DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 12 July 2021: Will Bhupender Yadav improve India’s Environment Governance?

It’s rather rare when some of the most well-known environmentalists of India, including Ritwick Dutta and Manoj Misra welcome the arrival of Bhupender Yadav as India’s new Environment Minister. The state of the environment governance under the outgoing minister, Prakash Javadekar has worsened so much, both in perception and substance, that possibly any change would look better. In fact Javadekar may be front runner for the label of India’s worst ever environment minister according to some analysts.

The environment appraisals, the constitution of committees including the various Expert Appraisal Committees, the Forest Advisory Committee and the Standing committee of National Board of Wildlife, the public hearings and consultation processes, the state of pollution and rivers, biodiversity, wetlands, floodplains, sand mining, to name just a few areas, were all seen going downhill on a steep slope during the Javadeker period. The monitoring and compliance remained non existent. Some would argue that was it much different before Javadekar. The point is Javadekar had no pretentions of trying to improve the environment governance. He was out to dilute every available norm and he seemed to have succeded significantly.

Even if Yadav were to genuinely wish to improve matters, how much will he be allowed to do, by the perceived imperatives of the economic fundamentalist agenda, the well-entrenched vested interests and the bureaucracy is a question that only time will tell, but there is little doubt that a lot can and needs to be done rather urgently and none of these perceived obstacles should come in the way if there is will. The climate change is making the improvement in environmental governance rather urgent.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 14 June 2021: IPCC-IPBES Scientists: Biodiversity protection & climate change action HAVE TO work together

In a remarkable new report, the 50 top scientists of Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) have come together to deliver the first ever joint collaboration report with the message that Biodiversity crisis and climate change crisis are not independent of each other. The message from scientists is clear: The claimed Climate “solutions” that hurt biodiversity or their habitat are false solutions.

By protecting and restoring nature, the report said, we can safeguard biodiversity, help limit warming, improve human well being and even find protection from the consequences of climate change, like intensified flooding and storms.

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Hydropower

2021 International Day of Action for Rivers: Opposition against HEPs, dams in India

(Feature image source:-A Sikkim tribe trying to save ‘paradise’ from woes of development.)

March 14 is International Day of Action for Rivers, against destructive projects. The main objective is to ensure that the river people have their say in the decision-making processes which affect their rivers and related livelihoods sources and that the decisions are informed decisions.

Here we are bringing forth the struggles of riverine communities in India in past one year to make decision makers aware of their hardships and impacts of destructive hydro and dam projects on the riverine eco-system.     

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Dams, Rivers & People

DRP NB 8 Feb. 2021: Will NITI Aayog study the costs of overturning the Radhakrishnan Judgement on Uttarakhand?

NITI Aayog, we learn, has started studies of implications of the Supreme Court and NGT orders on environment issues. In the context of the massive Chamoli disaster now unfolding in Uttarakhand, NITI needs to urgently institute an inquiry as to who all are responsible for overturning the Justice Radhakrishnan led verdict of Aug 13, 2013 about the June 2013 Uttarakhand disaster and role of hydropower projects in the disaster and the costs of overturning that verdict. In fact if the Justice Radhakrishnan verdict were to have been sincerely and honestly implemented to its logical conclusion, the proportions of the current Chamoli disaster and others would have been majorly reduced. So the costs are no doubt huge and mounting. Will NITI Aayog institute such an independent inquiry urgently?

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 25 Jan. 2021: UN warns about aging Dams & Floods in changing climate

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.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 4 Jan 2021: Bangladesh declares Halda River as Fisheries Heritage

Bangladesh has declared the whole 81 km long Halda River, a tributary of Karnaphuli River in Chittagong in South East Bangladesh. The Halda river is also famous for breeding pure Indian carp. This is the only pure Indian carp breeding field of Bangladesh, perhaps in South Asia. This is a remarkable river conservation decision that has a lot of lessons for much bigger India where no river has been protected as fisheries heritage. This is great way to begin the first weekly DRP Bulletin of 2021 and we hope the Indian government, civil society and judiciary will take due note of this.

