Dams, Rivers & People

Dams, Rivers & People 2020 through the DRP LEAD STORIES

In SANDRP’s weekly News Bulletins, we select lead story each week. Here we try to look back and take stock of major happenings of 2020 through a compilation of DRP lead stories to recapitulate major happenings related Dams, Rivers, Water and Environment. While doing this we are aware that this may not completely capture all the key happenings in this sector, since not all the major developments are captured by the media and their headlines. However, it does provide some idea about what were the major developments in this sector in the just outgoing year 2020. We have divided the lead stories under several key classifications like River Management, Environment Governance, Dams, Hydropower projects, Flood management, groundwater management etc.

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Dams, Rivers & People

Dams, Rivers & People 2020 through the eyes of the Cartoons

A good cartoon can say a lot more than words and possibly more effectively. As in 2019[i], we are sharing the key events on the issues that we focus on namely Dams, Rivers, Environment and People using cartoons. As you can see, we have sourced them from the various internet sources during the just concluding year 2020.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 28 Dec. 2020: Five Positives of outgoing Corona year

The outgoing year 2020 is likely to be remembered as Corona year as Covid 19 pandemic has been the most influential aspect of the year. However, there have been many positives of the outgoing year. We identify five biggest positives as we see them.

Firstly, the complete lockdown that we experienced during March-April 2020, to slow down the spread of the Covid 19 infection showed, among many other things that it is indeed possible to clean up our rivers and also indicated the way forward: tackle industrial pollution. Unfortunately, those clear lessons have not been learnt by the government, its been busy in ease of doing business, not even understanding that in changing climate, clean rivers are going to be a major resource that will help people adapt.

The second notable positive was the major across the country protests, particularly from the younger generation against the government’s attempt to bulldoze the completely anti- environment amendment to the EIA notification. The protests along with the judicial orders have so far stopped the amendment from getting implementation. The government will do well to abandon any attempt to push them.

Similar to the protests against amendments to EIA notification were the protests against trying to bulldoze the massive Etalin Hydropower project in Dibang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh, at the cost of lakhs of trees and biodiversity rich forest and river and against the wishes of the people of Arunachal Pradesh and North East India. Here again it was good to see that the campaign has so far been successful.

India Rivers Week 2020 organised Zonal and National dialogues on river sand mining in India, in which large number of groups and stakeholders from across the country participated and has created a new wave of awareness and energy on this very important but so far largely ignored issue. We are hopeful that this energy will lead to change in governance of river sand mining in India.

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Arunachal Pradesh · brahmaputra · China · Dams · Hydropower

Why is India not demanding TEIA for the Great Bend Hydro proposal of China?

While one can never be too sure what is the exact meaning of Chinese whispers, a thoughtful response has to take into account the available facts and the context. This report tries to take stock of available facts and context of this latest episode that started at the end of November 2020 and is still going on: China’s proposed massive hydropower project on the Great Bend of Yarlung Tsangpo River just before the river enters India as Siang, a tributary of Brahmaputra river. It also reviews the key media reports published on this issue.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP Bulletin 21 Dec 2020: Morand Ganjal Dam opposed in Narmada Valley

Tribals of large number of villages from Seoni Malwa Tehsil of Hoshangabad district in Madhya Pradesh have been strongly opposing the Morand Ganjal dam for several years now, as they again came out in large numbers this week on Dec 17, 2020, also remembering their rally exactly a year ago on Dec 17, 2019. They has simple demand: plz first provide all the information about the project in Narmada Valley and get approval of all the involved villages as required under the law. But the arrogant administration has not even responded to basic demand of all the relevant information.

Under the Rs 2813 Cr project, dams are to be built on Morand river near Morghat village of Seoni Malwa tehsil and on Ganjal river near Jawardha village of Rahatgaon tehsil-Harda district with the objective of irrigating 4,617 ha of land in 28 villages of Hoshangabad, 17,678 ha in 62 villages of Harsud tehsil-district Khandwa, and 29,910 ha in 121 villages of Harda, Khirkiya, Sirali and Rahatgaon tehsils of Harda district. The project was approved in 2017. Some 23 villages and over 3000 ha of land is facing submergence, affecting Korku tribals in Hoshangabad, Harda and Betul districts, but there is no rehabilitation plan in place as per the Narmada Valley R&R policies.

