Sand Mining

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. The first part of the overview highlighting the adverse impacts of riverbed mining on river eco-system and freshwater species can be seen here.      

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Sand Mining

2022: Riverbed Mining Destroying Indian River Eco-system & Freshwater Species

(Feature image sources: Clock wise (1) Mahseer fish/ Mongabay India, April 2022. (2) Gharials in Chambal/India Today, July 2022. (3) Gangetic dolphin/ECO NE. (4) Smooth-coated Otters in Cauvery/Round Glass, Jan. 2023.)

Indiscriminate mining of riverbeds for sand, gravel, pebbles have been rampant across the country increasingly damaging India’s rivers. The incidents of illegal sand mining, mafias, administrative actions & inactions, govt policies and court cases are routinely covered by the media. However the irreversible impacts of destructive riverbed mining operations on fresh water species and river eco-system are little understood, least explored, rarely covered by media and fails to attract the required attention from govts, judiciary and public at large. 

To some extent, we have been monitoring and highlighting the loop holes in sand mining governance. As part of our annual overview, in 2022 we have complied this separate report underlining the adverse impacts of riverbed mining on rivers and on aquatic life, fresh water species including endangered gharials, dolphins, turtles, fish etc.

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Groundwater

2022: Judicial Interventions in India for Groundwater Conservation

In this yearend overview, we highlights some remarkable judicial decisions particularly by National Green Tribunal (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. NGT proceedings into allegations of groundwater pollution by liquor factory in Firozpur, Punjab has remained inconclusive while affected villagers and farmers have been staging protest for months.   

In the first part of the overview, we have tracked the worsening situation of groundwater depletion and contamination in the country while in second part, we have covered some positive efforts and initiative taken by various governments for its management in 2022.     

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Groundwater

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. In first part of the overview, we have tracked the situation of groundwater depletion and contamination in the country and in third part covered some remarkable judicial interventions regarding groundwater conservation in 2022.

Centre Recharge wells to power multi-city groundwater project. A pilot project on shallow aquifer management, initiated by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs for 10 cities, under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), has identified recharge wells as key to improving groundwater availability. Experts have cited the non-availability of space to allow the percolation of rainwater as a major hurdle to recharging Bengaluru’s groundwater table. The Million Wells programme was launched by Biome Environmental Trust in 2015 to encourage citizens and communities to dig and maintain their own recharge wells. It also opened up employment for the traditional well-digger community, the mannu vaddars.

In Bengaluru, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) will be the nodal agency for the project. Biome Environmental Trust and Advanced Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM) will be technical partners in the project, which is led by the National Institute of Urban Affairs, a national think-tank on urban planning and development. The pilot project also covers Chennai, Dhanbad, Gwalior, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Rajkot, Thane, and Pune. https://www.deccanherald.com/city/recharge-wells-to-power-multi-city-groundwater-project-1157262.html  (28 Oct. 2022)

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Groundwater

2022: Groundwater Depletion, Contamination Continue amid Govts’ Efforts

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. In second and third parts of the yearend roundup we have tracked some positive initiative for groundwater management by various governments in the country and some remarkable judicial interventions for groundwater governance and conservation in 2022.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 160123: Top Court appeals for EIAs for Urban Development: Welcome, but…

The Supreme Court of India, while disposing of a petition related Chandigarh, in its order on January 10, 2023 has said: “Before we part with this judgement, we observe that it is high time that the legislature, executive, and the policymakers at the centre and state levels take note of the damages to the environment on account of haphazard development and take a call to take necessary measures to ensure that the development does not damage the environment… We therefore appeal to the Legislature, the Executive and the Policy Makers at the Centre as well as at the State levels to make necessary provisions for carrying out Environmental Impact Assessment studies before permitting urban development.”

This is most welcome. And urgently required. That India’s urban development is happening at the cost of life sustaining environment resources including rivers, water bodies, forests, wetlands among others is well known. That the government sees all requirements of environmental scrutiny as road blocks is also well known. The consequences of this are clear for all concerned, not only in case of Bangalore as cited by the Supreme Court Bench, but also in case of Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Chennai, Delhi, Ernakulam, Faridabad, Gurugram, Hyderabad, Indore, Joshimath, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai and so on. So is there a good chance that the apex court suggestion will be followed either in letter or in spirit? Unlikely. So what is clearly required is that the apex court emphatically directs the centre and states in this regard and follows it up with ensuring its implementation.

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DRP News Bulletin

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

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

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

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Rivers in Literature

RIVER OF POEMS

Guest Blog by Lori Udall

Rivers are an enduring symbol of life and time passing, eternity. We often reference rivers as a metaphor for a life’s journey or for the many journeys we take physically, spiritually and symbolically.  As those reading this blog well know, rivers are the lifeblood of the planet, on which millions of communities depend for their livelihoods, drinking water, irrigation, water for animals, food, hydropower, waterways, fish, as well as their cultural, religious, aesthetic and social needs.  

Here is a collection of poems that interpret the human experience with rivers, flowing waters. (Feature photo above is from India Today, 2019)

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Hydro Power Projects

2022: Environment & Forest Clearances to Dams, Hydro, Irrigation Projects

On the basis of minutes of meetings held by Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change’s (MoEF) Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for River Valley and Hydropower Projects from January 12, 2022 to November 30, 2022; we present region wise details of various Dams, Hydroelectric Power (HEP), Pumped Storage Hydro Projects (PSHP) and Irrigation Projects proposals considered and approved for Terms of Reference (TOR) and Environment Clearance (EC) by the EAC. It also lists out various water projects related proposals seeking Forest Clearances (FC) from and decisions by the Forest Appraisal Committee (FAC) of MoEF in this period.

SANDRP’s 2020 and 2021 overviews on the subject can be seen by clicking the links. You may also like to visit our 2022 overviews on (1) Dam induced floods & damages, (2) Fly ash dam breach incidents, (3) Impact of floods on Polavaram project, (4) People’s resistance against dams and hydro projects, (5) Disasters and accidents at HEPs sites, (6) Dam Safety Issues, (7) Hydro projects opposition and accidents in South Asia.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 020123: Looking Back to Look forward to 2023

(Feature Image:-River Ken inside Panna National Park from River Stories, Walking Across India-I by Siddharth Agarwal)

This is the first DRP bulletin of 2023 and we would like to begin on a positive note. But to remain grounded in reality we also need to look back at the events in 2022. We see a number of positives in 2022 and we hope that trend continues. The number of new dams and hydropower projects being started has remained on a declining trend. People and civil society has continued its protests against destructive projects and for more decentralised projects and governance.

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