In an effort to assess the situation of Rivers in 2017, SANDRP is presenting the compilation of key rivers related development in the country. The first part of this Rivers Review 2017 includes Northern States including Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. The following parts will present separate accounts for Rivers in North East, West, East and South Zones. There will also be separate review reports on Ganga & Yamuna rivers.
Above: Sindhu by Anoop Patnaik, Outlook Traveller
“To choose safe waters
is the route of imposters:
Those who love
take on the mighty river.” (Seeking the Beloved, translations of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai’s Poems)
In the inky, starless night, beautiful Sohni plunged into the flooded River Chenab to meet her beloved Mehwal, knowing well that she will never make it to the other side. Sohni is one of the seven heroines brought to life by Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, a remarkable 18th Century Sufi poet, mystic and reformist living on the banks of Indus. Sohni was the wife of a potter, in love with Mahiwal, a cattle herder from the banks of the Chenab. Like all poignant love stories, Sohni-Mahiwal’s tale was short-lived, but 300 years later, the legend of Sohni flows through the Chenab and lives on in the songs of peasants. In Punjab, the land of five rivers, they sing of Sohni, of the roaring, helpless river and of mad, wilful love. The narrative is so unwrinkled and dewy that till this day, silent figures sweep the modest tombs of Sohni and Mahiwal, hoping that their love will meet a better fate. Like Sur Sohni (Sohni’s poem) from Shah jo Risalo (Poetry of the Shah) prophecised:
“Hundreds were by the river drowned,
But the river was drowned by this maiden.” Continue reading “Rivers are Us”
About Himachal Pradesh
5 river basins; Total Area: 55,000 square kms.; Total Population: 68.65 lakhs; Total Catchment Area of 5 rivers; Total Catchment Area: 53311 sq.kms
Himachal is a relatively small state and in 2011 its population stood at 68.65 lakhs. It is only 9% urbanised and most of Himachal lives in its villages. Of the total land geographical area only 10% is under agriculture while close to 70% in under the category of ‘Forest land’. And yet agriculture is the main source of livelihood in Himachal with over 93% of the population dependent on it. As in most mountain areas agriculture and forest dependence is interwoven.
Agriculture is made possible due to the irrigation from river channels or natural springs. The health of the forests directly determines the health of the surface and ground water systems which in turn determines the viability of agriculture and horticulture. Horticulture and cash based agriculture was pushed by the government in the late 70s and 80s. Today the state has massive apple cultivation, apart from commercial vegetable cultivation, which is an important source of income for the farmers.
Above: Sohni in Chenab, painitng by Manjit Bawa
To say that rivers hold great cultural significance for South Asia is stating the obvious. Also obvious is that the cultural legacy of rivers overpowers the religious narrative… which too, is not tied only to Vedic Hinduism. All faiths in the subcontinent have a deep connection with rivers which manifests in stories, lore, songs and poetry. While Suktas in Rigveda eulogizing rivers are known, actually breathtaking is the lyrical beauty of the verses which describe Sindhu or Indus as a “wild, magnificent white stallion, roaring and galloping through the Himalayas into the plains” or sometimes as a “loving mother cow, its calves following her from the steep mountain paths”. Continue reading “Rivers of Stories”
When on March 20-21, 2017, on the eve of World Water Day, India and Pakistan’s Permanent Indus Commission met in Islamabad for its 113rd meeting, there was a lot at stake besides the immediate issue or even the Indus Treaty.
In many ways, the Indus Treaty remains a bright spot in relations between these two neighbors and the treaty keeps bringing them back to the talking table…This is the magic of a shared river! Continue reading “India Pakistan resume talks on Indus Treaty: Stakes are high”
The Environment Appraisal Committee
River Valley Projects
Ministry of Environment and Forests
Subject: Submission related to Chenab River and Lahaul Valley in context of EC for 430 MW Reoli Dugli project
We have read reports that the expert appraisal committee (EAC) on river valley and hydel projects of the Ministry of Environment has decided “not to take any cognizance of representations” received by its members since such representations are ‘anti-development’. The article appearing in Indian Express on January 14, 2017 stated, “In its December 30 meeting, the committee concluded that once a project proposal reaches the EAC for appraisal, it has crossed the stage of public consultation and “the EAC should not go back in time, and should not reopen it, by entertaining unsubstantiated representations received from the people”. Continue reading “Lahaul people write to Environment Committee not to clear Reoli Dugli Hydro project”
When I talk with Manshi, a friend and co-traveler from Himdhara Collective about Bhagirathh Prayas Samman that the collective received during the India Rivers Week 2016, she is modest, even slightly hesitant. She simply says, “We love the mountains, we want to protect them and help mountain communities fight the unequal battle against unplanned hydropower. That is one motivation of our work. But the other is recognition of the fact that we are privileged… privileged to be able to speak English, to work on a computer, to understand the bureaucratic procedures that alienate a tribal or forest dweller from her land. That understanding also drives us.”