Dams are no longer delivering promised benefits and the age of building dams is over. But the political economy of massive funds spent on a major project keeps driving the politicians and officials to keep pushing more projects. The least one can expect from the government is to provide all the relevant information to the affected people in manner and language they can understand, have public consultation and approval in each affected village in front of an independent panel. Without such due process pushing such dams are bound to raise more conflicts, confrontations and opposition.

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Rivers · Sand Mining · South Asia

Blood on Sand: River Sand Mining in South Asia

The insightful River sand mining focused South Asia meeting titled “Blood on the sand: dangers of riverbed mining in South Asia” was held on Dec 11, 2020. It was one of the off shoots of the IRW 2020 held dialogues on River Sand mining in India. One of the underlining theme that reverberated through the presentations was again that people on ground must have a role in governance of sand mining, considering the failure of governance of river sand mining by all concerned departments and governments. While the discussions brought out a number of scientific insights, the role of scientific studies and assessment was another key point emphasised by all.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 14 Dec 2020: Constitution of EAC for River Valley Projects Challenged in High Court

The Karnataka High Court has taken up the petition challenging the constitution of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River Valley and Hydropower projects. Notices have been issued to MoEF and also all the members of EAC on a petition filed by the United Conservation Movement Charitable Welfare Trust. Such a scrutiny of the appointment of the EAC was long overdue and urgently required. One hopes the High Court will take the matter to its logical conclusion and ensure that MoEF has a credible, transparent process of appointment of these committees as without such a process, the MoEF gets away with appointing only yes people on the committee who are happy to tow the government line. That nullifies the whole purpose of the constitution of the committee, the EIAs, the public consultations, the appraisals, the clearances and even credible monitoring and compliance. It is complete failure of environment governance and laws and MoEF even gets away with appointment of people with clear conflict of interest. MoEF has no process of selection of the chair and members of these committees. Hoping for the best for the case to correct all this.

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Agriculture

Agriculture Reform Rhetoric or Unbridled Capitalist Accumulation?

Guest Article by Rahul Banerjee

The agricultural scientist MS Swaminathan is not liked by many of the conservationists, but it may be useful to quote him since he has also great acceptability among the official circles. He had warned about the various implications of energy, capital and chemical intensive monoculture agriculture. We did not address them then and we are not addressing them now even as the debate is raging on the agriculture reforms with farmers justifiably on the doorsteps of the National capital.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 7 Dec 2020: Courts expose NEXUS and IMPUNITY in Sand Mining. Will any commensurate consequences follow?

Four different news on River Sand Mining catch our eye, with common underlying theme of NEXUS of government and miners on the one hand and IMPUNITY of the sand miners in indulging in mindless violence. In Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, no less than the Supreme Court (SC) and National Green Tribunal (NGT) respectively expose nexus between the state government and illegal sand mining. In Agra (UP again) the sand miners have again shown impunity in attempting to crush the forest officials trying to stop incessant illegal river sand mining from Yamuna River, they managed to run away, as usual. In Tamil Nadu, the High Court has appointed an advocate to ascertain the extent of illegal mining.

On any day, and in any sector, this should have been seen as eye widening affairs. It indeed should. But in sand mining this seems like regular dog biting man kind of news. One hopes it is not and that serious consequences follow. Kind of consequences that would not only help bring commensurate punishment to those responsible, but before that the identification of the guilty. And that punishment will be exemplary enough to bring some fear into the sand miners and those indulging in corruption in sand mining. It’s a bit tall order, but not unwarranted.

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Rivers · Sand Mining

Public Trust Doctrine must in sand mining governance: Jus. Madan Lokur at IRW 2020

Justice (Retd) Madan Lokur of the Supreme Court of India graced the Annual function of India Rivers Week 2020[i] on Nov 28, 2020, and gave his key note address on the theme of IRW 2020: “Is River Sand Mining Killing Our Rivers?” The annual function also included announcements of Bhagirath Prayas Samman and Anupam Misra Memorial Medal[ii] as also a panel discussion[iii]. We are happy to publish here what he spoke at the meeting as we feel it will benefit many more people.

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