DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 230123: Welcome decision of FAC to deny clearance to Etalin HEP

(Feature Image:- Upper Dibang Valley District, Arunachal Pradesh, India (Source: Wikipedia Commons/IWP)

It’s rather rare that we get a hydropower project related decision from official decision makers that can be welcomed. It has happened this week when the MoEF’s (Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change) Forest Advisory Committee declined to give forest clearance to the controversial 3097 MW Etalin Hydropower Project in Dibang sub basin of Brahmaputra basin in Arunachal Pradesh and North East India. The project was under consideration for this clearance since 2014 and finally in the meeting on Dec 27, 2022, FAC conveyed that the current proposal cannot be considered for the clearance and revised proposal may be submitted. It is not a blanket rejection of the project, but considering the history of consideration of this project in FAC, it is closest we can come to that.

It is also welcome to know that the FAC has also looked at the poor track record of compliance of conditions of earlier forest clearances for the hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh among the many reasons why the project is rejected in current form. Arunachal Pradesh may do well to improve its track record before applying for forest clearance to any new projects in the state.

This decision is also a lesson for the MoEF’s Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects and also for MoEF itself for not even looking at the track record of compliance of the conditions of environment clearances that the EAC and MoEF give to the river valley and hydropower projects. They also never look at the implementation of the Environment Management Plans. Same is the case with the MoEF’s National Board of Wildlife.

Even FAC, should have shown the same forthrightness in rejecting the forest clearance to the Ken Betwa Hydropower project after noting in the minutes of its March 2017 meeting where they note that it would have been best if the project is not accorded forest clearance and yet they go on to accord the forest clearance, through under conditions that the project developer have not been able to implement so far. One only hopes the FAC does not dilute any of those conditions. After all, the impact of massive deforestation planned for the Ken Betwa project has absolutely no justification and the mindless project need to be scrapped.

One direct fall of the Etalin decision of the FAC is that the MoEF should also cancel the Environment clearance given to the project and ask the project to apply for fresh TOR if they still want to go ahead. Similarly, the shoddy cumulative impact assessment cum carrying capacity study of the Dibang River Basin submitted in July 2016 should be cancelled (FAC should have reviewed that study) and a fresh study should be commissioned. One hopes these direct fall outs of the FAC’s Etalin decisions are taken to logical conclusion.

MoEF Relevant decisions of the minutes of the FAC meeting held on Dec 27, 2022:– Etalin Hydropower project: “FAC opined that the instant proposal cannot be considered in the present form and the revised proposal may be submitted for further consideration by the State Government.” https://forestsclearance.nic.in/writereaddata/FAC_Minutes/11116124512161MoMofFACheldon27-12-22(1).pdf

Arunachal Pradesh Temporary relief as plan for Etalin hydel in junked The South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) had written to the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) detailing geological and seismic risks and threats to biodiversity in 2015 — when appraisals to grant environmental clearance (EC) to the project were underway.

– The project has not been scrapped entirely, pointed out Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator, SANDRP. “The FAC has said that project proponents have to resubmit the form. The current form was submitted in 2014. It is now almost nine years. So the proponents have to resubmit the application for forest clearance,” he said. So the government is not saying that the project developers have to reformulate the plan. It is just that the forest application has to be resent in a new form, he added. “It is a temporary respite for the country. I hope it remains that way. But that is not the situation as of now,” Thakkar said. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/environment/temporary-relief-as-plan-for-etalin-hydel-in-arunachal-junked-87197  (18 Jan. 2023)

FAC said the Etalin proposal cannot be considered in its present form and a revised proposal may be submitted for further consideration. FAC said in its December 27 meeting, the minutes of which were published on Monday, that the present proposal faces a large number of representations voicing concerns against the project. The original proposal was sent by Arunachal Pradesh back in 2014 and it is imperative to review the facts and figures presented by the state government especially with regard to the number of trees required to be felled, FAC observed.

– “Our concerns remain the same. We believe this dam, if built, will affect our ecology and culture. Why do we need more dams. Already some construction work related to Dibang Multipurpose Project is causing havoc. We should be very careful,” said Anoko Mega, environmentalist and member of Idu Mishmi community.

– The minutes also pointed to Arunachal’s “poor compliance” in meeting “conditions stipulated by FAC in the approval accorded for the earlier projects”.

– “FAC took note of the submission made by the State Nodal Officer that there are a lot of representations objecting to the present proposal and with regard to already approved projects as well. Due to this, already approved projects have not yet started and certain projects are not yet being completed. In view of the above, the FAC requested the State Govt. to review the status of all approved projects (operationalization/ execution of the projects, commencing and completion of the project) and submit a status report to this Ministry at the earliest,” the minutes said. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/respite-for-local-communities-as-etalin-hydro-project-scrapped-in-current-form-101673979920148-amp.html  (17 Jan. 2023)

HYDRO POWER PROJECTS

Joshimath Disaster HC junked plea against Tapovan Vishnugad HEP in 2021 Indeed, as this story highlights, the Uttarakhand High Court had not only junked the petition by three residents of Raini village and two residents of Joshimath against the Rishiganga Tapoval HEP after the Feb 2021 disaster, but also castigated the petitioners and asked the petitioners to pay costs.

“Tapovan Vishnugad project is affected by glaciers in the upper reaches which was proved in 2021 tragedy. Now locals are saying they started blasting again to restore their tunnel after the February 2021 disaster which led to seepage of water into and around Joshimath. This clearly needs to be investigated as this is what locals have observed,” said Hemant Dhyani, an environmentalist who was part of the Supreme Court’s high-powered committee for the Char Dham Project. NTPC did not respond to a query on January 13 from HT on the concerns raised by residents. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/hc-in-2021-junked-plea-against-projects-near-joshimath-101673894334263.html  (17 Jan. 2023)

Responding to the Supreme Court’s decision of refusing to entertain a petition seeking to declare the Joshimath crisis as ‘national disaster’, and asking the petitioners to approach the Uttarakhand High Court, Atul Sati, convener of the Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, said that his ‘apprehension’ was proved true. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/justice-has-been-denied-say-activists-fighting-for-joshimath/article66383464.ece  (16 Jan. 2023)

Mangesh Ghildiyal, deputy secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), reached Joshimath on Sunday (Jan. 15) and conducted an on-site inspection along with senior officials from the district administration to assess the effect of land subsidence in the city and the relief and rescue operations. According to a bulletin released by the state government on Jan 17 2023 (Sunday) evening, the number of houses that have developed cracks has increased to 826, with 165 of them declared unsafe. So far, 233 families have been shifted to safer locations including 17 families on Sunday. In total, 798 people have been shifted to safer locations. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/dehradun-news/pmo-official-conducts-on-site-inspection-of-joshimath-land-subsidence-101673788078849.html  (15 Jan. 2023)

Chorus of ‘NTPC go back’ grows louder Amid evacuations and demolitions in sinking Joshimath, several residents and activists are calling for the National Thermal Power Corporation to shut down its activities in the region, alleging that one of its projects contributed to subsidence in the area. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/uttarakhand-joshimath-land-subsidence-cracks-sinking-news-live-updates-16-january-2023/liveblog/97016257.cms  (18 Jan. 2023)

From the numerous small and big shops in the main markets to the residential properties, vehicles, and billboards, posters with the slogan “NTPC go back” have come up around the town over the past few days. Local people allege that the digging of a 12-km tunnel for the 520 MW Tapovan Vishnugad hydroelectric project exacerbated the subsidence in the area.

The JBSS on Monday (Jan. 16) demanded that the 520 Mw Tapovan-Vishnugad project developed by the NTPC be scrapped. Activist Atul Sati believes that while there may be many reasons for making the region fragile, the current subsidence in Joshimath is to be blamed on the blasting caused for the project. “The main reason behind this situation where the existence of Joshimath is in question is the Tapovan Vishnugad project and the NTPC company behind this project,” Sati, president of the JBSS said. The L&T company was initially building the tunnel for NTPC but had to quit as it was not satisfied with the way the corporation worked. The central government should take the matter into its hands and declare Joshimath’s subsidence a national disaster,” he added. https://www.livemint.com/news/india/wrong-to-relate-situation-in-joshimath-with-ntpc-tunnel-head-of-tapovan-project-11674000011540.html  (18 Jan. 2023)

Quoting a research paper published in an international journal in 2015 titled ‘Change in Hydraulic Properties of Rock Mass Due to Tunneling’ the Samiti has called for immediately stopping the Tapovan-Vishnugad project of NTPC. “Along with this, NTPC should be fined twice the cost of the project for jeopardising the existence of Joshimath. This amount of about twenty thousand crores should be distributed among the people who have been ruined due to the project,” the memorandum stated. https://www.thecitizen.in/india/shirking-responsibility-for-the-joshimath-crisis-555357   (16 Jan. 2023)

7 फ़रवरी 2021 को धौलीगंगा में भीषण बाढ़ के क्या कारण थे, इससे आर्थिक नुकसान के अतिरिक्त परिस्थिकितंत्र को क्या नुकसान हुआ, इसका कोई स्वतंत्र वैज्ञानिक आंकलन नहीं हुआ https://www.downtoearth.org.in/hindistory/development/urbanisation/questions-arising-from-sinking-joshimath-govt-did-not-make-development-model-according-to-the-hill-state-87148  (16 Jan. 2023)

Water outflow from the leaking aquifer which locals have been claiming is responsible for widening of cracks in their houses, has reduced from 540 litre per minute (lpm) on January 6 to 163 lpm on January 16. Director of Doon-based Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG), Kalachand Sain, said: “We’ve installed three seismic stations to provide us with a three-dimensional subsurface image to help conduct a detailed study and find the source of the problem. A team of experts obtained data from these seismic stations.” He added that “things would be more clear in the next four to five days”. National Institute of Hydrology (NIH, it had collected water samples from 13 places) and National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) which are involved in the probe, have handed over their findings to the state. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/speed-of-water-outflow-from-aquifer-reduces-from-540-lpm-to-163-lpm-in-10-days/articleshow/97045006.cms  (17 Jan. 2023)

With the water gushing out from a wall near the gate of a residential colony of Jaypee Group in Joshimath having come down since the first week of January, some experts believe that it was the high water pressure that led to the aquifer bursting and resulted in rapid subsidence in Joshimath. Locals have been claiming that the aquifer burst is responsible for widening of cracks. The aquifer had burst on the intervening night of January 2 and 3 when many residents reported widening of cracks in their houses and the unaffected families claimed the first appearance of cracks, according to a district official.

Prof Y P Sundriyal, Head of Department, Geology, Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University, said, “There are two possibilities with regard to water seepage near Jaypee colony in Joshimath. It could be seepage from the tunnel of the Tapovan Hydro Project or surface source (springs) which got disturbed due to either blasting or earthquake. However, the government agencies have so far failed to find out.” https://epaper.hindustantimes.com/Home/ShareArticle?OrgId=1910cf8c1aa&imageview=0  (19 Jan. 2023)

Power Minister RK Singh has on record reassured that the crisis in Joshimath has in no way been triggered or related to the NTPC project close by. https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/business/davos-2023-power-minister-rk-singh-calls-india-a-shining-star-in-energy-transition-9879091.html  (17 Jan. 2023)

Under the all-weather Char Dham road project, authorities are preparing a “by-pass to Badrinath”, which starts from Helang, around 9km before Joshimath, and ends at Marwadi Road. But the project is just halfway through and has been strongly opposed by locals. Work at the by-pass project has been “stopped” due to protests and anger in Joshimath and it may not be ready by the first week of May when the yatra usually begins.

With Joshimath in its current state, the cracks widening by the day and area after area being declared unsafe, authorities have a little over three months to either set things in order in the hill town or find a suitable alternative. Since the matter came to light on January 2, cracks have been found in at least 849 houses, hotels, roads and staircases in Joshimath.

But after several places in Joshimath were put under the “danger zone” category, questions are now being raised on the road to be taken to the hugely popular shrine in Uttarakhand. At present, after entering Joshimath, pilgrims follow a one-way road plan for vehicles to and from Badrinath. Several houses and roads there have developed cracks. Even culverts are crumbling. The state government had recently said that the yatra would not be affected and it would happen “as planned”. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/joshimath-sinking-question-mark-hangs-over-badrinath-yatra/articleshow/97072388.cms  (18 Jan. 2023)

At least 44 more buildings have developed cracks in the last 24 hours in Joshimath, including the five-room rest house of the Public Works Department, which is in a dilapidated condition. The labourers in the premises were shifted to a safer place when more cracks appeared on January 14. So far, cracks have appeared in 826 buildings in the city area. On Sunday, 17 more buildings were declared unsafe by the CBRI team and were marked with red crosses.

