पुलिस ने शव पोस्टमार्टम के लिए भेज दिया। मृतक के बड़े बेटे राधेश्याम ने बताया कि पिता हथठेलिया में खाने पीने का सामान बेचकर परिवार को भरण पोषण करते थे। पैरों में चलने की समस्या के कारण रोज सुबह साइकिल से घूमने जाते थे। मृतक के दो बेटे हैं। https://www.amarujala.com/uttar-pradesh/kanpur/road-accident-in-banda-up-one-died  (12 Oct. 2022)

Rajasthan Modi Illakhar dam in danger due to illegal mining https://www.bhaskar.com/local/rajasthan/jhunjhunu/khetari/news/due-to-mining-the-existence-of-modi-elakhar-dam-which-quenches-the-thirst-of-a-dozen-villages-is-in-danger-save-dam-sangharsh-samiti-held-a-meeting-and-warned-of-agitation-130750935.html  (02 Jan. 2022) There was a news report on illegal mining threat to the same dam about two years back: https://www.bhaskar.com/local/rajasthan/sikar/jhunjhunu/news/cmo-order-to-probe-mining-in-modi-ilakhar-dam-area-again-128229032.html 

Tamil Nadu Sand quarrying near Kallanai suspended A day after the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court granted an interim injunction, restraining sand quarrying near Kallanai, (Grand Anicut), the Water Resources Department (WRD) (sand mining) suspended the quarrying operation in Kilikoodu in Tiruchi district and Koviladi in Thanjavur district on Thursday (Jan. 05). No outsiders were allowed to go near the quarry site at Kilikoodu by the ‘personnel’ employed by the private company, which carries out the task of extracting and transporting sand from the quarry to the neighbouring yard. However, it is said that the operation was suspended since 6 a.m.. But, machinery used to extract sand, continued to be parked near the quarry. Similarly, a large number tipper lorries were seen near the yard.

A view of the sand quarry near Kilikoodu in Tiruchi. | Photo Credit: M. Srinath

While welcoming the High Court order, V. Jeevakumar, a farmer of Boothalur near Kallanai, said that both Koviladi and Kilikoodu were very close to Kallanai. The workers employed for the sand extraction did not have adequate knowledge on the possible impact of collecting sand near Kallanai. Also, the public were kept in the dark over the quantum of sand extracted since the opening of quarries. “We do not know how the WRD officials chose to allow quarrying near the historic Kallanai. The impact of quarrying should be studied immediately,” Mr. Jeevakumar says. He said that except for the lorry and truck drivers, it was not easy for outsiders and environmentalists to gain access to the quarry site. R. S. Mugilan of the Cauvery Protection Movement said that an Advocate Commissioner appointed by the High Court visited Kilikoodu in 2017 and documented indiscriminate sand mining activities. Quarrying should not have been permitted near Kallanai, he charged. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/sand-quarrying-near-kallanai-suspended/article66342613.ece  (06 Jan. 2023)

Telangana BJP leader held for sand mining in Manair river area BJP leader Gottimukkula Suresh Reddy was taken into custody on Thursday (Dec. 30), for carrying out ‘sand mining’ in a restricted area of Manair. According to the police, NGT order states that the extraction of sand from the Manair river has been prohibited without getting environmental clearance. The NGT earlier had asked the Telangana Mineral Development Corporation (TMDC) to restrict sand extraction in the river after a group of concerned citizens, under the banner of Manair Parirakshana Samithi fought to protect the environment in the surrounding area of the Manair river.

Samithi president Karunakar Reddy earlier called upon villagers to take part in the Deeksha to prevent illegal extraction of sand in Odella Mandal. When the authorities failed to implement the NGT order, and the extraction of sand continued unabated, Manair Parirakshna Samithi organised a sit-in for Deeksha. However, the police managed to reach the spot and stopped the mining, took the leader under custody, and shifted him to Sultanabad police station.

In June 2022, sand contractors in Karimnagar were illegally excavating sand from canals, rivers, and streams in the area by exerting political pressure and colluding with local revenue and police authorities. The illegal mining ultimately led to a huge loss to the government exchequer and the pits in the ground created by excessive mining are dangerous to the public’s safety with school-going children losing their lives while trying to swim in the pits of water. The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) then ordered an enforcement officer to enquire into the illegal sand mining issue in the district. https://www.siasat.com/telangana-bjp-leader-held-for-sand-mining-in-manair-river-area-2491420/  (30 Dec. 2022)

Odisha Make adverse entries in DM’s ACR  The NGT has indicted the collector and district magistrate (Dhenkanal) for shielding a private party involved in illegal mining from Gadanala black stone quarry under Hindol tehsil and transporting the minor mineral by creating a road through a village forest. The unauthorised operations resulted in the uprooting of many valuable tree species such as Char, Sal, Asan, Mahua, Tela, Kuruma, Karada, Gohira, Kendu and other miscellaneous trees. In an affidavit filed on January 3, 2023, the collector and district magistrate of Dhenkanal had stated that no forest land has been cleared and no trees have been cut and there is no material with the collector to initiate any action against the private party. Besides, the forest land has not been used by the private party for the transportation of minor minerals. Therefore, no criminal action has been initiated against him.

