Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 05 February 2018 (J&K Shows The Way To The Nation: To Assess The Viability Of Big Hydro Pojects)

In a remarkable development, Jammu & Kashmir Govt is reviewing its Hydro policy to assess whether the Hydro Electric Power Projects (HEPs) are still viable. As per sources, this is for the first time that the Govt is discussing the viability of generating hydro power.

An empowered committee led by the Chief Secretary has started this discussion by calling for an “approach paper” that will give an overall picture of the hydropower industry in India. Top sources in the State Power Development Corporation (SPDC), a government-owned company, told Kashmir Reader that the empowered committee wants to lay a roadmap for power generation in the state. “It will reflect the vision of the government. It will give the picture of hydropower generation in India, its rates, market, demand and supply. It will also lay down a roadmap for large power projects,”

The approach paper will be part of a new hydropower policy which will be submitted before the same committee, and then before the cabinet for approval. The SPDC had submitted a hydro policy draft in April last year, which was returned to it in December. Sources said the approach paper has to be submitted in two months’ time.

At present, India has a surplus generation of hydropower, which has plummeted its rate. This has led to losses for SPDC as it invested in projects whose generation costs were high. The blunt example is that of the 450-MW Baglihar II. SPDC has failed to lure any buyer for more than a year as its selling cost of per unit of energy, Rs 4.4, is nearly Rs 2 higher than the market rate. The SPDC has finally managed to sell the power at about Rs 4 per unit to the Uttar Pradesh government but for one year only. The SPDC may have to struggle again next year if the state of UP does not continue the contract.

Another example is that of Nimuno Bezgo, and Chutak hydropower projects, which sell energy at Rs 13 per unit. The SPDC also buys power from Dulhasti project at Rs 7, when the available rates for power in the market is around Rs 2 and Rs 4. https://kashmirreader.com/2018/02/02/cs-led-panel-to-lay-roadmap-for-power-generation-in-jk/ (Kashmir Reader. 2 Feb. 2018)

As per another report, facing a growing demand for electricity and unable to tap its vast potential for generating hydroelectric power, the state government is looking to boost solar power generation. Given the long gestation period of hydel projects, it is unlikely the generation of hydroelectric power will expand significantly in the near future, said. Hence,  the focus on solar power. Indeed, when solar power potential exists, with lower installation and operation costs and impacts, why States continue after destructive, expensive hydro projects? https://scroll.in/article/866058/kashmir-can-generate-a-lot-more-hydel-electricity-than-it-requires-why-is-it-eyeing-solar-power (Scroll.In, 30 Jan. 2018)

There is one more interesting hydro power development in which the state cabinet of Bihar has approved closing 3 and cancelling the development of 2 others in addition to handing over of 8 hydropower projects to neighboring Jharkhand.

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Dams · Wetlands

India Wetlands Review 2017: Important Governments Decisions

Central Government Decisions

Environment ministry notifies new wetland rules In a major decision, the union environment ministry notified the new Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2017 on 26 Sept. 2017 replacing the 2010 version of the rules. The draft of the Wetland Rules was first presented by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) in March 2016. But they were severely criticized by conservationists who had alleged that the draft rules don’t mention anything about a national regulator and don’t list specific activities prohibited in these ecologically sensitive areas.

The new rules stipulate setting up of a State Wetlands Authority in each State and union territories that will be headed by the State’s environment minister and include a range of government officials. They will also include one expert each in the fields of wetland ecology, hydrology, fisheries, landscape planning and socioeconomics to be nominated by the state government.

The State authorities will also need to prepare a list of all wetlands of the State or union territory within three months, a list of wetlands to be notified within six months, a comprehensive digital inventory of all wetlands within one year which will be updated every ten years.

To oversee the work carried out by States, the rules stipulates for setting up of National Wetlands Committee, which will be headed by the MoEFCC Secretary, to monitor implementation of these rules. The Committee will also advise the Central Government on appropriate policies and action programmes for conservation and wise use of wetlands, recommend designation of wetlands of international importance under Ramsar Convention, advise on collaboration with international agencies on issues related to wetlands etc. http://www.livemint.com/Politics/y6Tr3tkrr3q28AmGKaBFII/Environment-ministry-notifies-new-wetland-rules.html  (Live Mint, 28 Sept. 2017)

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Dams · Wetlands

India Wetlands Review 2017: Important Court Orders

SUPREME COURT The Supreme Court of India is hearing a matter Writ Petition(s)(Civil) No(s). 230/2001 in which there have been several orders of consequence this year (e.g. 8 Feb 2017 & 16 Aug 2017) for protection of wetlands.  In spite of several directions for identification, preparation of brief documents, implementation of rules 4, notification of wetlands under the Wetlands Rules 2010, hardly any progress has happened.

