In 2019 overview, we found at least three people had died in Telangana due to illegal sand mining related incidents amid growing number of cases of illicit excavation of riverbeds. The state govt was seen laying stress on technological solutions to curb illegal sand mining and even reportedly had taken significant steps towards manufacturing and use of M-sand as a viable alternative, while its viability and impacts on environment during production remain to be fully studied and understood. https://sandrp.in/2019/02/26/sand-mining-2018-telangana-and-andhra-pradesh/ Here we track the key developments in the state since then.
Feature image: Officials of the irrigation department visited the breached Tiware dam near Chiplun in Ratnagiri, in July 2019. (Pratham Gokhale/HT Photo)
The report of the 10 member committee headed by Shri Nandkumar Vadnere, appointed by the Govt of Maharashtra in Aug 2019 was submitted on May 28, 2020. The report titled “A report on Floods 2019 (Krishna Sub-Basin): Experts Study Committee: Analysis, Causes, Remedies” from all accounts is a major let down as is apparent from the way one of the members felt so humiliated that he had to resign: he was not provided basic information to do justice to the Terms of Reference, his chapters were unilaterally removed from the draft report by the chairman, under pressure from higher ups. The report is actually an attempt to show, by hook or by crook that dams were not responsible for the Krishna basin floods of Aug 2019. Almost exactly the same way CWC came out with a shockingly unscientific, contradictory report about Aug 2018 Kerala floods to prove that dams had no role. The report did not even ask if the any of the dams followed the rule curve, though it made recommendation that rule curves should be followed! The story keeps repeating for each of the dozens of instances in recent years. The report of the Tiware dam disaster in Maharashtra in July 2019 has been submitted in Feb 2020, but is not yet in public domain. These few recent instances show how strong a strangle hold the dam lobby has over the official water institutions and governance in India. The Dam Safety bill now before the Parliament will not help as it has no provision to remove or even loosen this stranglehold, there is no place for independent oversight in the bill. Without an accountable reservoir operation policy, legal and institutional paradigm there is no possibility of freedom from dam induced floods.
Latest and disturbing images taken on May 27, 2020 display brazen riverbed mining in Yamuna river in Dehradun, Uttarakhand. The images related to Vikas Nagar stretch of river show that miners have not only created a temporary bridge across the riverbed to transport mined material but also using heavy machines to dig the riverbed. In the process the river flow has been impounded at the location.
Sources reveal that active river channel is being compromised by in-stream mining operations. It is learnt that the mining is being done hardly 300 meters from Haripur bridge connecting Vikas Nagar to Kalsi.
Bridges are essential infrastructure for human and cargo mobility across a river. They have also allowed us stop over and gaze on the beauty of flowing water streams without any risk of getting drowned or getting ourselves drenched in water. More and more bridges are being built on rivers without understating their impacts. There is hardly any debate or discussion on governance and decision making process or minimum distances to be maintained between two bridges or limiting the number of bridges on given stretch, considering what the river can support. This report takes a look at the situation of bridges on river Yamuna and describes few examples how they have been impacting the river eco-system.
The residents of villages abutting the sanctuary see sand mining as an important livelihood option because agriculture in the arid region is neither productive nor dependable. (HT Photo )
Madhya Pradesh is at the forefront of illegal sand mining activities. There have been violent attacks on government officials, reporters and villagers in recent years. The year 2019 saw change in state government and concerned people were hopeful that things will turn better now. However this overview shows not much have changed for rivers and people while attacks and fatalities continued in 2019.
Yamuna River in Yamuna Nagar district of Haryana is facing severe threat from mechanized and unsustainable stone and sand mining happening at large scale in sheer violation of existing mining rules and guidelines and the responsible authorities are deliberately overlooking the gravity of the issue.
During a field visit to the mining sites, we found scores of heavy trucks plying on riverbed ferrying precious sand. Poclain and JCB machines in large numbers were seen busy digging dip pits in the riverbed. The active course of the river was blocked and even changed. In fact river was nowhere in sight as its entire course was converted in deep stagnant water pools caused by non-stop mechanized mining. Machines were digging the sand and piling it on floodplain and nearby farm lands.
Fisher-folks know a river better than most others. Fish diversity is unfailing indicator determining river health. Unfortunately given the pollution load and lack of fresh flowing water, the Delhi stretch of Yamuna river is biologically dead. Hence fishing activities are rare and not much is known about the current fishermen community.
Situation was better in the past. Many people still fondly recollect, memory of bathing in a pristinely flowing Yamuna in Delhi around 1970s. They also describe their narrative of enjoying plenty of fish variety. Elderly in Greater Noida even claim watching ‘Sush’ dolphin in the river during their childhood.
Now the river is in continual degradation. It gets some clean water during monsoon, when adjoining areas face flood threat.
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.