But the Bench of Justice B Amit Sthalekar (Judicial Member) and A Senthil Ven (Expert Member) observed that the claims made in the affidavit were “in sharp contrast to the affidavit filed earlier by the collector and district magistrate as well as the how cause notice issued by the tehsildar (Hindol)” to the private party. “This clearly shows the complicity of the collector and district magistrate, Dhenkanal, with the illegal acts of Soumya Ranjan Rout (private party), with the deliberate intent to shield him,” the bench observed in its final judgment on Wednesday (Jan. 04).

Accordingly, the bench ordered, “We, therefore, direct adverse entries to be made in the ACR of the collector and district magistrate, Dhenkanal. A copy of this order shall be placed before the chief secretary, Government of Odisha, for necessary action.” The bench further directed restoration of the 660 feet of Gramya Jungle Road in Kadalipal-Mouza, Tehsil-Hindol “to its original form by the collector and district magistrate, Dhenkanal and divisional forest officer, Dhenkanal, within further two months.” https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2023/jan/08/make-adverse-entries-in-dms-acr-national-green-tribunal-to-odisha-state-2535817.html  (08 Jan. 2023)

Karnataka Stone crushers withdraw strike The Federation of Karnataka Quarry and Stone Crushers Owners Association has withdrawn the indefinite strike it had been on since December 21. This comes after CM Basavaraj Bommai chaired a meeting with stone crusher owners in the presence of other Ministers concerned on Friday (Jan. 06) evening. Stone crushers will resume operations from Saturday (Jan. 07). https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/stone-crushers-withdraw-strike/article66347698.ece  (06 Jan. 2023) The agitation by owners of quarries and stone crushing units has hit development works worth around Rs 1,749 crore in Bengaluru. Asphalting of 477 km of roads, underpass, flyover, junction improvement and other projects where jelly stones and concrete are required have stalled as the material is not being supplied since December 22 when the strike began. https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/bengaluru/2023/jan/07/quarry-strike-hits-infra-works-worth-rs-17k-crore-2535499.html  (07 Jan. 2023)

Quarry owners crushed by royalty With no positive response from the state government, Bangalore Urban Stone Crushers & Quarry Owners Association has decided to continue their on-going agitation. The owners of stone crushers and quarries have been demanding the state cancel its decision regarding collecting excess royalty. President of the association, D Siddaraju, told Bangalore Mirror that the state government is not interested in meeting their demands. “The state government is demanding us to pay excess royalty due to a lack of proper understanding. The minister for mines has been changed thrice in five years. The officials of the mines department were also not spared from being transferred,’’ said Siddaraju. It may be recalled that stone crushers and quarry owners staged a protest against the state government during the assembly session in Belagavi. Minister for mines, Halappa Achar, met the protestors and assured them that he would take up their demands with the government. https://bangaloremirror.indiatimes.com/bangalore/others/quarry-owners-crushed-by-royalty/articleshow/96719849.cms  (04 Jan. 2023)

WETLANDS, LAKES, WATER BODIES

India lost 2 out of 5 wetlands in last 3 decades: Experts Nearly two of every five wetlands in India have lost their natural existence in the last 30 years while 40%of water bodies have lost quality for survival of the aquatic animals. India presently has around 2.2 lakh big wetlands covering over 2.2 hectares and 5.5 lakh smaller ones. Of these, nearly 60,000 big wetlands are situated inside protected forest areas. Of the remaining, conservation work has been carried out on 150 to 200 water bodies so far. There is a need to understand that when a wetland is destroyed, the whole system begins to collapse. It is essential to secure existing wetlands under provisions of law and impose total prohibition on the alteration of the natural inflow and outflow of water bodies. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bareilly/india-lost-2-out-of-5-wetlands-in-last-3-decades-say-experts/articleshow/96839492.cms  (09 Jan. 2023)

Tamil Nadu Alien mussel species invade Ennore wetlands Eleven of 52 fishing sites in Ennore have been infested by an alien mussel species, wiping out valuable fisher resources like locally prevalent yellow clams (manja matti) and green mussels (pachai aazhi). Identified as ‘Mytella strigata’ or Charru mussels native to South America the mussels threaten to spread their tentacles into the ecologically sensitive Pulicat lake, which attracts migratory birds annually.

Fisherman and principal author of a study on the species, S Kumaresan from Kattukuppam on Tuesday (Dec. 27) petitioned the authority calling for action.  Around two decades ago, local fishers spotted the species on the Ennore wetlands, found the study by Kumaresan, Ennore fishers, and environmentalists associated with the Save Ennore Creek Campaign. The mussels have now spread and carpeted over 6 km of the river bed, preventing prawns from grazing or burying themselves in the river sediment.

Fishers and activists suspect unchecked discharge of ballast waters from ships visiting the Kattupalli ports may have resulted in the spread. Responding to this allegation, Tamil Nadu State Wetland Authority Deepak Srivastava said the wetland catchment and drainage system need to be studied to fix accountability. “An integrated management plan will be prepared to address the livelihood loss.”

