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.Continue reading “DRP NB 14 Dec 2020: Constitution of EAC for River Valley Projects Challenged in High Court”
In otherwise bleak governance of sand mining in India, J&K State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) has denied environment clearance to sand mining projects on Jhelum river, since the proposals were not in conformity with the MoEF’s 2016 Sand Mining Management Guidelines, involved in-stream mining, did not have proper District Survey Reports, proper Sand Mining Plan or Replenishment studies. One hope this is emanating from genuine concern for proper governance and this needs to spread to more areas so that at least the guidelines get properly implemented.Continue reading “DRP NB 30 Nov 2020: J&K SEAC denies EC to sand mining”
There are a number of stories here that shows that India’s environment governance continues its downhill journey. The first is a Third Pole story that narrates how Indian govt, through the Minister of State of MoEF misled parliament about the state of decline of biodiversity in India. The second is how MoEF is trying to bypass public hearing and public consultation process in oil and gas exploration projects even in the face of the severe consequences India experienced in the Assam episode of similar mis-governance in the past. The third one is how Kerala govt has failed to assess the impacts of tunneling in Western Ghats. These are only some of the signs. There are much bigger warning writ all over. Until and unless people rise up against these, there is little hope of any change here.Continue reading “DRP NB 16 Nov 2020: India’s Environment Governance continues downhill journey”
India Rivers Week (IRW) Organising Committee is excited to announce that the theme of the forthcoming annual event IRW 2020 will be: “Is Sand Mining Killing our Rivers?”. As part of IRW-2020, India Rivers Forum is organizing a series of Dialogues (digitally). This includes four regional dialogues focusing on North (Oct 31), South (Nov 7), West (Nov 12) and East (including North East: Nov 21)) India, and the final one (Nov 28) focusing on Sand Mining as a National issue.
Sand mining or mining of River Bed Material (RBM, including sand, gravel, boulders) has a huge impact on Rivers, in multiple ways: physical, ecological, livelihood impacts among others. While sand is also sourced from sources other than rivers, IRW 2020 will focus on sand sourced directly or indirectly from rivers. Sand is by definition, a key ingredient of the rivers. It provides habitat for multiple species of the biodiversity in the river. It provides both sub surface storage space and a mechanism to recharge the groundwater. The sand, along with silt, clay, pebbles and boulders are part of the river and are supposed to reach the deltas and provide a key existential medium in floodplain and deltas. To achieve that, sustaining river connectivities is very important.Continue reading “DRP NB 19 Oct 2020: India Rivers Week 2020: IS SAND MINING KILLING OUR RIVERS?”
[Feature image: Cartoon on Draft EIA 2020 by Surendra, The Hindu https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/cartoon/cartoonscape-august-12-2020/article32328005.ece (12 Aug. 2020)]
This last week, one Contempt of Court case was deservedly in news, when on the eve of India’s 74th Independence day, the apex Court found public spirited Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt of Court. Prashant Bhushan’s commitment for the cause of the people and responsible governance of various institutions is beyond question. He is known for being critical of the government and judiciary’s track record and is supported in this by most independent minded persons.
However, there was another contempt case this last week, related to environmental issues, that was not so much in the news. On June 30, 2020, Delhi High Court bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan in response to petition by environmentalist Vikrant Tongad had directed, among other things, that Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) should translate the Draft EIA (Environment Impact Assessment) Notification of 2020 into all the official languages of India and disseminate widely in ten days. (https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/delhi-hc-extends-public-response-deadline-to-draft-eia-2020/article31951610.ece)
Anyone who cares for India, its people and their future and who even remotely understands environmental governance and democratic process will come to just one conclusion about the Draft EIA (Environment Impact Assessment) 2020: CANCEL IT.
We certainly need change in the current EIA process. The whole thing is a major fraud at every stage, from the exclusion from large number of activities from the scope of EIA process, to scoping to quality of EIA, to the track record of the EIA consultants, to the process of selection of EAC (Expert Appraisal Committee) and its functioning, to public hearing and consultation process, to the complete absence of capacity or even will to monitor and achieve compliance of the approved project, every step needs strengthening, from the current EIA process based on the 2006 notification.
But the Draft EIA 2020 takes the current EIA process in opposite direction: Weakening it every step of the way. So there is no doubt that the only real option before the govt is to CANCEL IT.
Feature image: Officials of the irrigation department visited the breached Tiware dam near Chiplun in Ratnagiri, in July 2019. (Pratham Gokhale/HT Photo)
The report of the 10 member committee headed by Shri Nandkumar Vadnere, appointed by the Govt of Maharashtra in Aug 2019 was submitted on May 28, 2020. The report titled “A report on Floods 2019 (Krishna Sub-Basin): Experts Study Committee: Analysis, Causes, Remedies” from all accounts is a major let down as is apparent from the way one of the members felt so humiliated that he had to resign: he was not provided basic information to do justice to the Terms of Reference, his chapters were unilaterally removed from the draft report by the chairman, under pressure from higher ups. The report is actually an attempt to show, by hook or by crook that dams were not responsible for the Krishna basin floods of Aug 2019. Almost exactly the same way CWC came out with a shockingly unscientific, contradictory report about Aug 2018 Kerala floods to prove that dams had no role. The report did not even ask if the any of the dams followed the rule curve, though it made recommendation that rule curves should be followed! The story keeps repeating for each of the dozens of instances in recent years. The report of the Tiware dam disaster in Maharashtra in July 2019 has been submitted in Feb 2020, but is not yet in public domain. These few recent instances show how strong a strangle hold the dam lobby has over the official water institutions and governance in India. The Dam Safety bill now before the Parliament will not help as it has no provision to remove or even loosen this stranglehold, there is no place for independent oversight in the bill. Without an accountable reservoir operation policy, legal and institutional paradigm there is no possibility of freedom from dam induced floods.
WII skips multi-seasonal study on Etalin, cheats its way to compile a conservation plan; MoEFCC and FAC ignore all FANTASTIC REPORT The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) spent only four months on field while compiling a multi-seasonal replicate study on the Jindals’ 3097 mw Etalin Hydro Electric Power Company Ltd (EHEPCL) in Dibang Valley in Arunachal, and it relied on earlier studies conducted in the region. The forest advisory committee (FAC) of the union ministry of environment, forests & climate change (MoEFCC) and the ministry itself did not bother to ask any questions as to how the study was compiled, even though one of its own reports states that four months’ study was carried out. Instead, the FAC formed a subcommittee to look into the “concerns related to tree enumeration process and the aspects highlighted in biodiversity assessments study by WII.” The wildlife study done by the WII is accepted in toto by the subcommittee, the subcommittee report says. The subcommittee included a member of the WII who was part of the team that cheated its way to compile a questionable report on Etalin. https://arunachaltimes.in/index.php/2020/05/03/wii-skips-multi-seasonal-study-on-etalin-cheats-its-way-to-compile-a-conservation-plan-moefcc-and-fac-ignore-all/ (03 May 2020)
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?
Himachal Pradesh is a hilly state where large scale, mechanized mining of riverbed minerals has been going on for past many years. The damaging impacts on rivers, streams and dependent communities are evident and on the rise. However the state government has failed to bring any change in the scenario as can be seen in this overview covering the related developments during 2019-20.