The fish species, fisheries sector and fisherfolk communities in India and South Asia have been undergoing a whole range of anthropogenic threats, sustainability challenges amid turbulent climatic factors casting a complex and uncertain impacts on the overall wellbeing of their future and survival. As part of World Fisheries Day (WFD) 2021, SANDRP has been tracking the critical issues. In first two parts of three part series we have already put together incidents of mass fish death and positive developments taking place in past one year.
This third and final part of the 2021 series focuses on remarkable ongoing resistance by fisher-folks showing constant struggle and firm determination. The report also covers relevant studies underlining adverse impacts of dams, hydro projects and climate change on freshwater fish and dependent fisherfolks. It has briefs on how impacts of pollution and encroachment of water bodies, mining, coastal zone development, invasive fish, aquaculture is gradually going up along with concerns and efforts to address them. Some of the pro and anti-fish, fisherfolks decisions by central and state govts are also compiled here.
There is no doubt that India urgently needs a guidance note and policy for Environment Sensitive, Climate Adaptive and Socially inclusive Urban Rivers Planning and Development. But this is required for the Urban Rivers and not just Urban Riverfront. The NMCG attempt like that of Sabarmati and numerous other river fronts unfortunately are not bothered about rivers, they are only interested in grabbing land from the Urban Rivers and convert the rivers into concrete channels on two and in some cases three sides (include the sides and the bed of the rivers). That is clearly death knell for the rivers. There is no doubt that there is need connect the people with the rivers, not just river fronts. The NMCG and other government bodies know the difference, so it is not out of ignorance that they have come out with the guidance note for river fronts rather than one for rivers. Unless people, civil society, experts and judiciary raise these issues, the future of Urban rivers seem bleak in India, as can be seen from the stories of Urban rivers compiled here from this week.
The Europe floods this last week are unprecedented in so many respects. It has lead to close to 200 confirmed deaths so far, affected the Rhine basin areas of Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland and Luxembourg. It is the result of worst recorded rainfall in a century, leading to unprecedented water levels that rose so suddenly that otherwise super alert and smart disaster management system could not neither accurately and in time predict the catastrophe nor remove these people from the path of the destruction. The climate scientists are seeing clear signature of climate change, though more studies are called for. The call for urgent and much more action to reverse the global warming are getting louder in a continent where possibly the climate action is most advanced.
As The New York Times reported on July 19, 2021 (Monday),
The authorities ordered new evacuations on Saturday, and heavy rains in the southern German region of Bavaria caused still more flooding on Sunday.
German meteorologists called the flooding the worst in 500 years, if not a millennium. The disaster thrust the issue of climate change to the center of pivotal elections this fall.
Belguim: Street pavements burst open, houses flattened, and entire villages were destroyed in what’s being described as one of the worst flooding disasters to hit Western Europe in more than two centuries. In Liège, Belgium’s third-largest city, water from the Meuse river overflowed Thursday evening into parts of the city center, prompting city officials to call for residents to evacuate the area or seek higher ground.
Countries like India should see this as a major and yet another wake up call to start taking action to reverse the global warming emissions. Much more can and should be done urgently.
This report is about the interventions by various judicial bodies in India in the hydro power projects related issues in 2020. This also covers judicial decisions either delaying the justice or facilitating the projects thus unhelpful for the public interest cause and paving way for financially unviable and environmentally destructive projects. The account first looks at judicial interventions at the National level and then in states in North, North East and South Zones.
The Supreme Court order asking for fresh environment clearance and fresh Environment Impact Assessment for the Peripheral Ring Road project in Bengaluru is remarkable and most welcome, even though it is not directly related to water issues. The order is relevant since we have yet to find what can be called an honest Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) for River Valley Projects and yet the MoEF’s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River Valley Projects happily clears ALL the projects that come their way, even with most fraudulent EIAs. We are hoping against hope that this apex Court judgement will be a precursor to many such orders and judgements and general warning against fraudulent EIAs and EACs. We hope it is not too much to ask that the EIA be an honest effort and the EAC that does not reject fraudulent EIAs should also be dumped and members black listed. We hope we have such orders from the judiciary soon.
A number of welcome developments around dams appear in this week’s DRP News Bulletin from SANDRP. The prominent is the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation declaring that it may not need Pinjal Dam, which SANDRP had said in its report way back in 2012-13 and the then BMC commissioner had agreed to in an interview to NDTV. This should also lead to cancellation of the Damanganga Pinjal River Link proposal. The Maharashtra govt decision to review the need for Human dam is also welcome. The Kerala State Information Commissioner’s decision to direct that the Dam Break Analysis should be in public domain is also a useful precedent that all states and CWC need to follow immediately and also amend the proposed Dam Safety Act to include a provision that all Dam Safety related information, including meeting minutes, agenda, decisions, status reports etc will be in public domain.
Wetlands are critical part of hydrological systems. They provide multiple ecological services to people living in proximal areas. The invisible contribution of wetlands in saturating aquifers and checking groundwater depletion is essential given the growing water scarcity. Additionally, wetlands are home to a variety of plants and animals species making them fully functional and self-sustaining eco-system. Sadly, despite the environmental significance and associated support services, wetlands have been subjected to degradation for past many decades.
GANGA Uttar PradeshFloodplain set to be demarcated for 1st time State government has demarcated the Ganga’s floodplain and submitted a final report to the Jal Shakti ministry. The NMCG under Jal Shakti ministry would be the final authority to decide the floodplain. Once the report is approved, the centre would notify Ganga’s floodplain in the state for the first time.
In the first phase, the river stretch from Haridwar till Unnao has been covered. At least 200 metres from the embankment in the city and 500 metres from the embankment in rural areas might be marked as the river’s floodplain. A floodplain is the maximum area that a river has flooded in 25 years. Though the river may not rise that high every year but the demarcating it will mark the area that a river may engulf.
Different kinds of Dam Floods is affecting India this monsoon. Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) Dam, thanks to decision of the Govt of India and its Ministry of Water Resources, Narmada Control Authority including its Chairperson UP Singh (Secretary, Union Ministry of Water Resources), Gujarat Govt is flooding hundreds of villages in Madhya Pradesh, displacing Thousands of families, whose rehabilitation has not been done even as per the Madhya Pradesh government. Medha Patkar and 1000 other women of Narmada Bachao Andolan are on indefinite fast. As we finslise this, the water level of Narmada at SSP Dam is already at 134.99 m and Gujarat Chief Minister has said it will be taken to Full Reservoir Level of 138.68 m this year. The Prime Minister declared his joy when water level crossed 134 M and he will shortly have occasion to celebrate again as water level crosses 135 m. There is not a word of concern for the thousands of victims of this joyous achievement from any of them. The Photo Blog by Parineeta Dandekar provides one perspective of the Narmada Valley events.
In Maharashtra, the govt has set up a committee to investigate the role of dams in floods in Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur district in August 2019, but it does not seem to have people who can speak up independently and do not hesitate to call spade when they see one.
Karnataka is yet to set up such a committee for the Krishna basin floods in that state that happened the same time and a few days latter while Maharashtra was suffering. As SANDRP has written, there seems also a case of Dam induced floods in Uttara Kannada district too in Karnataka, that will require a separate investigation. We hope that too happens soon.
The Goa Chief Minister has written to his Maharashtra counterpart that Tillari Dam of Maharashtra created floods in Goa.