A new UN report released on January 21, 2021 UN has warned the major big dam owning counties about the aging population of fast silting up dams in changing climate and urgent need to start working on decommissioning of uneconomical large dams. Among the few countries that UN has warned includes India with its third largest number of big dams. The added problem in India is the ill maintained and ill operated large dams that UN report did not look into. Indian dams are sanctioned based on highly under estimated siltation rates, there is practically no transparency and accountability in operation of Indian dams and dam almost every year get away with creating avoidable flood disasters. This latest problem is not just related to old dams, but even the newest celebrated ones like the Sardar Sarovar Dam as happened in Gujarat in late August-early Sept 2020. No legal regime exists in India for dam safety, either structural safety or operational safety. And in changing climate, with increasing frequency of higher intensity rainfall events, such risks are already increasing multi-fold.Continue reading “DRP NB 25 Jan. 2021: UN warns about aging Dams & Floods in changing climate”
The highlight of the overview of wetlands in India in 2020 here (keeping aside the Wetlands related developments in Maharashtra in 2020 and Positive wetlands related developments in 2020, on both these subjects we have published separate reports), is that the National Green Tribunal (NGT), various High Courts and even the Supreme Court have been quite active on wetlands front, but there is very little impact of this on the wetlands and their governance in India. This is basically because, and this is the second key highlight of this overview, the central and state governments have shown almost no interest, understanding or will to protect the wetlands. This is in spite of the huge number of new Indian wetlands brought under the Ramsar convention in 2020, since experience and also this overview shows that Ramsar convention does not seem to particularly help the fate of the wetlands. The third highlight of the overview is that there is a lot of civil society effort, both in terms of advocacy and work on ground for the protection of wetlands in India. In fact the legal action that we see in the NGT and Courts is largely due to their efforts. In fact whatever little positive developments we see here is coming from community and civil society efforts.Continue reading “Wetlands Overview 2020: Judiciary is active, but remains ineffective”
[Feature image: A cargo stuck in Ganga in Balia, image source Dainik Jagran, June 2018. https://www.jagran.com/uttar-pradesh/ballia-stuck-cargo-ship-in-the-ganges-for-a-month-18139816.html]
This latest episode described below once again raises big question marks over the viability, feasibility and desirability of pushing Ganga as the National waterways. Its economic viability has been questioned many times earlier and this episode only reinforces it. The ecological viability is dependent on refusal to conduct any environmental impact assessment in any credible, transparent or participatory way, while the massive adverse impacts on the river, its biodiversity including the National Aquatic animal Dolphin as also on the livelihood of millions of fisher people and boats people are all known, but being ignored by the Ministry of Inland waterways headed by and pushed by Mr Nitin Gadkari rather blindly. The only way to resolve the issue is if there is an independent, informed assessment, which can happen only if the judiciary were to step in. Will they?Continue reading “DRP NB 11 Jan. 2021: Big question marks over viability of Ganga waterway”
Feature image: Extraction of sand from the banks of the Tunga near Chibbalagudde in Tirthahalli taluk posing a threat to the fish sanctuary that hosts 27 species of fish. (The Hindu)
2019 Karnataka sand mining overview showed that the incidents of illegal sand mining were on the rise, state was reportedly consuming around 70 MT (Million Tons) sand annually while the govt was able to produce 30 MT. The govt was losing about Rs 200 crore to illegal sand mining, while about 29,000 cases of illegal stone quarrying and sand mining were detected in past 3 years. Towards the end of 2018, the govt was seen working on 4 separate mining policies for sand, granite, building material and stone crushers to stop the revenue losses.
There were discussions in govt circle promoting M-Sand and importing sand from Malaysia. M-Sand was being produced in 18 districts of state. However there was no clarity on its quality and usage. MSIL had imported 8000 T of sand and sold half of it. Despite facing sand dearth, the govt in Sept. 2018 decided to send imported sand to Kerala. About 0.15 MT Malaysian sand was stuck at two ports.
Across the country, many government officials were killed while taking action against illegal sand extraction in 2018. So were the lethal attacks on reporters and citizens for exposing illegalities and objecting to illegal mining activities. Many innocent people lost lives in accidents related to illegal sand mining related incidents which could have been avoided. This compilation of sand mining related incidents also highlights how illegal sand mining was damaging the infrastructure providing essential services.
Uttrakhand A 115 years old British era bridge on Tons river in Birpur, Dehradun collapsed on Dec. 28 reportedly due to overloaded sand trucks. Two people were killed in the accident. The single lane bridge was damaged during 2013 floods and opened for public after repair.
