The Europe floods this last week are unprecedented in so many respects. It has lead to close to 200 confirmed deaths so far, affected the Rhine basin areas of Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland and Luxembourg. It is the result of worst recorded rainfall in a century, leading to unprecedented water levels that rose so suddenly that otherwise super alert and smart disaster management system could not neither accurately and in time predict the catastrophe nor remove these people from the path of the destruction. The climate scientists are seeing clear signature of climate change, though more studies are called for. The call for urgent and much more action to reverse the global warming are getting louder in a continent where possibly the climate action is most advanced.
As The New York Times reported on July 19, 2021 (Monday),
The authorities ordered new evacuations on Saturday, and heavy rains in the southern German region of Bavaria caused still more flooding on Sunday.
German meteorologists called the flooding the worst in 500 years, if not a millennium. The disaster thrust the issue of climate change to the center of pivotal elections this fall.
Belguim: Street pavements burst open, houses flattened, and entire villages were destroyed in what’s being described as one of the worst flooding disasters to hit Western Europe in more than two centuries. In Liège, Belgium’s third-largest city, water from the Meuse river overflowed Thursday evening into parts of the city center, prompting city officials to call for residents to evacuate the area or seek higher ground.
Countries like India should see this as a major and yet another wake up call to start taking action to reverse the global warming emissions. Much more can and should be done urgently.
On the Feb 2 2021, the World Wetlands Day, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands would also complete its 50 years. The global treaty popularly known as Ramsar Convention was adopted in 1971 and came into force in 1975 following decades of negotiations.
The main objective of the treaty is to promote conservation and wise use of all wetlands through regional actions and international cooperation. Currently, the treaty has been accepted by 171 nations including India. There are 2414 Wetlands of International Importance under Ramsar treaty spreading over 254,540,512 ha of lands across the globe.
Urban rivers provide a lot of services, but the urban areas are inviting major trouble by destroying them through dumping of solid and liquid waste, encroachments, river front developments, unsustainable mining among others. The urban areas also operate in almost total policy vacuum and none of the cities under smart city programs are dealing with Urban rivers with any smartness.
This overview includes some key developments about Urban Rivers in 2020 from the South Indian states of Karnataka (Vrishabhavati in Bengaluru; Swarna-Netravati in Udupi), Tamil Nadu (Adyar, Buckingham Canal and Cooum rivers in Chennai; Kiruthumal in Madurai; Noyyal in Tiruppur; Bhavani in Coimbatore; Palar in Vellore; Vasishta in Salem), Telangana (Musi in Hyderabad), Andhra Pradesh (Tungabhadra in Kurnool), Kerala (Periyar, Kadambrayar & Konthuruthy in Kochi; Kodoor in Kottayam) and Puducherry (Sankarabarani).
The outgoing year 2020 is likely to be remembered as Corona year as Covid 19 pandemic has been the most influential aspect of the year. However, there have been many positives of the outgoing year. We identify five biggest positives as we see them.
Firstly, the complete lockdown that we experienced during March-April 2020, to slow down the spread of the Covid 19 infection showed, among many other things that it is indeed possible to clean up our rivers and also indicated the way forward: tackle industrial pollution. Unfortunately, those clear lessons have not been learnt by the government, its been busy in ease of doing business, not even understanding that in changing climate, clean rivers are going to be a major resource that will help people adapt.
The second notable positive was the major across the country protests, particularly from the younger generation against the government’s attempt to bulldoze the completely anti- environment amendment to the EIA notification. The protests along with the judicial orders have so far stopped the amendment from getting implementation. The government will do well to abandon any attempt to push them.
Similar to the protests against amendments to EIA notification were the protests against trying to bulldoze the massive Etalin Hydropower project in Dibang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh, at the cost of lakhs of trees and biodiversity rich forest and river and against the wishes of the people of Arunachal Pradesh and North East India. Here again it was good to see that the campaign has so far been successful.
India Rivers Week 2020 organised Zonal and National dialogues on river sand mining in India, in which large number of groups and stakeholders from across the country participated and has created a new wave of awareness and energy on this very important but so far largely ignored issue. We are hopeful that this energy will lead to change in governance of river sand mining in India.
The World Rivers Day[i] (WRD) is celebrated annually on the fourth Sunday of September. The event strives to highlight the invaluable ecological, hydrological services and cultural, recreational values offered by the rivers. Indeed, the most of the once wild, scenic, free flowing rivers across the globe are facing existential crisis on account of various anthropogenic activities hastened over the past century.
