Monsoon

Unprecedented October 2021 Rainfall in Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand has seen unusual rainfall episode in the month of October 2021. The extreme rains during October 17 to 19 across the state and particularly at several places in districts under Kumaon division have been termed as highest rainfall in the recorded history as per Meteorological Circle (MC), Dehradun. This account is an attempt to document the historical rainfall events caused by combination of low pressure and western disturbance (WD) weather phenomena.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 25 Oct 2021: J&K HC concerned about Sindh River

(Feature image: Sindh river seen from Duderhama bridge. Source Wikipedia.)

In a noteworthy development this week, on Oct 21, 2021, the Jammu & Kashmir High Court bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Jutice Sanjay Dhar has sought reports about the Sindh River from Secretaty Revenue and Seccretary Irrigation & flood control by Nov 15, and both officers have been directed to be present in the court. The HC has been following up on this issue through earlier orders on Sept 18, Aug 12. The High Court has been asking for demarcation of Sindh River in Ganderbal district of J&K and removal of encroachments.

The River originates in the Machoi Glacier at an elevation of 4800m east of the Amarnath temple and south of the Zoji La and passes through the alpine hill station Sonmarg. The river is facing the worst kind of pollution through constructions- hotels, tourist hut, resorts etc – being undertaken at various places on the river beds and floodplains. The River is the natural habitat of trout, and other fish, the most famous among them are: brown trout, rainbow trout, snow trout, Shuddgurn and Anyour. The River also suffers from mechanised mining and pollution.

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Cloud Burst

Himachal Pradesh: Cloud Bursts in Monsoon 2021

(Feature image:- Local people trying to crossing the overflowing Jahlma drain with a rope to take an injured person to the hospital. Source: Amar Ujala, July 30, 2021.)

The Himalayan states have been facing reoccurring cloud burst disasters for the past several years. The state of Uttarakhand witnessed 50 such events, 24 pre monsoon[i] and 26 during south west monsoon[ii] season of 2021. This account highlights the situation of the emerging climatic threat in Himachal Pradesh in pre monsoon and monsoon months in 2021.

Here it may be noted that during SW Monsoon months of June to Sept 2021, Himachal Pradesh had 10% below normal rainfall, with 8 of the twelve districts of the state experiencing below normal rainfall. Lahaul and Spiti had the highest deficit at -65%. Among the four districts that had above normal rains, Kullu had the highest surplus at +40%. Even during the pre-monsoon months (March to May 2021), HP had 10% below normal rains.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 11 Oct 2021: Are we being forced towards nature based solutions?

Four interesting developments in this week seems to suggest that mankind is being pushed closer to nature based solutions to society’s needs. In Brussels in Belgium (Europe), the local government has started to uncover the Senne river that now is hidden under the pavements with the declared objective to “return nature to the city” and the river becoming an ecological corridor in the city.

In USA, the Army Corps of Engineers, more known as Dam builders, have over the last five years, moved towards nature based flood control by creating wetlands. In the 2020 Water Resources Development Act, US Congress directed the Corps to consider nature-based systems on equal footing with more traditional infrastructure. Its possibly a baby step, but a very significant one for a traditional dam building organisation that has stopped building dams and have been working towards decommissioning dams.

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Dams

Rivers that crossed Highest Flood Level in Monsoon 2021

(Feature image River Betwa in flood spate on Aug. 4, 2021. Source: Sharad Chandra, Director, CWC)

While India has received 874.6 mm rainfall which falls in normal[i] category in just concluded south west monsoon season, there have been at least 27 incidents of rivers crossing the Highest Flood Levels (HFLs) ever recorded in the past and attaining new HFLs in 5 river basins (some composite basins) in India, as recorded by the Central Water Commission (CWC) Flood Forecasting site[ii] during the monsoon.

The maximum 12 such instances have taken place in Ganga basin followed by 6 in west flowing rivers Tapi to Tadri basin, 5 in Godavari, 2 in West Flowing rivers Tadri to Kanyakumari basin and 1 each in Subernarekha and Tapi basin.

