DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 07 June 2021: Local Water Options Stories from Five states

(Feature image A big main pond that has been constructed in the Phular village, Damoh. (Pic: Shahroz Afridi, News 18))

This week we would like to highlight some remarkable local water option stories from five states spread across India: Madhya Pradesh from Central India, Punjab from North India, Karnataka from South India, Rajasthan & Maharashtra from western India. These are stories just from this week among many others that show that local water options exist, they are the cheapest, sustainable, equitable, democratic and with least impacts and most appropriate in the climate change context. In a country like India where groundwater has been India’s water lifeline for over four decades now, these options are best suited for ensuring optimum recharge of groundwater aquifers at local level and sustaining those lifelines. Particularly when South West Monsoon is on our doorstep to gift its annual bounty to India. As UN starts the International Decade for Ecosystems Restoration with the theme of preventing, halting, reversing the degradation of ecosystems, these become even more important.     

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 10 May 2021: Velcan Holdings provide another evidence of unviable large hydro in India

Velcan Holdings Group is developing Heo and Tato-1 Hydropower projects with total installed capacity of 426 MW in Siang basin in Arunachal Pradesh since 2007. The international company with deep pockets and access to international capital markets has not been able to start work even in 2021. It obtained a number clearances, some of the like the CEA (Central Electricity Authority) techno-economic clearance has lapsed. No significant progress is seen in Land Acquisition as local people are rightly opposing. It is unable to find any buyers for the power to be generated, no one is ready to sign PPA (Power Purchase Agreement). The company questions if the low allocation to hydropower purchase obligations will at all help in making the projects bankable (clearly implying that the projects are not bankable currently). This is the state what it describes its Siang basin hydropower projects as the “the only hydropower projects of such size in India owned and developed by a foreign investor”, which “are amongst the most advanced private projects and present competitive techno-economic and environmental features”. The state of the rest of the large hydro projects will clearly be much worse. Why is the government pushing such unviable, destructive projects?

Read the excerpts from the company’s statutory filing in Europe on Apr 30, 2021 below.

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Delhi · Urban Water Bodies

Revival Of Hauz Khas Lake, Delhi: A Pioneering Adventure of INTACH

Guest Blog by Manu Bhatnagar

Even as the water crisis gathers pace time is playing out a requiem for lakes and wetlands. Poor understanding of hydrology, greed driven capture of wetlands by real estate, the adoption of the shortest straight line path by infrastructure development agencies, the effort by engineers to make everything straight and neat by concretization, the plummeting of groundwater tables and the interception of free flowing surface runoff by alteration of basin characteristics are the major drivers of the rapid extinction of our waterbodies.

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Water

2021 Summer: North India staring at severe water crisis?

The water scarcity alarm bells have started ringing in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, both Himalayan states bestowed with plenty of natural water sources including springs, glaciers lakes and rivers. The reservoirs inside and at the border areas of these states that cater to water needs of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh are at low levels.

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Water Options

World Water Day 2021: Ten Positive Water Stories from India

The annual World Water Day (WWD) event has been taking place since 1993 on March 22. The theme for 2021 WWD is Valuing Water. The limited fresh water sources and associated eco-system are increasingly being exploited and threatened on the planet.

While big, centralized projects have been failing in every respect including meeting the growing demand apart from causing bigger ecological crisis, there are small but significant and successful efforts by communities and individuals making a difference by restoring, conserving, efficiently utilizing the available water sources thus valuing the water in true sense. This compilation presents the ten such remarkable stories from India to celebrate the WWD2021.

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Dams, Rivers & People

DRP NB 15 Feb. 2021: Why Mangshri Devi of Tapovan Should Head Uttarakhand’s Disaster Management Department?

Feature image Tapovan-Vishnugad hydropower project in Chamoli district on Feb., 7 by Gajendra Yadav, Express Photo

In a fantastic story, Shivani Azad of The Times of India has reported possibly the most remarkable story of the Chamoli avalanche disaster that started on Sunday morning on Feb 7, 2021. She reported that Vipul Kairuni of Dhaak village in Tapovan, working at the time at the now destroyed Tapovan Vishnugad project, got saved thanks to frantic calls by his mother Mangshri Devi as she and his wife saw from their village home, situated at a height from the river, that a massive flood is approaching the dam site. It was thanks to frantic, repeated calls by Mangshri Devi that not only Vipul, but at least two dozen more people could run to safety of a ladder and saved their lives.