The Power Transmission Corporation of Uttarakhand Ltd (PTCUL) has started searching for a suitable place to shift its 66 KV sub-station located in Marwari after it was affected by land subsidence in the city. Energy Corporation’s Executive Engineer Amit Saxena said that two 100 KV transformers in Sunil Ward had been replaced, and the 20 electric poles damaged by the subsidence were fixed. https://weather.com/en-IN/india/news/news/2023-01-17-joshimath-cracks-appear-in-44-more-buildings-pwd-rest-house  (17 Jan. 2023)

Dave Petley on Joshimath crisis: This diagram clearly shows the various landslide units upon which the town is built, and the movement patterns that they display in the long term.  It confirms that the deformation is sliding, not subsidence.

3-Dimensional view of the Joshimath slope with the SNAPPING Full Resolution PSI results overlaid (background Google Earth). The location of the active units (A, B, C, D) are delimited by white lines. The location of selected PSI targets 1, 2, 3 and 4 are also indicated. Image posted online on the gep-blog.

– First, in the long term the different parts of the landslide complex are moving at different rates, which is not unusual.  Point 1 is showing large displacements – almost half a metre with continuous creep, although the rate clearly fluctuates with time.  Other parts of the complex are moving more slowly, and indeed the point highest up the slope is not moving. https://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/2023/01/18/joshimath-new-insar/  (18 Jan. 2023)

Most importantly, there is clear evidence that the Joshimath landslide itself is still moving, although the magnitude of those movements is unclear. However, I am somewhat skeptical of the argument that this (demolition of unrecoverable buildings) will reduce the burden on the slope in any meaningful way. The handling of the communications around this landslide is a case study in poor disaster communication.  This is counter-productive. If the NDMA wishes to control the flow of information about Joshimath then surely it should be providing daily updates on the known facts and the ongoing work to understand the failure. https://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/2023/01/17/joshimath-4/  (17 Jan. 2023)

Meanwhile, there remains a strange lack of clarity about the nature of the processes at Joshimath.  Some quarters continue to report this as subsidence, which is quite misleading as it implies vertical movement.  There is no real doubt that this is a landslide, with the mass slipping down the slope. https://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/2023/01/23/joshimath-5/  (23 Jan. 2023)

A fresh analysis of satellite imagery of Joshimath between 2018 and 2022 has shown that the eastern part of the holy town witnessed maximum subsidence with an average displacement of around 10 cm per year, followed by western part had displacement of 3 cm per year followed by upper part of the town sliding by 2 cm per year. The part between eastern and western part had seen accelerated sliding in late 2021. The analysis, by remote sensing and landslide experts of Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS or National Centre for Scientific Research, which is the French state research organisation and largest fundamental science agency in Europe), Ecole et Observatoire des Sciences de la Terre Strasbourg (School and Observatory for Earth Sciences, an institution under the supervisory authority of the University of Strasbourg France and CNRS) and Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, was released on Jan 19, 2023.

– “It appears that two zones (eastern and western parts of Joshimath designated as A and B in the satellite image) have been continuously moving in the past four years (2018-2022) on the downhill part of the slope” the research paper said. The analysis said that subsidence has accelerated in the eastern, western and lower parts of Joshimath town since December 22 but did not provide data on how much the town has sunk since then. This last part is in line with the conclusion of ISRO after going through the observations from its affliates NRSC and IIRS that between Dec 27 and Jan 8, the subsidence was 5.4 cm. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/eastern-joshimath-records-maximum-subsidence-of-10-cm-per-year-study-101674154809381.html  (20 Jan. 2023)

Now, cracks in Rudraprayag village, people fleeing People from Marora village of Rudraprayag district in Uttarakhand are also fleeing seeing cracks in their houses. THey are blaming the under construction 125 km long Railway line from Rishikesh to Karnaprayag. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/now-uttarakhands-rudraprayag-village-empties-out/articleshow/97042982.cms  (17 Jan. 2023) Scientists have found that vulnerability of the highway stretch in Uttarakhand between Joshimath and Rishikesh to landslides is likely to increase, owing to continued vegetation removal and destabilising of slopes. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/joshimath-land-subsidence-exposure-of-highway-stretch-in-u-khand-to-landslides-likely-to-surge-study-101673951068957.html  (17 Jan. 2023) At various times in Uttarakhand, governments have formed committees and conducted surveys, but none of the committee’s reports have been implemented. Road widening and construction of large hydro-power projects continue unabated despite warnings from geologists and protests by local people. https://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/how-save-joshimath  (17 Jan. 2023)

Excellent Video story by Hridayesh Joshi of News Laundary about how close to 500 villages of Uttarakhand are facing cracks in houses like in case of Joshimath. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8i30va1q5Y   (23 Jan. 2023) टिहरी बांध की मुख्य दीवार के समीप बसे पिपोला खास गांव से टिहरी झील का विहंगम दृश्य दिखता है. टिहरी बांध 1970 के दशक में बनना शुरू हुआ और इसका निर्माण 2005 में पूरा हुआ. तब 1000 मेगावॉट की जलविद्युत परियोजना के लिये पिपोला खास के 26 परिवारों को यहां से विस्थापित कर दूसरी जगह बसाया गया था, क्योंकि उनकी जमीन और घर झील में डूब गए लेकिन बाकी 190 परिवारों को डूब क्षेत्र से बाहर होने के कारण यहीं रहना पड़ा. 

सामाजिक कार्यकर्ता और वकील शांति प्रसाद भट्ट पिपोला गांव के निवासी हैं. वह बताते हैं कि टिहरी बांध से अधिक बिजली उत्पादन के लिये उसका जलस्तर 12 मीटर बढ़ा दिया गया और पिपोला खास में विनाशलीला होने लगी.

भट्ट कहते हैं, “इस झील का क्षेत्रफल करीब 42 वर्ग किलोमीटर है और इसका पानी स्थिर नहीं है. जब बरसात का सीज़न नहीं होता तो पानी घट जाता है, वर्ना बढ़ने लगता है. इसके मूवमेंट से पहाड़ दरक रहा है. घरों के फर्श और दीवारों पर चौड़ी दरारें हो गई हैं और घर झुकने लगे हैं. अब जिस पहाड़ पर गांव है वहां पावर कंपनी एक नई सुरंग बना रही है, जिससे दिक्कतें बढ़ गई हैं.”

– चमोली का एक गांव दुर्गापुर भी दरक रहा है. इस गांव के नज़दीक 444 मेगावॉट की विष्णुगाड़-पीपलकोटी परियोजना के लिये सुरंग खोदी जा रही है. यहां के अधिकतर घरों में भी दरारें दिखीं. गांव की अधिकतर आबादी अनुसूचित समुदाय की है और उन्हें बार-बार विस्थापित होना पड़ रहा है.

– आज उत्तराखंड के करीब 500 गांवों की हालत कमोबेश दुर्गापुर और पिपोला खास जैसी ही है. साल 2021 में उत्तराखंड राज्य आपदा प्रबंधन आयोग की एक रिपोर्ट में कहा गया कि राज्य के 465 गांवों के परिवारों का पुनर्वास होना है और अब आधिकारिक रूप से ऐसे गांवों की संख्या बढ़कर 484 हो गई है.

– भूविज्ञानी नवीन जुयाल के मुताबिक, “हमारे पास जोशीमठ जैसे पैरा ग्लेशियल ज़ोन में मलबे की मात्रा और स्वभाव का कोई आकलन नहीं है. इसी तरह संवेदनशील हिमालयी क्षेत्र में भार वहन क्षमता के बारे में कुछ विश्वसनीय अध्ययन नहीं है, लेकिन जोशीमठ ने यह बता दिया है कि राज्य के कई हिस्सों पर वजन सीमा से अधिक है. इसलिये वो धंस रहे हैं.”

– साउथ एशिया नेटवर्क फॉर डैम, रिवर एंड पीपल (एसएएनडीआरपी) के संयोजक हिमांशु ठक्कर कहते हैं, “जल विद्युत परियोजना के कई हिस्से होते हैं. उसमें केवल बांध ही नहीं होता बल्कि सर्च शॉफ्ट, पावर स्टेशन और सुरंगें होती हैं. ये सब ढांचा खड़ा करने के लिए उस क्षेत्र में खनन और जंगलों का कटान किया जाता है. इसमें बहुत सी गाद निकलती है जिसकी डम्पिंग की जाती है और ज़्यादातर समय उसमें नियमों का पालन नहीं होता. इसके लिए उस क्षेत्र में पावर स्टेशन और बांध तक सड़कें बनती हैं, कॉलोनी बनायी जाती हैं. इस सब निर्माण के लिये बहुत तोड़फोड़ और ब्लास्टिंग होती है.”

न्यूज़लॉन्ड्री ने अपनी कवरेज के दौरान पाया कि संकटग्रस्त गांवों के निवासियों की सबसे बड़ी शिकायत हाइड्रोपावर प्रोजेक्ट्स के लिये बन रही सुरंगों को लेकर है. जलविद्युत परियोजनाओं के लिये बहुत बड़ी संख्या में विशालकाय सुरंगें बनती हैं और इन सुरंगों के भीतर जाने के लिये कई अन्य सुंरगें खोदी जाती हैं, जिन्हें एडिट टनल कहा जाता है.

ठक्कर कहते हैं, “आप तपोवन-विष्णुगाड़ प्रोजेक्ट की सुरंग को लें. उस सुरंग का व्यास साढ़े छह मीटर है यानी उस सुरंग में एक के ऊपर एक तीन ट्रेन खड़ी की जा सकती हैं. यह सुरंग 12 किलोमीटर से अधिक लम्बी है. इतना बड़ा इलाका ज़मीन की सतह से लेकर नदी और भीतरी हिस्से तो तबाह कर देता है और यह बात ध्यान देने की है कि हिमालय जैसे नए पहाड़ों पर यह सब करने से पहले इसके प्रभाव का कोई अध्ययन नहीं किया गया है. यह भूकंपीय क्षेत्र है. इसलिये तपोवन हो या टिहरी जहां भी आप यह सब करेंगे उसका दुष्परिणाम ही होगा.”

– आपदा प्रबंधन के प्रमुख रंजीत सिन्हा कहते हैं, “जोशीमठ को लेकर कहा जाता है कि वहां भारी निर्माण और परियोजनाओं के कारण संकट पैदा हुआ है, लेकिन आप देखिए कि छोटे-छोटे गांव भी दरक रहे हैं. आखिर वो क्यों हो रहा है? अलग-अलग इलाकों की भार वहन क्षमता और रिहायश का दबाव सहने की शक्ति का सूक्ष्म आकलन होना चाहिए, जो हमारे पास नहीं है और आपदा प्रबंधन के हिसाब से यह बड़ी चुनौती है. हम इसका वैज्ञानिक अध्ययन और जियो टेक्निकल सर्वे करवा रहे हैं.” https://hindi.newslaundry.com/2023/01/23/uttarakhand-joshimath-tehri-dam-crisis-houses-ntpc-project  (23 Jan. 2023) On more Ground Report By Hridayesh Joshi. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ehC_JnTtiU  (17 Jan. 2023) Excellent Ground Report by Hridayesh Joshi https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSQDEZ4lzHw  (15 Jan. 2023) Dr Om Bhargava, Why Joshimath? How many more? What the Rocks Speak?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DvBH4Fg_xY  (15 Jan. 2023)

Uttarakhand PIL seeking stay on tender for Lakhwar dam dismissed The Jal Vidyut Nigam said that they had floated tenders for the 300 MW Lakhwar multipurpose project as many as 17 times but did not get any application other than L&T. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/pil-seeking-stay-on-tender-for-hydro-project-dismissed/articleshow/97215944.cms  (12 Jan. 2023)

Himachal Pradesh SJVN begins work on Sunni dam project The Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN) on Jan. 21 inaugurated various infrastructure-related construction activities for the 382 MW Sunni Dam Hydro Electric Project. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/sjvn-begins-work-on-sunni-dam-project-472671  (22 Jan. 2023)

Widening cracks due to road work worry Mandi villagers Villagers in Mandi district continue to be plagued with fear even a year after a road caved in during road-widening work on the Kiratpur-Manali national highway near Thalout, apparently causing fissures in the land and cracks on the walls of some houses. According to villagers, the cracks that had first appeared in the land around the villages during the construction of a tunnel on the highway continue to get wider. Some of the houses at Tanhula village had also developed cracks. The villagers have been blaming unscientific cutting of hills for roads as a reason behind landslides and land subsidence in their area. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/shimla/widening-cracks-due-to-road-work-worry-mandi-villagers-in-himachal-pradesh/articleshow/97002694.cms  (15 Jan. 2023)

