Recycling and reuse of wastewater is an important aspect of water management providing a way to increase available water while also preventing pollution of water bodies by sewage.
An estimated 62,000 million litres per day (MLD) sewage is generated in urban areas across India, according to the Environment Minister, while there is treatment capacity for only 23,277 MLD as of Dec 2015. A CPCB report further reveals that the actual amount of sewage treated stands at 18,883 MLD as only 522 out of 816 sewage treatment plants listed across India were operational, as of March 2015 (even this claim of 81.1% capacity utilization seems HIGHLY exaggerated). Thus, at least 70% of sewage generated in urban India is being dumped in rivers, seas, lakes and wells, polluting water bodies and contaminating fresh water sources. Partially treated or untreated sewage is responsible for large part of the pollution in streams and water bodies. Up to 80% of water bodies could be polluted.
The recent Chennai Flood Disaster of Dec 2015 and the Jammu and Kashmir Flood disaster of Sept 2014 have underlined that Wetlands are important not only for biodiversity & livelihoods of millions, but they are an integral mechanism for flood control and regulation in Rural and Urban India.
It’s not everyday that the Washington Post features India in headlines, so when on Diwali day, that happened in the context of publication of International Energy Agency’sWorld Energy Outlook 2015, it was noteworthy. The IEA report has worrying conclusion that the world won’t be able to limit warming to 2 °C even if all the pledges (INDCs) submitted in advance of Paris Summit get implemented, “The (global) emissions trajectory implies a long-term temperature increase of 2.7 °C by 2100. A major course correction is still required to achieve the world’s agreed climate goal. As the largest source of global greenhouse-gas emissions, the energy sector must be at the heart of global action to tackle climate change.” Continue reading “IEA concludes INDCs will not limit warming to 2 °C; focus on India without any push to the OECD countries to reduce consumption”→
For Full report, see: https://sandrp.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/there-is-little-hope-here-sandrp-critique-of-napcc-feb-2009.pdf
The purpose of this study is to provide an Indian civil society view on the contents of the Indian government’s national action plan to confront the threat posed by climate change. The study aims to highlight the equity issues, the options assessment for energy production and the needs for sustainable adaptation practices. The study also aims to give an overview of the available information resources about the impact of climate change on India and tries to map out various actors & their roles. However this is vast issue and this brief study cannot include all the aspects in this regard. The focus is more on water, agriculture and energy related issues, since these are the focus areas of the work of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People (SANDRP). Continue reading “SANDRP critique of India’s NAPCC: There is little hope here”→
For Full Report, see: https://sandrp.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/water-sector-options-india-in-changing-climate-sandrp-march-2012.pdf
This report tries to capture the relevant issues for Indian Water Sector in the context of changing climate. The report briefly reviews international situation in the context of the four pillars of climate change response that are used in international climate change framework: Adaptation, Mitigation, Technology and Economic/financial issues. It takes a look at the official programmes and projects of governments in water sector. It includes some local options and success stories in water and agriculture in India in the context of changing climate. Continue reading “Water Sector Options for India in a Changing Climate – Executive Summary of SANDRP publication in March 2012”→
“Right now, hydel is almost stalled”: Piyush Goyal (18 May 2015)
Union Power Minister makes some candid comments on Hydro: “Right now, hydel is almost stalled. We have Teesta stuck for various reasons. Subansiri, Maheshwar, Lower Subansiri, all of them have different challenges. Small hydros are facing challenges of transmission, they are facing challenges of local area problems. So, by and by, the hydro sector will need a more holistic thinking. The courts have also taken up certain matters, particularly in Uttarakhand, post the tragedy (of floods in 2013). There is the mission of Ganga to ensure that there is a reasonable flow—Aviral Ganga, which we are committed to. We are working on all of these plans… For example, Subansiri had an issue where the local population had concerns. We immediately got an eight-member very, very high-level expert committee, including Central Water Commission, Central Electricity Authority, and experts from Assam. They are all working together to see the environmental impact, structural impact, riparian state impact and riverbed impact.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been saying to Nepal and others that Bhutan is a good example to show how a country can prosper from hydropower generation and export. During his trip to Bhutan in June 2014, soon after taking over as Prime Minister of India, he said, “Our Hydropower cooperation with Bhutan is a classic example of win-win cooperation and a model for the entire region.”
It is close to a year after the worst ever Himalayan flood disaster that Uttarakhand or possibly the entire Indian Himalayas experienced in June 2013. While there is no doubt that the trigger for this disaster was the untimely and unseasonal rain, the way in which this rain translated into a massive disaster had a lot to do with how we have been treating the Himalayas in recent years and today. It’s a pity that we still do not have a comprehensive report of this biggest tragedy to tell us what happened during this period, who played what role and what lessons we can learn from this experience.
One of the relatively positive steps in the aftermath of the disaster came from the Supreme Court of India, when on Aug 13, 2013, a bench of the apex court directed Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to set up a committee to investigate into the role of under-construction and completed hydropower projects. One would have expected our regulatory system to automatically initiate such investigations, which alas is not the case. Knowing this, some us wrote to MoEF on July 20, 2013, to exactly do such an investigation, but again MoEF played deaf and blind to such letters.
