Five months have passed of 2019. There is apparently no reduction in illegal sand mining activities which are continue to ruin rivers, kill people and damage public infrastructure across the country.
In North India, the Ghaggar, Yamuna, Ken, Betwa and Chambal rivers have been severely affected. The Narmada, Krishan, Godavari and Cauvery are prominent rivers bearing the burnt of unsustainable extraction.
There are reports hinting that uncontrolled mining menace is also aggravating the drought situation. On one hand it is causing siltation of reservoirs thus reducing storage capacity while on the other it is inhibiting recharge of shallow aquifers supplying base flow to rivers during lean season. This is one of the main reasons many of perennial rivers like Cauvery, Narmada, Yamuna, Ken, Betwa and Godavari at many places are running dry this year.
(Feature image by Nishant Panwar, Vikas Nagar, shows Yamuna River in upper reaches in Jan. 2019)
On April 11, 2019, is the birthday of Yamuna river. The Yamuna Jayanti comes every year on the sixth day of ‘Chaitra’ (summer) Navratra. The Kapat (door) of famous Yamnotri shrine would be opened this year on May 7 for Char Dham Yatra.
In April-May 2019 India will vote to elect 17th Lok Sabha or Parliament. On April 11, the 1st of the 7 polling days, the home state of Yamuna river, Uttrakhand and the districts of Western Uttar Pradesh through which Yamuna river flows, will vote.
The two other states heavily dependent and Yamuna river, Haryana and Delhi will see voting on May 12. The district Mathura, Agra, Etawa, Kanpur, Hamirpur, Fatehpur and Allahabad of Uttar Pradesh located along Yamuna river will witness voting from second (April 18) to sixth phase on May 12.
The NDA government come to power in May 2014 promising clean Ganga and Yamuna. The thousands of devotees of Mathura and residents of Agra were especially convinced of a promise of clean flowing Yamuna river. People were also hopeful that the government of the same party, BJP, in centre and in key basin states of Yamuna (Uttarakhand, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh) would bring a change in the situation. But over the five years, things have only deteriorated further. In fact, under the present government apart from dams and pollution a illegal sand mining has emerged as equally dangerous threat for the Yamuna rivers from upper reaches through middle and lower stretches.
On the occasion of Yamuna Jayanti, the Yamuna Nadi Mitra Mandli (YNMM) a voluntary group of villagers and concerned; established along the length of Yamuna by Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan is highlighting the issues affecting the Yamuna river and riparian communities which have remained unaddressed during past five years and none of the political parties even now have remotely focused on these. They also warn that ignoring the problems of Yamuna and dependent community will soon affect every state and dependent people in a significant way apart from endangering the river itself.
Himachal Pradesh has received 917.3 mm rainfall during South West Monsoon 2018. The amount is 11 percent higher than normal rainfall category of 825.3 mm. However at district level there is considerable variation in the distribution of rainfall. Out of 12 districts in the state, rainfall departure has been in deficit in three districts namely Chamba, Kinnaur and Lahul & Spiti by 38 percent, 32 percent and 43 per cent respectively. All these three districts are in upper part of Himalaya, the origin of many rivers & where mountains are mostly snow covered.
Uttrakhand has received 3% below normal rainfall during South West Monsoon 2018. Though the figure falls in normal category, however district level rainfall data paints a very different picture. Out of total 13 districts in the Himalayan state, four districts namely Almora, Pauri Garhwal, Tehri Garhwal and Udham Singh Nagar have received deficit rains, whereas three districts which includes Bageshwar, Chamoli and Haridwar have got rainfall in excess. Out of the rest six districts four are on marginally positive side and two are on marginally negative side.
In a mountain village in southwest China’s Sichuan province, authorities have demolished seven small dam projects this year along a river to clear illegal developments in a new nature reserve. The demolition is part of a nationwide programme to close hundreds of tiny and often ramshackle dams and turbines and bring order to China’s massive hydropower sector after years of unconstrained construction.
The dams sat on an unnamed tributary of the fierce and flood-prone Dadu river, which feeds into the Yangtze, Asia’s largest and longest river, where the government says the “irregular development” of thousands of small hydropower projects has wrecked the ecology. But green groups say the campaign will not necessarily save the environment because it will not affect big state hydropower stations, which they say have caused the most damage.
