New Rivers appearing in Morro Basin in Argentina This is unheard of, amazing story, a frightening and yet fascinating one, of how large scale deforestation, combined with wet cycle and fragile top soil has lead to NEW RIVERS suddenly appearing in Morro Basin in Argentina over the last decade. The deforestation has been mostly done for brining the land under Soya Beans, the biggest contributor to exports from Argentina, Argentina is the world’s third largest producer after US and Brazil, 60% of its arable land under this single crop. So much so that commentators have called the new river as Soya Bean river and Argentina as Soya Bean republic, in line with Banana republic. Some 2.4m hectares of native forest have been lost in the last 10 years, according to Greenpeace. Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 2 April 2018: How New Rivers are born in Argentina”
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.
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)
The minutes of expert appraisal committee (EAC) shows that Environmental Clearance (EC) for the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project has been deferred. The minutes were uploaded after 16 days of EAC meeting conducted on Oct 24, 2017. http://environmentclearance.nic.in/writereaddata/Form-1A/Minutes/09112017PCU6UH80Finalminutesof9thEACmeeting1.pdf
In the minutes, the EAC said that it would require to study the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the Nepal portion of the project to get a holistic view. It also directed the project proponent to obtain wildlife clearance as the project was located 300 metres from the Ascot Wildlife Sanctuary.
It is worth to mention that the Pancheshwar dam with a height of 315 meters is world’s second tallest dam proposed in ecologically sensitive region. Scores of media reports have underlined the unfair and politically influenced Environment Public Hearing (EPH) process, conducted during peak monsoon month in landslide ridden and disaster prone region. The venue of the EPH was also several kms away from villages going to be affected thus depriving the local people participation in essential decision making process. As a result the concerns and voices of villagers to have their voices heard. The EIA report of the project has also not mentioned several grave environmental issues of GOLFs events, cloud bursts, earthquakes etc in the catchment of the dam let alone the question of impact on endangered wildlife like Mahseer fish.
This week there have been three incidents of canals and dam breach in three States raising concern over quality of construction of dams and canals in India.
All these incidents are a result of negligence exercised by concerned departments. These incidents also proves that the quality of construction of dams and canals in India is not as par standard.
It is surprising that no government official or private contractor has been held responsible for these avoidable incidents. To avoid recurrence of such incidents, governments of these states bring the involved officials and persons to justice. It also strictly monitor the quality of construction to avoid wastage of public money. The safety of the public is also uncompromising and hence should not rush through the irrigation projects without proper consultation care.
Rajasthan Lessons from a reborn river The district of Alwar in Rajasthan is water-stressed, receiving less than 650 mm of rainfall in a year, most of which falls during the Southwest monsoon. But Alwar exists in a stable equilibrium, where even if there is a drought, the Johad’s and the forests make it possible for water to be stored underground. Because of strong communal interdependencies, all villagers stuck to sensible crops for the region, and maintaines the Johads. The community, the Forests, the Johads, the choice of crops, all worked together and reinforces one another. Equilibriums are maintained by such reinforcing activities that fortify status quo. FASCINATING account of how Arvari community rejuvenated their rivers and what are the lessons.
Union Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave on January 5, 2017 reportedly told a meeting called by his ministry of non-official members of statutory bodies like expert appraisal committees and forest advisory committee, “How can we hold up development and not fulfill the needs of the poor for the sake of birds and animals?” This is of course a shocking statement to come from a minister whose mandate is to protect environment!
No less disturbingly, even as an environment minister, he has several times advocated pushing the Ken Betwa River Link Project (KBLRP) as a pilot scheme, when the project does not have any of the final clearances from his own Ministry! Continue reading “Little for Bundelkhand, lot for contractors in Ken Betwa river-link”
Finally, tribals struggle wins, sends Jispa HEP company packing up Facing stiff opposition from the tribal community against the construction of 300 MW Jispa Dam in Lahaul-Spiti valley has forced the Himachal Pradesh Power Corportaion Ltd (HPPCL) to suspend the project for the time being. The dam which was declared a project of national importance now has residents from 14 villages oppose it. HPPCL has invested Rs 3 crore and has stated that it would begin study work only when locals extend their support.
Since 2009, people from the Todh valley in Lahaul-Spiti district were opposing the Jispa Dam project proposed over Bhaga river, a tributarJy of Chenab at Jispa village. The government had sanctioned Rs 7,000 crore for this project but local residents did not allow officials to work in smoothly for three years now.
Confirming the development, managing director, HPPCL, D K Sharma told that some people were continuously opposing the project without realizing that construction of project could have ushered development in the area. He said constant opposition of local people had resulted into wastage of limited human resource so HPPCL board had decided to withdraw the manpower as project was only at investigation stage.
Hydro power projects impact riverine fisheries The bleak future of fisheries is reflected in the “Vision and Perspective Plan” released by the Department of Fisheries earlier this week. The department is keeping its fingers crossed to even maintain the production of 5,393 tonnes in 2014-15 as it feels that with the commissioning of 294 hydro power projects in the recent years, the downward trend will be difficult to arrest.