A few years ago, Kerala too reported damage due to the spread of this species. Surveys found the presence of the Charru mussel in the state’s backwaters, including Kadinamkulam, Paravur, and Ponnani. Gradually, Ashtamudi Lake a Ramsar site in Kollam was deemed the worst hit. Here, the mussel replaced the Asian green mussel and the oyster ‘Magallana bilineata’. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2022/dec/28/alien-mussel-species-invade-ennore-wetlands-fishers-livelihood-on-line-in-tamil-nadu-2532387.html  (28 Dec. 2022)

Bihar Govt pitches 5 major wetlands for Ramsar tag The government has decided to claim the Ramsar site status for five major wetlands in the state, a top official said on Friday (Jan. 06). Arvind Chaudhary, principal secretary, department of environment, forest and climate change (DoEFCC), said the five wetlands, whose proposals have been finalised for sending to the union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) for further processes, are Kusheshwar Asthan in Darbhanga, Tal Baraila in Vaishali, Gogabil in Katihar, Nagi and Nakati dams in Jamui.

Principal chief conservator of forest (climate change and wetlands) N Jawaharbabu said the DoFECC had already launched the process of preparing brief documents with details of core zone, buffer zones and zone of influence of as many as 28 major wetlands in the country. The DoEFCC is carrying out survey of perennially waterlogged areas to notify them as designated wetlands.

Baraila lake in Vaishali is spread in over 1204 hectares, while Kusheshwar Asthan wetland covers an area of 863 hectare. Gogabil is a natural waterlogged area of 137 hectares in Katihar, while Nakati and Nagi dams in Jamui are spread on 333 and 192 hectares. Currently, Bihar has only one Ramsar site, Kabar Jheel in Begusarai, which was declared thus in August 2020.

The department has also proposed to set up a research and training centre for conservation and management of notified wetlands, which would in turn be developed for the purpose of ecotourism. Kumar Deepak, a wetland management expert, said that conservation of wetlands are important in keeping with the state government’s plan of making Bihar carbon neutral by 2040. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/patna-news/bihar-pitches-five-major-wetlands-for-ramsar-tag-101673021345407.html  (06 Jan. 2023)

Jammu & Kashmir Illegal mining causing siltation in Hokesar wetlands Illegal mining is fast silting up Hokersar wetland as Doodh Ganga passes through this wetland, which is a designated Ramsar site. Flow of silt has also converted a vast chunk of Hokersar wetland into marsh, disturbing the habitat of lakhs of migratory birds. The Wildlife Department last year even shot a letter to District Mineral Officer Budgam to stop illegal mining in Doodh Ganga but the Mining department failed to act. https://www.greaterkashmir.com/todays-paper/front-page/illegal-riverbed-mining-devastates-kashmirs-fragile-river-ecosystem  (05 Jan. 2023)

WATER OPTIONS

Bengaluru Million Wells The Million Wells campaign is striving to rejuvenate Bengaluru’s groundwater table while providing a livelihood to the Mannu Vaddar well-digging community

Fourteen years ago, S. Vishwanath was getting on his motorcycle somewhere in south Bengaluru when a man tapped him on the shoulder, asking if he wanted a well. That’s right, a water well. A rainwater harvesting enthusiast, Vishwanath was nonetheless flabbergasted by the random question. In the conversation that ensued, he started to learn of the numerous open wells in Bengaluru up until the mid-1980s when borewells began to take over. And how the Mannu Vaddar community that made a living from digging these open wells was gradually finding itself out of work. The idea of a campaign to dig a million wells for Bengaluru was thus born. https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/cover-story/story/20230116-million-wells-for-bengaluru-well-worth-it-2318283-2023-01-06  (06 Jan. 2023)

Karnataka ESG fights for green, social causes Well deserved recognition to great work of ESG over the years and decades. Environment Support Group has been working for the rights of marginalised communities, including ‘pourakarmikas’ in Karnataka (workers involved in cleaning public spaces) and street vendors, and protecting water bodies, etc. After the organisation was formally registered as a Public Charitable Trust in 1998, it worked among a huge spectrum of communities spread across Dandeli in Karnataka to Loktak in Manipur, from Odisha to Kerala. The group struggled to secure the rights of marginalised communities, including ‘pourakarmikas’ in Karnataka (workers involved in cleaning public spaces) and street vendors, protect and rehabilitate water bodies, etc.

Over the past many years, ESG has achieved major milestones in conserving water, addressing issues of waste management, and arguing for the rights of pourakarmikas or safai karamcharis in Bengaluru. Elaborating on this, Saldanha says, “A significant milestone is of constructing a methodology of conserving water commons, and thus all commons, by securing path-breaking judicial directives to constitute district and municipal lake Protection committees, thus making the forum accessible to all within their districts.”

Similarly, the organisation has worked to critique environmental law and policy, be that in arguing against the dilution of progressive environmental norms and laws, or proposing deeply democratic and accountable environmental decision-making. Each and every bit of ESG’s work with communities and social and environmental justice issues is documented and shared publicly, and this has helped win the appreciation of public administration, corporations, and academia.

Saldanha also credits the judiciary for playing a remarkable role in responding to a petition by ESG where the Karnataka High Court provided a framework of decentralised governance of public water bodies. “The Karnataka High Court has played a remarkable and historic role in responding to ESG’s Lakes PIL (WP 817/2008) and provided a framework of ‘wise use’, inclusive, decentralised, governance of water commons. This resulted in the establishment of a statutory Karnataka Tank Conservation and Development Authority (KTCDA), a key regulator of water commons that is unprecedented and could serve as an example for all other regions of the world to emulate,” Saldanha says.

