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?
In a recent article Ashwin B Pandya, Former, Chairman Central Water Commission (CWC) refuses to acknowledge either the adverse impacts of dams or the better option of using groundwater aquifer for storing water. And thus making unscientific arguments against dam decommissioning and for dams. No one is talking of removal ALL dams as the author seems to postulate and then dismiss it as impossible and irresponsible.
I was standing in a waste dump, with pigs, garbage and dumped clothes all around me when Mr. Shailendra Patel told me to take off my shoes.
Just a few steps ahead of me was a miracle.
In the midst of the dump, Mr. Patel went down to a sparkling spring of clear water and kneeled down. This was a living stream in the heart of Pune city, with “development” all around, with a sewage carrying nallah flowing right next to it. Crystal clear water gushed out of rock crevices, there was a small sandy pool with tiny fish, water skaters and a desolate looking statue of a jaldevata on a stone ledge.
Mr. Patel talked with ladies with their washing loads who came to the spring, with school children running past, late for the school, with construction workers brushing their teeth nonchalantly next to the spring. The problem was he could not talk with the people who stayed in huge apartment complexes right next to the spring. They find the place too filthy, despite the fact that the tankers that supply water to complexes fill up from springs like these.
One more problem was that the Pune city does not recognise existence of such springs and the City Development Plan has not marked this as a spring or stream. It is up for grabs. A building complex will be built over this at any time.
Wetlands can be defined as lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic eco-systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water.
But they are threatened by reclamation and degradation due to activities like drainage and landfill, pollution, hydrological alteration (water withdrawal and changes in inflow and outflow), over-exploitation resulting in loss of biodiversity and disruption in ecosystem services provided by them.
Similarly, despite country’s space agency ISRO had in 2011 mapped over two lakhs of wetlands across the country, the centre has, so far, notified only 115 wetlands and 63 lakes in 24 states and 2 UTs for conservation and management.
Above: Major River Basins of Maharashtra Source: MWRRA
Major Issues faced by Rivers of Maharashtra include complete lack of governance geared towards protecting rivers as ecological systems, unjustifiable dam projects blocking most of the rivers of the state without even comparable benefits, increasing water conflicts, depleting groundwater levels which affect base flow of the rivers, catchment degradation, climate change induced changes in river hydrology, repeated droughts and increasing levels of pollution.