So effectively, Mangshri Devi has saved at least two dozen lives in Chamoli disaster. Who else can claim to have achieved anything like that in the disaster? The disaster management department seems completely absent from the scene either in terms of pre disaster monitoring or in taking steps to save lives during the disaster. In fact, there should have been an early warning system in place that could have saved many more lives. But it does not exist. Either in Rishiganga/ Dhauliganga basin or anywhere else in Uttarakhand. NTPC’s Tapovan Vishnugad Project has faced so many disasters already since 2008, but is only now talking about putting in place early warning system. Should not the NTPC and power ministry top brass as well as Uttarakhand disaster management department held accountable for that?

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Urban Rivers

South India Urban Rivers Overview 2020

Urban rivers provide a lot of services, but the urban areas are inviting major trouble by destroying them through dumping of solid and liquid waste, encroachments, river front developments, unsustainable mining among others. The urban areas also operate in almost total policy vacuum and none of the cities under smart city programs are dealing with Urban rivers with any smartness.

This overview includes some key developments about Urban Rivers in 2020 from the South Indian states of Karnataka (Vrishabhavati in Bengaluru; Swarna-Netravati in Udupi), Tamil Nadu (Adyar, Buckingham Canal and Cooum rivers in Chennai; Kiruthumal in Madurai; Noyyal in Tiruppur; Bhavani in Coimbatore; Palar in Vellore; Vasishta in Salem), Telangana (Musi in Hyderabad), Andhra Pradesh (Tungabhadra in Kurnool), Kerala (Periyar, Kadambrayar & Konthuruthy in Kochi; Kodoor in Kottayam) and Puducherry (Sankarabarani).

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 18 Jan. 2021: Is there any hope for Yamuna from Delhi, SC actions?

Yamuna is again in headlines in this week’s Bulletin. It carries the Nov 2020 announcement of Delhi Govt plan to clean river by 2023 and the action by the Supreme Court. There is nothing very convincing, path breaking or new in what the Delhi Govt has announced, such announcements keep coming every few years and then tend to be forgotten, to be renewed with announcement of new deadlines in this case. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court action is not particularly different. One only needs to remind the apex court and everyone else that in 1994, the SC had taken up Yamuna case suo moto. No impact on the river could be achieved till around 2017, when the SC decided to handover the case to NGT. It is not clear what exactly has prompted SC to take it up again, but the move does not inspire confidence considering the past track record.

We hope we are wrong and the Delhi Plans and the SC move does lead to better days for Yamuna. In the meantime, the Yamuna Monitoring Committee set up by the NGT is doing its role, but one wishes, their hands and plans as strengthened and pushed by the NGT, which does not seem to be the case currently.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 4 Jan 2021: Bangladesh declares Halda River as Fisheries Heritage

Bangladesh has declared the whole 81 km long Halda River, a tributary of Karnaphuli River in Chittagong in South East Bangladesh. The Halda river is also famous for breeding pure Indian carp. This is the only pure Indian carp breeding field of Bangladesh, perhaps in South Asia. This is a remarkable river conservation decision that has a lot of lessons for much bigger India where no river has been protected as fisheries heritage. This is great way to begin the first weekly DRP Bulletin of 2021 and we hope the Indian government, civil society and judiciary will take due note of this.

Controversy is never far away from any such river conservation efforts as is evident from the news about proposal for a Halda River based water supply project for industrial estate that has been opposed by the Fisheries ministry, water resources ministry, the River Conservation Commission, the Department of Environment and independent researchers.

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Dams

Why are we still building Large Dams?

Analysis of official information shows that Big dams are not longer necessary or viable or optimal in India. Most (over 95% of India’s 5701 large dams (5264 completed and 437 under construction as per CWC’s National Register of Large Dams[i]) are built for irrigation, but most of our irrigation now comes from groundwater. In fact, about 90% of additional irrigation in last four decades has come from groundwater.

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