In an effort to assess the situation of Rivers in 2017, SANDRP is presenting the compilation of key rivers related development in the country. The first part of this Rivers Review 2017 includes Northern States including Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. The following parts will present separate accounts for Rivers in North East, West, East and South Zones. There will also be separate review reports on Ganga & Yamuna rivers.
The Union Ministry of Water Resources has invited comments by March 31, 2013 (comments to be sent to: email@example.com) on its Draft Hydro-Meteorological Data Dissemination Policy 2013 based on the document available at: http://mowr.gov.in/DraftHydrometlDataDisseminationPolicy_2013.pdf. This is indeed a welcome move. Since there has been no publicity of this notice, we assume that the policy has just been put up on the MWR website on March 7, 2013.
PREAMBLE The preamble to the policy should also mention that the National Water Mission of 2008 and the Draft National Water Policy 2012 (final version still not available on MWR website, typical of the MWR functioning) also require transparent data sharing policy.
LANGUAGE OF DRAFT POLICY AND PERIOD OF COMMENTS The three week period provided for comments is too brief and the policy is also not available in languages that majority of people of this country speak and understand. This is an issue that is of interest to majority of people of the country. Hence the draft policy should be translated into local languages and disseminated widely before setting a reasonable deadline for inviting comments.
UNCLASSIFIED RIVER BASIN INFORMATION The policy should mandate the MWR, CWC, CGWB, India Meteorological Department and all other organisations that are involved in such data collection to put all unclassified hydro-meteorological information promptly in public domain. This is also the requirement implied by the section 4(2) of the RTI act, which the draft policy quotes. United States Geological Society, the agency of USA that is in charge of gathering such data in the US is making this available to the mobile phone users through a publicly available application, see: http://www.enn.com/ecosystems/article/45658. The qualification now put in section 6.1 of the draft policy that the information even in unclassified basins only after “after validation and to the extent published in Water Year Book, Water Quality Year Book, Water Sediment Year Book, Ground Water Year Book” is clearly unacceptable. CWC takes years to publish its year books and the information cannot be held secret till CWC and CGWB find time to make their year books public. About the validation issue, the information promptly put up can say that this is unvalidated information and validated information an be put up after validation. This is even now standard practice adopted by number of agencies like Central Electricity Authority who put up the “tentative” monthly generation reports first and actual reports later on (see: http://www.cea.nic.in/monthly_gen.html).
CLASSIFIED BASINS INFORMATION It is good to see that there is no blanket ban on making public hydro-met information for the classified river basins and there is some application of mind to make some of it public. However, this is still far from sufficient. In the classified basins section, you can say that following categories of data should be made public:
(1) Data pertaining to any “public interest” project in the basin, public interest being defined as per say the Land Acquisition Act, any project where land is compulsorily acquired;
(2) Data related to any project that is defined as a public project under the RTI Act;
(3) Data related to any project being defined as Category A or B1 projects for EIA under the 2006 EIA Notification;
(4) Data related to any project that requires forest land;
(5) Data related to any irrigation, drinking water, flood control project and data related to any hydropower project as all of them are supposed to be public purpose projects. All information that is necessary for assessing and understanding cost benefit, social and environment impact assessment of hydropower projects, dams, diversions, information necessary for assessing and understanding disaster management plans including dam break analysis and such kind of information should be in public domain.;
(6) Data related to any project or intervention that can cause significant impact on the local populations or ecology, and
(7) Any data or information that is made available to any private developer or commercial interests.
(8) All information about the water flow at smaller sub basins of the classified basin should be in public domain, as this is very useful for all water related planning, decision making and analysis.
(9) All information shared with the neighbouring countries should be in public domain.
(10) Information about functioning of all transboundary cooperation projects, plans and committees should be in public domain.
INFORMATION SHARED BY NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES The policy should also make it clear that information shared by the neighbours with India, particularly relevant for people in terms of information related to floods, water flow and water quality etc should also be promptly available in public domain. What is the use of flood forecasting information if it is not available to those who are in the areas that are vulnerable to flood risks that this information is pertaining to?
ORGANISATIONS OTHER THAN CWC AND CGWB There are a large number of organisations besides CWC and CGWB that are also involved in collecting hydro-met information, including IMD, state government, BBMB, NHPC, NEEPCO, SJVN, THDC and private sector hydropower developers. The policy should be pertaining to all such organisations. All information gathered by IMD should be in public domain, in all basins.
METHODS OF DATA COLLECTION In addition to actual data, the methods of data collection should also be available in public domain, so that the information users can also understand the implications of such methods for the accuracy or otherwise of such data. The methods deployed related reports by CWC, CGWB, MWR and others in ensuring the accuracy of the data, including third party evaluation should also be in public domain.
GOOD OPPORTUNITY This is a good opportunity to make the functioning of the ministry of water resources also transparent, it would hugely help improve the image of the ministry. The National Water Mission and new Draft National Water Policy also talk about making available all relevant policy and document in public domain promptly. However, this is yet to happen. We hope you will give due consideration to these comments and accordingly change the policy.