The committee report, signed by 11 members, makes it clear that construction and operation of hydropower projects played a significant role in the disaster. The committee has made detailed recommendations, which includes recommendation to drop at least 23 hydropower projects, to change parameters of some others. The committee also recommended how the post disaster rehabilitation should happen, today we have no policy or regulation about it. While the Supreme Court of India is looking into the recommendations of the committee, the MoEF, instead of setting up a credible body to ensure timely and proper implementation of recommendations of the committee has asked the Court to appoint another committee on the flimsy ground that CWC-CEA have submitted a separate report advocating more hydropower projects! The functioning of the MoEF continues to strengthen the impression that it is working like a lobby for projects rather than an independent environmental regulator. We hope the apex court see through this.
Let us turn our attention to hydropower projects in Himalayas. Indian Himalayas (Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and rest of North East) already has operating large hydropower capacity of 17561 MW. This capacity has leaped by 68% in last decade, the growth rate of National Hydro capacity was much lower at 40%. If you look at Central Electricity Authority’s (CEA is Government of India’s premier technical organisation in power sector) list of under construction hydropower projects in India, you will find that 90% of projects and 95% of under construction capacity is from the Himalayan region. Already 14210 MW hydropower capacity is under construction. In fact CEA has now planned to add unbelievable 65000 MW capacity in 10 years (2017 to 2027) between 13th and 14th Five Year Plans.
Meanwhile, the Expert Appraisal Committee of Union Ministry of Environment and Forests on River Valley Projects has been clearing projects at a break-neck speed with almost zero rejection rate. Between April 2007 and Dec 2013, this committee recommended final environment clearance to 18030.5 MW capacity, most of which has not entered the implementation stage. Moreover, this committee has recommended 1st stage Environment clearance (what is technically called Terms of Reference Clearance) for a capacity of unimaginable 57702 MW in the same period. This is indicative of the onslaught of hydropower projects which we are likely to see in the coming years. Here again an overwhelming majority of these cleared projects are in Himalayan region.
What does all this mean for the Himalayas, the people, the rivers, the forests, the biodiversity rich area? We have not even fully studied the biodiversity of the area. The Himalayas is also very landslide prone, flood prone, geologically fragile and seismically active area. It is also the water tower of much of India (& Asia). We could be putting that water security also at risk, increasing the flood risks for the plains. The Uttarakhand disaster and changing climate have added new unknowns to this equation.
We all know how poor are our project-specific and river basin-wise cumulative social and environmental impact assessments. We know how compromised and flawed our appraisals and regulations are. We know how non-existent is our compliance system. The increasing judicial interventions are indicators of these failures. But court orders cannot replace institutions or make our governance more democratic or accountable. The polity needs to fundamentally change, and we are still far away from that change.
The government that is likely to take over post 2014 parliamentary elections has an opportunity to start afresh, but available indicators do not provide such hope. While UPA’s failure is visible in what happened before, during and after the Uttarakhand disaster, the main political opposition that is predicted to take over has not shown any different approach. In fact NDA’s prime ministerial candidate has said that North East India is the heaven for hydropower development. He seems to have no idea about the brewing anger over such projects in Assam and other North Eastern states. That anger is manifest most clearly in the fact that India’s largest capacity under-construction hydropower project, namely the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri HEP has remained stalled for the last 29 months after spending over Rs 5000 crores. The NDA’s PM candidate also has Inter Linking of Rivers (ILR) on agenda. Perhaps we have forgotten as to why the NDA lost the 2004 Parliamentary elections. The arrogant and mindless pursuit of projects like ILR and launching of 50 000 MW hydropower campaign by the then NDA government had played a role in sowing the seeds of people’s anger with that government.
In this context we also need to understand what benefits these hydropower projects are actually providing, as against what the promises and propaganda are telling us. In fact our analysis shows that the benefits are far below the claims and impacts and costs are far higher than the projections. The disaster shows that hydropower projects are also at huge risk in these regions. Due to the June 2013 flood disaster large no of hydropower projects were damaged and generation from the large hydro projects alone dropped by 3730 million units. In monetary terms this would mean just the generation loss at Rs 1119 crores assuming conservative tariff of Rs 3 per unit. The loss in subsequent year and from small hydro would be additional.
It is nobody’s case that no hydropower projects be built in Himalayas or that no roads, townships, tourism and other infrastructure be built in the Himalayan states. But we need to study the impact of these massive interventions (along with all other available options in a participatory way) in what is already a hugely vulnerable area, made worse by what we have done so far in these regions and what climate change is threatening to unleash. In such a situation, such onslaught of hydropower projects on Himalayas is likely to be an invitation to even greater disasters across the Himalayas. Himalayas cannot sustain this onslaught.
It is in this context, that the ongoing Supreme Court case on Uttarakhand provides a glimmer of hope. It is not just hydropower projects or other infrastructure projects in Uttarakhand, or for that matter in other Himalayan states that will need to take guidance from the outcome of this case, but it could provide guidance for all kinds of interventions all across Indian Himalayas. Our Himalayan neighbors can also learn from this process. Let us end on that hopeful note here!
The December 2013 – January 2014 edition of SANDRP’s magazine ‘Dams, River and People’ is now available online. This is the 11-12th issue of magazine in its 11th volume. The contents magazine are mentioned in the list below. Packed with information on water, rivers, dams and environment, this issue covers matters at home in India as well in Bhutan, Nepal, Spain, Vietnam, United States of America and water dispute between India and Pakistan. The magazine in pdf format is available here — https://sandrp.in/DRP_Dec_2013_Jan_2014.pdf. Several of the articles are also available in SANDRP’s blog and they can be viewed just by clicking on the name in the list. Enjoy reading.