The court had agreed with ESG that the people and local communities must be assisted in protecting, conserving and rehabilitating lakes, tanks, raja kaluves, etc, locally, and ordered the constitution of the district or municipal lake protection committee as a remarkable outcome. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/bangalore/unsung-heroes-how-an-ngo-by-passionate-environmentalists-green-social-causes-8366899/  (07 Jan. 2023)

GROUNDWATER

Punjab Thousands gather in Zira, demand liquor plant’s closure Protesters raised a strong pitch for the closure of the ethanol plant at Mansurwala village, where thousands belonging to various farm unions and social organisations converged today (on Jan. 07) to attend the bhog of Rajvir Singh (37). He had died a few days back allegedly due to the pollution generated by the ethanol plant in Zira. They raised their voice for the cancellation of the NOC to the plant till January 15 and FIRs registered against the protesters, while demanding the registration of FIR under Section 302 of the IPC against the plant management for allegedly causing Rajvir’s death. At the same time, the protesters threatened the state government of intensifying the stir if their demands are not met.

Protesters raise slogans during the bhog of farmer Rajvir Singh at Mansurwala on Friday. The Tribune

Gurmail Singh, sarpanch of Mansurwala village, and member of “Sanjha Morcha” said due to this plant, several people had fallen ill and their cattle had died in the past. Roman Brar, another Sanjha Morcha member, said they had no faith in any kind of probe being carried out by the committees. The protesters also demanded a government job for one of the family members and financial assistance to Kuldeep Kaur, widow of deceased Rajvir Singh. Besides, they retierated their demand to register a case against the plant management, taking cognisance of his dying statement.

Meanwhile, the district administration has sent the collected samples to three labs. Sagar Setia, ADC (G), said 13 water and soil samples collected by the fact finding teams had been sent to Shri Ram Laboratory, SAI Laboratory (Patiala), and CSIR-IITR Lab (Lucknow). Meanwhile, the firearm licences of the 21 protesters, which had earlier been cancelled, have been reissued on the condition that they (protesters) will not take their firearms to the protest site. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/thousands-gather-in-zira-demand-plants-closure-468100  (07 Jan. 2022) Most of the farm leaders who took to the stage to address the gathering during the day, equated the current protest against the liquor unit with the farmers’ fight against the three contentious farm laws at Delhi borders. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chandigarh/fir-lodged-liquor-factory-owne-zira-protesters-8366509/  (07 Jan. 2023)

URBAN WATER

Bengaluru SC restores Bellandur, Varthur lakes’ pollution case to NGT Three years after the National Green tribunal (NGT) disposed of the case of pollution in Agara, Bellandur and Varthur lakes, the Supreme Court on Jan 6, 2023 has handed them back to the tribunal. In response to a petition filed by former Rajya Sabha member Kupendra Reddy, the NGT issued landmark orders, including time-bound action plans and protection of the lakes’ buffer zones, besides forming a monitoring committee. A year later, the green panel disposed of the cases, including a suo motu case it took after burning of the Bellandur Lake captured international headlines. Reddy moved the Supreme Court seeking restoration of the case, saying several issues in the petition are yet to be addressed.  https://www.deccanherald.com/city/top-bengaluru-stories/sc-restores-bengalurus-bellandur-varthur-lakes-pollution-case-to-ngt-1178688.html  (07 Jan. 2023)

BBMP to use sewage-eating plants to clean drains in K-100 project After struggling to stop sewage from entering stormwater drains (SWDs), taken up for beautification under its ambitious K-100 waterway project, the BBMP is planning to deploy an Israeli technique to sow purifying aquatic plants. Another BBMP engineer stated that the technology is environment friendly and does not use chemicals. However, the engineers noted that it would be difficult to ensure there is enough space to plant the remedial plants. So far, only 60 per cent of the work has been completed. BBMP officials have blamed the BWSSB for the delay, saying the board should stop the sewage flow to ensure the continuation of the work. BWSSB officials said they stopped 98 per cent of sewage flow and now the BBMP should manage the SWD better. The project — Bengaluru’s first effort to create a waterway — began in March 2021 and missed multiple deadlines. Officials hope to wrap it up by March 2023. https://www.deccanherald.com/city/top-bengaluru-stories/bbmp-to-use-sewage-eating-plants-to-clean-drains-in-k-100-project-1177699.html   (04 Jan. 2023)

BWSSB suspends 13 staff after Rs 7-crore water bill scam https://www.deccanherald.com/state/bwssb-suspends-13-staff-after-rs-7-crore-water-bill-scam-1177975.html  (05 Jan. 2023)

Hyderabad Disappearing lakes Like many urban cities, Hyderabad been facing the problem of fast vanishing lakes. This should not be surprising, given that many of them were small, and lost to the government’s decision to convert water bodies that were of less than 10 hectares to residential or commercial sites.