On the 48 km Zhougong, authorities have already demolished small projects built in nature reserves or encroaching upon new “ecological red lines” drawn up to shield a quarter of China’s territory from development.
The government says small dams have disrupted the habitats and breeding patterns of many rare species of fish, although green groups argue the damage wrought by bigger dams is more severe, with entire towns and ecosystems submerged in water, which they say increases the risk of earthquakes, landslides and even climate change.
Further speaking to various regional media, Madhav Gadgil has said that irresponsible environmental policy is to blame for the recent floods and landslides in Kerala. He also called it a “manmade calamity”. He said that the committee report had recommended to protect the resources with the cooperation of local self-govt and people, but those recommendations were rejected.
Dams should never be filled before the end of the monsoons. Because then one doesn’t have any solution but to release the water in the surrounding areas: Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP says as one of panellist discussing role of dams in aggravating Kerala floods.
Here is admission about sudden, excessive releases and not foreseeing the coming disaster. The Kerala crisis could have been contained had the state “gradually released” waters from at least 30 dams, officials said, adding that the local authorities failed to foresee the imminent danger with high rain prediction. “Such floods have probably recurred after 100 years, exposing the state’s unprofessionally run reservoir management system and unpreparedness on disaster mitigation and disaster resilience, an official pointed out. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kochi/gradual-dam-water-release-could-have-contained-crisis/articleshow/65436339.cms (17 Aug. 2018)
The various aspects of tragic Dam Disaster in Mekong Basin in Laos are still unfolding. But it is clear from many accounts that it was an avoidable, man-made disaster due to neglect of contractors, decision makers, consultants and supervising agencies. There is a lot we can learn from this if we want to avoid such disasters in India. We still do not have credible Dam Safety Law or institution, CWC is clearly not the right agency considering the conflict of interest with the various other roles of CWC. But for now let us look at the reports of Laos Dam Disaster.
Reminding the world of one of the worst dam disasters, the under construction dam Xepian Xe Nam Noy Hydro power project breached releasing 5 billion cubic metres of water in Southern Laos on July 23.
The gushing water current swept the surrounding leading to death of about 26 people and displacing about 6600 residents. As per report hundreds of people are still missing from neighbouring villages of Yai Thae, Hinlad, Mai, Thasengchan, Tha Hin, and Samong, which bore the brunt of flooding. The deluge has reportedly destroyed thousands of homes.
In its latest report, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has questioned implementation of sixteen National Irrigation Projects. Before this, the CAG has held mismanagement in dams’ operation responsible for Chennai floods in 2015. Both these reports are available on its website now.
The CAG report on National Irrigation Projects, tabled in Parliament on July 20, has revealed that sixteen major multi-purpose water projects, taken up on an expeditious basis about a decade ago, are nowhere near completion, with no work being undertaken in as many as 11 projects despite the incumbent govt’s much-wanted focus on improving irrigation facilities in the country.
The report also mentioned that out of the 16 projects, undertaken under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP) in Feb 2008, only five projects with estimated irrigation potential of 25.10 lakh hectares were under implementation and even these projects suffer from 8 to 99 per cent shortfall in physical progress, the CAG said. The remaining 11 projects with estimated irrigation potential of 10.48 lakh hectares are yet to commence and are at different stages of approval.
Uttrakhand is a disaster prone State. Earthquakes, Forest Fires, Flash Floods and Landslides keep occurring here round the year. The cloud burst events have also made entry to the disaster list. During past many years, local people have gradually become familiar with the term CLOUD BURST. The freak weather incident seems striking the state in increased number and frequency year after year.
Midway through the 2018 monsoon, there have already been about a dozen cloud burst events across the state.
India certainly urgently needs credible measures to achieve both structural and operational safety of dams. As the HINDUSTAN TIMES editorial emphasizes, we need much greater transparency, accountability and participation of independent, non government experts at every level of functioning of Dam Safety mechanism. Current Dam Safety Bill draft falls far short of that. This is also underscored by many of the news we bring in this July 16, 208 issue of DRP News Bulletin.
The Tamil Nadu CAG report, as Indian Express reports, has clearly said that the Chennai floods of Dec 2015 were majorly due to the wrong decision of dam operators to release 29000 cusecs of water for 21 hours, in violation of all safety norms, but no was punished for this wrong decision. The same has always been the case.