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DRP News Bulletin 19 March 2018 (PM Abandons Inauguration of Mapithel Dam in Manipur Following Protests)

In an important development in Manipur this week, PM Narendra Modi could not commission the controversial Mapithel dam due to local protest. As per, the official statement notifying The PM was  was supposed to launch is the Mapithel dam, part of the Thoubal Multipurpose Project.

As per CRA Manipur blog report, the forum of Mapithel dam affected “Joint Action Committee Against Forced Inauguration of Mapithel Dam had threatened a 48-hour shutdown to coincide with the dam’s scheduled inauguration by Modi. The committee withdrew its call late on March 14, reportedly after the Manipur government agreed to shelve the inauguration.

The action committee is primarily demanding compensation for the people displaced by the project as mandated by the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.

Apart from complaints of inadequate compensation, opposition to the commissioning of the dam itself has grown louder over the years. Local communities claim the project violates the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 and its new avatar, the Forest Rights Act of 2006.  https://cramanipur.wordpress.com/2018/03/16/as-local-communities-protest-manipur-government-cancels-plan-of-modi-inaugurating-mapithel-dam/

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DRP News Bulletin 12 March 2018 (Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand To Go On Fast For Ganga)

Swami Gyan Swarup Sanand (Prof G D Agarwal formerly) writes to Prime Minister on Feb 24 with three demands on Ganga and says if these are not satisfied by Ganga Dashera (June 22, 2018), he will go on fast unto death. The three demands are: 1. stop work on Vishnugad Pipalkoti, Singoli Bhawari and Phata Byung HEPs 2. Pass in Parliament the Draft Ganga protection act drafted by Just (retired) Girdhar Malviya headed committee and 3. Create a National Ganga follower committee whose permission will be necessary before taking any decision about Ganga. See the detailed blog by Arun Tiwari ji and link to the letter to PM. http://hindi.indiawaterportal.org/Swami-Sananda-open-letter-pm-modi-clean-ganga

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DRP News Bulletin 5 March 2018 (Will India Face An Unprecedented Water Crisis This Summer?)

Residents of Muruga Tholuvu Harijan Colony in Chennimalai Union have urged the district administration to take steps to provide them water on a regular basis. In a petition, they said that villagers have to go in search of water from other areas and transport it in bicycles regularly. They said that most of the people were labourers and their livelihood is lost when they go in search for water. They said that the situation is worse during summer season, as water is not available at nearby areas and they are unable to purchase water from the market too. http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/provide-drinking-water-villagers/article22935093.ece (The Hindu, 5 March 2018)

With the beginning of summer season, there are several news reports describing the growing water crisis in different parts of country. Here are details of various Indian states suffering from  water scarcity for industrial, irrigational and even for drinking purposes which given the due summer months could develop into grim scenario. These stories also show how the mismanagement of dam storages, exploitation of ground water resources and pollution of rivers have significant role in aggravating the situation.

Gujarat The state is staring at a water crisis this summer, with low water levels in the Narmada dam and almost all other major dams. On March 3, the CM Vijay Rupani has held a meeting with senior minister and bureaucrats to take stock of the water situation in the state and discussed ways to ensure drinking water availability. The government also has decided to allocate Rs 200 crore in special grants for augmentation of local water sources and instructed all collectors to form district committees, have weekly review meetings and start supply of water by tankers wherever required.

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DRP News Bulletin 26 February 2018 (Banda People Also Protest Against Ken Betwa Link)

When Central Government is trying to push Ken Betwa link project terming it as beneficial for both Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, local people of Banda are now also protesting against it, in addition to the people of Panna that are already opposing it. On Feb. 13, 2018, the Ken Bachao Samiti comprising of farmers, citizens and social workers in Banda sat on a Dharna before district magistrate office. The group have also sent a memorandum to the President of India, demanding immediate cancelling of the project. Raising serious concerns over environmental and social of the linking project, they asked demanded proper impact assessment and public consultation and said the project wont be allowed to go forward. Indeed, as they have said, there has been no downstream impact assessment and people of Banda are likely to loose their river.  https://www.livehindustan.com/uttar-pradesh/banda/story-demonstrate-against-ken-betwa-alliance-1800951.html (Hindustan Hindi,13 Feb. 2018) 

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DRP News Bulletin 19 February 2018 (How Are We Treating Our Urban Rivers?)

In this comprehensive article Mumbai-based author Vaishnavi Chandrashekhar throws the light on the plight of Uraban Rivers. “Rivers and streams have borne the brunt of the recent urban explosion in India, a nation whose population has nearly doubled in the last 40 years to 1.35 billion. Unplanned growth has led to the use of water bodies as dumping grounds for sewage and industrial effluent. According to CPCB, 63 % of the urban sewage flowing into rivers (some 62 billion liters a day) is untreated.