India plans ‘buffers’ in proposed hydropower project to counter ‘China threat’ Still only in the planning stage, a ‘pre-feasibility report’ on the 11,000 MW project, or more than five times the size of the largest such projects in India – has been submitted to the Central Electricity Authority for appraisal in December by the National Hydropower Corporation (NHPC) last month. The design of the proposed project incorporates a “buffer storage” of 9 billion cubic metres. The project is primarily meant to manage flooding in the Brahmaputra, however, we cannot ignore strategic aspects and this is one way to counter any potential threats,” a person involved with planning the Upper Siang project said. A large dam in India may help control floods within India but might open fresh disputes over water sharing with Bangladesh downstream. It would be more beneficial if all three countries agreed to be more transparent and share information on the seasonal flow of water,” Rajiv Ranjan, Adjunct Faculty, Institute of China Studies, New Delhi, said. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-plans-buffers-in-proposed-arunachal-hydropower-project-to-counter-china-threat/article66387504.ece  (17 Jan. 2023)

West Bengal Joshimath shadow on hydel plans This is the first time that local people are coming out in large numbers to protest against the hydel projects in Darjeeling…. The protests can be linked to what we have seen in Joshimath,” said a source in the district administration.  People in Bijanbari have stopped the construction of notches and installation of gauge for recording the discharge of water at rivers Chotta Ranjit and Balawas on two occasions this month. “The construction of the hydel project will dry up the rivers which would severely affect agriculture, tourism and environment hurt our religious beliefs. We want the government to stop these projects,” said P. Darnal, the secretary of the Chotta Rangit Abhiyan Samiti, spearheading the campaign against the projects. https://www.telegraphindia.com/west-bengal/joshimath-shadow-on-hydel-projects-backed-by-bengal-government/cid/1911380  (22 Jan. 2023)

Sikkim Our own Joshimath in the making Sprawling urbanisation, construction of hydro-power dams and pharmaceutical factories, new major infrastructural projects, are all taking place within a ‘bio-diversity hotspot’, an environmental zone of immense significance; and one that is equally fragile. Despite the urgency of the situation, there exists either a remarkable silence on environmental issues (especially over ‘controversial topics’) and the adaptation, mitigation strategies that need to be adopted by the government as well as the public.

Project Sikkim spoke to Praful Rao to get a better understanding of landslide hazards in the Eastern Himalayas. https://www.sikkimproject.org/pathing-south-sikkim-our-own-joshimath-in-the-making-2/  (22 Jan. 2023)

Madhya Pradesh Tons Hydropower project in Rewa district: Third 105 MW unit that was under repair for five months since Aug 7, 2022, was started on Sunday, Jan 15, 2023, but again stopped within hours. THe first unit is already not producing power since Jan 5, 2022.

टोंस प्रोजेक्ट की 105 मेगावाट की इकाई बंद, दो साल में 500 करोड़ का नुकसान. https://www.naidunia.com/madhya-pradesh/bhopal-mp-news-tons-projects-105-mw-unit-closed-loss-of-500-crores-in-two-years-7726955  (09 Aug. 2022)

Andhra Pradesh HRF asks govt to shelve 4 hydroelectric projects The Human Rights Forum (HRF) has demanded that the State government drop the four Pumped Storage Hydroelectric Projects (PSPs) granted to various private entities in the Fifth Schedule region of Visakhapatnam and Parvathipuram-Manyam districts.

A team of HRF has visited all the four project sites and interacted with local people, who are predominantly Adivasis. These projects have been granted permission in open contempt of the law and various Constitutional provisions of the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act (FRA) applicable in the 5th Schedule Region, said Y Rajesh, HRF AP State general secretary, and VS Krishna, HRF AP and TS Coordination Committee member, here on Tuesday (Jan. 17).

They said the proposed projects are Yerravaram PSP in Chintapalli and Koyyuru mandals and Pedakota PSP in Ananthagiri, both in Alluri Sitarama Raju district, and Kurukutti in Salur and Karrivalasa in Pachipenta, both in Parvathipuram-Manyam. Any decision on a project in the Fifth Schedule areas without informed discussion and prior consent of the local grama sabhas amounts to an illegality. In fact, the PESA stipulates that no project in the Scheduled areas can even be conceived without the prior consent of local Adivasi Grama Sabhas. “In respect of these PSPs, no information has been conveyed, no discussion has taken place, there has been no transparency and Adivasis in these areas have been deliberately kept in the dark,” the HRF leaders alleged. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/andhra-pradesh/2023/jan/18/shelve-four-hydroelectric-projects-human-rights-forum-to-andhra-government-2538922.html  (18 Jan. 2023)  

Study Warming climate’s warning for hydropower plants Hydropower plants are susceptible to weather extremes, especially those in the sensitive region of the Himalayas. But as climate warms, most of the dam operations are also likely to face increased risk of heavy inflows and flooding and would require robust warnings, shows a new research.

Among all regions, north and central India are projected to receive a higher increase in precipitation than southern India. The latest peer-reviewed research adds to the many global studies that have warned of changes in stream flow variability across the major global river basins due to a warming climate.

The study led by researchers from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Gandhinagar, analysed the future climate risks of at least 46 of the big hydropower plants (more than 25 MW) situated across 13 river basins of the country. The team found that each of the power plants is expected to experience varying levels of challenges in reservoir monitoring, as a warming climate leads to high rainfall events. Not only will there be a high frequency of high inflow events for most hydropower dams, but frequency of high reservoir storage would also go up.

While an upside of the increased inflow would mean high reservoir storage conditions for most dams and high hydropower potential, this would also impose difficulties in the management of reservoirs for flood control, hydropower production, and water supply, the study warns.

According to the study, there will be other factors like land use/land cover change and construction of new reservoirs upstream of the existing hydropower dams which would continue to impact river flow regimes and sediment load to the reservoirs, and influence hydropower potential in the future. However, the need now is to urgently look at considerable adaptation measures that would be needed to tackle the extremes in the future. ​ https://www.news18.com/news/india/extreme-inflows-flood-risk-study-reveals-warming-climates-warning-for-hydropower-plants-across-india-6893461.html  (23 Jan. 2023)

Agenda of EAC on River Valley Projects to be held on Jan 25, 2023: 1. Expansion of Krishna Koyna Lift Irrigation Project (CCA 1,09,127 Ha) at Village Jath, Dist Sangli & Solapur (Mah) by Dept of Irrigation – Terms of Reference

2. Basania multi-purpose project (CCA 8780 and 100 MW) in 6343.0 Ha Village odhari, Tehsil Ghugari Dist Mandla (MP) by Narmada Valley Development Authority – Terms of Reference http://environmentclearance.nic.in/writereaddata/Form-1A/Agenda/_17012023L4VI30Q7.pdf

DAMS

Study 3,700 dams in India will lose 26% storage capacity by 2050 Around 3,700 dams in India will lose 26 per cent of their total storage by 2050 due to accumulation of sediments which can undermine water security, irrigation and power generation in future, warns a new study by the United Nations. China, meanwhile, the world’s most heavily dammed nation, has lost about 10 per cent of its storage and will lose a further 10 per cent by 2050, it said.

The Central Water Commission, had in 2015, reported that among 141 large reservoirs which are over 50-years-old, one quarter had lost at least 30 per cent of their initial storage capacity. https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/india/3700-dams-in-india-will-lose-26-storage-capacity-due-to-sedimentation-by-2050-un-study-9835031.html  (09 Jan. 2023)

Mullaperiyar Dam ‘Chances dim for a new dam’ With Tamil Nadu starting a Rs 1,252-crore tunnel project for fetching Mullaperiyar water directly to Madurai city, there is a possibility of “partially decommissioning” the dam by reducing the maximum water level by 10-20ft, C P Roy, former chairman of Mullaperiyar Samara Samiti, said. Roy, who was ousted from the Samiti for taking a stand against the proposed new dam in Mullaperiyar, told media persons in Thodupuzha on Wednesday (Jan. 18) that in such a circumstance, with the water level coming down and safety concerns allayed, there was very less scope for Kerala’s demand to build a new dam with an estimated cost of Rs 2,000-Rs 3,000 crore.

“In the SC order dated May 7, 2014, it is said that more water can be drawn by TN by making a tunnel below the existing one. It is also said in the order that it will allay Kerala’s fears as the water level in the dam will come down and TN will get more water,” Roy said. He further said TN was now giving more focus on drinking water rather than irrigating cultivable lands. A mine dam is under construction at Gudallur near Kambam to fetch water to Madurai city through tunnels, canals, and pipes. Within three years, this central government-funded AMRUT project would be completed, he said. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kochi/chances-dim-for-a-new-dam/articleshow/97114542.cms  (19 Jan. 2023)

Andhra Pradesh Tender process for Annamayya dam set to conclude The govt has already issued an administrative sanction of Rs. 787.77 crores for the project and has fixed the estimated cost at Rs. 635.20 crores. Moreover, the project will be exempted from GST and other taxes.  According to irrigation officials, the reconstructed dam will have a discharge capacity of 5.6 lakh cusecs as against the earlier 1.8 lakh cusecs. As many as 11 gates will be constructed instead of the previous five and the storage capacity of the reservoir will increase to 2.38 TMC.

Flash floods caused due to heavy rains resulted in large volumes of water gushing out of the dam at Badanagadda in Rajampet mandal and breaching the earthen bund on November 19, 2021. The deluge claimed more than 15 lives and survivors were left with no food in at least two dozen villages.  https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/andhra-pradesh/2023/jan/23/aps-rajampet-villagers-hope-for-better-days-as-tender-process-for-annamayya-dam-set-to-conclude-soon-2540468.html  (23 Jan. 2023)

Himachal Pradesh Bhakra Dam oustees are still awaiting justice: “They await justice and meaningful compensation to this day.” https://www.outlookindia.com/national/himachal-pradesh-five-decades-later-families-displaced-to-build-bhakhra-dam-await-rehabilitation-news-255797  (22 Jan. 2023)

INTERLINKING OF RIVERS

A boy plays in the Betwa river near Jhansi. Photo Credit: Monica Tiwari/The Hindu

Ken-Betwa Link What ails Ken-Betwa link project? Manoj Mishra: Ahead of the forthcoming Union budget, experts have derided it for being illegal, lacking economic sense and defying ecological science. https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/explained-what-ails-the-ken-betwa-river-link-project/article66419523.ece  (22 Jan. 2023)

“The report of the Ken-Betwa Link Project has not taken cognisance of the fact that till around 50 years ago, Bundelkhand was never a water-starved area. The region receives adequate rainfall and local communities used to depend on traditional methods of water harvesting like small ponds and tanks,” Himanshu Thakkar, of the South Asian Network on Dams, Rivers and People, told Newsclick. These small-scale water harvesting systems were “neglected systematically over decades. Large-scale and widespread mining started destroying water bodies, forests and the environment in the process”, he further said. “The CEC has rightly pointed out that alternative methods of water conservation were never considered before going ahead with this large-scale project. Rainwater harvesting systems, both for surface water storage and groundwater recharge, watershed development, and revival of traditional ponds and tanks could be considered viable alternatives apart from reducing dependence on water-intensive crops like paddy,” Thakkar added. https://www.newsclick.in/two-damaging-choices-centre-picks-water-over-diamonds-mp  (22 Jan. 2023)

– The Third Meeting of Steering Committee of Ken-Betwa Link Project (SC-KBLP) was held on Jan 18 2023 in Delhi under the Chairmanship of Secretary, DoWR, RD & GR, Ministry of Jal Shakti.

– Two wildlife sanctuaries namely Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary and Rani Durgawati Wildlife Sanctuary of Madhya Pradesh and Ranipur Wildlife Sanctuary of U.P. have been approved by state govt. for bringing them under project Tiger.

– Orders for transfer about 5480 ha non forest govt. land of Panna and Chhattarpur district of M.P. have been issued by state govt. for transfer to PTR for compensatory afforestation.

– Proposal for Constituting an R&R Committee to monitor the implementation of R&R plan in transparent and time bound manner was finalized during the meeting.

– A Greater Panna Landscape council is also being constituted for implementation of Landscape Management Plan (LMP) and Environment Management Plan(EMP) of the project. https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1892042  (18 Jan. 2023)

Small water conservation schemes stand out amidst ‘unviable’ mega Ken-Betwa project by Bharat Dogra https://www.counterview.net/2023/01/small-water-conservation-schemes-stand.html  (19 Jan. 2023)

INTERSTATE WATER DISPUTES

Mahadayi Water Dispute Withdraw nod given to Karnataka-Goa water dispute: Goa to Centre After a marathon, special debate on the Mahadayi imbroglio, the Goa Assembly on Saturday (Jan. 21) unanimously adopted a resolution demanding that the Centre withdraw the approval given to the detailed project report presented by the Karnataka government on the Kalasa-Banduri project. Expressing concerns over the Centre’s support to Karnataka, the Assembly formed a House committee, headed by Goa Water Resources Minister Subhash Shirodkar and comprising legislators from all parties, to decide on the stand that the Goa government should take on the Mahadayi issue.