As about 500 global financiers meet in London on March 5-7, 2019, one of the items on agenda pushed by Big Hydro lobby is criteria to include Big Hydro as climate solution. As following Comment in Nature shows, this is completely based on lobbying efforts and not based on merit of the case. If the merits of large hydro were to looked at objectively, there is absolutely no case of inclusion of Large Hydro as climate solution. In fact, the article does not attempt to list the severe, widespread and long lasting adverse social and environmental impacts of large hydro. Today when there is BIG question mark over even economic viability of large hydro, such attempts are clearly uncalled for. Hope the global financiers will see through this lobbying effort.
The World Hydropower Congress will meet in Paris during May 14-16, 2019. Their program says:
Following over two years of discussions with industry, academia, governments and international NGOs, the Climate Bonds Initiative, an investor-focused not-for-profit is due to launch a consultation later this year on proposed green bond criteria for hydropower. This criteria is seen as key to fully unlocking the market to the hydropower sector, as to date it has been held back a lack of clarity over appropriate standards. https://congress.hydropower.org/2019-paris/programme/green-bonds-for-hydropower/
This shows that the Congress, essentially a Hydropower Lobby meeting, is also interconnected with the Climate Bond Initiative on Hydropower.
Brave Journalists exposes the Nexus supporting illegal sand mining in Tamil Nadu
Reporter honoured for exposing illegal mining On January 4, 2019, Sandhya Ravishankar was conferred Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award for her reportage on illegal beach sand mining in Tamil Nadu. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/news18-editor-m-gunasekaran-becomes-1st-tamil-journalist-bag-ramnath-goenka-award-94522 (5 Jan. 2019)
Journalist stalked after reports on sand mafia Sandhya Ravishankar, Chennai-based journalist alleges multiple attempts to stalk and intimidate her in the recent past after she wrote a series of reports on the sand mafia. She is also fighting defamation cases. https://www.firstpost.com/india/chennai-based-journalist-sandhya-ravishankar-alleges-stalking-intimidation-after-reports-on-sand-mining-mafia-5295131.html (1 Oct. 2018)
Explosive reports on illegal beach sand mining in Tamil Nadu by Sandhya Ravi Shankar: Her report first person singular on Jan 31, 2017 provides blow by blow account of how the nexus involved in illegal sand mining was exposed. (https://thewire.in/culture/beach-sand-cartel, https://thewire.in/tag/beach-sand-mining)
Karnataka is one of the leading states to witness the devastating effects of rampant sand mining. Between 2015 and 2018, the state has officially registered 20,779 cases of illegal sand mining, and 9,599 FIRs.
The state govt is receiving approximately Rs 150 crore per year as royalty from legitimate sand mining. As per estimates, the state govt is losing around Rs 200 crore per year due to illegal sand mining.
According to cement manufacturing companies’ data, around 18 million tonnes (MT) of cement is sold in the state every year. The cement-sand mix ratio is either 1:4 or 1:6 (four or six bags of sand per cement bag). Even if 1:4 ratio is taken, 72 MT of sand is approximately used in the state every year.
The official data from the Department of Mines and Geology shows that from the blocks permitted by it, a total quantity of 30 MT of sand (from all types of blocks – river sand, patta land, blocks allocated to govt departments, and manufactured sand) is produced in the state. Thus, there is a difference of at least 42 MT sand compared to the cement sold in the state.
Two interesting orders from National Green Tribunal (NGT) marked important developments on water-environment issues this week. NGT asking for PERFORMANCE AUDIT of pollution Control Mechanism is indeed long overdue necessity, considering the complete, abject failure of the pollution control mechanism in India. The hopes of effective action, like in the past, however, were dashed since CPCB, which is PART OF THE PROBLEM has been asked to do the audit. An independent audit, in addition to one possibly by CAG may have helped. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/ngt-slams-state-pollution-bodies/article26008687.ece (17 Jan. 2019)
Whatever positive signs were available by this order were further dashed by another NGT order in which it declared that EIAs (Environmental Impact Assessment) reports are already taking climate change into account, while the tribunal dismissed a petition asking that all development activities be screened/ regulated keeping climate change in mind.
This is totally WRONG contention. Just to illustrate, SANDRP has been pointing out to the EAC, MoEF and the developers how the EIAs of dams and hydropower projects are ignoring the climate change related issues and impacts. In response the consultants and developers have responded, approved by the silent or spoken nods by the EAC and MoEF that these were not even part of their TORs! One only wishes NGT was most discerning before making such claims and would have gone through a few EIAs to see if at all EIAs are dealing with these issues with any rigour or credibility. https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/climate-change-already-covered-under-environment-impact-assessment-ngt-119011600897_1.html (16 Jan. 2019)