In addition, riverbanks, wetlands, and floodplains have been claimed over time by infrastructure, slums, offices, and housing developments – all of which has narrowed natural river channels and distorted flow, greatly reducing the ability of India’s rivers to buffer flooding. It also has taken a toll on biodiversity. http://e360.yale.edu/features/dying-waters-india-struggles-to-clean-up-its-polluted-urban-rivers (Yale Environment 360, 15 Feb. 2018) 

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DRP News Bulletin 05 February 2018 (J&K Shows The Way To The Nation: To Assess The Viability Of Big Hydro Pojects)

In a remarkable development, Jammu & Kashmir Govt is reviewing its Hydro policy to assess whether the Hydro Electric Power Projects (HEPs) are still viable. As per sources, this is for the first time that the Govt is discussing the viability of generating hydro power.

An empowered committee led by the Chief Secretary has started this discussion by calling for an “approach paper” that will give an overall picture of the hydropower industry in India. Top sources in the State Power Development Corporation (SPDC), a government-owned company, told Kashmir Reader that the empowered committee wants to lay a roadmap for power generation in the state. “It will reflect the vision of the government. It will give the picture of hydropower generation in India, its rates, market, demand and supply. It will also lay down a roadmap for large power projects,”

The approach paper will be part of a new hydropower policy which will be submitted before the same committee, and then before the cabinet for approval. The SPDC had submitted a hydro policy draft in April last year, which was returned to it in December. Sources said the approach paper has to be submitted in two months’ time.

At present, India has a surplus generation of hydropower, which has plummeted its rate. This has led to losses for SPDC as it invested in projects whose generation costs were high. The blunt example is that of the 450-MW Baglihar II. SPDC has failed to lure any buyer for more than a year as its selling cost of per unit of energy, Rs 4.4, is nearly Rs 2 higher than the market rate. The SPDC has finally managed to sell the power at about Rs 4 per unit to the Uttar Pradesh government but for one year only. The SPDC may have to struggle again next year if the state of UP does not continue the contract.

Another example is that of Nimuno Bezgo, and Chutak hydropower projects, which sell energy at Rs 13 per unit. The SPDC also buys power from Dulhasti project at Rs 7, when the available rates for power in the market is around Rs 2 and Rs 4. https://kashmirreader.com/2018/02/02/cs-led-panel-to-lay-roadmap-for-power-generation-in-jk/ (Kashmir Reader. 2 Feb. 2018)

As per another report, facing a growing demand for electricity and unable to tap its vast potential for generating hydroelectric power, the state government is looking to boost solar power generation. Given the long gestation period of hydel projects, it is unlikely the generation of hydroelectric power will expand significantly in the near future, said. Hence,  the focus on solar power. Indeed, when solar power potential exists, with lower installation and operation costs and impacts, why States continue after destructive, expensive hydro projects? https://scroll.in/article/866058/kashmir-can-generate-a-lot-more-hydel-electricity-than-it-requires-why-is-it-eyeing-solar-power (Scroll.In, 30 Jan. 2018)

There is one more interesting hydro power development in which the state cabinet of Bihar has approved closing 3 and cancelling the development of 2 others in addition to handing over of 8 hydropower projects to neighboring Jharkhand.

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DRP News Bulletin 29 January 2018 (Organic Farming Through Cluster Approach Can Help Farmers, Groundwater And Our Future)

There have been many positive developments on agriculture, groundwater and environment round the week. In the first positive development, data from the first impact study of Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) shows that small and marginal farmers, who can’t afford costly agricultural inputs, are turning a new leaf by going organic because of lower costs and higher margins. The study conducted by the National Institute of Agriculture Extension Management, has also revealed that Net Returns of organic farmers were higher for all the three crops studied, namely wheat, paddy and soybean, by 15.8%, 36.7% and 50% respectively.

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This was based on study of 690 organic clusters in 25 states, out of some 6211 clusters comprising of 2.25 lakh farmers in a PKVY (each ha getting Rs 50 000 as aid) scheme launched in 2015, comprising of 52.3% small farmers. The average cluster size was 69 acres, in each there were 54.6 farmers on average. Maharashtra had the highest number of clusters at 1043 and MP had the highest area under clusters. The funding however remained irregular. India’s domestic organic food market is expected to show Compound Annual Growth rate of 25%, says the study. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/small-farmers-go-big-with-organic-farming/story-nlyQQVUnoewHgeJyvaAnJI.html (Hindustan Times, 29 January 2018)

Another positive news report, have disclosed that how a simple groundwater recharge technique is transforming farmlands in Gujarat. The simple pit and pipe system simply and expertly captures standing water during rains, thus freeing arable land from water logging while recharging groundwater to use for irrigation during the lean season. This is essentially a simple groundwater recharge scheme but appears to last long. As per report about 3000 such units have already been installed in Gujarat and several other states.  http://www.thehindu.com/society/this-simple-technology-has-transformed-gujarat-farmlands-into-an-oasis/article22529034.ece (The Hindu, 27 January 2018)

The third positive news have come from Central Government which has prepared a Rs 6000 crore plan to recharge ground water. The scheme is yet to be cleared by the Expenditure Finance Committee and the Cabinet.  