The sad state of Gopanpally Tank (Devi Kunta) – debris in the background and trash in the foreground. Pic: Nishkal Tiwari

On record, there are 162 water bodies in Hyderabad (all supposed to be of over 10 hectares). Of these, 62 are fully owned by the government, 25 are privately owned and 82 are under joint government-private ownership. Even these few lakes and tanks are under threat with the Telangana High Court, in 2021, having told the government to save them from builders and encroachers. https://citizenmatters.in/hyderabad-gopanpally-tank-devi-kunta-lakes-restoration-32293  (06 Jan. 2023)

Mumbai BMC’s desalination plant project likely to begin this year  The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) project of constructing a desalination plant is likely to begin in 2023, as the civic body aims to float tenders for the project by January-end. The plant would desalinate water from Arabian Sea making it suitable for drinking and irrigation. BMC had floated the proposal to create a desalination plant that will help supply 200 MLD of water. A provision of increasing the capacity to 400 MLD has also been kept open. The estimated construction cost is Rs 1,600 crore, with an additional Rs 1,900 crore to be spent for its operations and maintenance for 20 years. Strange for a city with over 2000 mm of annual rainfall to go for such energy and capital intensive plant that too in changing climate. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/bmcs-desalination-plant-project-likely-to-begin-this-year-8355654/  (02 Jan. 2023)

WATER POLLUTION

Rajasthan SC stays NGT order on Rs 3,000 cr fine  Supreme Court on Friday (Dec. 16) stayed the National Green Tribunal’s order directing it to pay Rs 3,000 crore as environmental compensation for alleged improper management of solid and liquid waste in the state. “The order shall not be construed as obviating the duty of the state to comply with all other directions and to report compliance to the tribunal,” it said. The state government, in its plea, sought setting aside the interim order.

In its order, the NGT had held state authorities accountable for contributing to pollution and failing in their constitutional duties.Continuing damage is required to be prevented in the future and past damage is to be restored, the green panel had said. It had determined the compensation for the gap in the treatment of liquid waste or sewage for 1,250 MLD as Rs 2,500 crore. “The total compensation under the head of the failure to scientifically manage solid waste works out to Rs 555 crores,” it had said. The NGT had said the total compensation is rounded off at Rs 3,000 crore.

The amount can be deposited by Rajasthan in a separate ring-fenced account within two months and it will be operated according to directions of the chief secretary, and utilised for restoration measures, it had said. The restoration measures concerning sewage management would include setting up sewage treatment and utilisation systems, and upgrading systems or operations of existing sewage treatment facilities to ensure utilisation of their full capacities, the tribunal had said. https://theprint.in/india/sc-stays-ngt-order-directing-rajasthan-to-pay-rs-3000-cr-as-environmental-compensation/1268573/  (16 Dec. 2022)

JJM/ RURAL WATER SUPPLY

‘People’s role key in water conservation’ Addressing the All India Annual State Ministers’ Conference on Water virtually in Bhopal, the PM said attempts by governments alone cannot make any programme successful, adding that water should be a subject of “cooperation, collaboration and coordination” among states. Stressing that maximum work under the flagship MGNREGS should be done on water, Modi called for spreading awareness among people for its conservation. He proposed that panchayats lead the Jal Jeevan Mission, and after the work is completed, they should also certify that sufficient and clean water was made available. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/pm-people-s-role-key-in-water-conservation-101672985384865.html  (08 Jan. 2022)

The PM said although rainwater harvest campaign had created the much-needed buzz “a lot remained to be done to intensify if for desired outcomes”. The PM also urged gram panchayats to prepare an action plan for the next five years where a roadmap ranging from water supply to cleanliness and waste management should be considered.

The two-day Water Vision 2047 conference being held in Bhopal from Thursday (Jan. 05) is the brainchild of Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, who said India must prepare ahead for the estimated water stress situation by 2047. The minister said the two-day national conference (Water Vision 2047) is seeing the participation of all states. Shekhawat said major solutions centred on water use efficiency in agriculture; recycling and reuse of sewage; ground water recharge activities; rainwater harvesting; and inculcation of water sensitivity in the minds of the people. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/nation/water-should-be-an-issue-of-cooperation-coordination-between-states-pm-modi-says-a-day-after-syl-stalemate-between-punjab-haryana-467614  (06 Jan. 203)

Through this Bhopal dialogue, the key takeaways include reduction in water losses during conveyance, promotion of micro-irrigation that has huge potential for regions to avail Central governments corpus fund for water use efficacy, harnessing technology to boost irrigation and water efficiency, and ensuring people’s participation, Shekhawat said. Water is an asset and the use of the terminology “waste” must be stopped as all of it is recyclable and reusable, the minister asserted. If work on water conservation and efficient utilisation is not carried out diligently, future generations may be forced to use recycled water, he added. https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/national/jal-shakti-minister-lists-water-challenges-ahead-asks-states-to-work-together-to-overcome-them/article66348957.ece  (07 Jan. 2023)

2022 year end review of Jal Shakti Ministry, Govt of India. https://pib.gov.in/PressReleseDetailm.aspx?PRID=1888318

Himachal Pradesh Pipes above ground, water freezes in Lahaul valley Water has frozen in the supply pipeline to Bari village in the Lahaul valley. Due to the negligence of the Jal Shakti Vibhag, the pipeline is above the ground. As a result, people are facing disruptions in water supply even though the district has witnessed comparatively less snowfall so far. The Jal Shakti Vibhag should find some solution to provide regular water supply in the district. —Suresh, Bari, Lahaul. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/pipes-above-ground-water-freezes-468175  (07 Jan. 2023)

