(Feature image: Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav with PM Narendra Modi before taking oath on July 7, 2021 PTI/HT.)
While the news that India has achieved the worst ever ranking of 180, at the bottom of 180 country index in terms of Environment Performance Index was shocking, it should not surprise too many people considering the way environment is treated by the current central government, particularly the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). As expected, MoEF questioned the methodology of the assessment, and the criticism has been responded to and rejected by the authors of the EPI report.
Now with a dictate of the MoEF (dated Apr 8, 2022, preceding the EPI news) coming to light, the trajectory of the MoEF should leave no one in doubt. Through this dictate, the MoEF has asked the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), a supposedly autonomous institute of the Ministry, to seek the ministry’s approval before it publishes any document, that too with retrospective effect! WII in any case, was towing the ministry’s line in many of the cases as is evident from its performance in regulatory committees like the Forest Advisory Committee, National Board of Wild Life and Expert Appraisal Committee (on River Valley Projects, possibly among others). And yet the Ministry has come out with this dictate, without giving any reasons, possibly since some of WII reports have been problematic for the govt in judicial proceedings in some cases. But the MoEF move to stop WII from publishing (and hence doing) any credible studies only shows the paranoia of the ministry. Its performance index would not improve this way, it would only get worse.
Continue reading “DRP NB 13 June 2022: Down in Dumps, MoEF becomes more opaque”
The numerous landslides this monsoon in Kinnaur and other districts of Himachal Pradesh and other Himalayan states have been literally deadly, killing hundreds of people this monsoon. Mindless “development” projects including Hydropower projects, indiscriminate building of roads in mountains, blasting, tunnelling, mining, dumping of waste into the rivers and valleys, deforestation, building townships, all without any credible impact assessment, public consultations, appraisal, monitoring or compliance. While climate change (another anthropogenic factor) leading to more frequent events of high intensity rainfall is worsening the landslide potential of the area, what we are doing in the name of developments is multiplying the disaster potential several fold. The governments at centre and states and judiciary can continue to be blind to this realities, but local people cannot. The local communities in Kinnaur, Lahaul-Spiti have been opposing such projects strongly and such protests are bound to increase and spread. One hopes this pushes the governments and judiciary to act urgently.
Continue reading “DRP NB 16 August 2021: Landslides in Himachal worsened due to mindless “development” projects”
(Feature image A big main pond that has been constructed in the Phular village, Damoh. (Pic: Shahroz Afridi, News 18))
This week we would like to highlight some remarkable local water option stories from five states spread across India: Madhya Pradesh from Central India, Punjab from North India, Karnataka from South India, Rajasthan & Maharashtra from western India. These are stories just from this week among many others that show that local water options exist, they are the cheapest, sustainable, equitable, democratic and with least impacts and most appropriate in the climate change context. In a country like India where groundwater has been India’s water lifeline for over four decades now, these options are best suited for ensuring optimum recharge of groundwater aquifers at local level and sustaining those lifelines. Particularly when South West Monsoon is on our doorstep to gift its annual bounty to India. As UN starts the International Decade for Ecosystems Restoration with the theme of preventing, halting, reversing the degradation of ecosystems, these become even more important.
Continue reading “DRP NB 07 June 2021: Local Water Options Stories from Five states”
(Feature image source: Onmanorama.com)
It would be very useful and educative to look at the water storage levels of some of the major reservoirs of India even as India awaits the annual bounty of water from the South West Monsoon that normally officially starts on June 1, but this year may start on June 3 as the latest India Meteorological Department forecast yesterday, that is on May 30, 2021. While high storages at this point in time creates a possible Dam Flood hazard that India has been experiencing with increasing frequency with changing monsoon rainfall patterns and unaccountable reservoir operations, it also indicates the gross inefficiency of our use of water stored in these reservoirs if there is a lot of water there in the beginning of the annual filling period. It indicates that the storages created with such massive economic, social and environmental costs have not been optimally utilised in the just ending water year on May 31. Unfortunately, no agency is monitoring the water storages in these major reservoirs and asking as to why there is non optimal use of water and then addressing the reasons wherever they see such non optimal storages at the end of water year. SANDRP has been raising this issue for many years.
Continue reading “DRP NB 31 May 2021: Worrying Dam Water Storage at the onset of SW monsoon”
Guest Article by S P Ravi
Kerala continues to witness unusual monsoon rainfall patterns for the third straight year in 2020. Kerala had witnessed its worst flood in almost a century in 2018. The 2019 flood was probably second only to the 2018 floods over the last 50 years, with many places experiencing larger floods than that in 2018. While the state did not face huge floods this year, tragedy struck in the form of the Pettimudi landslide near Munnar in Idukki district. It buried alive 70 members of plantation labourer families, making it the worst ever landslide in Kerala in terms of human causality. Kerala has also witnessed its wettest monsoon in September in this millennium with a rainfall of 601 mm, surpassing the previous highest of 526 mm recorded in 2007. The S-W monsoon period is now over and the state received 2227 mm rainfall, which is 9 percent above long term average.
