Free flowing rivers

World Rivers Day 2020: Celebrating Rivers across the world

The World Rivers Day[i] (WRD) is celebrated annually on the fourth Sunday of September. The event strives to highlight the invaluable ecological, hydrological services and cultural, recreational values offered by the rivers. Indeed, the most of the once wild, scenic, free flowing rivers across the globe are facing existential crisis on account of various anthropogenic activities hastened over the past century.

However, there are small but significant steps being undertaken by individuals, organizations and governments to restore some of the flowing eco-systems. This account attempts to compile some such positive developments that have taken place in the one year.

We have already published a compilation of the positive river stories of India on the occasion of International Day of Actions for Rivers being held on March 14 2020. In addition to Indian rivers, this compilation also covers some remarkable development concerning river conservation worldwide. There could be many more stories and developments happening, we invite readers to send us such stories they know about. 

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Bihar · Ganga · Rivers

River Stories, Walking Across India – II

Guest Blog by Siddharth Agarwal

In the years 2018 and 2019, I spent months walking East across India with Paul Salopek on the Out of Eden Walk[i]. His trail started in the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia in East Africa, roughly following the path of the early human migration out of Africa and across the globe.

The India trail of the Out of Eden Walk started from the India-Pakistan border at Wagah, Punjab. It then moved East through the Indus Basin, followed by the basins of West flowing rivers like Luni, then a large chunk through the southern Gangetic plains in Central India before crossing over to the Brahmaputra basin close to Siliguri in West Bengal. The crossover to Myanmar happened at Moreh in Manipur, also incidentally very close to the basin boundary of Brahmaputra and Irrawady. He entered India in March 2018, and crossed over to Myanmar in July 2019.

The Out of Eden Walk trail in India was ~4000kms, of which I was present for about 1500kms in different sections. These stretches were spread across Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, and bit of Assam & Manipur.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 27 April 2020: For whom is this unviable Etalin project being pushed?

In the ongoing debate on forest clearance for the controversial Etalin Hydropower project in Dibang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh between the Forest Advisory Committee, The Hindustan Times’s consistent reporting and Sanctuary magazine launching a campaign along with others, one (of the many) key question that remains unanswered is: for whom this economically (in addition to socially, environmentally and from climate change perspective) unviable, massively expensive project being pushed in a power surplus country?

Electricity from hydropower projects is no longer economically viable, since cheaper options are available. Some misguided people are claiming virtue in hydropower project claiming it provides peaking power. The fact is India is today not only power surplus, the peak power deficit has been just around 1% or less for long time. This when there is no attempt to either monitor as to how much of the electricity produced from existing hydropower projects provides peaking power, nor is there any attempt to achieve optimisation of operation of existing hydro projects to produce maximum possible hydropower. Nor is there any attempt to even manage the peaks either through pricing or other policy measures. In such a situation there is clearly no justification for more hydro for peaking. Moreover, the storage option is becoming increasingly cost effective, reducing the peaking power needs. So then for whom this project whose cost won’t be less than Rs 30000 crores at most conservative estimates, being pushed? The contractors, the equipment suppliers, the hydro lobby, the consultants, the timber lobby, the dam lobby, or the kickbacks?

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 03 Feb. 2020: Some welcome news on Pinjal and other dams

A number of welcome developments around dams appear in this week’s DRP News Bulletin from SANDRP. The prominent is the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation declaring that it may not need Pinjal Dam, which SANDRP had said in its report way back in 2012-13 and the then BMC commissioner had agreed to in an interview to NDTV. This should also lead to cancellation of the Damanganga Pinjal River Link proposal. The Maharashtra govt decision to review the need for Human dam is also welcome. The Kerala State Information Commissioner’s decision to direct that the Dam Break Analysis should be in public domain is also a useful precedent that all states and CWC need to follow immediately and also amend the proposed Dam Safety Act to include a provision that all Dam Safety related information, including meeting minutes, agenda, decisions, status reports etc will be in public domain.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 11 Nov. 2019: Wetlands can help water security, help adapt to and mitigate climate change impacts

Wetlands are critical part of hydrological systems. They provide multiple ecological services to people living in proximal areas. The invisible contribution of wetlands in saturating aquifers and checking groundwater depletion is essential given the growing water scarcity. Additionally, wetlands are home to a variety of plants and animals species making them fully functional and self-sustaining eco-system. Sadly, despite the environmental significance and associated support services, wetlands have been subjected to degradation for past many decades.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 28 Oct 2019: Growing opposition to Large Hydro Projects

As can be seen from the news reports from Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Arunchal Pradesh, Karnataka, among others, the opposition to Large Hydro Projects and Big Dam is growing all over India. These projects are neither economically viable, nor Socially-environmentally sustainable. There are much better options exist and hope the governments takes informed, democratic decisions. Going by the agenda and minutes of the recent Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects and other decisions, this hope seems far fetched at the moment.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 15 July 2019: How Early Flood warnings using WhatsAPP saves lives

The following is an excellent example of how early flood warnings from Bhutan, shared with downstream Assam communities using WhatsApp messages, saves lives. This needs to be highlighted and word spread to implement it in all flood prone areas on Urgent basis, including in trans-boundary areas, as this is an example of the same.

In the last few weeks of June 2019, a series of WhatsApp messages (sent via unofficial channels) were sent from Bhutan to India to warn “cross-border friends” downstream of the Aai, Saralbhanga and Manas rivers about cloud-bursts, swollen rivers and possible flash floods affecting people in the Indian state of Assam.

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Yamuna River

Yamuna Jayanti 2019: Will the agony of the River & People speak in Elections?

(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.

1 AA YJ 11 April 2019
Yamuna river at different locations between 8 to 11 April 2019. (Image Source: Yamuna Nadi Mitra Mandalis)

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.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 04 March 2019: INDIA SAND MINING 2018; SANDRP’s NATIONWIDE REVIEW IN 14 ARTICLES

Punjab Sand Mining 2018 Overview: SAD SAGA OF STATE FAILURE

Rajasthan: SC Banned Riverbed Mining through 2018: Centre & State Show No Concern

Gujarat Sand Mining 2018: Can Technology alone help Stop Illegal Sand Mining?

Uttar Pradesh Sand Mining 2018: Key NGT orders slap for MoEF

Madhya Pradesh Sand Mining 2018: Unprecedented Violence by Sand Mafia

Karnataka Sand Mining 2018: Hopeless, But Action Packed!

Tamil Nadu Sand Mining 2018: Story of Nexus exposed by a brave Journalists

Kerala Sand Mining 2018: How a 17 year Allapad girl became anti sand mining icon

Maharashtra Sand Mining 2018: Panegaon shows Way To stop Illegal Sand Mining

North East India Sand Mining 2018: Emerging threat to Rivers

East India Sand Mining 2018: Will NGT order help restore Subarnarekha River?

Sand Mining 2018: Telangana and Andhra Pradesh

Illegal Sand Mining Violence 2018: at least 28 People died across India

Sand Mining 2018: Is Illegal Sand Mining A National Menace?

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 25 February 2019: Listen, Climate Bonds Initiative: Big Hydro is NOT climate solution

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. 

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