The Maharashtra government submitted an affidavit in High Court that the state has 15865 wetlands, down from 44714 in 2010. How did 28849 wetlands disappear from the very definition of wetland? While all of these wetlands may not have disappeared from ground, their disappearance from govt papers as wetlands means that they are now open to all kinds of abuse and encroachments. It along with other wetlands related stories here shows how little the governments are concerned about the wetlands.
This week’s news bulletin has a number of examples of Better Water Management Options that India has, let us focus on the example from state. These examples come from Kerala (achieving a barren land free constituency & KERI study showing the need for desilting of Malampuzha reservoir), Tamil Nadu (lessons from implementation of System of Rice Intensification in large parts of cultivable land and also declaring the Cauvery Delta as protected agriculture zones that will help stop the problematic hydrocarbon exploration project as also, hopefully other destructive projects), Odisha (govt filing affidavit in the Supreme Court asking it to stop work on Polavaram Dam of Andhra Pradesh is hugely belated but right move), Telangana (rejecting the Godavari Cauvery River Linking proposal of NWDA for its shoddy water balance), Uttarakhand (Dehradun DM accepting in affidavit to High Court that 270 acres of river bed land is encroached in the district), Kashmir (drive to remove encroachments of Khushal Sar lake, even if selective, hopefully it will be a beginning), NGT (cancelling the township coming up in lake eco sensitive area in Bengaluru) among others. We have listed only the welcome initiatives from the govt. Even if these initiatives are taken to logical conclusion and also emulated by other states, it can go a long way in moving towards better water management.
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.
The statement of Shri U P Singh, secretary, Union Water Resources Ministry, that “industry (private or public sector) could adopt small rivers” seems to suggest that the government is moving towards handing over the rivers to Corporate bodies. The example Mr Singh gave of Drayavati River of Jaipur is even more disturbing since that river has been completely destroyed by the project implemented by the Tatas. It should not surprise though, considering that no less than the Prime Minister has been giving the example of canalisation of Sabarmati as an example of rejuvenation of the river. If this is what the government means by rejuvenation, that even Ganga and Yamuna are facing major risks of destruction. Its not less shocking that while Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar has questioned Modi government’s attempt to achieve Nirmal Ganga without attempting Aviral Ganga, his own government is basically following the same Sabarmati model on Ganga in Patna. If this is the example of “rejuvenation” of river according to the top most bureaucrat of of the government in charge of Water resources, nothing can save India’s rivers except a people’s movement against such moves wherever such destruction of rivers is attempted.
(Feature Image:In Sindhudurg, the pollution is already shrinking mangrove cover, taking away a source of shelter and food, shrinking hunting grounds and forcing marine species further outside their territories in search of fish, Sindhudurg coastline had the potential to become an International tourism destination. Pratik Chorge/HT PHOTO)
The beaches, creeks, rivers, mangroves in the state of Maharashtra all are bearing the brunt of unsustainable mining, amid several attempts by government, judiciary and civil societies to keep a tab on illegal sand mining activities. As the detailed compilation by SANDRP highlights that mining menace warrants immediate actions from government before the threats turns into a disaster.
The Hindustan Times editorial on Nov 27, 2019 has rightly said the following about “a recently-released Rejuvenating-Ganga River – A Citizen-Report, by the India Rivers Week, a consortium of seven NGOs”.
“A key reason for the failure of the river cleaning projects (Ganga and Yamuna action plans), says a recently-released citizen’s report, Rejuvenating Ganga,by the India Rivers Week, a consortium of seven NGOs, was their single-point focus on the main stem of the river, while the Ganga basin actually has eight major rivers (Yamuna, Son, Ramganga, Gomti, Ghaghra, Gandak, Kosi and Damodar). The majority of the funds were spent on pollution-abatement measures on the main stem of the Ganga and on the upper Yamuna basin, which constitute just 20% of the Ganga basin.”
Interrogating Cauvery Calling N Ram questions Jaggi Vasudev’s Cauvery Calling, asks why it shifts goal posts Speaking at Interrogating Cauvery Calling seminar in Chennai, N Ram said that various state governments and the central government that endorses the project should also be questioned.
“Now a very serious issue that must cause concern is the raising of public interest and public money for this project. Truly mega, in terms of money involved – 242 crore trees, 11,000 crore rupees. That is the kind of money involved. Only 0.5% collected. There is still time to put checks on this and prevent this from going further,” he said. “What is the management of this money? Who oversees it? There is no transparency, no verifiable document, no clear management structure for huge amount targeted. It is a matter of great concern.”
– N Ram also said that various state governments and the central government that endorses the project should also be questioned. “As a political journalist, this is the question that occurs to me. Who gave the Isha Foundation the right, the jurisdiction to transgress on what should be the commons. And why are governments being subservient to this idea? Apart from the risks, probable negative outcomes and over simplification of solutions for Cauvery, this is what is worrying,” he concluded. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/n-ram-questions-jaggi-vasudevs-cauvery-calling-asks-why-it-shifts-goal-posts-112838 (24 Nov. 2019)
River carrying capacity is such a crucial factor in deciding if certain areas will be flooded and with what severity. This capacity is constantly changing, more so in tropical climate and high silt carrying rivers of South Asia, as new research shows. However, most models that are used in India, including by CWC, assume steady state situation. Nor are there constant and credible efforts to assess the river cross sections and river conveyance capacities and put them in public domain. The study shows how important it is that we wake up to this reality and ensure credible, consistent monitoring and assessments by credible independent agencies at the earliest. This has become even more urgent, the study underlines, since in changing climate, the rainfall patterns are changing fast.
With work on NHPC Ltd’s 2,000-MW Lower Subansiri hydro power project restarting after a wait of almost eight years, anti-dam organisations led by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) vowed to launch an intense resistance movement to stop further construction of the project. AASU, in a statement, alleged that work on the Lower Subansiri project at Gerukamukh along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border has been started ‘treacherously’, risking the lives and property of people living in the downstream area. AASU said a scientific study on the possible impact of the dam in its downstream areas besides a cumulative impact study must be completed before expediting work at the dam site.
One expects that River sand mining issues will be minimal in monsoon, with riverbeds flooded, but that is far from the case, as we can see from this week’s bulletin. Recent news include the positive story of Dakshin Kannada deputy commissioner being remembered for curbing illegal sand mining; Institute of Engineers demanding curb in sand mining around the 90 year old Krishna Raj Sagar dam on Cauvery considering its safety; in Tamil Nadu, the most dangerous place in the context of sand mining, there is the news of police forcing activists to apologise; While the TN minister is in denial mode about illegal sand mining round Chennai; firing between sand mafia and police in Rajasthan leading to two deaths and several injuries; in MP, a video is in circulation showing police negotiation with sand mafia; new sand mining policies in several states including Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar and in Delhi the DJB has written to NGT to take steps to curb illegal sand mining downstream of Hathnikund barrage. And there is more.
That’s a lot of news during monsoon on River Sand mining. Unfortunately, there is no light at the end of the sandy tunnel. There is no effective policy or action on the horizon either from the states, centre or judiciary. It seems a lot more focused work is required on this issue.