Continue reading “Reservoir Operations Fail People in Chalakudy River Basin in Kerala in 2020”
A massive wave of flood is flowing down the rivers originating in Central India states from Odisha in East to Gujarat-Rajasthan in the west. At least fourteen river sites have seen breach of Highest Flood Levels (HFL) in last four days, a record by itself: 7 in Mahanadi, 5 in Godavari, 2 in JNarmada and one each in Suvarnarekha and Chambal. In at least four of these cases, the earlier HFL had survived for 26 years and has now been broken.
The flood wave that is traveling down is above above 35500 cumecs (12.54 lakh cusecs) in Narmada (at Indira Sagar Dam), above 25000 cumecs (8.83 lakh cusecs), in case of Mahanadi (at Hirakud Dam) and Godavari (at Gosikhurd Dam) rivers & over 15000 cumecs (5.3 lakh cusecs) in Chambal (at Gandhi Sagar Dam) River. Continue reading “Central India downpour brings unprecedented flows in Brahmani, Chambal, Godavari, Mahanadi, Narmada, Suvarnarekha”
Guest Article by: J.Harsha
Introduction: In August, 2018, devastated floods occurred in the southern Indian state of Kerala that led to widespread death and destruction to livelihoods. One of the worst affected basins was Periyar River Basin (PRB). While investigating the role of dams in the devastating floods, an article titled, “Role of dams on the floods of August 2018 in Periyar River Basin, Kerala” by Sudheer et al., (2019) was first published in the Current Science1 Journal brought out by Indian Academy of Sciences, Bengaluru, India on 10th March 2019. The journal article by Sudheer et al., (2019) adopts hydrological model to investigate the role of dams in the occurrence of floods in PRB and concludes that dams had less or little role in the occurrence of floods in comparison to the natural reasons. However, when the article was reviewed, it was found that the authors Sudheer et al., (2019) had made fallacious assumptions, errors in their methodology, adopted poor data quality and they have arrived at erroneous inferences and conclusions such as exonerating the role of dams in Kerala floods but indicting the nature as the cause of floods. This review article therefore, using RS & GIS (Remote Sensing and Geographical Information System) techniques challenges their inferences that is based on fallacious assumptions, accumulated errors in their methodology and the poor data quality fed into the hydrological model.
Continue reading “Role of dams in Kerala floods: Distortion of Science”
International media has been full of stories this last few weeks, about the likely fate of the world’s biggest dam project: The Three Gorges Dam of China. The stories ranged from possible imminent threat of collapse of the dam to those from China that rubbished all such ideas. Part of it was fuelled by the World’s anti China mood due to the Covid and its expansionist activities including at Indian borders. But part of the reason was the difficulty to getting hard facts, since China does not have free media or democracy and suppresses any critical information. One direct evidence of this Chinese tendency was apparent when Reuters was the first one to publish on July 22, 2020, the story of a dam collapse in China on June 7, full 45 days after the event and even that story could not find any official to quote about the dam collapse. A more telling example of China’s tendency to suppress basic facts would be difficult to come by from recent times. Continue reading “DRP NB 27 July 2020: China’s Three Gorges Dam may be safe for now, but at what cost?”
In a landmark, trend setting judgement, the Ireland Supreme Court delivered an important ruling[i] on July 8, 2020 that the dam operator ESB (Electricity Supply Board, https://www.esb.ie/) was guilty of negligence concerning extensive flood damage to buildings on the campus of UCC.
UCC’s action over the damage is among about 400 sets of proceedings initiated against the ESB arising from the flooding. The finding of negligence by four of the five judges has implications for those cases, and wider implications for the ESB’s liability arising from its management of hydroelectric dams in the State. Aviva, UCC’s insurer sought €20m damages for losses at UCC, plus another €14m for losses suffered by other property owners. The Supreme Court had decided it should first determine whether the ESB had a liability.[ii] Continue reading “Ireland Supreme Court holds dam operator responsible for 2009 floods”
Seven major dams with high storage capacities in Upper Krishna Basin in Maharashtra’s Satara and Sangli districts have huge 1422.12 Million Cubic Meters (MCM) water in live storage as on May 30, 2020, just about a week away from the prospects of beginning of monsoon. The Wadnere committee’s efforts not withstanding, there is no doubt that almost simultaneous water release from these seven dams played a major role in creating highest ever flood levels in Maharashtra’s Upper Krishna Basin in August 2019. Though on this day last year, these seven dams had much lower water in live storage at 556.49 MCM, the almost simultaneous water release from these dams hugely contributed to the unprecedented flood disaster in Sangli district last year. With 256% water in live storage this year compared to last year on this date, the risk of these dams contributing to flood disaster in Sangli district is even greater this year. Unless the authorities in the water resources department, district administration and disaster management authorities wake up and ensure that these dams help moderate rather than contribute to floods. Continue reading “Maharashtra’s Upper Krishna Basin again faces prospects of Dam Floods?”