DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 14 Nov 2022: Jal Shakti Ministry says: Groundwater extraction down, recharge up???

(Feature Image: The report also states that the monitoring of the groundwater resources was affected by the Covid-19 outbreak in the country. Source: Bloomberg/TIE)

This sounds so counter intuitive. The Ministry Jal Shakti on Nov 9, 2022 made some findings of its latest “National Compilation on Dynamic Ground Water Resources of India, 2022 public, strangely, without making the report public. It is not clear why the govt did not make the report public, though the counter intuitive nature of the findings provide some hint. The report claims that at all India macro level, the ministry claimed that the groundwater extraction is the lowest in 2022 since 2004, or 18 years and that the groundwater recharge has gone up.

These are counter intuitive findings, even if at macro level for a number of reasons. It is also unclear what methodology is used to arrive at these conclusions and if there has been any independent scrutiny of the same. Since groundwater extraction has been going up for over six decades now, this reversal will need plausible reasons. There are no indications that there is any reduction in this groundwater use. Secondly, the groundwater recharge mechanisms are under attack all over India, and thus the finding that there is increase in recharge raises questions. Particularly since the efforts at groundwater recharge through rainwater harvesting are far from convincing.

More importantly, the real story is at micro level, since groundwater occurs in decentralised aquifers and any significant reduction in use, increase in recharge has to happen at the aquifer level and the assessment also needs to be done and made available at aquifer level for it to have any impact on future regulation of groundwater. In fact the only regulatory body working for groundwater regulation, the CGWA, works in a centralised way and its work has been far from confidence inspiring. That makes this whole findings questionable. Moreover, it would also be useful to see if the extraction has reduced in over exploited areas and if the recharge has increased where it is required most: in over exploited areas. Too many questions and no answers, unfortunately.

Continue reading DRP NB 14 Nov 2022: Jal Shakti Ministry says: Groundwater extraction down, recharge up???
DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 071122: Increasing focus on Urban Rivers; they continue to face destruction

(Feature Image Source: Question of cities)

It is good to see that focus on Urban Rivers is increasing not only in media, but also by the government. The focus of the latest edition of “Question of Cities” is on Urban Rivers, carrying articles on, beside the lead article by SANDRP coordinator, Article “Rivers & Cities”, Sabarmati (Ahmedabad), Mula-Mutha (Pune), on River Centric Urban Planning Guidelines from Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning. In addition, this SANDRP DRP update also carries articles on Dravyawati River of Jaipur, Godavari river in Nasik and a report on Mandakini river in Badrinath.

All this increased focus is welcome, but will be worthwhile only when we see an effective impact of this on rejuvenated Urban rivers. We have yet to see that. In fact, if at all, the movement is hugely in opposite direction, with increasing destruction of Urban Rivers.

Continue reading DRP NB 071122: Increasing focus on Urban Rivers; they continue to face destruction
CWC - Central Water Commission · Dams

India’s Rivers Breaching High Flood Levels in SW Monsoon 2022

(Feature Image: Hydrograph of River Godavari in extreme flood situation at Kaleswaram level forecast station in Bhupalpally district, Telangana on July 15, 2022. Source: CWC)

Highest Flood Level (HFL) breach incidents are important indicator of flood cycle and could also help in understanding the changing rainfall pattern. Though, with 925 mm rainfall[i], the south west monsoon season 2022 falls in normal category, its distribution both temporally and spatially has seen huge variations. This is also reflected by at least 57 HFL breach incidents in 8 river basin across the country during the SW Monsoon months of July-Sept 2022.

For past four years, SANDRP has been tracking the HFL breach incidents during pre-monsoon and monsoon months. The analysis of such HFL breaches in 2018[ii], 2019[iii] and 2020[iv], May-Sept 2021[v], Oct.-Nov 2021[vi] can be seen on our website. The pre-monsoon months of May and June 2022[vii] have also seen 5 HFL breach incidents. This report tracks the other HFL breach incidents taking place between July and September months.

Continue reading India’s Rivers Breaching High Flood Levels in SW Monsoon 2022
CWC - Central Water Commission

2022: Overview of CWC Flood Monitoring Sites in West India

(Feature Image: Bar chart showing CWC flood monitoring sites excluding UTs of Dadar & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu in West India in 2022)

Since 2018, SANDRP has been presenting detailed overviews on flood monitoring sites[i] of Central Water Commission (CWC) which is the only agency doing flood forecast work in India. This year, we have published and highlighted the inaccuracies in CWC’s flood monitoring sites in North[ii], North East[iii] and East[iv] zones. This fourth overview covers the West zone for Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa states. The previous overviews for the region can be seen here (2018[v]) and here (2019[vi]).

Continue reading 2022: Overview of CWC Flood Monitoring Sites in West India
CWC - Central Water Commission

2022: CWC Flood Monitoring Sites in East India

Flood forecast and monitoring is essential part of Central Water Commission’s (CWC) work. Presently, the agency claims[I] issuing flood forecasts at 332 sites including 133 Inflow Forecast (IF) sites and 199 Level Forecast (LF) sites. Since 2018, SANDRP has been presenting critical analysis of CWC’s flood forecast website[II] in region wise manner.

In 2022 SW monsoon season, we have already published the overviews for North[III] and North East[IV] regions of the country. This third part in the series covers the states in East India including Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and West Bengal (Ganga Basin). Our previous overviews for the region can be seen here (2018[V]) and here (2019[VI]). 

