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North East India Rivers Review 2017: Agenda behind Brahmaputra & Barak Fesitvals won’t Help the Rivers

This eighth Rivers Review 2017 report presents account of key rivers related developments in North Eastern states comprising Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Meghalaya. 

Rivers As National Waterways Rivers of North-East to be tamed for transportation Pursuing its agenda of inland waterway transportation, the Inland Waterways Authority has reportedly organized a road show and a seminar in Guwahati to resolve major issues linked with developing the rivers as viable and sustainable means for cargo and passenger transportation.

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DRP News Bulletin 06 November 2017 (NGT Asks For Fresh Appraisal Of Lower Subansiri Hydro Project)

In a remarkable development, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on October 24 has suspended the clearances given to the 1750-megawatt (MW) Demwe Lower Hydroelectric Project  (HEP) planned on the Lohit river in Arunachal Pradesh.

In its detailed order, released on October 27, the NGT ruled that the Environment Minister as Chairperson of the National Board for Wildlife (NWBL), a statutory body constituted under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, could not “just brush aside” the views of the majority of NBWL standing committee members.

Suspending the clearances given by the Centre and the state govt, the NGT order added that “the decision taken by the Standing Committee is not in accordance with established principles of law and hence the Standing Committee shall reconsider the issue and pass appropriate orders within a period of six months from the date of the judgment”.

Environmental clearance for the project was given by the Union environment ministry’s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for river valley and hydroelectric projects back in 2009. An in-principle forest clearance for the Lower project was given in February 2012 and agreed upon in 2013.

However, the in-principle clearance of the project was opposed by a majority of the Standing Committee of the NBWL but subsequently cleared by the then-environment minister of state (independent charge), Jayanthi Natarajan, who was also the chairperson of the Standing Committee.

Natarajan is currently under the CBI’s scanner for alleged anomalies in clearance given for diversion of land in Saranda forest in Singhbhum district, Jharkhand to mining company Electrosteel during the previous UPA regime.

The NGT said that it is “of the view that either the Chairperson (Natarajan) should have given a proper reason for rejecting the objection of the majority of the non-official members or the decision ought to have been arrived at based on the opinion of the majority of the members. Even though the Standing Committee is a recommendatory body, the same being a statutory committee, is bound by the laudable principles of justice and fair play”.

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DRP News Bulletin 30 October 2017 (Residents of Chennai Rally & Form Human Chain to Protect Wetlands)

Over 250 residents along with environmentalists, activists and members of civil societies formed a human chain at Elliot’s beach on Oct 28, asking State Govt to protect the wetlands, rivers, environment in Ennore creek area from willful destruction of govt agencies and industries. The human chain was joined by all the walk of society irrespective of age group from kids to senior citizens who were holding placards that explain the sorry state of Ennore Creek. http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/residents-chennai-form-human-chain-save-ennore-creek-70724

The Coastal Resource Centre and members of the Save Ennore campaign organized the human chain to raise awareness in the city ahead of the monsoons about the encroachments in Ennore Creek, a backwater located in Thiruvallur district. Residents from all 52 villages in Ennore, who have witnessed the ecology die a slow death, also joined the rally, hoping that the govt would react.

Industrial effluents from the thermal power stations here and domestic sewage from North Chennai have killed various fish species. More than 1000 acres of Kosasthalaiyar River’s backwaters have already been lost due to the deposition of fly ash by the Tangedco units. http://chennai.citizenmatters.in/chennai-human-chain-ennore-creek-encroachment-2862

As per the online petition, ten Lakh Chennai residents are at higher risk of disastrous flooding because Govt of Tamil Nadu has allowed Kamarajar Port to convert 1000 acres of Ennore wetlands into industrial real estate. Chennai has barely recovered from the 2015 floods. Don’t let Chennai get flooded again.

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DRP News Bulletin 08 May 2017 (Inspiring Tale: How Kerala Panchayat bring a dying river back to life)

The Kuttamperoor stream in Kerala, connecting the Pampa and Achankovil rivers, had been a nearly stagnant, shrunken cesspool of dumped waste and weeds for more than a decade. Some weeks ago, it was resuscitated as a flowing river, thanks to the will of the Budhanur gram panchayat in Alappuzha district, and the commitment of 700 local men and women who worked to bring the river back to life under the MGNREGA.

The Kuttamperoor was once a full 12 kilometres long and, at places, over 100 feet wide. The river originates from Achankovil at Ulunthi, near Mavelikkara, and flows through Ennackad, Budhanur, Kuttamperoor, Mannar, and Pandanad before merging with the Pampa at Nakkida near Parumala in Pathanamthitta district.

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DRP News Bulletin 24 April 2017 ( NHPC CMD tells us Dams have no adverse impacts anywhere in the world! Admits that Hydro is no longer viable for private sector)

Centre Getting forest clearance is not a problem now: NHPC Chairman In an interview, taking a dig at its private peers, NHPC chairman KM Singh said that NHPC is the only company in the county that has the capability to execute hydro projects. He also said that in the NDA regime green clearances come easy, while local agitation by NGOs is the biggest threat. He further stated that there has been no negative impact of building a dam, not just in India, but anywhere in the world.

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DRP News Bulletin 10 April 2017 (Activists from 40 countries & all continents meet for RIVER GATHERING in Georgia)

In a most significant event, some 85 river and dam activists from 40 countries and all continents gathered in Tbilisi, Georgia (on border between Asia and Europe, between Black and Caspian Sea) during March 27-31, 2017 to share experiences about their efforts to protect the world’s rivers and join their struggles against destructive hydropower projects. The meeting was organized by CEE BankWatch Network (active in 12 countries in Eastern and Central Europe) and International Rivers.