However, there are small but significant steps being undertaken by individuals, organizations and governments to restore some of the flowing eco-systems. This account attempts to compile some such positive developments that have taken place in the one year.
We have already published a compilation of the positive river stories of India on the occasion of International Day of Actions for Rivers being held on March 14 2020. In addition to Indian rivers, this compilation also covers some remarkable development concerning river conservation worldwide. There could be many more stories and developments happening, we invite readers to send us such stories they know about.
Migrant workers and farmers are among the worst affected sections of population in the ongoing pandemic and restrictions including lockdown. With staggering increase in infections, spread and deaths on daily basis the crisis is far from over yet.
Amid all this, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has resumed eviction drive against farmers and migrant workers eking out livelihood through cultivation of vegetables and plants in nurseries on Yamuna floodplain in Delhi.
On August 18, 2020, DDA team accompanied by Delhi Police personnel landed at Yamuna floodplain near Common Wealth Games (CWG) Village and crushed large part of crops, plants in nurseries using JCB machine.
Following a visit to Yamuna on July 25, SANDRP had written to the Delhi Yamuna Monitoring Committee (DYMC) and concerned agencies about the dumping of construction debris and encroachments on Yamuna riverbed, floodplain at Signature Bridge, Nizamuddin Bridge (Mayur Vihar, Kale Khan side). DYMC has promptly asked Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC, we accompanied them for the inspection visit to the flood plain on July 27, 2020) and Delhi Development Authority (DDA).
On Aug 4, as per the request of DDA, SANDRP accompanied them to the Yamuna floodplain and riverbed along with their official photographer, videographer and measurement team.
Feature image Signature bridge equipment, facilities still occupying large chunk of Yamuna riverbed as seen on July 25, 2020. In the backdrop DMRC phase IV bridge work has started raising, leveling large chunk of riverbed further. (Bhim Singh Rawat/SANDRP)
On February 16, 2020[i], SANDRP had raised the issue of large scale construction debris left and dumped in the riverbed of Yamuna along the bridges on NH 24 in Mayur Vihar. The area is opposite Sarai Kale Khan and close to Common Games Village.
Following this, the Delhi Yamuna Monitoring Committee (DYMC) constituted by National Green Tribunal (NGT) asked Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to take action against the violation and submit Action Taken Report (ATR). In the following days a series of tweets were made by respective agencies with an assurance to look into the issue. After pursuing the matter persistently for three weeks, finally the DYMC informed that the debris have been removed from the site.
This letter from SANDRP to MoEF and ETC on Etalin Project highlights how poor has been the EIA and E-flows reports of the Etalin Project and how flawed has been the Environmental Appraisal Process by the EAC. It also shows the shoddy Dibang Basin study for Cumulative Impact Assessment cum Carrying Capacity Study, shockingly done by the same consultant that also did the Etalin EIA, showing clearly that MoEF, EAC and CWC, all of whom were involved in the process, do not understand what is conflict of interest. The E flows study done by the CIFRI (Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute) does not even provide the list of fish they found in the Etalin project area! And shockingly, the EAC approved the biggest ever hydropower project of India based on such shoddy documents. The Environment Clearance approval needs to be reviewed, the EIA, E-flows and Dibang Basin CIA needs to be rejected and fresh studies need to be commissioned. https://sandrp.in/2020/05/23/open-letter-to-moef-river-valley-eac-review-recommendation-to-grant-ec-to-etalin-hep/ (23 May 2020)
This must be the defining (and predictable, this was the lead story in our DRP NB of April 27, 2020, see: https://sandrp.in/2020/04/27/drp-nb-27-april-2020-for-whom-is-this-unviable-etalin-project-being-pushed/) moment in the campaign to save the Dibang Valley now from the proposed 3097 MW Etalin Hydropower Project. The CEO of Jindal Power Ltd has said in so many words that project is NOT an attractive investment, they will struggle to find buyers for the costly power and only support from government can help make the project viable. The CEO seemed to suggest that they would be happy to sell the project to NHPC or form a joint venture with NHPC to get the govt funding for the project. Again completely on predictable line. The question then is why should government spend previous public money on such an unviable project?
So the question remains the same, the one we asked on April 27, 2020: For whom is this unviable Etalin Project being pushed?