As per report, the new 5-yr long scheme will be funded 50: 50 by the World Bank and centre, to be implemented in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana and Rajasthan, covering 78 districts, 193 blocks and 8300 gram panchayats.

Gram Panchayats that prepare water security plans and put infrastructure to augment water supply will get incentives. Interestingly, an earlier version of the scheme, called National Groundwater Management Improvement Scheme was rejected by AFC in May 2017.  https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/centre-readies-rs-6-000-crore-plan-to-recharge-groundwater/story-nziZ6rvp88ZJHFo0DM5kNO.html (Hindustan Times, 28 January 2018)  

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DRP News Bulletin 15 January 2018 (Do We Care About Rivers’ Aquatic Bio-diversity?)

Great to see this focus on aquatic biodiversity (unfortunately the article keeps using the word marine biodiversity, not using the word aquatic or freshwater biodiversity even once) along the 120 km long Sindhudurg Coast line, one of the 11 ecologically sensitive habitats identified along India’s coasts.

The FIRST study of local Otter Population by Ela Foundation identified upto 591 Smooth coated otters (strangely article does not mention about existence of small clawed Otters in Sindhudurg), 561 Indo Pacific humpbacked dolphins, among many others. The coast is particularly river rich with some twelve creeks/ rivers including Shanti, Piyali, Naringre, Achra, Gad, Talavade, Otawane and Pithdhaval Rivers.

The biodiversity here is facing multiple threats including rapid urbanisation, tourism onslaught with attendant plastic and sewage disposal, unregulated fishing trawlers, illegal sand mining, and global warming. It also underlines the need to do assessment of any interventions done in the area, of impacts on the aquatic biodiversity. http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/orphans-in-the-wild-what-the-otter-s-trying-to-tell-us-about-our-oceans/story-IfRFFi63Q8nV7UkUK4c16O.html (The Hindustan Times, 14 January 2018)

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DRP News Bulletin 08 January 2018  (“THIS IS RIVER, NOT LAND” Chennai Fisherfolks Fight To Save Ennore river)

In a remarkable protest echoing urgent need for protection of rivers, fisherfolk of Kosasthalai River on 03 January 2018, launched a ‘Jal Satyagraha’ against Kamarajar Port project. The proposal would divert 1000 acres of creek area. It mainly comprises of river, wetlands, marshy areas on which fisher community depend for livelihood.

Raising their voices against the project with holding play cards that read “This is River, Not Land” they stood in waist-deep in waters to save Ennore Creek. Joining the protest, hundreds of residents also demanded the withdrawal of alleged fraudulent maps denying the existence of the Ennore Creek. The community has been fighting a lonely battle against the Tamil Nadu government accusing it of turning wetlands illegally into industrial real estate corridors.

– “Fishing economy has been hit massively. Shrinking of water body means less space for fish. Shrinking has happened in terms of surface spread as well as depth thanks to the dumping of dredged sand from the sea, silting the waterbody. The larger concern is fly ash and heavy metals from the industries polluting the environment causing health hazards,” said Nityanand Jayaraman, Environmental activist and researcher who was part of the protest. https://www.oneindia.com/india/chennai-fisherfolk-stage-jal-satyagraha-to-save-ennore-creek-2613088.html (One India, 04 January 2018)

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DRP News Bulletin 18 December 2017 (Why PM Also Needed To Mention This About Turial HEP)

The Prime Minister, on Dec 16, 2017, while dedicating to nation the 60 MW Turial HEP, should have also mentioned:

– PUBLIC PROTESTS: The project faced strong protests from local people, so much so that work had to be stopped for over 7 years from 2004 to 2011. Even a day before PM dedicated the project, people took out a protest march.

– NO PUBLIC CONSULTATION:  One of the reasons people protested was that the project did not have any proper public consultation.

– NO PROPER IMPACT ASSESSMENT: Another reason for people’s anger was no proper environment or social impact assessment, or proper compensation and rehabilitation.

– HIGH COST: The project cost was Rs 368.72 Crores, but now already has gone above Rs 1441 crores officially, likely to go up further. That means per MW cost is already above Rs 24 crores, one of the highest in the country. WHO WILL PAY THE HIGH COST OF ELECTRICITY FROM THE PROJECT?

– HUGE COST ESCALATION from Rs 369 crores to over Rs 1440 crores

– HUGE TIME OVER RUN: The project was supposed to be completed many decades back but  has seen huge time over run, not only because of protests, but also because of inadequate mobilisation by the contractor, poor approach road, power house slope failure, among many other reasons.

This latest project once again shows that big hydro is no longer viable, one wishes, the Prime Minister would also highlight these realities in his speeches.

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