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Eight persons from South Asia, including those from India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh joined the meeting to share experiences from the region. Indian participant included SANDRP coordinator (who was also in steering committee of the meeting) and Associate Coordinator Parineeta Dandekar. A number of participants from neighboring and nearby countries like China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Mongolia and Russia also participated. Issues related to trans-boundary rivers, small hydropower projects and multiple projects on the same rivers, decommissioning of the dams, how to achieve free flowing rivers and importance of rivers in changing climate were some of the key issues discussed at the meeting.

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Uttarakhand Rivers Profile

About Uttarakhand 

Geographical Location- North India largely mountainous with two plains and two partly mountain districts in  the south; Area- 53483 sqkm; Population- 10.12 million; River basins- 4 River basins (R. Ganga‘s basin is subdivided in the map below into R. Bhagirathi, R, Alaknanda and R. Ganga sub-basins); Districts-13; Climate- Sub-tropical to tundra 

About Uttarakhand Rivers

Uttarakhand_Drainage_map

The water quality of Uttarakhand‘s rivers is basically good, especially in the upper reaches. Downstream of some large settlements and in the lower reaches in the Himalayan foot hills the water quality suffers due to the release of untreated sewage and industrial effluents. But the state‘s ambitious program to build 450 hydro power projects threatens the survival of the river ecosystems and the lives and livelihoods of people who live  in these river valleys.

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DRP News Bulletin 27 March 2017 (DON’T WE NEED TO LEARN TO TRULY CELEBRATE OUR RIVERS?)

This is about the proposed Brahmaputra Festival being planned by the Assam Govt from March 31 to April 4, 2017. The five-day festival will witness significant participation from China. Various other countries such as Vietnam and Singapore are also reported as attending the program. It is scheduled to be inaugurated by President Pranab Mukherjee.  

It is true that the word business appears four times on the opening page of this festival website, but the word flood, erosion and people do not appear even once. This is relevant since for very large sections of people of Assam, the river also means floods, erosion, displacement and disaster on regular basis and not just “lifeline of Assam” or “life-giving prosperity and countless blessings”.  

The festival website also errs in many ways, including when it claims “India’s only male river”, since there are several male rivers, including Damodar, Ajoy, Pagla, Gadadhar, among others. It is true that even the word Nemami is copied from the Nemami Gange, but that should not be such a big issue?

It is true that people also suffer when river dries up or is polluted or is encroached or unsustainably mined, and none of these issues are highlighted by the festival website. It is true that the the Assam also means all the communities, including the bodos and mishing and many others, not just Guwahati or Dibrugarh or Majuli. The festival organisers may argue that we are taking the festival to all 21 districts, but it is important to recognised all communities of Assam.

This is in addition to the fact that Brahmaputra includes all the states of North East India, and more. The Brahmaputra, 2,900 km long, is an international river with 918 km of it flowing in India, 1625 km in China and 337 km in Bangladesh.

It is true that the festival is more about attracting tourists, business and transport along the river. And so it is not even giving a comprehensive picture of the rivers of Brahmaputra basin in Assam, nor is there attempt to do anything to improve the state of the rivers. Similarly, the destruction of the rivers of Guwahati and Assam needs to be halted and reversed, and may be this occasion can be used to push that advocacy?

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Yamuna River Developments in 2016-2- Other River Interventions

(During monsoon the polluted river cleanses itself allowing migrant fishermen to move in and seek out their livelihood through fishing ;  Photo by Burhaan Kinu)

The exploitation of Yamuna Rivers that starts in upper basin comprising Uttarakhand (UKH) and Himachal Pradesh (HP) gets worse as the river is dammed at Hathini Kund Barrage (HKB) while passing through Shivalik Hills located at the border of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh (UP), the barrage has severely compromised lean season (8-9 months) water flow in the river downstream.

As a result, the waterless riverbed resembles a desert till Delhi’s potable water is released back into the river at Palla village, the border of Delhi and Haryana. The absence of flow facilitates intensive illegal riverbed mining for sand and boulders for longer periods in a year which further destroys the river’s eco-system. More over industrial and domestic effluents in great volume from nearby towns reach the river via tributaries, storm water drains. Amid all this successive State Governments show no will to achieve even basic flow of freshwater in the river, even as they keep pushing more dams.

Here is an account of the projects planned and launched in 2016 related to the River Yamuna. 

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DRP News Bulletin 23 Jan. 2017 (Unjustified Ken-Betwa Link Costs: Bundelkhand To Gain Nothing, Panna To Lose Its Tigers)

SANDRP Blog Little for Bundelkhand, lot for contractors in Ken Betwa river-link The official executive summary of the Detailed Project Report of KBLRP on NWDA website says: “The main objective of the Ken-Betwa link project is to make available water to water deficit areas of upper Betwa basin through substitution from the surplus waters of Ken basin.” Upper Betwa basin (Raisen and Vidisha districts of MP) is not in Bundelkhand. So KBLRP is essentially facilitating export of water from drought prone Bundelkhand to area outside Bundelkhand, which, in fact is well endowed with over 900 mm of average annual rainfall.

The DPR further says, a third o the surplus water will be utilized for “enroute irrigation of 0.60 lakh ha. in the districts of Tikamgarh and Chhatarpur of MP and Mahoba & Jhansi of U.P.” The claim in the minutes of Expert Appraisal Committee meeting of Dec 30, 2016 that “It is proposed to provide irrigation facility in 6,35,661 ha of area in Panna, Chhatarpur, Tikamgarh Districts of Madhya Pradesh and Banda, Mahoba and Jhansi Districts in Uttar Pradesh” needs to be put in context here. Firstly, this claim is far in excess of what the presumed surplus water can irrigate.

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