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???
Monsoon · Rainfall

SW Monsoon 2022: District wise rainfall in India

In the just concluded South West Monsoon 2022, India received 925 mm rainfall, about 106.5% of the Normal SW Monsoon rainfall of 868.6 mm or 6.5% more than the normal SW Monsoon rainfall as per India Meteorological department. This rainfall will now be categorised as normal rainfall though the distribution has been far from normal, both temporally and spatially. The monsoon withdrawal[i], however is yet to happen from most of India, except a small part in North West India including parts of Rajasthan and Haryana. IMD has predicted that the withdrawal of monsoon will not be completed till at least Oct 15 as due to a fresh cyclonic activity in Bay of Bengal, rainfall over MP and UP is likely to continue in first week fo Oct 2022.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 260922: Need for new credible Polavaram backwater study

(Feature Image:- The construction of the Polavaram dam across the Godavari river has posed a big threat to the Pulasa fish, as its movement to the upstream of the river could be curtailed. HT PHOTO).

Telangana state has demanded fresh backwater study for the Polavaram dam based on a number of grounds including the higher spillway capacity and outdated river cross sections of 1990s used in the old study. The changing rainfall pattern and resultant changing river flow pattern, both due to changed rainfall and changed state of catchment area also should be a reason for such a fresh study. However, more importantly, the study needs to be done in a credible way involving independent experts, not just state or central govt officials or academics from govt run institutions. Moreover, the study and all the information related to it has to be completely and promptly in public domain as these studies are required for the affected people and affected area. Normally Central Water Commission does such studies and refuses to make it public. What is the use or reason for backwater study to be secret? Possibly CWC is not confident of the quality of the study and that is why it is very important to have experts in the study team who are known to take independent stand. It is useful not only for the states of Telangana, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, but also for the people of Andhra Pradesh too. And earlier this is done, better it will be for all concerned.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 190922: Dams bringing unprecedented changes to the World’s Rivers

A new study published this week once again highlights not so well known impact of large dams on the rivers: role of rivers in building, supplying sediment, nutrients to floodplains, deltas, coastlines, estuaries, oceans and supporting so much biodiversity and how large dams are majorly adversely impacting this role of rivers. The study by scientists at Dartmouth using images from the NASA-US Geological Survey for 414 of the world’s largest rivers show the unprecedented changes the dams are bringing to World’s rivers, the impacts that in many cases are outweighing the impacts of climate change. This is particularly true of the northern hemisphere that includes India, World’s third largest dam builder.

Unfortunately in India, there is very little appreciation or acknowledgement of this role of rivers and how dams are affecting it. The least one can expect is that the Government of India should urgently initiate a study to document and understand this phenomena and also highlight what needs to be done about it. The study should be done by an independent team of multidisciplinary experts.

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Monsoon · Rainfall

High Rainfall days in India’s districts in August 2022

An analysis of the daily district wise rainfall data from India Meteorological Department (IMD) for the month of Aug 2021, 3rd month of India’s South West Monsoon 2021 shows that there were 667 (much higher than 431 in Aug 2021) instances when district rainfall of a day in a district was above 50 mm. The normal monthly rainfall of India Aug is 258.2 mm and actual rainfall was 3.5% above normal at 263.8 mm[i]. Such high rainfall instances included 553 (371 in Aug 2021) instances when rainfall was 50-100 mm, 98 (48 in Aug 2021) instances when it was 100-150 mm, 13 (11) times it was 150-200 mm and 3 (1 in Aug 2021) above 200 mm. Interestingly, in June 2022[ii] and July 2022[iii] there were 462 and 809 instances when rainfall in a district was above 50 mm. The July 2022[iv] and June 2022[v] rainfall all over India was 16.8% above normal and 8% below normal respectively.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 050922: Corruption in Large Dams & pro dam media Mughals

(Feature Image: Sardar Sarovar Dam on Narmada river. Source: Central Water Commission 30.08.2022)

As this article on corruption in large dams in India shows, it is open secret that large dams involve massive corruption, kickbacks and political funding. But the politicians from PM downwards across the party lines have understandably no interest in this issue.