Rule 4 of Wetlands Rules 2010 applicable to Wetlands of size ≥2.25 ha 

 “National Wetland Inventory & Assessment” was filed in SC. This Brochure indicates on page 11 that 2,01,503 wetlands have been mapped at 1:50,000 scale. All these wetlands have ‘an area of more than 2.25 hectares’. As a first step, the ‘Brief Documents’ with regard to these 2,01,503 wetlands should be obtained by the Union of India from the respective State Governments in terms of Rule 6 of the Wetlands (Conservation and management) Rules, 2010.

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Dams · Wetlands

East India Wetlands Review 2017: West Bengal Bent On Destroying World’s Largest Natural Sewage Treatment Plant

The East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW) are unique yet complex system of natural and human-made wetlands in West Bengal. The wetlands cover 125 sq km comprising of salt marshes, salt meadows, sewage farms and settling ponds. They are used to treat Kolkata’s sewage, and the nutrients contained in the waste water sustain fish farms and agriculture.

Devised by local fishermen and farmers, these wetlands served, in effect, as the largest natural sewage treatment plant (STP) for the city. And using the purification capacity of wetlands, Kolkata by transforming nearly one-third of the city’s sewage into a rich harvest of fish and fresh vegetables daily, has pioneered an environment-friendly system of sewage disposal. Because of this, the EKW were designated a “wetland of international importance” under the Ramsar Convention on August 19, 2002. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Kolkata_Wetlands

However for past many years, these wetlands are under threat due to exponential expansion of real-estate projects. Recently illegal landfills are on the rise and unprecedented land development and urbanization have been creating concerns about the impact on EKW environment. 2017 has seen the situation turning only worse for EKW. 

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 27 March 2017 (DON’T WE NEED TO LEARN TO TRULY CELEBRATE OUR RIVERS?)

This is about the proposed Brahmaputra Festival being planned by the Assam Govt from March 31 to April 4, 2017. The five-day festival will witness significant participation from China. Various other countries such as Vietnam and Singapore are also reported as attending the program. It is scheduled to be inaugurated by President Pranab Mukherjee.  

It is true that the word business appears four times on the opening page of this festival website, but the word flood, erosion and people do not appear even once. This is relevant since for very large sections of people of Assam, the river also means floods, erosion, displacement and disaster on regular basis and not just “lifeline of Assam” or “life-giving prosperity and countless blessings”.  

The festival website also errs in many ways, including when it claims “India’s only male river”, since there are several male rivers, including Damodar, Ajoy, Pagla, Gadadhar, among others. It is true that even the word Nemami is copied from the Nemami Gange, but that should not be such a big issue?

It is true that people also suffer when river dries up or is polluted or is encroached or unsustainably mined, and none of these issues are highlighted by the festival website. It is true that the the Assam also means all the communities, including the bodos and mishing and many others, not just Guwahati or Dibrugarh or Majuli. The festival organisers may argue that we are taking the festival to all 21 districts, but it is important to recognised all communities of Assam.

This is in addition to the fact that Brahmaputra includes all the states of North East India, and more. The Brahmaputra, 2,900 km long, is an international river with 918 km of it flowing in India, 1625 km in China and 337 km in Bangladesh.

It is true that the festival is more about attracting tourists, business and transport along the river. And so it is not even giving a comprehensive picture of the rivers of Brahmaputra basin in Assam, nor is there attempt to do anything to improve the state of the rivers. Similarly, the destruction of the rivers of Guwahati and Assam needs to be halted and reversed, and may be this occasion can be used to push that advocacy?

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 20 March 2017 (South India Reeling Under Severe Drought)

The drought has extended its grip in the South, with the South-West (S-W) monsoon falling significantly short and the North-East monsoon proving a total failure. Reeling under the impact of failed monsoons, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry have declared themselves as drought affected. Kerala and Karnataka, which are the worst affected, are already contemplating actions such as cloud seeding to tide over the situation.

In Kerala, the S-W monsoon deficit stood at -34 per cent, and the North-East monsoon, -61 per cent. Similarly, in Tamil Nadu, the deficits were -19 per cent and -62 per cent (North-East monsoon). For Coastal Karnataka, the shortfall stood at -21 per cent and -63 per cent, respectively. Drought-like conditions are also prevailing in parts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

Water levels in key reservoirs in the region are at their lowest. The water tables have declined further even as the civic administration in many cities, small towns and panchayats has been increasingly tapping groundwater to ensure supplies. The situation is so dire that the Kerala govt has directed PepsiCo to cut down drastically on the use of groundwater for its Palakkad plant. Traders in Tamil Nadu are also boycotting these fizzy after claims that foreign firms are exploiting the country’s water resources.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 20 Feb. 2017 (Bihar Govt Demands Decommissioning of Farakka Dam)

Bihar wants Farakka barrage to be decommissioned The Nitish Kumar govt has held the Farakka barrage in West Bengal responsible for heavy floods in Bihar and asked the Centre to decommission it to de-silt the heavily loaded upstream of Ganga River. The state has made the recommendation, observing that the dam is the “genesis of severe” flood consequences and responsible for “alarming” silt increase in the river’s upstream. According to sources, Nitish Kumar dispensation has made the demand before an experts’ committee formed by the Centre to work out guidelines for de-silting Ganga following last year’s devastating floods. 