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Urban Rivers

Top Ten Judicial Actions on Urban Rivers 2022: Executors Deliberately Delaying, Diluting, Defying orders

(Feature Image: The order is subject to the orders of the SC which is pending. NGT on Nov. 24, 2021ordered the BMC to deposit within three months an environmental penalty of ₹28.20 crores to the CPCB for discharging raw sewage into the city creeks, rivers and drains. HT Photo)

During past one year, the judicial bodies including National Green Tribunal, Supreme Court, various High Courts have passed several orders and made critical observation while dealing with multiple issues afflicting Urban Rivers in India. This report highlights top ten such judicial interventions across India. The stories underline that the responsible agencies particularly pollution control boards and district, state and union governments have been failing miserably in timely and efficient implementation of these judicial orders, some of which are quite remarkable. If the executive bodies do not show right spirit and seriousness in enforcing the existing rules and court orders the state of India’s urban river only go downhill.    

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Urban Rivers

Top Ten River Front Development Stories 2022: Destroying Rivers, Livelihoods

(Feature Image: Work on Rs. 700 crore Chambal RFD project in Kota which is supposed to be ready by Dec. 2022 end. Image Source: Free Press Journal)

The Central and various state governments have been pushing big budget River Front Developments (RFD) projects as panacea for all the urban water woes. In reality, these are River destruction projects with the objective of encroaching on river floodplain and even river beds of Urban Rivers. These RFDs have been failing to deliver on proposed claims and resulting in waste of public money apart from causing more damages to urban rivers eco-system and livelihoods of dependent communities. The projects are also multiplying the Urban Flood potential. In reality, India urgently requires an Urban River Policy as a subset of Urban Water Policy to guide how to treat urban water and urban rivers.

This compilation highlights situation of ten such RFD projects in the country which are failing miserably and facing stiff resistance from concerned citizens and dependent people during last one year or so.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 13 June 2022: Down in Dumps, MoEF becomes more opaque

(Feature image: Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav with PM Narendra Modi before taking oath on July 7, 2021 PTI/HT.)

While the news that India has achieved the worst ever ranking of 180, at the bottom of 180 country index in terms of Environment Performance Index was shocking, it should not surprise too many people considering the way environment is treated by the current central government, particularly the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). As expected, MoEF questioned the methodology of the assessment, and the criticism has been responded to and rejected by the authors of the EPI report.

Now with a dictate of the MoEF (dated Apr 8, 2022, preceding the EPI news) coming to light, the trajectory of the MoEF should leave no one in doubt. Through this dictate, the MoEF has asked the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), a supposedly autonomous institute of the Ministry, to seek the ministry’s approval before it publishes any document, that too with retrospective effect! WII in any case, was towing the ministry’s line in many of the cases as is evident from its performance in regulatory committees like the Forest Advisory Committee, National Board of Wild Life and Expert Appraisal Committee (on River Valley Projects, possibly among others). And yet the Ministry has come out with this dictate, without giving any reasons, possibly since some of WII reports have been problematic for the govt in judicial proceedings in some cases. But the MoEF move to stop WII from publishing (and hence doing) any credible studies only shows the paranoia of the ministry. Its performance index would not improve this way, it would only get worse.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 11 April 2022: Ken Betwa Affected people protest land acquisition

The residents of about 15 villages affected by the Ken Betwa link project are opposing the land acquisition process being initiated in violation of all norms have opposed the move. The notices have not been pasted in the affected villages, gram sabhas have not been conducted and the information promised in the notice is not available at the designated places. When question, the Madhya Pradesh officials have responded arrogantly. The history of manipulations and violations that has been the norm every step of the way in Ken Betwa Project continues. In fact the project does not have final forest clearance, its wildlife clearance has been questioned by the Supreme Court appointed Central Empowered Committee and its Environment clearance is under challenge before the National Green Tribunal. In absence of the clearances, the land acquisition should not even be started if there is any place for prudent norms in such projects. It would be best if the government stops the process and starts it only if and when it gets all the clearances and after taking all the concerned into confidence through a prudent confidence inspiring process.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 21 Mar 2022: Centre’s unconvincing Plan to rejuvenate 13 major rivers

The government of India, through joint announcement of Union Ministries of Jal Shakti & Environment and Forests (such joint addresses are rather rare events) this week announced its plans to rejuvenate 13 major rivers of India (excluding Ganga but including some of the key Ganga tributaries!) through the limited activity of plantations is not every convincing on many counts. Firstly it is welcome to see that the government sees a role of forests as a hydrological asset. Unfortunately, this is clearly and completely absent in government’s forest management, both in policy and practice. If we see the forest governance of India through the functioning of the Forest Advisory Committee of MoEF, we see absolutely no sign of acknowledgement of this reality that forests are major hydrological assets. So for example when a decision is taken to allow diversion of major chunks of existing forests, there is never any discussion, assessment or counting of hydrological eco system services that forests provide. This is apparent in many cases, but most recently in the case of Ken Betwa project where the Supreme Court’s Central Empowered Committee too has acknowledged this reality. So again it seems government’s mind or heard does not seem to know what the tongue is conveying!

Continue reading “DRP NB 21 Mar 2022: Centre’s unconvincing Plan to rejuvenate 13 major rivers”