All the 40 MLAs took part in the discussion and they unitedly opposed the approval given to Karnataka’s DPR. Earlier, the Assembly demanded that the Centre should not allow out-of-basin diversion of Mahadayi waters. CM Pramod Sawant admitted that Karnataka has already diverted water at Haltara and Kalasa rivulets, and said his government has strongly objected to any diversion of water from the Mhadei basin into Karnataka. To utilise waters from the Mhadei river, six dams are in the pipeline, he added. The office of the Mhadei Water Management Authority should be in Panaji, said Sawant. https://www.newindianexpress.com/thesundaystandard/2023/jan/22/withdraw-nod-given-to-karnataka-goa-water-dispute-goa-to-centre-2540102.html  (22 Jan. 2023)

BBMB Himachal hardens stand on BBMB reservoir water Himachal Pradesh would now draw its share of water from the BBMB reservoirs in the state for irrigation and water schemes without waiting for the board’s approval for the purpose, said Deputy CM and Minister for Jal Shakti Department Mukesh Agnihotri on Jan. 22. After the Supreme Court earmarked 7.1 per cent share in the BBMB projects to Himachal, it also gave the state a right on water from the reservoirs, he added. The Deputy CM’s statement indicates that the state government is likely to adopt a tough stand over drawing water from the BBMB reservoirs located in Himachal Pradesh.

Till now, the BBMB had been dilly-dallying on giving no objection certificates (NOC) for irrigation and water schemes from its reservoirs. Now, the Himachal Jal Shakti Department had been directed to plan water-lifting schemes from the BBMB reservoirs for irrigation and water supply schemes and go ahead with the projects with or without the BBMB permission, Mukesh Agnihotri said. Mukesh Agnihotri said it was an irony that the people of many villages who lost most of their land for the construction of BBMB reservoirs couldn’t get water for irrigation and drinking. Many Pong Dam oustees had still not got land allotted to them in Rajasthan. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/nocs-delayed-state-hardens-stand-on-bbmb-reservoir-water-472804  (23 Jan. 2023)

RIVERS AS NATIONAL WATERWAYS

Bihar After reports emerged of the Ganga Vilas Cruise being stuck in Chhapra on Jan. 16 days after being flagged by PM, its operators have refuted such claims. Sanjay Bandopadhyaya, the chairman of Inland Waterways Authority of India, told ANI that the cruise reached Patna as per scheduled and was not stuck in Chhapra. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/ganga-vilas-cruise-gets-stuck-on-3rd-day-of-its-journey-in-bihar-s-chhapra-101673872860495.html  (16 Jan. 2023)

URBAN RIVERS

Ludhiana Pollution in Buddha Dariya affecting groundwater, health Activists of the Public Action Committee (PAC) and representatives of NGOs working for conservation of the environment on Jan. 22 expressed concern over alarming level of pollution in Buddha Dariya and degradation of its environs while alleging that these were adversely affecting subsoil water and posing a threat to the public health and the authorities ought to tackle the menace through an effective action plan. The 10th phase of ‘padyatra’ along the dariya was carried out from the garbage dump near the Daresi cremation ground till the bridge on Old GT Road under the leadership of a social activist and environmentalist, Subhash Chander. Participants, carrying banners and display boards in hands, kept raising slogans calling for an end to pollution, cleaning of the water body, closure of polluting industry and dealing with dairy waste.

Environmentalists take part in the awareness march in Ludhiana. The Tribune

The weekly awareness march has been continuing for the past 10 weeks with the objective of strengthening the Rejuvenation Project of Buddha Dariya by drawing attention of citizens, state government and administration on issues and anomalies hampering in the way of success of the venture and causing delay to the project. PAC member Col CM Lakhanpal said awareness was spread about ill-effects of pollution of Buddha Dariya on the health of people. “On the way, the participants came across many outlets discharging polluted water and effluent with the main polluters being industry, sewage and dairies. Even the last pumping station on the dariya was found to be non-functional and both sides of the water body were devoid of green cover. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/ludhiana/pollution-in-buddha-dariya-affecting-subsoil-water-public-health-activists-472882  (23 Jan. 2023)

RIVERS

Interview ‘A Small Indian Elite Controls Narrative, Talk Of India’s Decade Is Juvenile Economics’ Ashoka Mody, a former World Bank and International Monetary Fund economist and now a professor at Princeton university says: “I ask if UPI is going to educate your kids? Is it going to reduce the violence against women? Is it going to prevent the sinking of Joshimath? Is it going to prevent the Hasdeo forest from being cut down? Is it going to prevent the denudation of the Aravallis? Is it going to revive all the dying rivers in this country? If not, are you telling me that none of that matters and UPI is going to be our ticket to success?”

– Amazing to see an economist having an eye for environmental issues and their linkages with social realities: “The river Musi that runs through Hyderabad is dying because the much-celebrated pharma industry is dumping its pollutants in the Musi. Does any of the elite reporting that believes in the Indian century refer to the slow death of that river or of virtually every Indian river? This raises the question, who is development for?

In Varanasi, the river Assi, a tributary of the Ganga, gives the holy city its name along with the Varuna. The Assi has narrowed to a drain, and is extremely polluted, a fact that stays out of sight and out of mind, while the headline is that there is fancy riverfront development along the Ganga and a luxury cruise that only a handful can afford.

Everybody knows of the Sabarmati riverfront, but do people know that downstream, the Sabarmati is a highly polluted river? How many people are aware that Sabarmati riverfront is essentially a lake that’s cordoned off on both sides to collect water so that a select few people can enjoy it.

A seaplane service from the Statue of Unity (the Sardar Patel statue) to the Sabarmati riverfront is a glitzy detail embedded in the headline-grabbing pattern of development which, when extrapolated to an extreme, gives us a message that this is India’s century, 

Joshimath in Uttarakhand has been sinking since 1976 when the M C Mishra committee report directed that construction activity in the Himalayas be undertaken with the utmost care because those mountains are very fragile. For years, we did exactly the opposite, building on that fragile surface without restraint or discipline. In February 2021, there was another warning that went unheeded.

Now when the town is sinking, people have suddenly woken up. But we don’t know how long this new concern will last. We also don’t know how much of the rest of the area is sinking and what we can do about it. 

These examples highlight the deep erosion of social norms and public accountability. We may be in a trap. Unaccountable politicians do not impose accountability on themselves, and this becomes a Catch 22: How do you restore norms and accountability once they have eroded to such an extent?

The headline-grabbing will continue. The head of Microsoft, who was in India recently, said Indian kids are contributing to the growth of artificial intelligence. We have somehow developed a view that technology will be a substitute for long, time-honoured processes of development, that the new technological tools will seamlessly take us out of the current situation into a blissful Nirvana.” https://article-14.com/post/-a-small-indian-elite-controls-narrative-talk-of-india-s-decade-is-juvenile-economics–63c752d70a18f  (18 Jan. 2023)

Maharashtra 55 polluted river stretches A senior official of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on Saturday (Jan. 21) said an action plan had been readied and approved to ensure infrastructure for treatment of domestic sewage in cities, which is one of the major reasons of rising pollution in the rivers. CPCB’s latest study found 55 polluted river stretches in Maharashtra, which was the highest in the country.

– Water expert Himanshu Thakkar, who is also the coordinator of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, said, “Maharashtra is the most industrialized state and has numerous industries, which may be contributing to river pollution. Its considerable urban population has also put a lot of stress on the rivers, in terms of discharge of untreated domestic sewage into water bodies.” Thakkar said polluted rivers can have a major impact on the aquatic life, flora and fauna in the rivers, which again affect livelihoods of those dependent, such as fishermen. “Such type of pollution can also have an adverse impact on the quality of groundwater. Groundwater can become highly toxic in such places, even up to a few 100km downstream. Once this happens, it is practically impossible to clean the groundwater in such areas.” https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/55-polluted-river-stretches-in-maharashtra-highest-in-india/articleshow/97215603.cms  (22 Jan. 2023)

Karnataka 17 Rivers choked with sewage, waste River pollution came under spotlight after the CPCB released its data in September 2018. Later, the NGT took up a suo motu case, before disposing of the matter in February 2021 and directing a central committee to monitor the progress of rejuvenation. Two years later, Karnataka still lags behind in implementing measures to check pollution of rivers. Lack of adequate treatment plants and under-utilisation of existing STPs are major constraints.

Water quality data for 2022-23 shows high levels of faecal coliform in Arkavathi, Malaprabha, Krishna, Shimsha and Bhima, while total coliform was high in all rivers. At the end of 2022, the amount of sewage generated along 17 river stretches was estimated at 884.25 MLD. Of this, only 536.3 MLD was treated, mainly because of the failure to utilise full capacity (822 MLD) of the STPs installed.  At a recent meeting, the National River Conservation Directorate had pointed out that effluent treatment plants of 168 industries were non-compliant. It also red-flagged the lack of scientific management of 3,018 tonnes per day of solid waste. https://www.deccanherald.com/state/top-karnataka-stories/17-rivers-in-karnataka-choked-with-sewage-waste-1183601.html  (22 Jan. 2023)

GANGA West Bengal On the shifting banks Kalyan Rudra, Chairman of the SPCB and author of Rivers of the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna Delta, describes the erosion of the Ganga both upstream and downstream of the Farakka Barrage as “anthropogenically-induced erosion”. He explains that the rivers of Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) delta have a tendency to oscillate and erode in an area which is called the meander belt. “Normal oscillation of the river was interrupted after the construction of the Farakka Barrage. It reduced the cross-sectional area of the river, it reduced the water holding capacity and compelled the river to change its course,” Rudra contends. Rudra points out that the barrage has converted the river into a stagnant pool holding 87,000 million cubic metres of water and the river has deposited sediment upstream in Malda, particularly between Farakka and Manikchak. Citing several publications, he says that the sediment load carried annually by the Ganga has been estimated to be around 736-800 million tonnes. This sediment deposition is leading to the emergence of chars (river islands) in Malda. Here, according to Rudra, the river is eroding on the left bank, and the relatively sediment-free water downstream Farakka is eroding the right bank in Murshidabad; in both these cases, West Bengal is losing land.

Erosion by river Ganga in Pratapganj and Mahestola areas of Dhuliyan in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district. Photo Credit: Debasish Bhaduri/ TheEBASISH BHADURI

– “If we look at the map of Malda, we see that the river has formed a mighty bend between Manikchak and Farakka Barrage and more than 200 sq. km have been eroded along the left bank of the river,” says the river expert. He argues that an urgent exercise is needed to designate the boundary between West Bengal and Jharkhand and identify the chars in the river as West Bengal territory.

– In a letter to PM Modi on November 17, 2022, CM Mamata Banerjee referred to the river erosion in Manikchak block: “In fact, the extent of erosion has been so severe that the distance between the two banks of rivers, the Ganga and the Fulhar, has come down to only 1.5 km at Billaimari village of Manikchak block in Malda district, from its earlier distance of 4 km in 2004, thus posing serious threats to the adjoining villages and even to the safety of the National Highway 131A.” She had also written a letter to the Prime Minister on February 21, 2022. A visit to Billaimari, just adjacent to Mahanandtola, shows that Banerjee’s concerns are not unjustified. While the Ganga is eroding on the left bank, the Fulhar is eroding on the right bank, with local residents sandwiched between the two rivers.  