For past three years, SANDRP has been tracking the HFL breach incidents during monsoon season. The analysis of such HFL breaches in 2018[iii], 2019[iv] and 2020[v] can be seen on our website.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 4 Oct 2021: Congratulations to LIFE for much deserved Right Livelihood Award 2021

This week brings a heartening development: Legal Initiative for Forests and Environment (LIFE), headed by lawyers Ritwick Dutta and Rahul Choudhary, are recipients of the Right Livelihood Award 2021, also known as Alternative Nobel Prize for their amazing work on empowerment of the communities through environment defense. This is much deserved recognition for the exemplary work of this group for over 16 years not only through the legal cases in National Green Tribunal (& its predecessor NEAA etc.), High Courts and Supreme Court, but also influencing the government policy and project decisions and also effective training of government officials in environmental matters.

LIFE is one of four organisation to get this award this year. The Swedish Right Livelihood Foundation, which awards the prize, said that in the face of the worsening climate crisis, powerful governmental and corporate interests, and even a terrorist threat, the 2021 Laureates prove that solidarity is key to a better future for all. The 2021 Right Livelihood Laureates are leaders in advancing the rights of women and girls, environmental protection and reclaiming Indigenous rights through mobilising communities and empowering grassroots initiatives. “Hailing from Cameroon, Russia, Canada and India, this year’s change-makers show that lasting change is built on communities banding together,” it said.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 27 Sep 2021: TN HC: Protest against environment violations fundamental duty

(Feature image: Protesters hold placards during a demonstration against the killings of 13 protesters in Tuticorin. Photograph: Arun Sankar/AFP/Getty, Source The Guardian report. )

In a remarkable refreshing order, the Madurai bench of Tamil Nadu High Court has held that protest against environmental violations like that of Sterlite factory is a fundamental duty of citizens. The Madurai bench has reasoned that the duties of the state in protecting the environment are basically the rights of the people. The bench relied on Article 51-A (g) of Part IV-A (Fundamental Duties), which deals with the duty to protect and improve the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures. A liberal interpretation of Article 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) of the constitution enabled the bench to hold that right to environment, free of danger of disease and infection is inherent in it.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 20 Sep 2021: Policy needed for Urban Rivers, not Riverfronts

There is no doubt that India urgently needs a guidance note and policy for Environment Sensitive, Climate Adaptive and Socially inclusive Urban Rivers Planning and Development. But this is required for the Urban Rivers and not just Urban Riverfront. The NMCG attempt like that of Sabarmati and numerous other river fronts unfortunately are not bothered about rivers, they are only interested in grabbing land from the Urban Rivers and convert the rivers into concrete channels on two and in some cases three sides (include the sides and the bed of the rivers). That is clearly death knell for the rivers. There is no doubt that there is need connect the people with the rivers, not just river fronts. The NMCG and other government bodies know the difference, so it is not out of ignorance that they have come out with the guidance note for river fronts rather than one for rivers. Unless people, civil society, experts and judiciary raise these issues, the future of Urban rivers seem bleak in India, as can be seen from the stories of Urban rivers compiled here from this week. 

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Dams · Hydro Disaster

Uttarakhand: Cloud Bursts around Vyasi HEP

On August 25-27, 2021 the most of hilly districts in Uttarakhand witnessed intense rainfall events causing widespread destruction. Media reports and local people suggest at least seven cloud burst incidents occurring in quick succession over Binhar range in Pacchawadoon and Mussoorie hills dividing Ganga and Yamuna basins in Dehradun district. The resultant deluge has also affected the under construction Vyasi Hydro Electric Project (HEP) areas in Vikas Nagar tehsil highlighting that the project is unprepared to cope with existing & emerging disasters.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 13 Sept 2021: Misleading claim of Water Plus cities

Recently, when the government of India certified that cities like Indore, Surat, Hyderabad, Vizag, etc are Water Plus, it raised a number of questions including the credibility of the claim, lack of credit worthy independent assessment, how sustainable are the claims, etc. The author of the following article rightly raises the question if the cities are at all Water Plus. They are clearly not. While recycling and reuse of 30% of treated sewage and full treatment of waste water is welcome in view of the current pathetic status of city water management in cities, this achievement, if it is real as assessed by credit worthy independent assessment & judged against a set of well-defined criteria of sustainability among others, is worth appreciating, but it certainly does not deserve Water Plus City label. To achieve that label, a lot more and a lot different kind of achievements will be required.

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