Citation of Bhagirath Prayas Samman given to Himdhara Collective states: “Himdhara’s strength is its engagement with communities, movements and organisations. It has created an effective discourse around issues of resource distribution and their ownership and the resultant impacts on ecological spaces of mountain communities, especially vulnerable groups like indigenous people, dalits and women. It is an honor to recognize and celebrate Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective’s extraordinary Bhagirath efforts in maintaining the integrity of rivers in Himachal Pradesh.”
In their own words, “Himdhara is an autnomous and informal non registered environment research and action collective, extending solidarity and support, in research and action, to people and organisations asserting their rights over their natural resources and agitating against corporatisation of these resources for destructive development in the state.”
A collective of young, passionate and questioning minds, Himdhara has been working with communities in far flung areas of Himachal Pradesh include Lahaul and Spiti and Kinnaur in their fight against the onslaught of ill-planned and bumper to bumper hydropower projects in Himachal, amongst other issues. Continue reading “Bhagirath Prayas Samman: Himdhara Collective: Relentless Questioning and Doing”
Diplomatic and military strategies, by definition, are not decided through public debates. So the jingoism around Indus treaty with Pakistan seems more like an attempt at sending threatening signals. But it will have multiple serious ramifications in any case, so it is worth deliberating about.
The 1960 Indus treaty has allocated rights of development on three eastern tributaries (Sutlej, Beas & Ravi) to India, and we have exhausted that entitlement almost fully. Attempts to use the occasional remaining flow will mean a huge impact in Indian Punjab, which is unlikely to resonate well with the people of Punjab. The treaty gave Pakistan dominant right of development of the three western tributaries (Chenab, Jhelum and Indus), India has limitations about water use (both in terms of quantity and manner of use) in case of the western rivers. India has not yet exhausted the entitlement in this case.
Even as the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has been sanctioning cascades of hydropower projects on here-to free flowing rivers in the Himalaya and North East India, Cumulative Assessment of the Impacts of these projects became a crucial area of concern. Over 70 dams are planned one after other for the rivers of the Upper Ganga Basin, 44 dams across the Siang Basin in Arunachal Pradesh famed for its pristine forests and biodiversity, 12 dams across the Lohit Basin, 19 for Subansiri basin. These are bumper to bumper projects, one starting where the other ends. Continue reading “Cumulative Impact Assessment documents not in public domain anymore? Letter to MoEF and CC”
Above: Title page of Sawalkote EIA Executive Summary
January 14, 2016
J&K State Pollution Control Board,
Parivesh Bhawan, Forest Complex, Gladni, Narwal, transport Nagar,
Jammu (J&K) Telephone Nos:- 0191-2476925, 2476927
- Sh. Abdul Razak, IFS
Chairman, J&K State Pollution Control Board, Mob:- +91-9419188852, email@example.com
- Sh. Vasu Yadav, IFS
Member Secretary, J&K State Pollution Control Board, Mob:- 0194-2311165, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Regional Director, Jammu,
J&K State Pollution Control Board, Jammu. Email: email@example.com
Sub: Violations in public hearing for 1856 MW Sawalkote HEP
in Ramban, Udhampur and Reasi districts in J&K
Respected Chairman, Member Secretary and Regional Director,
We understand from J&K SPCB website that the pubic hearings for the proposed 1856 MW Sawalkote Hydropower project is to be held in Udhampur (Village Panchari), Reasi (Village Mahore) and Ramban (Village Tanger) districts at 10 am on January 18, 21 and 28, 2016 respectively. However, we notice a number of problems in this context, some of the key ones include: Continue reading “Open Letter to J&KSPCB: Cancel Public Hearings for Sawalkote HEP for violations”