WATER

Gujarat Treated water obtained from CETP attracts 18% GST: AAR The Authority for Advance Ruling (AAR) has observed that treated water obtained from the Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) attracts 18% GST. The two-member bench of Amit Kumar Mishra and Milind Kavatkar has observed that the applicant is also a common effluent treatment plant engaged in collecting, conveying, treating, and disposing of effluents from its member dyeing and bleaching units and obtaining water by the process of reverse osmosis. The applicant sought an advance ruling on the issue of whether treated water obtained from CETP will be eligible for exemption from GST by virtue of the Exemption Notification.

The applicant contended that under the GST regime, the government has clarified its intention of not levying GST on the supply of general-purpose water by way of the issuance of the CBIC Circular dated August 9, 2018. The circular clarified that the supply of drinking water for public purposes, if not supplied in sealed containers, is exempt from GST. The AAR held that the treated water is used in various industries, namely pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and the leather industry, for their manufacturing-related processes. The presence of small amounts of metal and water obtained after treatment by CETP is covered under “demineralized water.” Hence, the treated water obtained from CETP is not eligible for exemption. https://www.livelaw.in/news-updates/treated-water-obtained-cetp-attracts-gst-aar-218345   (07 Jan. 2023)

Gujarat State water supply minister Kunvarji Bavaliya said on Jan 5, 2023 that the per capita water availability in the state will be doubled in the next 25 years. Bavaliya said the present per capita availability of water in Gujarat is 850 cubic metres, which will be increased to 1,700 cubic metres by 2047. Bavaliya was participating in All India Annual States’ Ministers Conference on “Water Vision@2047” which began Bhopal. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/water-availability-to-double-in-25-years/articleshow/96779461.cms  (06 Jan. 2023)

MONSOON 2022

December 2022 India’s warmest in 122 years: IMD Rainfall over the country for December was 13.6 mm, which was 14% less than the Long Period Average (LPA) of 15.9 mm. There was an 83% rain deficiency over northwest India; 77% rain deficiency over central India; 53% rain deficiency over east and northeast India and 79% excess over peninsular India.

There was no cold wave, cold day and dense fog conditions over northern and central parts of India till December 15. A cold wave spell commenced from December 18 over northwest India (particularly Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh & Delhi and north Rajasthan) and cold days started from December 21.

Experts said such high winter temperatures in a La Nina year is unusual. “Northerlies were missing due to weak western disturbance activity. But climate change definitely has a role to play in raising average temperatures. We have now started seeing record breaking temperatures even in La Nina years,” said OP Sreejith, head, climate monitoring and prediction group, IMD, Pune.

“Yes it’s a La Nina year but Europe is experiencing a heat wave. They have recorded abnormally high temperatures. Our December data shows the same. Global warming has weakened the impact of La Nina. We need to analyse what caused the spike in temperature in December but the overall records can be linked to climate change most certainly,” said M Rajeevan, climate scientist and former secretary, ministry of earth sciences. This is the third successive year of La Niña, which is associated with cooler temperatures in the Indian subcontinent, also prevailed over the equatorial Pacific region. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/last-december-india-s-warmest-in-122-years-imd-101672856818586-amp.html  (05 Jan. 2022)

Delhi witnesses longest dry spell in winter in six years The city has witnessed a long dry spell of almost three months as rain has been missing in Delhi since October 12. India Meteorological Department (IMD) data shows that October recorded excess rain, but the last rainy day was October 11 when Safdarjung, which is the city’s base station, logged 0.4mm rainfall. Before this, the winter of 2016 saw such a prolonged dry spell. Rain is unlikely in the next seven days, said Met officials.

Rain has been missing from the city because no active western disturbance has affected the region. According to IMD, between November 1, 2022 and January 2, 2023, Safdarjung logged 0 mm rainfall. However, the normal mark during the period is 9.5mm rainfall. IMD’s data shows that October last year logged 128.6mm rainfall as against the month’s normal of 15.1mm rainfall. It recorded one heavy rain day 74.3mm rainfall and two ‘moderate’ rain days. Though the month ended with an excess rainfall of 752%, rain activity happened in the first 10 days of October. No precipitation has been reported since October 12.

No rainy day was observed in the past two months, while the long period average rainfall mark for November and December is 6mm and 8.1mm rainfall, respectively. No rain has been recorded in January so far as against the normal of 1.4mm. In contrast, December 2021 received 9.6mm rainfall. December 2020 and 2019 saw 1.8 and 33.9mm rainfall, respectively. IMD’s data shows that November in the past few years saw less precipitation as Safdarjung logged no rain in 2021 and 0.6mm rainfall in 2020. The normal mark for rainfall for the entire month for January is 21.7mm. In January, Safdarjung recorded 88.2mm rainfall in 2021 and 29.7mm in 2020. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/city-witnesses-longest-dry-spell-in-winter-in-six-years/articleshow/96719781.cms  (04 Jan. 2023)

URBAN FLOOD

Chennai Civic body to build 47 ‘sponge parks’ to solve street flooding issue Work order for five such parks has been issued and another 42 will be tendered out this month. The project will include construction of mini ponds and trenches at the parks. The trenches will carry water from roads and storm water drains into the ponds. Corporation chief engineer S Rajendiran said they wanted to find solutions for not just floods but also droughts.