– “We cannot stop the river,” points out Rudra, adding that for the past three decades, embankments protection in the form of boulder pitching on the banks has not yielded the desired results. He argues that only engineering solutions will not work and calls for adopting the holistic science of river management as well as comprehensive land use plans for vulnerable areas. Emphasising that the GBM delta is one of the youngest deltas in the world where land is yet to solidify, Rudra says there is a need to generate awareness among the people: “People should understand that this is the land of the river and the river needs space to play.” He reckons that the number of people displaced by the river in the past few decades is not less than 2,00,000 in Malda and Murshidabad districts, and says the top priority should be rehabilitation of people displaced by the river erosion. He emphasises that people staying on the chars must have access to all civic and social infrastructure, like health and education. https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/on-the-shifting-banks-of-the-ganga-in-west-bengal/article66413014.ece   (21 Jan. 2023)  

Bihar Ganga scheme to meet drinking water needs in Nawada: Nitish CM Nitish Kumar on Sunday (Jan. 22) said that his government, under its Ganga Water Supply Scheme (GWSS), will soon provide treated flood waters to households of Nawada district. Notably, the CM had launched the scheme, worth Rs 4,175 crore, in Gaya and Rajgir in November last year. The scheme was approved in a special cabinet meeting held in Gaya in December 2019. https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/ganga-water-scheme-to-soon-meet-drinking-water-needs-in-nawada-nitish-123012200830_1.html  (22 Jan. 2023)

YAMUNA  Now NGT has constituted a High level committee led by the LG in Delhi for Yamuna Pollution. The committee says Delhi has STP capacity of 530 MGD, but it is functioning at 69% capacity. Out of 35 STPs, only 9% giving output as per 10: 10 Norms, that 10 ppm BOD and TSS. THese 9 STPs have capacity to treat 145 MGD, which is 27.3% of total capacity. The committee is supposed to meet every week and submit first report to NGT on Jan 31, 2023. THe officials say that the state of Yamuna has worsened in last eight years, with the BOD of water from Okhla barrage deteriorating from 32 in 2014 (When Mr Modi became PM and Kejriwal Delhi CM) to 56 in 2023. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/yamuna-pollution-doubled-in-8-years/articleshow/97039219.cms  (17 Jan. 2023)

The Delhi Assembly on Thursday (Jan. 19) approved a supplementary grant of ₹1,028 crore for the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) with an aim to speed up work for cleaning the Yamuna river. https://www.livemint.com/news/india/delhi-assembly-approves-rs-1-028-crore-for-djb-yamuna-river-11674187719031.html  (20 Jan. 2023)

Floodplain Dwellers Caught Between Development And Environment. https://www.outlookindia.com/national/yamuna-floodplain-dwellers-caught-between-development-and-environment-photos-255688?photo-1  (22 Jan. 2023)

The Sahibi river, which was once connected to the Yamuna, has now become the 51-km Najafgarh drain that flows through nearly the entire breadth of the capital.  https://www.news18.com/news/india/the-story-of-najafgarh-how-a-river-was-murdered-after-the-flood-of-flying-fishes-2257429.html  (09 March 2020)

Gurugram Unable to cultivate their fields for 15 long years, over 2,200 farmers of eight villages in Gurugram district are seeking compensation from the state government. Over 3,000 acres remain submerged under the Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation Corporation (HSIIDC) sewage discharge and the Najafgarh drain overflow around the year, making the land uncultivable and polluting soil and groundwater. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/haryana/3-000-acres-under-sewage-for-15-years-2-200-gurugram-farmers-seek-relief-472780  (23 Jan. 2023)

Treated sewage water for irrigation soon At the 11th meeting of Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) held on Jan. 06 official informed the CM that treated sewage water would be provided for irrigation purpose by laying a pipeline from STP in Beharampur to Nuh distributary. This project will cost Rs 618 crore and was approved in meeting. The Irrigation Department will bear the cost of laying the pipeline.

During the meeting, the measures to save about 2,500 acres of agricultural land adjacent to the Najafgarh dam, which are submerged, were also discussed. It was submitted that by making a lake in about 97 acres, the land of the farmers would be saved from submergence. Additionally, the leg-2 and leg 3 of Badshahpur drain will also be connected with Najafgarh drain. At present, the sewerage water of Gurugram city is also getting disposed here. To curb the same, approval has been given to lay a pipeline from STP Beharampur to Nuh distributary. After the completion of this work, only during heavy monsoon periods waterlogging can occur, which with the connection of Leg 2 and Leg3 drain will get runoff into Najafgarh drain.

The pilot project of the installation of floating solar power plant of 4 MW capacity at Chandu-Budhera Water Treatment Plant (WTP) area has received the approval from the Authority and will now become the first ever such floating solar power plant in the state. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/haryana/treated-sewage-water-for-irrigation-soon-468160  (07 Jan. 2023)

Panipat सनौली रोड पर गांव जलालपुर प्रथम और झांबा की करीब साढ़े तीन एकड़ पंचायती भूमि पर वन विभाग द्वारा लगाए गए हजारों पौधे फैक्टरियों के केमिकल युक्त पानी से खराब हो रहे हैं। https://www.amarujala.com/haryana/panipat/hundreds-of-plants-of-the-forest-department-got-spoiled-by-pouring-chemical-water-panipat-news-knl1335382124-2023-01-17  (17 Jan. 2023)

RIVERS BIODIVERSITY

Uttar Pradesh Gangetic dolphin rescued According to reports, a large Gangetic dolphin lost its way and entered the Sagra canal in the Lalganj area of neighbouring Pratapgarh district sometime on Friday (Jan. 20). The villagers informed the forest department after they spotted the dolphin in the canal on Saturday (Jan. 21). The local forest department team used a net to stop the dolphin from proceeding further in the canal. The forest department team then kept a watch on the dolphin for the night until the arrival of a special rescue team from Lucknow under Dr Shailendra Kumar. The team rescued the dolphin after an exercise of two hours on Sunday (Jan. 22) morning. Pratapgarh Forest Ranger SP Mishra said the dolphin was released in the Ganga by the team which is its natural habitat. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/others/gangetic-dolphin-rescued-by-lucknow-team-released-in-ganga-101674408606042.html  (22 Jan. 2023)

Credit: Rohan Chakravarty

Green humour on Ganga river cruise threat to gangetic dolphins. https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/green-humour-by-rohan-chakravarty-on-ganga-river-cruise-threat-to-ganges-river-dolphin/article66382571.ece  (20 Jan. 2023)

FISH, FISHERIES, FISHERFOLKS

Report Challenges abound to conserve hilsa fish As per CIFRI, the Farakka Barrage at the Ganga river is the primary barrier for the migration of hilsa fish. Hence, it would be convenient from a migration point of view if the hilsas are caught downstream and released upstream. However, an expert, sceptical of the experiment, told Mongabay-India, “The possibility of the survival of eggs is less than two percent. The tag recovery rate of hilsa is also low. In most cases, the water predators end up consuming the eggs. Besides, the survival of hilsa is also dependent on many environmental and geophysical factors like temperature, flow, and velocity.”

In response to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by this journalist, the Central Water Commission says, “Farakka Barrage has no fish ladder. There are two fish lock gates, and they are currently closed.” The Commission, in its reply, has said, “As per the records available in the office, this gate has been working since 1998. At present, this gate is being replaced by a new one and the replacement work is going on.” In response to a question about whether the movement of hilsa is getting affected due to the fish lock gate, the commission said, “There is no record available in our office that the fish ladder gate has affected the movement of hilsa.”

Nachiket Kelkar, head of the Riverine Ecosystem and Livelihood Program at Mumbai-based Wildlife Conservation Trust, told Mongabay-India in an email interview, “Re-operation of dams and barrages is the only way for hilsa to migrate upstream. In the areas where hilsa is found, they have already been over-hunted. Therefore, it does not seem that the income of fisherfolk can be increased with the help of hilsas. Continued management and regulation is essential for hilsa conservation, as they are reduced or limited to much of their historical range and density.” https://india.mongabay.com/2023/01/challenges-abound-to-conserve-the-popular-hilsa-fish/  (17 Jan. 2023)

Assam Villagers break Bihu tradition to save two doves and their hatchling The villagers of Kokaitola in Sipajhar area of Darrang district broke tradition to save a pair of doves as they celebrated the harvest festival Magh Bihu, also called Bhogali Bihu. The Assamese construct a Bhela Ghar, a structure made of thatch, bamboo, straw and dried leaves. These structures are a temporary place to spend the night during the festival. The entire community enjoys the night before Uruka or Bihu as people eat food prepared for the feast before burning the huts the next morning.

The locals in Kokaitola had also constructed a Bhela Ghar but did not burn it as two birds had built their nest on the hut and had hatched eggs in it as well. They also refrained from having the feast in the hut so as to not scare them away. Gobinda Chandra Nath, who is the president of Kokaitola Unnayan Samitee, said it was a unanimous decision of the villagers. “After toiling for about a week, the village boys and girls had constructed the Bhela Ghar. But on the eve of Uruka, they noticed two doves and their nest. They also saw a dove hatching the eggs. They contacted us and the villagers took a unanimous decision not to set the Bhela Ghar on fire after the feast. https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2023/jan/17/assam-village-breaks-bihu-tradition-to-save-two-doves-and-their-hatchling-2538542.html  (17 Jan. 2023)

How shrimp is being farmed in Punjab, a region miles away from the Indian coastline. For the past 40 years, intensive irrigation practices have rendered close to 42% of the Punjab’s groundwater saline leading to infertility. https://scroll.in/video/1042317/eco-india-how-shrimp-is-being-farmed-in-punjab-a-region-miles-away-from-the-indian-coastline  (22 Jan. 2023)

SAND MINING

SANDRP Blog 2022: Riverbed Mining Destroying Indian River Eco-system & Freshwater Species In absence of credible impact assessments, accountable governance systems, transparent monitoring mechanism; the riverbed miners and mafias have been raging havoc on river eco-system and fresh water species in India.

The habitats of endangered gharials, turtels in Chambal; gharials in Mahanadi; Mahseer fish, turtles in Narmada; gangetic dolphins in Brahmaputra rivers; Smooth-coated otters in Cauvery rivers and fish, water birds in Yamuna and Jhelum rivers have faced destruction round the year. The illegal, mechanized riverbed mining have been found destroying the hydrological functions of Yamuna, Ken, Betwa, Sone, Ganga rivers in north and central parts of country. https://sandrp.in/2023/01/20/2022-riverbed-mining-destroying-indian-river-eco-system-freshwater-species/   (20 Jan. 2023)

2022: Riverine People’s Protest against Destructive Sand Mining Activities The rampant riverbed mining in India have reached the alarming stage where the adverse impacts on river’s eco-system, river based environmental services including fishing, groundwater recharge, potable and irrigational water supply schemes have started affecting the riverine communities in multiple ways. Given the poor track records of responsible agencies in addressing their plight, the dependent, affected and concerned people have been left with no option but to resist. Like in past years, there have been several incidents of riverine people strongly opposing the destructive mining practices in many states in 2022. This overview compiles some such incidents which we could track. https://sandrp.in/2023/01/21/2022-riverine-peoples-protest-against-destructive-sand-mining-activities/  (21 Jan. 2023)

Maharashtra& Chhattisgarh Tribals protesting for the last 15 days – The tribals have been camping on the state border for the last 15 days to protest the construction of a bridge across the Indravati river. They claim it will lead to devastation of natural resources, local ecosystem and their religious places. The police department, on the other hand, labels the agitation as a ‘Maoist ploy’ to stop development. The agitators claim the bridge will only bring more benefits to the mining companies, at the cost of the local environment and hurt the tribal inhabitants. Sources said the Maoists had abducted an engineer and his helper from the construction site of the bridge last year, and released them after there was an assurance that the work would be halted. The current indefinite protest kicked off on January 4 with around 2,000-3,000 tribals. It has continued with substantial number of tribals staging a dharna on the exposed bed of Indravati river, under the open sky, braving chilly weather. The river acts as the natural boundary between Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/videos/toi-original/watch-why-thousands-of-tribals-of-maharashtra-and-chhattisgarh-protesting-for-the-last-15-days/videoshow/97080052.cms  (18 Jan. 2023)

Maharashtra 2 barges, 2 suction pumps destroyed in Kalyan As part of a special drive against sand mafia and illegal dredging, the revenue officials on Friday (Jan. 20) seized and destroyed two barges and two suction pumps worth ₹50 lakh in Kalyan. A team of revenue officials led by Kalyan and Dombivli tahsildar carried out a raid at Thane creek and found two barges using suction pumps for dredging sand crush. The suction pumps were seized and destroyed using gas cutters, while sugar was poured into the engines of both the barges, disabling them. Later, the barges were also destroyed using gas cutters. Another team from Thane Collectorate also recovered 130 brass of sand from dredging operators at Retibunder off Ghodbunder Road, and pushed it back into the creek. The team also seized 97 brass of sand and 78 brass of stone powder.

