The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has on April 11, 2023 forecast that rainfall at national level in four months of June-Sept 2023 Southwest Monsoon will be 96% of Long Period Average (LPA). IMD considers Indian Monsoon rainfall as normal based on just one parameter of total rainfall in these four months at national level is between 96% and 104% of LPA, with model error of +/- 5%. This raises large number of questions as media has rightly raised post the IMD announcement.
Firstly, in a strange turn of events, on April 12, an update jointly by US weather agencies under the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), contradicted a number of assumptions of IMD the previous day, including the period when El Nino will become active and probability of it being a strong event, both of which have a strong bearing on the Indian Monsoon in an adverse way. So the first question that arises is, did the IMD not have the benefit of the observations on April 11 based on which NOAA made the forecast very next day? Or was it an attempt at providing an unjustified feel good monsoon forecast? This question arises as in the past too questions have been raised about such attempts by IMD. This question also becomes important as only a day or two before IMD’s forecast, private forecaster had predicted that monsoon rainfall is likely to be deficient and not normal.
(Feature Image: Graph showing annual growth in hydro power capacity in MW. Source: Rivers Without Boundaries, April 01, 2023)
The annual Renewable Statistics 2023 report from IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency) says that globally, only 1.6% was added to the hydropower capacity in 2022, that too two thirds in non-democratic China. The capacity added in rest of the world outside China in 2022 was 7.3 GW, lowest figure in last 15 years. Similarly 99% of additional capacity added in pump storage projects in 2022 was in China. The report from IRENA also says that 97% of hydropower finance comes from public or government sources and private sector seems to have little enthusiasm for this sector. The projections for future painted in the report is no better. This is broadly in line with our lead story in DRP News Bulletin last week (dated March 27 2023) painting bleak future of large hydropower projects.
Pictures above have been taken five days apart. One would think River Interlinking entails transferring water from the bountiful right to thirsty left. In case of Damanganga-Vaitarna-Godavari Link, it means the opposite: transferring water from dry Mokhada to the verdant Devnadi in Sinnar. Like many ILR projects, it highlights the farce that is “surplus” and “deficit” basins. More rainfall does not secure water access, nor does moderate rainfall negate it.
(Feature Image:-Nayapakkam a lake near Chennai and a bird hotspot. 190 species have been recorded here and is a refuge for migratory harriers. https://ebird.org/hotspot/L3396760 Excavators were filling one end of the lake yesterday. Allegedly the ACS group is building an International school over it. M Yuvan, 05 Feb. 2023)
On the occasion of World Wetlands Day 2023 on Feb 2, 2023, SANDRP brought out five overviews about state of India’s wetlands. These included overview related to: 1. India’s Ramsar Wetlands 2. General overview of India’s wetlands 3. Top Ten stories about govt actions about wetlands 4. Top ten stories about judiciary actions about wetlands and 5. Positive stories about India’s wetlands. The links to the five overviews are available below.
The first thing that strikes from these overviews is that state of wetlands in India is bad, getting worse, they continue to face systemic neglect, damages, threats and govt apathy including Ramsar wetlands, which are supposed to have better protection than other wetlands, which is unfortunately not true. The nameplate of Ramsar wetland has now been given to 75 wetlands, but that provides no additional protection to them. in the name of information of Ramsar sites, there is only a combined interactive map apart from two separate pdf file links with location map and state wise listing Ramsar wetlands on Wetlands of India portal by MoEF&CC. The govt has neither prepared any concrete plan to address the threats nor has it developed credible monitoring mechanism which clearly shows it has no intention to improve the governance of these sites.
The indiscriminate, mechanized riverbed mining activities are not only impacting the river eco-systems and dependent communities in multiple adverse ways, but are also damaging the river based infrastructures including road bridges, railway bridges, embankments, irrigation channels and potable water supply schemes for past many years. We have put together reports on infrastructural damages and threats due to excessive riverbed mining in India in 2022. Our 2021, 2018 reports on this topic can be seen by clicking the links.
Indiscriminate mining of riverbeds for sand, gravel, pebbles have been rampant across the country increasingly damaging India’s rivers. The incidents of illegal sand mining, mafias, administrative actions & inactions, govt policies and court cases are routinely covered by the media. However the irreversible impacts of destructive riverbed mining operations on fresh water species and river eco-system are little understood, least explored, rarely covered by media and fails to attract the required attention from govts, judiciary and public at large.
To some extent, we have been monitoring and highlighting the loop holes in sand mining governance. As part of our annual overview, in 2022 we have complied this separate report underlining the adverse impacts of riverbed mining on rivers and on aquatic life, fresh water species including endangered gharials, dolphins, turtles, fish etc.
According to this detailed report, possibly the first independent review of the Atal Bhujal Yojana, a 5-year program of the Union govt for management of groundwater, India’s water lifeline, with over half of the project period completed, seems bereft of the fundamental aspects that the scheme itself says are necessary for any sound foundation of the scheme. The review describes it as a dish full of chaff, without almost any kernels of wheat for some sound reasons. It says hardly 18% of allocated money has been spent on Gram Panchayat level community-led Water Security Plan. Only 4% of the planned Gram Panchayat level trainings have been held, with Gujarat and Haryana holding none. Only 27% of money allocated for Gram Panchayat level Hydrogeological monitoring network has been spent. The data gathering instruments that were required from the beginning of the program have not been installed in over half the planned locations. On Information, Education and Communication activities, only 16% of allocated amount is spent.
More detailed independent review of the program implementation will help, but from the available information so far, the signs do not look particularly promising. Is it due to ineptness or lack of intention? Only time will tell.
On the basis of minutes of meetings held by Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change’s (MoEF) Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for River Valley and Hydropower Projects from January 12, 2022 to November 30, 2022; we present region wise details of various Dams, Hydroelectric Power (HEP), Pumped Storage Hydro Projects (PSHP) and Irrigation Projects proposals considered and approved for Terms of Reference (TOR) and Environment Clearance (EC) by the EAC. It also lists out various water projects related proposals seeking Forest Clearances (FC) from and decisions by the Forest Appraisal Committee (FAC) of MoEF in this period.
(Feature image: Breach in Karam dam, MP in Aug. 2022. Dainik Jagran)
This annual overview is focused on issues concerning structural and operational safety of dams that arose in 2022. It includes issues related to how climatic threats and siltation is making the large dams unsustainable. It also highlights the impacts of dams on river eco-system and riverine people amid some corrective measures being taken by the various state and central governments including the formation of National Dam Safety Authority.
The question marks over viability of huge number of pump storage hydro projects (PSHP) being pushed forward in India currently were flowing in the rivers for long. This week, Moody’s investors Service (MIS) seems to have strengthened this after it downgraded Greenko Energy Holdings’ corporate family rating. It may be noted that Greenko is the biggest investor in PSHPs in India from private sector and a major part of Greenko’s new investments are in PSHP.
This makes the implications of MIS’s downgrade all the more interesting. MIS has noted that PHSPs are capital intensive and each PHSP will generate cash flow only after at least 2-3 years of construction (in reality it can be much longer than 2-3 years, the operative phrase here is at least). It also noted that the additional debt to be raised from Greenko’s capital spending, coupled with a rising interest environment will put further pressure on “GEH’s already weak financial metrics” and that Greenko’s high financial leverage due to its substantial capital spending program will keep its financial metrics below its downgrade trigger “for an extended period of time”.