As per the statement, decommissioning the barrage will help automatically de-silt the heavily loaded upstream, allowing silt to move to deltas before the sea thus helping  in restoration of deltas and its eco-system which is also getting adversely affected due to this barrage. To buttress its point, the state government has referred to Kolkata Port Trust’s data, which suggests that silt dredging at the port has increased from 6.40 million cubic metres annually from pre-Farakka days to four times, i.e. at 21.88 MCM annually, during 2003. The state government has also recommended the panel to come up with ‘National Silt Policy’ to address the problem. Bihar faced one of its worst floods as Ganga swelled in August last year, claiming lives of over 20 persons and affecting 20 lakh people.

Bihar Government has rightly asked for decommissioning of Farakka barrage and held it as the genesis of severe, destructive and prolonged floods that Bihar and other regions upstream from Farakka face year after year. Good to see that Bihar government has officially demanded decommissioning of the Farakka barrage before an expert committee of Ministry of Water Resources. Hope this starts the ball rolling to remove this unnecessary and giant dam on Ganga, which will also help the cause of fisheries (including Hilsa), downstream Bengal and also the river in general. The road cum rail line on the  barrage can continue to exist.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 06 Feb. 2017 (MSPCB Directs Reduction in Water Supply to Polluting Industries)

Maharashtra SPCB cuts 40% water supply to Taloja industries After the pollution board identified that chemical effluents from common effluent treatment plant (CETP) at Taloja were polluting the Kasadi river, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) have directed to Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) to cut 40 per cent of the water supply to industrial plants from February 1.

According to the letter issued to the industrial plants, earlier they were receiving 24-hour water supply but after MPCB’s directive, the plants would not receive water from 12am to 8am, effective from February 1.

Last year fishermen from the local Koli community had complained of decline in 90 per cent of fish catch from Kasadi river due to pollution. They had also alleged of inaction by authorities despite several complaints.

To highlight their plight, the fishermen then collected water samples in August 2016 from the Taloja CETP pipeline areas discharging treated waste and samples from the banks of the Kasadi river, and submitted them for a water quality test at Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation’s (NMMC) environmental laboratory.

The samples were found failing several crucial parameters and having high levels of chloride , which is toxic to aquatic life and impacts vegetation and wildlife. Several reports had also mentioned that the pumping of industrial waste into the river had raised pollution levels 13 times higher than the safe limit. 

Taking cognizance of the complaints, MPCB issued a notice to MIDC highlighting the pollution problem on Jan. 31 2017 and informing the MIDC that until the Taloja industrial area does not start online pollution monitoring, adequate water supply would not be provided to them. The plants have two months to comply or else further action would be taken.

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Dams · Wetlands

Wetlands Review 2016: Legal Interventions

Featured image showing  36 Wetlands in India requiring urgent attention as per a 2014 petition filed in apex court (Image Source: Live Mint

In the third part of Wetlands Review 2016, SANDRP presents an account of major decisions taken by respective Courts for the protection of Wetlands in India. 

In a significant development in April 2016, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed all State Governments to submit a complete list of Wetlands[1] under their jurisdiction. The green court was hearing a plea alleging commercial conversion and resultant destruction of several large ecologically important Wetland areas across the country in absence identification and notification by respective State Governments. 

The court also asked the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to submit the list of States that had approached it with Wetlands conservation plans.

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Dams · Wetlands

Wetlands Review 2016: Government Actions

India is one of the 169 signatories to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of Wetlands and their resources. There are 2,241 Ramsar sites across the world, including 26 spread across India from Wular Lake in Jammu and Kashmir to Ashtamudi Wetland in Kerala, and from Deepor Beel in Assam to Nal Sarovar in Gujarat.

Despite their vital importance to humans, across India, Wetlands are seriously threatened by reclamation and degradation through processes of drainage, land filling, discharge of domestic and industrial effluents, disposal of solid waste, and over-exploitation of the natural resources that they offer.

Here is an account of major decisions and actions by Central as well as State Governments on wetlands related issues in 2016.

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