But unfortunately, the large dams-corruption is not limited to politicians. The corruption in various forms plague even the media Mughals like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyer and Shekhar Gupta, both known for their fundamentalist pro dam views. They too have no  interest in corruption in large dams. In fact some of them have no qualms accepting sponsorships of dam contractors for their media awards! They are however, ever ready to criticize Narmada Bachao Andolan and Medha Patkar, though they have no clue about the issues they are talking about and keep using some flawed study whose reply (by Nandini Oza and Shripad Dharmadhikary) is already out in public domain. It is interesting that they have launched this fresh attack on dam critics just when Gujarat Chief Minister and country’s Home Minister have also launched attack on the NBA. Neither Gujarat CM, PM or HM is replying as to why Kutch, the main justification for Gujarat getting disproportionate share of Narmada waters, were the last to get their share of the water (even now not fully as the canal distribution system is still incomplete), almost two decades after the water rich Central Gujarat started getting Narmada waters. Nor are the pro dam media Mughals bothered about this.

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Monsoon · Rainfall

June Aug 2022: District wise rainfall in India’s SW Monsoon

In the just concluded month of Aug 2022, the third month of India’s South West 2022 monsoon, India received 263.8 mm rainfall, 3.5% above the normal Aug rainfall of 254.9 mm as per India Meteorological department (IMD). In Aug 2021, the rainfall was 195.9 mm[i], about 24.13% below normal and  in Aug 2020, the rainfall was 327 mm[ii], or about 26.6% above normal.

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Monsoon · Rainfall

June July 2022: District wise rainfall in India’s SW Monsoon

In the just concluded month of July 2022, the second month of India’s South West 2022 monsoon, India received 327.7 mm rainfall, 16.8% above the normal July rainfall of 280.5 mm as per India Meteorological department. In July 2021, the rainfall was 266.1 mm[i], about 6.7% below normal and  in July 2020, the rainfall was 257.1 mm[ii], or about 9.9% below normal.

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Monsoon · Rainfall

June 2022: High Rainfall district days in India’s SW Monsoon

An analysis of the daily district wise rainfall data from India Meteorological Department (IMD) for the month of June 2022, the first month of India’s South West Monsoon 2022 shows that there were 462 instances (442 in June 2021) when district rainfall of a day was above 50 mm. This is high considering that the rainfall of India in June 2022 was 152.3 mm[i], or daily average rainfall is about 5 mm. The high rainfall instances in June 2022 included 339 (371 in June 2021) instances when rainfall was 50-100 mm, 68 instances (59 in June 2021) when it was 100-150 mm, 26 (5 times in June 2021) times it was 150-200 mm and 29 (7 times in June 2021) times above 200 mm.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 110722: Govt failure on cloudburst monitoring, forecasting, managing

(Feature Image: On July 8, a flash flood triggered by a cloudburst hit a camp near the Amarnath cave shrine in J&K’s Ganderbal district. The Indian Express)

Just in first few weeks of this South West Monsoon in India and particularly in last two weeks there have been numerous cloudburst incidents leading to large number of deaths and destruction of human and natural infrastructure. Most of the time, the government just calls these disasters cloud burst and points finger at climate change, implying its helplessness, but happy that they have rescued the affected people. In reality, a lot can be done in terms of monitoring, forecasting and managing cloudbursts that is clearly not happening and is not part of government’s disaster management plans or actions.

Firstly there are some known places where the flash floods from cloud burst could lead to disaster, they need to be identified and habitations near and at risk at such locations need to be mapped and monitored to minimize the risks. The locations next to streams are clearly such hazardous locations and how can there be camps located right next to such streams as happened during the recent Amarnath caves?

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