An engineer in-charge of the work said the pond will be surrounded by a wall and stone pitching along with a fencing for safety. Inlets into the ponds from the storm water drains, roads and sides of the parks and outlet chambers will also be set up for removing excess water. Rainwater harvesting structures with well rings inside the ponds to allow ground water percolation, tree plantation around the ponds, necessary lighting and benches around the ponds will also be done, the official said.

Experts said while the intention is good, by adding mini ponds alone, these parks cannot be called as ‘sponge parks’. The civic body engineers need to study the entire drainage pattern of the area to make it a holistic solution. Manushi Jain, director of Sponge Collaborative, an expert in sponge parks said, “There are three layers – green, blue and social layer making it beneficial at several levels. Sponge parks should go beyond flood mitigation and bring in communities, creating a space for them using resilient infrastructure. It requires more green cover that will bring in a lot of biodiversity as well.” Residents suggested SWD connections may lead to illegal sewage entering the ponds and that needs to be stopped unless the parks have a STP. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/chennai-to-get-47-sponge-parks-to-solve-street-flooding-issue/articleshow/96210795.cms  (14 Dec. 2022)

ENERGY OPTIONS

Solar sector seemingly headed for a disaster in second half of FY23 Power India’s solar energy sector is facing a disaster as it is expected to be headed for a disaster in the second half of 2022-23 as there has been no procurement of solar modules, says Parag Sharma of O2 Power.

– To reach 280 GW by 2030, India should add 27 GW per year on an average considering 63 MW by the end of 2022, our highest ever annual capacity addition has been about half of that 27 GW, currently we are much below that, said Satya Galla, senior consultant at Stockholm-based engineering, design, and advisory services company AFRY. He said we have lessons to learn in terms of not achieving the target of 100 GW by 2022. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/renewable/indias-solar-sector-headed-for-a-disaster-in-second-half-of-fy23-parag-sharma-ceo-o2-power/96678366  (03 Jan. 2023)

ENVIRONMENT GOVERNANCE

Gujarat Fresh trouble for chemical plant After a central government panel stalled setting up of a soda ash manufacturing plant in Gujarat over inadequacies in the environmental clearance process, the National Accreditation Board for Education and Training (NABET) has now found the agency that conducted an environmental impact study for the project wasn’t licensed to do so. The NABET has suspended the project from securing environmental clearance till June.

The Gujarat Heavy Chemicals Limited (GHCL) — an arm of the Dalmia Group — seeks to set up the soda ash manufacturing unit in Bada village of Mandvi taluk, off the coast of Kachchh. Soda ash is commonly used in manufacturing detergents, glass, and ceramics.

NABET — one of the statutory boards under Quality Council of India — provides accreditation to the agencies that wish to undertake Environment Impact Assessment (EIA). Residents of Bada village and environmental activists have opposed the project because of fears of pollution and contamination in an area that is known to be a nesting site for endangered turtles. The project requires EIAs for both terrestrial and marine ecosystems. https://theprint.in/environment/environmental-clearance-for-gujarat-chemical-plant-suspended-for-6-months-over-unlicensed-study/1299587/  (06 Jan. 2023)

CLIMATE CHANGE

Report One of climate change’s great mysteries is finally being solved Scientist have long known that depending on how clouds respond to warming temperatures, the world could become even warmer or a little bit cooler. They just haven’t known which. But in the past few years, scientists have begun to nail down exactly how clouds will change shape and location in the rapidly warming world. The result is good news for science — but not good news for humanity. https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2022/12/12/climate-change-clouds-equilibrium-sensitivity/  (12 Dec. 2022)

CoP 15 Nations adopt GBF amid concerns over watered-down targets The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), with four goals and 23 action-oriented targets, comes after two weeks of intense negotiations at COP15, in Montreal, Canada. It replaces the Aichi Biodiversity Targets set in 2010. Among the 2030 goals, countries pledged to protect at least 30 percent of terrestrial and marine areas, recognising indigenous and traditional territories. Concerns have been raised about the ambitions of the framework with many criticising the agreement for vague, watered-down targets, many of which are not quantitative. https://india.mongabay.com/2022/12/nations-adopt-global-biodiversity-framework-amid-concerns-over-watered-down-targets/  (20 Dec. 2022)  

SOUTH ASIA

India-China Hegemony on Brahmaputra In a recent study European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS), a Netherlands-based think-tank said that China is making a strategy to dominate on Bhraputra basin. [Lot of wrong statements in this MINT report.] https://www.livemint.com/news/india/india-china-contest-for-hegemony-on-brahmaputra-beijing-makes-drought-plan-11672808416887.html  (04 Jan. 2023)

India-Bangladesh Better management of shared waterways required India & Bangladesh signed a protocol in 1972 for using waterways through 11 different routes to carry goods. Only three of the designated 11 routes are in regular use at present, as most of the routes lack depth for the navigability of large vessels.

