“Hark! What is that? What is that sound? It is laughter, bubbling up from the heart of the darkness. It is the sound of water! There is no doubt. The water of Muktadhara is free!”
As I stepped on the wooden slats across the joyously gurgling Tirthan River, I remembered Rabindranath Tagore’s lines from his first play, Muktadhara (Free-flowing). I was in the Himalayas to listen to the story of Tirthan, a Muktadhara in her own right! Tirthan is the rarest, possibly the only river valley in India to be declared as a “No-Go Valley” for hydropower or dam development, protected in perpetuity.
A review of the Central Water Commission (CWC) monitoring reports of all four quarters of 2019 reveals that all the eleven projects that were being monitored in Ganga basin have violated the mandatory Environment flows notification in each of the four quarters of 2019 at some time or the other. The reports are of poor quality with CWC forgetting which states are in Ganga basin and even relative location of the projects. The CWC also seems to have no clue as to what constitutes Environment flows. No punitive action is initiated in any of the cases of violations even after the e flows notification implementation becomes legally mandatory from December 15, 2019 as per the NMCG notification of Sept 14, 2019. Continue reading “Implementation of NMCG’s Ganga River E flows in 2019: All projects violating even tokenistic norms”→
When I was documenting a tiny, free-flowing river in Maharashtra Western Ghats named Shastri, the common thread from headwaters to estuary was Fishing! It was everywhere, in all forms, including dozens of fish species and fishing practices, including everyone: men, women, children, otters, crocs, storks. Across the country, buzzing, diversified fisheries with old, complex narratives indicate a rich river. And the palette just gets more vivid, nuanced and colorful with the size of the river.
More than 10 million Indians from some of the most vulnerable groups depend on rivers for their livelihood and nutritional needs. This staggering number can be an underestimate as several riverine fisherfolk do not bring their produce to the market and our livelihood census hardly captures the intricacies of riverine fisheries sector. Despite the huge dependence and critical importance of riverine fisheries, the sector continues being ignored and abused. The reasons behind the exploitation are at the heart of a deeper, more troubling discourse: ownership and appropriation of the river as a natural resource. Continue reading “Riverine Fisherfolk as Mascots of flowing rivers and how 4 projects treat them today”→
In an unprecedented first ever Audit report, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) which recently conducted Performance Audit on ‘Environmental Clearance and Post Clearance Monitoring’ has unambiguously stated that the existing processes for grant of Environmental Clearance are fraught with serious violations, noncompliance and deficiencies.[i] In fact River Valley and Hydroelectric Projects have been highlighted for poorest quality of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Reports, maximum irregularities during Public Hearings, and non-compliance of Environmental Clearance conditions.
This is a resounding slap on the face of the functioning of the current and past Expert Appraisal Committee’s (EACs on Dams and vindicates and validates what SANDRP and other civil society groups have been saying for long. This is indeed much needed critical feedback when EAC is seeking to make its proceedings less and less transparent and providing false justifications for the same.Continue reading “CAG validates concerns about shoddy environmental appraisal of Dams”→
Contrary to common mindset that Yamuna River is still flowing pristine in Himalaya, an exploratory visit (23-27 June 2015) inside Yamuna Valley underlines that construction of 120 MW Vyashi Hydro Electric Project report, proposed 300 MW Lakhwar dam and Katapathar Barrage is compromising the existence of the special river in its very homeland. The report also highlights that the river stretch where all these projects are coming up is prone to large scale landslides. It was also found that downstream community is unaware of environmental flow and the project developers are tight lipped on impact these projects over aquatic biodiversity. Road expansion work upstream these projects is dumping tonnes of debris into river, in complete violation of all norms (neither state nor central government seem bothered about these violations by the government agencies) further lifting up the already escalated riverbed. The perennial natural springs are gradually drying up in the area. Impact of all these impacts and threats on River Yamuna and riparian community still remain unstudied and unaddressed.