On August 21, 2019, the first big flood spell of monsoon season 2019 has passed through Delhi. The river swelled to cross first warning level 204.00 metre and then danger level 204.83 metre at Old Railway Bridge (ORB) Delhi, finally receding from 206.6 metre which is 0.89 meter short of 207.49 Highest Flood Level (HFL) set in 1978.
The delayed and much awaited flood spell hit the city after highest ever recorded discharge of 8.28 lakh cusec water for two hours from Hathini Kund Barrage (HKB), Yamuna Nagar in Haryana on August 18, 2019 at 05:00 pm and 6:00 pm. The highest since the commissioning of HKB in 2000. The water release this year has also surpassed the discharge of 7.09 lakh cusec the previous highest discharge recorded at Taje Wala Barrage (TWB) during the highest flood recorded in River Yamuna in September 1978. The British era TWB barrage, some 6 kilometre upstream of HKB was washed away in 2010 floods.
The following is an excellent example of how early flood warnings from Bhutan, shared with downstream Assam communities using WhatsApp messages, saves lives. This needs to be highlighted and word spread to implement it in all flood prone areas on Urgent basis, including in trans-boundary areas, as this is an example of the same.
In the last few weeks of June 2019, a series of WhatsApp messages (sent via unofficial channels) were sent from Bhutan to India to warn “cross-border friends” downstream of the Aai, Saralbhanga and Manas rivers about cloud-bursts, swollen rivers and possible flash floods affecting people in the Indian state of Assam.
The stretch of Yamuna River & its floodplain lying between Palla and Wazirabad Barrage in Delhi is still in reasonably good state. Though bisected by an embankment, the floodplain is free of too many recent major encroachments. The River keeps meandering between physical boundaries of Delhi and Gaziabad district of Uttar Pradesh on the other side. The average width of floodplain from embankment to embankment is 2 kilometres. The width of active river current varies from 200-300 metres.
Most parts of the floodplain on both sides of this embankment are under agriculture. The crops grown here includes paddy, vegetables and floriculture as cash crops apart from wheat, traditional riverbed crops of melons, cucumber, tomato and bottle guards etc. Use of chemicals is also growing. There is not much information available about the impact of chemical farming on floodplain and river eco system.
(Feature image by Nishant Panwar, Vikas Nagar, shows Yamuna River in upper reaches in Jan. 2019)
On April 11, 2019, is the birthday of Yamuna river. The Yamuna Jayanti comes every year on the sixth day of ‘Chaitra’ (summer) Navratra. The Kapat (door) of famous Yamnotri shrine would be opened this year on May 7 for Char Dham Yatra.
In April-May 2019 India will vote to elect 17th Lok Sabha or Parliament. On April 11, the 1st of the 7 polling days, the home state of Yamuna river, Uttrakhand and the districts of Western Uttar Pradesh through which Yamuna river flows, will vote.
The two other states heavily dependent and Yamuna river, Haryana and Delhi will see voting on May 12. The district Mathura, Agra, Etawa, Kanpur, Hamirpur, Fatehpur and Allahabad of Uttar Pradesh located along Yamuna river will witness voting from second (April 18) to sixth phase on May 12.
The NDA government come to power in May 2014 promising clean Ganga and Yamuna. The thousands of devotees of Mathura and residents of Agra were especially convinced of a promise of clean flowing Yamuna river. People were also hopeful that the government of the same party, BJP, in centre and in key basin states of Yamuna (Uttarakhand, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh) would bring a change in the situation. But over the five years, things have only deteriorated further. In fact, under the present government apart from dams and pollution a illegal sand mining has emerged as equally dangerous threat for the Yamuna rivers from upper reaches through middle and lower stretches.
On the occasion of Yamuna Jayanti, the Yamuna Nadi Mitra Mandli (YNMM) a voluntary group of villagers and concerned; established along the length of Yamuna by Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan is highlighting the issues affecting the Yamuna river and riparian communities which have remained unaddressed during past five years and none of the political parties even now have remotely focused on these. They also warn that ignoring the problems of Yamuna and dependent community will soon affect every state and dependent people in a significant way apart from endangering the river itself.
It’s not secret that water pollution is getting worse in India, including pollution of groundwater sources, thought we still donot know the full extent of the pollution of that source. But there is so little citizen action on such an important issue that affects so many so severely on daily basis. So it’s great to see four separate instances of such action this week, one each from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Kerala. In absence of any seriousness shown by governments at centre and states and any effective success from judicial intervention, this is welcome news. One only hopes this is no flash in the pan and rather beginning of citizens’ action to agitate against such rampant water pollution that goes on in India.
For last 22 years, 14 March is celebrated globally as International Day of Action for Rivers.
As per India Rivers Week Assessment 70 per cent of our rivers are facing existential threats. Over 60 per cent of sewage generated in India is dumped untreated in rivers and water bodies. As per latest official assessment the number of polluted river stretches in country has increased to 352 from 302 two years ago. Similarly the number of critically polluted stretches has gone up to 45 from 34 in two years. Our rivers are facing lack flow, pollution, encroachments, unsustainable mining and destruction of habitat. In mountains, streams are running dry for most of the time, while in urban areas they are over loaded with pollution.
Amid this gloomy scenario, many small initiatives are being taken to reverse the plight of our rivers. This compilation shows few of such recent and inspiring initiatives.
Two interesting orders from National Green Tribunal (NGT) marked important developments on water-environment issues this week. NGT asking for PERFORMANCE AUDIT of pollution Control Mechanism is indeed long overdue necessity, considering the complete, abject failure of the pollution control mechanism in India. The hopes of effective action, like in the past, however, were dashed since CPCB, which is PART OF THE PROBLEM has been asked to do the audit. An independent audit, in addition to one possibly by CAG may have helped. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/ngt-slams-state-pollution-bodies/article26008687.ece (17 Jan. 2019)
Whatever positive signs were available by this order were further dashed by another NGT order in which it declared that EIAs (Environmental Impact Assessment) reports are already taking climate change into account, while the tribunal dismissed a petition asking that all development activities be screened/ regulated keeping climate change in mind.
This is totally WRONG contention. Just to illustrate, SANDRP has been pointing out to the EAC, MoEF and the developers how the EIAs of dams and hydropower projects are ignoring the climate change related issues and impacts. In response the consultants and developers have responded, approved by the silent or spoken nods by the EAC and MoEF that these were not even part of their TORs! One only wishes NGT was most discerning before making such claims and would have gone through a few EIAs to see if at all EIAs are dealing with these issues with any rigour or credibility. https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/climate-change-already-covered-under-environment-impact-assessment-ngt-119011600897_1.html (16 Jan. 2019)
Good to see NGT rejecting the flawed Groundwater notification dated Dec 12, 2018 from CGWA that was also critiqued by SANDRP: https://sandrp.in/2018/12/31/groundwater-governance-why-dec-12-2018-cgwa-notification-would-be-disastrous/. However, NGT should have asked an independent panel to formulate the policy for sustainable groundwater use, rather than a committee of the same government persons. Besides, there is also need for restructuring of currently totally ineffective CGWA and make it COMPLETELY INDEPENDENT of government.
In case of the 3097 MW Etalin project being developed by Jindal and Arunachal Pradesh govt, the IE report says: “the WII was asked by the Ministry (MoEF) to assess the feasibility of the plan that requires 1,166 hectares of forestland in the valley. The Ministry’s move followed a recommendation from its Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) to conduct an environment impact assessment study. Instead, the WII initiated a study to find how the project’s impact on wildlife can be minimised”. Thus instead of doing the mandated scientific impact assessment, the WII initiated a study to minimise the project’s impact.