The action was taken on the orders of Thane Collector Ashok Shingare and Additional Collector Manisha Jaybhaye Dhule. The Thane district administration has been carrying out special drives against illegal sand dredging and the revenue teams have conducted 46 raids and seized 63 suction pumps, two barges and 3,746 brass of sand stock, which has been auctioned, since April 2022. Penalties have been levied against 195 vehicles and a revenue of ₹2.86 crore was generated, the officials said. One brass of sand is equal to 100 sq ft and A grade construction sand crush sells for ₹4,500 per tonne on online mart, www.Indiamart.com. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/mumbai-news/crackdown-on-sand-dredging-2-barges-2-suction-pumps-destroyed-in-kalyan-101674324875042.html  (21 Jan. 2023)

Himachal Pradesh 6 persons arrested for illegal mining In a major operation launched against illegal mining at five locations including Bathu- Bathri- Santoshgarh, Khanpur – Nangal Khurd – Fatehpur, Ghaluwal, Basal and Jankaur in Una district on Sunday late night, the police teams have seized one proclaim excavator, one JCB, 4 tipper trucks and 9 tractors engaged in illegal mining and transportation while 6 persons have also been arrested and two FIRs under mines and minerals (Regulation and Development) Act, IPC and Environment Act have been registered against them. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/shimla/six-persons-arrested-for-illegal-mining-in-himachal-pradesh-firs-registered/articleshow/97034968.cms  (17 Jan. 2023)

Study Illegal mining has muddied tropical rivers worldwide A comprehensive satellite survey spanning 4 decades shows river mining has surged over the past 20 years and today affects 173 large rivers in 49 countries. The work shows levels of suspended sediment have doubled, compared with premining levels, in some 80% of the rivers. In total, almost 7% of all large tropical river stretches are now cloudy with mining debris.

Although environmentalists and activists have drawn attention to individual watersheds, the study shows how river mining is a global issue, in need of more attention and action, says Jackie Gerson, a biogeochemist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who has studied mercury pollution from mining in Peru and Senegal. The study comes at a critical time, when “artisanal” mining operations are growing more sophisticated—and even more destructive, says Sara Geenen, a social scientist at the University of Antwerp. https://www.science.org/content/article/illegal-mining-has-muddied-tropical-rivers-worldwide  (11 Jan. 2023)

The global impact of sand mining on beaches and dunes The global impact of sand mining on beaches and dunes Globally, most sand mining is done in opposition to local opinion and laws, creating an atmosphere of corruption in many coastal societies. Such mining also has become the basis of the formation of violence-prone sand mafias, who engage in and defend the “illegality” of this activity. There exists a dire need for global policies that will have a real effect on reducing sand mining and its impact on coastal beaches and dunes, as well as for new solutions to reduce the collateral consequences.

This opinion paper highlights the complexity and the adverse effects of coastal sand mining, as well as the severity and urgency of the problem. Based on this information, guidelines are proposed that could be used for global agenda-making regarding sand-extraction regulation. Future solutions should prioritize using alternative aggregates as well as changes in construction techniques, and a return to the concept of Sand Rights – that, like water rights, downstream reliance on sand resources must be respected. This approach will require integrated regional management between offshore regulators, coastal communities, and the associated river basins that are the upstream sources for sand. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0964569123000170  (15 March 2023)

WETLANDS, LAKES, WATER BODIES

Uttar Pradesh Experts slam move to dewater Haiderpur wetland Shockingly, UP irrigation department has dewatered a Ramsar wetland site bordering Muzzafarnagar and Bijnor districts. The water was drained out in two days from Jan 10 2023. This is in violation of Wildlife act and wetland rules. The irrigation department Engineer claimed that they had no information that this is Ramsar site and what are the relevant rules. They said we do it every year. However, they do it every year gradully and much later in the season. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/experts-slam-move-to-dewater-haiderpur-wetland-101674241511016-amp.html  (21 Jan. 2023)

Ashish Loya India’s 47th Ramsar site, Haiderpur Wetland in UP,  completely drained of water in just 3 days by opening bijnor barrage gates, forcing 35,000+ migratory water birds to fly away. Before and after pics: Jan12th / Jan 16th. https://twitter.com/ashishJgd108/status/1616422013614317569?s=20&t=m425LsN04f1zcmi1xXHM5w  (19 Jan. 2023)

The draining out was done under pressure from farmers who complained of water logging in their fields due to high groundwater level, state officials had admitted. Uttar Pradesh must immediately stop the further draining of the Haiderpur wetland and ensure that dewatering the protected Ramsar site for farming needs takes place only when migratory birds are not nesting at the location, the Union environment ministry has directed. Taking cognisance of the Union ministry’s direction, Uttar Pradesh minister of state (Jal Shakti Department), Dinesh Khatik, said: “The Irrigation Department has been directed to stop the dewatering of the wetland so that required water is available for the migratory birds.” https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/govt-steps-in-to-stop-haiderpur-wetland-s-dewatering-101674412169330.html  (23 Jan. 2023)

The Ramsar pledge The prevailing notion is that wetlands will always have water. What is relatively unknown is that wetlands might not have standing water year-round. They are like sponges absorbing water, recharging aquifers underground. When they become oversaturated, such as during the monsoon or when the water table is very high, the water column is pushed up to stand above the soil. In this way, wetlands are connected to each other hydrologically, some recharging more than others, some holding water up above the ground which life on land can access.

Water is not the right visual cue of a wetland. Its typical plant forms or hydrophytic vegetation are, such as the tall grass like reeds. But most wetland policymakers or decision-takers cannot recognise wetland plants. The world acknowledges that wetlands are central to achieving the sustainable development goals. Why then does it take so long to call a wetland a wetland in spite of such a strong law? https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/the-ramsar-pledge-special-emphasis-on-protecting-small-wetlands/cid/1910327  (17 Jan. 2023)

Manipur Rare species of duck sighted in Loktak lake after over 90 years A rare species of duck, Greater Scaup, locally known as Sadangman, was recently sighted in Loktak lake in Manipur’s Bishnupur district after a gap of over 90 years. Talking about the sighting, CM N Biren Singh wrote on Facebook: “On January 13, 2023, Birdwatchers resighted 26 numbers of Greater Scaup (Bluebill) at Hubidak area in Loktak Lake (at the South of Sendra). Ornithologists say that this is the first record of sighting of the duck in Loktak Lake after 94 years.” While there is no record of Greater Scaup roosting widely in Manipur during the British period, there are records of Captain L Gamble of Gurkha Rifles and Indian Civil Service officer JP Mills gunning down the ducks on January 25, 1925, and in December 1927, respectively, sources said.  https://indianexpress.com/article/north-east-india/manipur/manipur-rare-species-duck-sighted-loktak-lake-years-8388058/  (17 Jan. 2023)

WATER OPTIONS

Bundelkhand Small water conservation schemes stand out amidst ‘unviable’ mega Ken-Betwa project  In fact, in its entire planning for water conservation work Srijan has identified such work relating to doha pits as well as repair and renovation of already existing structures. Nearly 460 dohas have been dug in five districts under this programme.

Image source: Counter View

In neighboring Niwari district, the experience of dohas dug in Gulenda village nullah has been particularly encouraging. Apart from more routine crops, here cultivation of flowers too has benefited from improved irrigation facilities.

– Another benefit of such small scale water conservation works is that in such cases the prospects of involving the community in planning and implementation and benefitting from their tremendous knowledge of local conditions are immense and therefore such small water conservation schemes are invariably more creative and successful compared to big, costly, centralized ones.

– Keeping in view the enormous potential of improving water availability from these and other small-scale schemes, clearly it would be advisable for official policy to give more attention to such schemes instead of blowing up most resources on mega projects of highly suspect value. (Bharat Dogra) https://www.counterview.net/2023/01/small-water-conservation-schemes-stand.html  (19 Jan. 2023)

Delhi How Dwarka residents stopped ground from sinking How Dwarka in Delhi stopped and possibly reversed subsidence due to excessive groundwater use between 2004 and now: by piped water supply, rejuvenation of water bodies, use of treated sewage, rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharging and thus brought the groundwater level up. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-64342196  (22 Jan. 2023)

Tamil Nadu Defunct borewells, handpumps to to meet water needs Arid regions in Tiruvannamalai district can meet their water needs as work on converting the existing defunct borewells and handpumps into recharge water shafts has begun. Officials of Department of Rural Development (RD) said the water shafts will help to tap excess rainwater to recharge ground water in the drought hit areas. Most of the defunct borewells and handpumps were laid a decade ago and were not in use for at least four years. “Many defunct borewells and handpumps remain idle. Through the initiative, we are putting them in use again for water conservation,” R. Arun, Assistant Project Officer, NREGA, told The Hindu.

At present, Tiruvannamalai has 15,000 – 20,000 borewells and hand pumps for public use. Of this, 15-20 percent are defunct, mainly due to low groundwater level. In the first phase, 1,333 borewells and handpumps, covering 603 villages including 20 tribal hamlets in Jawadhu Hills will be covered. Each borewell was dug up to a depth of 900 feet in the district due to aridness of the region whereas pipelines for handpumps were laid only to a depth of 150 ft. As a result, more defunct borewells are being converted into recharge shafts because excess rainwater can be tapped for a longer period. Women workers under the MGNREGA have been roped for construction of recharge shafts. Some of the most arid regions like Chengam, Thandrampattu, Jawadhu Hills, Chetpet, Thiruchopuram will get benefitted. Of 14 panchayat unions in the district, Arani will get 124 recharge shafts, followed by Chengam (114) and Tiruvannamalai (107). https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/defunct-borewells-handpumps-to-become-recharge-shafts-in-tiruvannamalai-to-meet-water-needs/article66416650.ece  (22 Jan. 2023)

PWD preparing DPR to renovate 21 spring channels in Ranipet district PWD officials said that Rs 1.65 crore was spent to renovate the distribution channel and strengthening the bund of the tank, which ensured steady flow in the channel even after the rain stopped nearly a month ago. “This follows the department tasting success through the renovation of a spring channel (called Kasa Kalvai in Tamil) near Ocheri on the Ranipet–Kancheepuram district border resulting in water flowing from Karivedu to the irrigation tank at Damal in Kancheepuram district 8 km away,” the Collector said.

“Ranipet is the only district, due to its sandy soil, has such spring channels. The soil absorbs water when it rains and releases it after the downpour stops,” officials explained. “We feel that this might be the reason why agriculture did not face water-related issues despite lacking modern day advantages,” officials added. “The Karivedu spring channel showed the way of how to ensure continuous supply in the district,” they said and added that similar channels have been identified at Nemili, Panapakkam and Tiruparkadal in the district.

The renovation has also resulted in the water table increasing by 1.9 metres to touch 4.30 metres now as against the 6.25 metres in 2020, Collector Baskara Pandian said. This would help farmers raise three crops annually as against the two seasons followed at present, he added. The Karivedu tank improvements will benefit 525 acres and 310 farmers the Collector said and added that the continuous flow into the Damal tank abutting the Chennai–Bengaluru National Highway had gladdened the hearts of farmers in Kancheepuram that “many thanked the district administration for renovation of the spring channel which supplies water to their district.” https://www.dtnext.in/tamilnadu/2023/01/17/pwd-preparing-detailed-project-report-to-renovate-21-spring-channels-in-ranipet-district  (17 Jan. 2023)

Jharkhand Govt focuses on water conservation Jharkhand agriculture minister Badal Patralekh on Saturday (Jan. 21) launched one of the most extensive water conservation projects in the state’s history (since it was carved out of Bihar in 2000) for the renovation of 2,133 ponds (both government and private) and the construction of 2,795 percolation tanks across all blocks of 24 districts, costing Rs 467.32 crore to the state exchequer. The projects are scheduled for completion in two years. Jharkhand government declared 226 blocks in 22 districts as “drought-hit” in October last year and announced an interim relief package of Rs 3,500 to each of more than 30 lakh farmers. The agriculture minister also put stress on integrated farming rather than mono-cropping. https://www.telegraphindia.com/jharkhand/jharkhand-focuses-on-water-conservation/cid/1911354  (22 Jan. 2023)

GROUNDWATER

SANDRP Blog 2022: GW Depletion, Contamination Continue This first part of the annual overview, SANDRP tracks some of the important developments regarding groundwater depletion and contamination in India and ongoing efforts, new steps taken by Central and various state governments in 2022 for the protection and conservation of the finite natural resource. Overall, these developments show no significant improvement in governance and management of groundwater resources which is also the water lifeline of the country amid its rising depletion and contamination. https://sandrp.in/2023/01/17/2022-groundwater-depletion-contamination-continue-amid-govts-efforts/  (17 Jan. 2023)

2022: Some positive reports on groundwater management This second part of yearend overview, SANDRP highlights some positive reports and steps taken by various state governments in India for management and conservation of groundwater in 2022. https://sandrp.in/2023/01/18/2022-some-positive-reports-on-groundwater-management/  (18 Jan. 2023)

2022: Judicial Interventions in India for Groundwater Conservation In this yearend overview, we highlights some remarkable judicial decisions particularly by NGT and some ongoing legal disputes regarding violation of groundwater norms and its pollution in India in 2022. The NGT not only criticized MoJS (Ministry of Jal Shakti) new groundwater guidelines but also ordered penalizing Pepsi’s and Coke’s bottling plants in Uttar Pradesh for operating without NOCs. These were unfortunately later stayed by Supreme Court. Though the judicial interventions have once again revealed the sheer ineffectiveness of concerned bodies at central and state level however these orders have failed to bring any change in their functioning so far. https://sandrp.in/2023/01/19/2022-judicial-interventions-in-india-for-groundwater-conservation/  (19 Jan. 2023)

Center The National Aquifer Mapping and Management programme, which is aimed at delineating aquifer and water availability, is set to be completed in one year, G. Asok Kumar, DG, NMCG said in Chennai on Jan 16, 2023. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/national-aquifer-mapping-programme-to-be-completed-in-a-year-jal-shakti-ministry-official-says/article66382555.ece  (16 Jan. 2023)

Telangana Special Chief Secretary (Irrigation) Rajat Kumar on Jan 20 2023 released the Ground Water Atlas of Telangana. He stated that the Ground Water Atlas of Telangana was a major step towards dissemination of scientific data and taking effective managerial decisions for the ultimate goal of groundwater management in Telangana. https://telanganatoday.com/special-cs-rajat-kumar-releases-ground-water-atlas-of-telangana  (20 Jan. 2023)

Punjab CM orders closure of Zira liquor unit Giving in to a six-month-long protest by locals, CM Bhagwant Mann on Tuesday (Jan. 17) ordered the closure of a distillery and ethanol plant at Manurwala village in Zira subdivision of Ferozepur district. The villagers with the support of farm unions have been protesting against the unit since July 24, accusing it of causing air and water pollution in the area.