It says that the expansion of the hydro power sector has resulted in the shrinking of rivers and streams and high silt levels. Rampant sand mining and indiscriminate use of pesticides have further aggravated the problem.
The fish production from the rivers and streams is falling drastically each year and the multi-pronged environmental assault is proving to be too damaging for the fisheries promotion. The state has some precious mahseer reserves. Though the power policy stipulates a minimum discharge of 15% ecological flow of rivers, the failure of the regulatory authority to check this has converted riverbeds into sandy deserts. That’s how the department perceives the threat from hydro power generation. As a further blow to the riverine fisheries, under the revised hydro-power policy, there is no requirement for micro hydel project developers to prepare environmental and social impact reports.
The vision document reflects that the coming up of hundreds of micro-hydel projects has drastically affected the streams environmental flow in Kangra, Kullu and Chamba. The picture is so grim that the project commissioned on the Sujan Nullah is virtually threatening the hatchery of the prestigious Indo-Norwegian trout project which is the lifeline of the entire trout farming programme of the state.Perceived as one of the major threats, the commissioning of 92 power projects, in the last few years has altered the river hydrology and blocked migratory routes exterminating spawning and feeding grounds of fish.Adding to the already bad situation is the array of pesticides and insecticides being used by farmers and fruit growers.
Op-Ed NGT failed its mandate by allowing AOL event This is such an amazing editorial on the issue of destruction of floodplain by Art of Living, whose behaviour is brazen, but predictable, it says! So amazingly forthright, it says “ Far more unfortunate, however, is the manner in which the NGT appears to have conducted itself in this affair. It is a sad commentary on the state of environmental governance n the country that its premier green body”, NGT, “ has to prevaricate on its earlier order”. It concludes. NGT failed to protect such an ecologically sensitive area. It is deeply disturbing that the country’s apex environmental tribunal allowed itself to be pressured and intimidated. Salutes to the Author of this forthright editorial! Meanwhile, the committee of experts, appointed by Green has found that the “entire floodplain area used for the main event site” has been “completely destroyed” causing “invisible loss of biodiversity” that “may never be able to return”. In its 45 page report, submitted to the NGT on July 28, the seven-member panel, said “the entire floodplain area used for the main event site, i.e. between the DND flyover and Barapullah drain (on the right bank of river Yamuna) has been completely destroyed, completely destroyed not simply destroyed. The ground is now totally levelled, compacted and hardened, totally devoid of water bodies or depressions, and almost completely devoid of any vegetation (except a few large cattails at the base of of the DND flyover)”. On the contrary AOL alleged that NGT appointed committee is biased, unscientific and lacks credibility.
In absence of clear and strict laws to define the rivers zone and demarcate flood plains, our rivers are increasingly becoming subject to exploitation. When the river spaces of our National River Ganga & Yamuna River which flow through National Capital are not well protected, then the plight of other rivers across country can be understood.
This week, there are two news reports which again are highlighting this cause. Interestingly in both cases, legal fight is going on in green tribunal which indirectly deals with the issue though with no success so far. In fist case, NGT has directed Govt. of Uttarakhand to demarcate floodplains of Ganga river from its origin in Gomukh till Roorkee, a 65-km long stretch in the state. The tribunal has posted the matter for the next hearing on Oct 20 and asked the state government to submit its compliance report by then. The bench also sought a report on the total number of hotels on the 65-km stretch from the govt. The green panel allowed the state govt to take the help of Roorkee-based National Institute of Hydrology for identification of flood plains. Construction on flood plains and inside river zones is a sure invitation to disaster such as Kedar Nath Floods in 2013 when human made infrastructures erected very much inside river zones were raised down like sand dunes by enraged rivers. It is sad and even more worrisome that we have learnt nothing from such events.
In second incident Govt. of Uttar Pradesh has drawn green tribunal’s ire over constructions in floodplains. The apex court for environmental issues, expressed its dissatisfaction over the manner in which State Govt filed its report on the distance of various real estate projects from the Yamuna flood plain zone in the city. Coming down heavily in the state govt and various Agra authorities, Agra Development Authority (ADA) & irrigation department, it stated that “authorities were expected to act fairly and judicially while complying with its directions.” The tribunal appointed registrar general Mukesh Kumar Gupta as local commissioner and asked him to file a correct position of flood plains and the distances of the various projects. Meanwhile, ADA has been asked to produce the original records before the tribunal on the next date of hearing, Aug 19.
Floods & floodplains are integral part of a river eco-system. Both has essential role to play in smooth functioning of multiple ecological processes that takes place throughout the journey of a river. It is abused of floodplains that our cities are facing flood threats. It is surprising to see how govts have so far failed in protection of flood plain.
With incidents of excess rainfall, cloud burst & land slides happening at increased frequency, it is time to define our river zone and flood plain clearly in the own interest of human being.