Controversy is never far away from any such river conservation efforts as is evident from the news about proposal for a Halda River based water supply project for industrial estate that has been opposed by the Fisheries ministry, water resources ministry, the River Conservation Commission, the Department of Environment and independent researchers.

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Dams · Fish, Fisheries, Fisherfolk

Dammed Fisheries of India

Far out in the estuary of Aghanashini, as Ismail Bhai spread out Indian Mackerel for drying, a carpet of silver spread out before us. “We fish in the river but the Bangde we catch in the sea also have their links to Aghanashini. We owe her everything”. Estuary of the modest, free-flowing Aghanashini supports around 5000 fisherolk. In the neighboring dammed Sharavathi, fish diversity plummets, so do dependent livelihoods. But rivers like Aghanashini are a rarity now.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP Bulletin 21 Dec 2020: Morand Ganjal Dam opposed in Narmada Valley

Tribals of large number of villages from Seoni Malwa Tehsil of Hoshangabad district in Madhya Pradesh have been strongly opposing the Morand Ganjal dam for several years now, as they again came out in large numbers this week on Dec 17, 2020, also remembering their rally exactly a year ago on Dec 17, 2019. They has simple demand: plz first provide all the information about the project in Narmada Valley and get approval of all the involved villages as required under the law. But the arrogant administration has not even responded to basic demand of all the relevant information.

Under the Rs 2813 Cr project, dams are to be built on Morand river near Morghat village of Seoni Malwa tehsil and on Ganjal river near Jawardha village of Rahatgaon tehsil-Harda district with the objective of irrigating 4,617 ha of land in 28 villages of Hoshangabad, 17,678 ha in 62 villages of Harsud tehsil-district Khandwa, and 29,910 ha in 121 villages of Harda, Khirkiya, Sirali and Rahatgaon tehsils of Harda district. The project was approved in 2017. Some 23 villages and over 3000 ha of land is facing submergence, affecting Korku tribals in Hoshangabad, Harda and Betul districts, but there is no rehabilitation plan in place as per the Narmada Valley R&R policies.

Dams are no longer delivering promised benefits and the age of building dams is over. But the political economy of massive funds spent on a major project keeps driving the politicians and officials to keep pushing more projects. The least one can expect from the government is to provide all the relevant information to the affected people in manner and language they can understand, have public consultation and approval in each affected village in front of an independent panel. Without such due process pushing such dams are bound to raise more conflicts, confrontations and opposition.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 14 Dec 2020: Constitution of EAC for River Valley Projects Challenged in High Court

The Karnataka High Court has taken up the petition challenging the constitution of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River Valley and Hydropower projects. Notices have been issued to MoEF and also all the members of EAC on a petition filed by the United Conservation Movement Charitable Welfare Trust. Such a scrutiny of the appointment of the EAC was long overdue and urgently required. One hopes the High Court will take the matter to its logical conclusion and ensure that MoEF has a credible, transparent process of appointment of these committees as without such a process, the MoEF gets away with appointing only yes people on the committee who are happy to tow the government line. That nullifies the whole purpose of the constitution of the committee, the EIAs, the public consultations, the appraisals, the clearances and even credible monitoring and compliance. It is complete failure of environment governance and laws and MoEF even gets away with appointment of people with clear conflict of interest. MoEF has no process of selection of the chair and members of these committees. Hoping for the best for the case to correct all this.

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Expert Appraisal Committee · Ministry of Environment and Forests · River Valley Projects

The Real Worries about MoEF’s Expert Committee on River Valley Projects

Guest Article by RITWICK DUTTA

The Union environment ministry issued a new office memorandum on November 18, 2020, that mandates its expert appraisal committee (EAC) to meet “at least” twice every month to “cut down the time” for environmental clearances (ECs).

The EAC is an expert body of the ministry responsible to okay or reject proposed projects – by awarding or withholding ECs – under the environment impact assessment process. Though the EAC is an advisory body, the Union environment ministry in almost all instances goes by its recommendations, since it comprises experts.

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