The controversial unit, Marlbros International Pvt Ltd, is spread over 48 acres and owned by former Akali Dal MLA Deep Malhotra. The liquor factory had run into controversy after villagers alleged contamination of drinking water due to the release of effluents by it. They alleged inhabitants of villages in the vicinity had been falling sick and a high livestock deaths were being reported. Experts had underlined the need for testing ethanol penetration into the soil even as the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) had given a clean chit to the factory.

In July last year, the AAP government had scrapped a textile park at Mattewara in Ludhiana following widespread protests over the move to set up the project in a forest area. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/punjab-chief-minister-orders-closing-of-zira-factory-in-ferozepur-471212  (18 Jan. 2023)

Morcha seeks written assurance, withdrawal of cases Zira Sanjha Morcha on Wednesday (Jan. 18) said they would continue to protest till the decision about the “permanent closure” of the distillery was provided in writing. The morcha also listed their demands for lifting of the protests, which include withdrawal of cases registered against protesters during the six-month-long agitation, compensation to the two families who lost their kin due to ailments allegedly caused by contaminated groundwater, slapping environmental compensation against the distillery for polluting groundwater, compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to those rendered jobless due to the closure of distillery and their adjustment by starting a sugar mill and opening of a hospital in the area.

The demands have been put before the state government and the morcha will wait for the state government’s response on these demands before taking a decision on lifting the protests, said morcha convener Roman Brar. Meanwhile, protest outside Malbros International Private Limited at Mansoorwal Kalan near Zira continued on Day 179 on Wednesday (Jan. 18) despite the state government announcing permanent closure of the distillery on Tuesday (Jan. 17). The protesters outside Zira distillery stated Punjab had shown to the nation that any success could be achieved with determination, given it was for a people-oriented cause. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/morcha-seeks-written-assurance-on-plant-closure-withdrawal-of-cases/articleshow/97114416.cms  (19 Jan. 2023)

Water, pollution in focus, 5 farm unions to launch indefinite dharna from Feb 3  The five unions on Friday (Jan. 20) held a meeting at Kisan Bhawan in Chandigarh, wherein they decided to launch another indefinite dharna in Chandigarh from February 3 to protest the issues of acute water crisis in the state, environment pollution, as well as the crumbling federal structure of the state.

The present AAP government, had no policy or vision regarding any of the issues, the farm union leaders stated. Rajewal while addressing the meeting, said that the issue of water had been complicated by various parties for vote bank politics. He added that the Centre has illegally and unconstitutionally interfered in the issue and kept the people of Punjab and Haryana divided and fighting with each other.

Kahan Singh Pannu a retired bureaucrat, in his turn, gave details of all water-related disputes that Punjab has faced in 1955, 1976 and 1981, and how the state ended up getting the short end of the stick everytime. The farm leaders at the meeting opposed the stand of the AAP government of proposing the construction of YSL and setting up a tribunal for resolving the issue, which they said was anti-Punjab. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chandigarh/water-pollution-farm-unions-indefinite-dharna-chandigarh-feb-3-8394988/  (21 Jan. 2023)

Seechewal invites parliamentary panel to study polluted groundwater Rajya Sabha MP and environmentalist Balbir Singh Seechewal has invited the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources to visit Punjab, along with all members, to study the polluted water in Punjab. Seechewal’s invitation comes amid farmers of the state already engaged in a long-drawn battle with the state government over Punjab’s deteriorating environment and water crisis. He demanded that the parliamentary committee prepare a detailed report on drying up rivers and groundwater of Punjab during this visit and send it to the Central Water Resources Department and place the report in Parliament. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/seechewal-invites-parl-panel-to-study-groundwater-472851  (23 Jan. 2023)

URBAN WATER

Chennai Thoraipakkam residents complain of breathing issues due to landfill In a petition to Chennai Corporation Commissioner Gagandeep Singh Bedi, K Kalaiselvan, secretary of the Federation of Thoraipakkam Residents’ Welfare Associations, pointed out that about 2,500 tonnes of garbage including domestic waste, industrial waste, bio-medical waste and others are being dumped in the landfill every day.  Toxic gas released from sewage treatment plants located near the dump yard at midnight hours causes breathlessness,” he pointed out.

A Francis, president of the federation, said groundwater in the locality has become highly polluted and the residents could not use it. “Several residents are buying water for daily use and some residents are using water supplied by Metro Water. None of the waste management norms including prevention of seepage is followed in Perungudi landfill,” he added. Pointing out bio-mining works in the dump yard, Francis opined that carrying out bio-mining works without stopping daily dumping is meaningless. “The civic body should stop the dumping. Moreover, groundwater in the locality has turned red,” he said.  https://www.dtnext.in/city/2022/11/29/thoraipakkam-residents-complain-of-toxic-air-breathing-issues-due-to-landfill  (29 Nov. 2022)

The Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) plans to revise the water and sewerage charges for domestic and commercial consumers in core and added areas from April 1. Residents will have to pay 5% and commercial consumers 10% more than the existing rates. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/chennai-metrowater-to-revise-water-and-sewer-charges-from-april-1/article66417676.ece  (22 Jan. 2023)

Dhule municipality gives cash to workers but denies they exist A five-part series on the failure of municipal authorities in western India to eradicate the hazardous work of manually cleaning drains and tanks. https://scroll.in/article/1039817/how-to-cover-up-manual-scavenging-dhule-municipality-gives-cash-to-workers-but-denies-they-exist  (22 Jan. 2023)

Srinagar Ill-planning hits execution of development projects Simultaneous construction and reconstruction of projects in Srinagar at the same place have raised question marks over ill-planning by the concerned departments. Experts and citizens said such moves are aimed to allow contractors to use such projects as “money-minting machines.”  “Years back, Dal Lake banks along the foreshore road overlooking Hazratbal was fenced, developed and tiles were replaced many times to make it look good. Benches with beautiful roofs with wood were placed along it where people used to rest. Last year the whole thing was dismantled, and a cycle track is being built. https://www.greaterkashmir.com/city/construct-dismantle-and-reconstruct-ill-planning-hits-execution-of-development-projects-in-srinagar  (16 Jan. 2023)

JJM/ RURAL WATER SUPPLY

Jammu & Kashmir Jal Shakti Dept, PRIs under scanner A scam involving the Jal Shakti Department has surfaced in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district where hundreds of water pipes for the local population are alleged to have been sold through Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs). While leaving the local population in the dark, the locals believe those involved in the scam are Sarpanchs of at least five Panchayats of Ajas Halqa and officials of the Jal Shakti Department.

As per the locals and Panchs of these Halqas, the pipes were procured by the Jal Shakti division and handed over to the PRIs to be placed or installed in those areas having issues with potable water. Locals said that 500 water supply pipes had been given to the PRIs, however, none had been installed anywhere in these Halqas. https://www.greaterkashmir.com/todays-paper/front-page/jal-shakti-deptt-pris-under-scanner-over-sale-of-500-water-supply-pipes-meant-for-people  (17 Jan. 2023)

WATER

Andhra Pradesh The vigilance officials raided illegal water plants in Vizianagaram, Srikaulam and Parvatipuram districts on January 21 (Saturday). With a directive from Srikakulam Vigilance Department’s Regional Officer A. Suresh Babu, the teams inspected water plants at Dattirajeru, Cheepurupalli and other places in Vizianagaram district. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/vigilance-officials-crack-down-on-illegal-water-plants-in-north-andhra-districts/article66416724.ece  (22 Jan. 2023)

Kerala 7 years after inception, Hilly Aqua struggles to stay afloat Kerala launched Hilly Aqua, the public sector bottled drinking water brand under the Kerala Irrigation Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (KIIDC), a wholly owned company of the State government, in 2015. Seven years later, the sole water bottling project in Kerala that uses surface water collected from reservoirs is yet to find its feet in the highly competitive market, despite selling a 1 kg bottle for ₹15.

The brand has not only been registering loss since its inception, but it has also become a safe place for retired officials from the Irrigation department and other departments to get plum posts, although the re-employment is on contract. According to sources, around 110 officials were posted on contract in the KIIDC and among them, 23 senior officials are pensioners from various departments. Of the three senior administrative postings in the headquarters of Hilly Aqua, two were made from retired pensioners.

Though technical postings are expected to benefit the company, the non-technical administrative postings are a liability, said sources. The brand has been registering a monthly revenue of ₹35 lakh-₹40 lakh in the peak season, while the total expense for running the brand is higher than the revenue. Despite registering losses in the previous years, the brand is still a profit-making enterprise in the audit books of the State. There is no separate account for Hilly Aqua. The revenue and expense of the brand is taken along with the account of the KIIDC. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/7-years-after-inception-hilly-aqua-struggles-to-stay-afloat/article66191928.ece  (27 Nov. 2022)

KIIDC chief executive officer S Thilakan said the corporation plans to expand its operations by setting up a new plant at Peruvannamuzhi in Kozhikode. The government has given an in-principle sanction for the project which would utilise water from the Kuttiyadi reservoir. The project will help the company have a presence in North Kerala. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/kerala/2022/nov/16/kerala-state-run-hilly-aqua-water-on-expansion-spree-2518680.html  (16 Nov. 2022)

MONSOON

IMD 25 more DWR by 2025 India Meteorological Department (IMD) – on Sunday (Jan. 15) announced to cover the entire country under sophisticated radar network by deploying 25 additional Doppler Weather Radars (DWRs) to predict extreme weather events more accurately and establish 720 District Agro Meteorological Units (DAMUs) to provide more precise farm-related advisories and forecasts to farmers by 2025.

Besides, the IMD also decided to increase its agro-meteorological service facilities from 3,100 blocks in 2023 to 7,000 blocks in 2025, and bring Delhi, Kolkata and Guwahati under its urban flood warning system in coming years. The urban flood warning system, introduced in Mumbai in July 2020, is currently operational in two cities including Chennai. 11 of 25 new radars will be set up in plains while 8 in north-east India and 6 in urban areas. Besides, the number of automatic weather stations for surface observational networks will be increased from 1,000 to 1,650 by 2025.

Among all extreme weather events in India in 2022, thunderstorms and lightning claimed the highest 1,285 lives (58% of total casualties of 2,227) followed by floods and heavy rains (835).

Demanding, the DWR for Lahaul-Spiti in HP, CM said though 70% of his state was already covered under the system, there was a need to cover remaining 30% by installing DWR in Lahaul-Spiti which has not only snow, glaciers and rivers, but is also strategically important as it is close to China border touching J&K and Ladakh.