Routes identified in the protocol 1 Ghorashal, Bangladesh, to Bandel, West Bengal 2 Mongla, Bangladesh, to Haldia, West Bengal 3 Mongla, Bangladesh, via Narayanganj to Karimganj, Assam 4 Sirajganj, Bangladesh, to Pandu, Assam 5 Ashuganj, Bangladesh, to Silghat, Assam 6 Chilmari, Bangladesh, to Dhubri, Assam 7 Rajshahi, Bangladesh, to Dhulian, West Bengal 8 Sultanganj, Bangladesh, to Maia, West Bengal 9 Chilmari, Bangladesh, to Kolaghat, Assam 10 Daudkandi, Bangladesh, to Sonamura, West Bengal 11 Bahadurabad, Bangladesh, to Jogighopa, Assam (Source: Mongabay India.)

The Bangladesh government recently awarded a $71 million contract to a Chinese company to dredge rivers as part of a World Bank-financed project to boost transport routes between mainland India and the northeastern states via Bangladesh. Experts suggest that, besides taking on extensive dredging work, the rivers need proper management like maintenance of channels and embankment protection, otherwise silt will close the channels in a short time. https://india.mongabay.com/2023/01/india-bangladesh-could-economically-benefit-from-better-management-of-shared-waterways/  (05 Jan. 2023)

THE REST OF THE WORLD

USA Giver rivers more rooms to flood safety: Experts As global warming brings more intense rainfall, experts say the state needs to give rivers more room to flood safely.

– As California battles a second week of lashing rain and snow that have flooded communities, broken levees and toppled power lines, the state is facing questions about whether its approach to handling crippling storms is suited to 21st-century climate threats. For decades, federal and state planners built dams and levees in California to store water and keep it at bay. But as climate change increases the risk of stronger and more destructive storms — like the one that was battering Northern California on Jan 4, 2023 — experts and some policymakers are urging another approach: giving rivers room to overflow.

– “You’ve got to find the room, you’ve got to find the support, and you’ve got to fund it,” said Jane Dolan, president of the Central Valley Flood Protection Board, the state agency that oversees flood management in California’s vast agricultural heartland.

– Relying heavily on levees carries another type of cost, according to Joshua Viers, a watershed scientist at the University of California, Merced. By seeking to tame its rivers, California has reduced the amount of water reaching its underground aquifers — the same aquifers that farmers and towns are increasingly turning to during droughts. The groundwater that feeds California’s drinking wells and many of its irrigation pumps is replenished when surface water seeps through the soil. By constraining the width of rivers, levees impede that process, limiting the amount of ground that water can reach and filter through. “We’ve cut off the very mechanism by which groundwater recharge used to happen,” Dr. Viers said. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/05/climate/california-floods-drought-preparedness.html  (05 Jan. 2023)

Brazil Indigenous people, researchers to monitor impacts of Belo Monte dam Monitoring impact of Belo Monte Hydropower project in Amazon basin in Brazil: “I think things will get better for Indigenous peoples during this (Lula Govt that has taken over in late 2022) government and maybe more water will be released to the Big Bend,” Josiel says. “That is what I hope for.”


Pablo Juruna (right) and his cousin Thalisson Juruna release two yellow-headed side-neck turtles (Podocnemis unifilis) they found trapped in rocks on the banks of the Xingu River.DADO GALDIERI/HILAEA MEDIA

– Says Andre Sawakuchi, a geologist at the University of São Paulo’s main campus who is involved in the effort with the Juruna. “Igapós are forests inside the river. If you lose them, you cannot just replant. You cannot replant a river.”

– But he remains concerned about the future, and not just for his people. There are about 150 other dams in the Amazon basin already, and 350 more are planned—including another on the Xingu, upstream from Belo Monte. https://www.science.org/content/article/river-s-pulse-indigenous-people-and-scientists-unite-track-giant-dam-s-environmental 

Africa Energy crisis at the world’s largest dam The water level at Kariba Dam the world’s largest man-made dam — which generates hydroelectric power for millions of people in Zambia and Zimbabwe — has dropped to a record low, forcing local energy companies to make drastic cuts. The cuts mean no electricity for large  portions of the day in these countries, adversely affecting the region’s economy and way of life for its residents.

Because of a lack of rainfall and low inflow from the upstream portion of the Zambezi river and its tributaries, Lake Kariba’s water level fell below 1 percent of capacity on Dec. 28, compared with 20 percent one year earlier, according to data from the Zambezi River Authority. The Kariba dam generally produces 1,080 megawatts of electricity output for Zambia and 1,050 megawatts to Zimbabwe. Now, both countries are limited to less than 400 megawatts.

“[T]he drying up of the Kariba reservoir has devastating consequences not only for electricity generation and regional water security, but also because it undercuts traditional strategies in Zambia and Zimbabwe for adapting to climate variability,” Verhoeven wrote. The dam, which is 420 feet tall and 1,900 feet across and built in the 1950s, may get a boost if the rainy season — which typically extends into March — delivers. However, rains have proved unreliable in recent years. https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2023/01/04/kariba-dam-record-low-power-cuts/   (04 Jan. 2023)

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

Also see: DRP News Bulletin 02 Jan 2023 & DRP News Bulletin 26 Dec. 2022  

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

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