Claiming that the weather prediction accuracy in the country has increased by about 20-40% for different severe weather events forecast during the last five years, Union minister Jitendra Singh said the government has already taken proactive steps and increased the DWR system network from mere 15 to 37 in the last eight years. “It will add 25 more in the next 2-3 years for the universal coverage of the country,” he said while inaugurating 4 DWRs in the western Himalayan region – Banihal Top in J&K, Jot and Murari Devi in HP, and Surkanda Devi in Uttarakhand – taking the tally of total of such Radars to 37. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/entire-india-to-be-covered-under-doppler-weather-radar-network-for-better-forecast-by-2025/articleshow/97011410.cms  (15 Jan. 2023)

About some the independent weather forecasters. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/gurgaon/how-dependable-is-the-independent-weatherman/articleshow/97218093.cms   (22 Jan. 2023)

FLOOD 2022

Forest fires worsen flash floods in Himalayas Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of the SANDRP, told The Third Pole that changes to infrastructure development in the Himalayas are needed to reduce the frequency and severity of flash flooding.

Illustration: Neutron T / The Third Pole

The construction of roads, tunnels, hydropower plants and other projects in mountain areas causes soil erosion and leads to debris being discarded on the hills, he says. In order to comprehensively address the problems of forest fires and flash floods, more structural top-down changes are required, says Thakkar – and these changes need to be at the government level, fundamentally altering the way forests are governed. https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/climate/explained-how-forest-fires-worsen-flash-floods-in-the-himalayas/  (17 Jan. 2023)

Haryana CM claims to have formulated a plan to make the state flood proof by 2026. The CM directed the officials that lakes should be developed in water-logged areas. A plan should be formulated to make about 100 lakes, especially in the NCR districts. With the development of these lakes, a permanent solution to the problem of waterlogging would be done. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/haryana/state-to-be-flood-free-by-2026-haryana-cm-471989  (20 Jan. 2023) The decision was taken in the 54th meeting of the Haryana State Drought Relief and Flood Control Board held under the chairmanship of the chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Thursday (Jan. 19). For the implementation of this plan, 528 projects amounting to Rs 1100 crore have been approved in the meeting. The CM informed that schemes worth more than Rs 312 crore have been approved for purchasing dewatering machinery and re-use of water.

He added that this time, schemes have been prepared for waterlogging through a cluster-based approach. The Bhiwani district has been considered as a cluster, under which the HDPE pipeline will be laid in 8 villages; Kungar, Jatai, Dhanana, Badesra, Siwara, Premnagar, Ghuskani and Dhani Sukhan. An amount of more than Rs. 16 crores will be spent on this. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/haryana-launches-projects-to-make-state-flood-free-by-2026/articleshow/97158208.cms  (20 Jan. 203)

ENVIRONMENT GOVERNANCE

Sikkim Govt giving citizens a say in forest conservation The state government has formed various people-centric committees, such as the joint forestry management committee and biodiversity management committee, to ensure people’s participation at the grassroots level. Besides, it wants people to suggest policies and come up with proposals for a sustainable ecosystem. https://www.indiatoday.in/india-today-insight/story/how-sikkim-is-giving-citizens-a-say-in-forest-conservation-2323816-2023-01-19  (19 Jan. 2023)

Centre Govt exempts key infra projects from wildlife fund rules  To help developers, the govt has decided that the roads, railways and transmission line projects will not have to allocate 2% and 0.5% of project cost for wildlife management plan and soil and moisture conservation plan respectively. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/delhi-news/govt-exempts-key-infra-projects-from-wildlife-fund-rules-101674152375824.html  (19 Jan. 2023)

Maharashtra Chanda airport in tiger corridor top on agenda Even though the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) has raised concerns, seeking the Centre’s clearance to the airport in the tiger corridor in Vihirgaon-Murti of Chandrapur district will be top on the agenda at a high-level meeting between Maharashtra forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar and union environment minister Bhupender Yadav on Friday (Jan. 20). Sources say the state forest minister may even let go of sanctuary status for Kanhargaon, for which a denotification proposal is pending with the state forest ministry, for his dream airport.

The sanctuary was notified on April 5, 2021, by the Uddhav Thackeray government. Sources said the Kanhargaon denotification proposal is being parallelly discussed. They said the issue will not be put before the Union minister as it will have to be first taken up in the state board for wildlife (SWBL) and then forwarded to the NBWL. The meeting will also discuss the removal of several villages from the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of the Western Ghats in Maharashtra. There are 2,000 villages in Western Ghats ESZ spread over four states. Sources said to prepare the denotification proposal many villages were pursued to submit their views against the sanctuary so that ground could be made for denotification of Kanhargaon. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/chanda-airport-in-tiger-corridor-top-on-agenda-in-meet-with-env-minister/articleshow/97147224.cms  (20 Jan. 2023)

Kerala Govt proposes to denotify three wildlife sanctuaries The govt has mooted a proposal before the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) to denotify three inhabited areas namely Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, Pampa Valley and Angel Valley from the list of wildlife sanctuaries.  The decision in the regard was taken in a state wildlife board meeting chaired by the chief minister. The meeting concluded that these areas do not come under the forest sector. The decision to denotify the sanctuaries was taken in the wake of rising complaints in this regard. Apparently, the proposal will be considered by the NBWL and an expert committee will be appointed to inspect the area and submit a report. If the settlements are denotified, then an equivalent area of forest land will have to be added to the sanctuary from another area. A new notification is required to be issued for the purpose. Meanwhile, the decision is likely to prolong for one or two years as the inspection and other procedures are time consuming in nature. https://english.mathrubhumi.com/news/kerala/govt-proposes-to-denotify-three-wildlife-sanctuaries-in-kerala-1.8237540   (20 Jan. 2023)

ESZ Notification SC’s order on ESZ to be heard by three-judge bench Pleas seeking modification of the Supreme Court’s June 3, 2022, order, which, among others, directed that “each protected forest, that is national park or wildlife sanctuary must have an Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) of minimum one kilometre measured from the demarcated boundary of such protected forest…”, will now be heard by a three-judge bench. The batch of applications came up before a two-judge bench of Justices B R Gavai and Vikram Nath which directed that they be placed before the Chief Justice of India so that it can be assigned to a three-judge bench. The June 3 order was also passed by a three-judge bench and had given rise to protests in many states forcing them to approach the SC. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/scs-order-on-eco-sensitive-zone-to-be-heard-by-three-judge-bench-8385835/  (17 Jan. 2023)

CR Bijoy:- The problem begins with a notification that ought to have been community-specific but which a ministry offered as a ‘one size fits all’ solution. https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/analysis-why-has-the-creation-of-eco-sensitive-zones-provoked-protests/article66377452.ece  (16 Jan. 2023)

As heated debates on buffer zones rage across the forest-fringe settlements outside, confusion on the impact of the buffer zone markings and resettlement reigns supreme among the residents here. Adding to their confusion was an earlier proposal by the Kerala Forest Development Corporation (KFDC), which manages the area, seeking their willingness to relocate. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/in-gavi-surrounded-by-forests-from-all-sides-confusion-reigns-supreme-over-buffer-zone-demarcation/article66383259.ece  (16 Jan. 2023)

Nicobar Loss of a tropical forest in Nicobar could end up funding a jungle safari in Haryana Both the legality and the ecological impact of the move are being questioned by environmentalists by Vaishnavi Rathore. https://scroll.in/article/1041669/how-the-loss-of-a-tropical-forest-in-nicobar-could-end-up-funding-a-jungle-safari-in-haryana  (16 Jan. 2023) Proposed infrastructure project in Great Nicobar Island a mega folly Pankaj Sekhsaria https://frontline.thehindu.com/environment/proposed-infrastructure-project-in-great-nicobar-island-a-mega-folly/article66349362.ece  (12 Jan. 2023) A group of 87 former civil servants have written to President Droupadi Murmu, asking her to advise the government to “immediately stop the commencement of destructive projects” in Great Nicobar Island. This will “destroy one of the most pristine habitats in the country, one which is home to various rare and endemic species, as well as to an extremely vulnerable tribe, the Shompens of Great Nicobar”, the former civil servants, under the Constitutional Conduct Group, said. https://thewire.in/environment/constitutional-conduct-group-great-nicobar-project  (22 Jan. 2023)

Report Tapovan forest experiment This concept of Tapovan forests (developed in TIkamgarh dist of MP) is based on the work and ideas of a Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki that helps build dense native forests in relatively short time. This was adapted to local conditions in community discussions and generally a mix of canopy trees, other trees, sub trees and shrubs has been planted, (all native trees, also including trees of medicinal value, trees which are good for fodder etc). Special care has been taken to include species like banyan and peepal, often ignored in official efforts but very good for environment, health and biodiversity.

While there are very high hopes from this experiment, there are some questions also regarding the close spacing, particularly in the context of some species which need more space. Besides, one has to look at not just the upper growth of the plant but also at the root growth so important for essential longer-term growth of trees. Root growth of various densely planted species may need more study. https://www.counterview.net/2023/01/tapovan-forest-experiment-based-on-work.html  (18 Jan. 2023)

SOUTH ASIA

Nepal China building dam close to India border  According to this report in The Hindustan Times on Jan 20, 2023, China is possibly building an embankment type dam on a tributary of Ghaghra/ Karnali river close to the India-Nepal-China tri-junction. This is based on some satellite images shared by Damien Simon (a geospatial intelligence researcher). From the looks of it, the structure will have impact on Nepal too. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/china-building-dam-close-to-india-border-101674154596787.html  (20 Jan. 2023)

A bit ill-informed article. It confuses the small dam upstream of Nepal in Karnali/ Ghaghra basin with the reports of Great Bend dams proposal of China. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/ChanakyaCode/china-building-a-dam-in-tibet-aims-at-acquiring-hydro-hegemony/  (20 Jan. 2023)

CHINA

This global assessment of hydropower potential now published as an article, reads like the product of a hydropower and dam lobby. A team of researchers from Britain, China, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Thailand and the United States studied data from nearly 3 million rivers around the world to determine the total amount of unused hydropower potential. Their findings, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Water on Tuesday (Jan. 17), showed China’s potential development sites lie mainly in the mountainous areas in the south – Tibet, Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou.

– About Himalayas it says: “But in many places, new dams will be damaging to freshwater biodiversity and ecosystem services for humans, such as fisheries… In the Himalayas, for example, it could have limited long-term viability, particularly in view of regional geological instability, glacial melting and changes in precipitation that will take place as a result of climate disruption by humans.” https://www.scmp.com/news/china/science/article/3207015/chinas-untapped-hydropower-could-supply-30-cent-electricity-needs-study  (17 Jan. 2023)

EUROPE

Balkan river becomes floating rubbish dump Tonnes of plastic bottles, rusty barrels, used tires, household appliances, driftwood and other waste have piled up behind a barrier in the Drina River in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which snakes through forested hills. Much of this rubbish was dumped in poorly regulated riverside landfills or directly into the waterways that flow across three countries in the Balkans, accumulating behind the fencing as it flows downstream. The barrier installed by a Bosnian hydroelectric plant, a few kilometres upstream from its dam near Visegrad, a city in eastern Bosnia that has unwillingly been turned into a waste site, local environmental activists complain.

A photo taken from a helicopter of the rubbish.Armin Durgut/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.

Dejan Furtula of the environmental group Eko Centar Visegrad said “the huge inflow of garbage” was not stopping, despite torrential rainfall and floods subsiding. Some 10,000 cubic meters of waste are estimated to have amassed behind the Drina River’s rubbish barrier in recent days, Furtula said. The same amount was pulled in recent years from the river. https://www.euronews.com/2023/01/21/big-embarrassment-balkan-river-becomes-floating-rubbish-dump  (21 Jan. 2023)

THE REST OF THE WORLD

USA EWEB board approves plan to decommission Leaburg HEP The EWEB (Eugene Water and Electricity Board in Oregon) Board of Commissioners voted to approve a resolution that directs the general manager to develop a Leaburg Hydroelectric Project Decommissioning Plan. The plan will provide a framework for oversight of the decommissioning process with regular progress reports from staff. The decision to decommission the 15.9 MW Leaburg project on the lower McKenzie River came after nearly a year of analysis, public meetings and public input. The 90 year old project stopped generating power in 2018 after erosion in Canal and other damages. The actual decommission may start after 2030. https://www.hydroreview.com/dams-and-civil-structures/eweb-board-approves-plan-to-decommission-leaburg-hydroelectric-project/  (11 Jan. 2023)

California Winter Storm: What’s left from the historic series of atmospheric rivers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LamtSUkkPM  (16 Jan. 2023) Climate change could submerge Stockton beneath 10 feet of water. The city’s aging levees aren’t prepared. https://grist.org/extreme-weather/stockton-california-storm-flooding-atmospheric-river-central-valley-levees/  (19 Jan. 2023) Experts question Aravalli safari park plan. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/experts-question-aravalli-safari-park-plan-101674341356574.html  (22 Jan. 2023)

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

Also see: DRP News Bulletin 16 Jan 2023 & DRP News Bulletin 09 Jan 2023  

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

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