Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 12 Sep 2016 (Hydro Projects Causing Mass Fish Extinction: HP Fisheries Dept.)

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.

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DRP News Bulletin 22 August 2016(NGT failed its mandate by allowing AOL event)

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. 

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DRP News Bulletin 16 Aug 2016 (When shall We Start Respecting Our Rivers & Provide Space to Them)

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 floodplainsThe 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.

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DRP News Bulletin 08 August 2016 (Aug 06, ILR meeting is no dialogue)

SANDRP BLOG Aug 06, ILR meeting is no dialogue  While dialogue is necessary and welcome in any democracy, the meeting that was organized on Aug 06 at Constitutional Club is certainly not the right step in almost every sense. We hope MoWR and those who gather at the constitution club today will deliberate on these issues and resolve to correct them before a dialogue can really begin on the issue of ILR, and in fact Rivers. SANDRP coordinator was invited at this meeting on ILR being held at Constitution Club at 4 pm today as a speaker, but have decided to decline the invite, as elaborated in the note here. Please help us spread the word. Feedback is welcome.  As was expected, Minister Uma Bharti reiterated that the Ken Betwa Link project will be implemented, even though the project has none of the clearances as yet! The reporter should have mentioned that. 

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DRP News Bulletin 01 August 2016 (Increasing Water Conflicts in Times of Surplus Monsoon)

INTER-STATE WATER DISPUTES

Center Meeting held to sort out Mahanadi issue Union Water Ministry on July 31 called a Meeting of representatives of Odisha & Chattisgarh Govts to consider the various water resources issues/projects in Mahanadi Basin. It was decided that the Central 514380-karnatakabandhWater Commission would invariably ensure that the DPRs for the projects in Mahanadi basin which are appraised by it, are duly shared with the other riparian State and that the riparian State is given a period of 45 days to convey their views/comments on the project. It was also decided that the DPRs would be delivered to the Resident Commissioners of respective States and thereafter the representatives of the State would be invited to share their observations. The meeting was called in pursuance of the assurance  given by Water Minister Uma Bharti in Parliament on July 26. Earlier, fearing that dams on river Mahanadi in Chhattisgarh would have adverse impact on Odisha, former union minister Jairam Ramesh has asked CM Naveen Patnaik to take up all party team to Delhi to raise the matter with the PM. He also said that Congress will send a delegation to Chhattisgarh in a week to study the sites where dam and barrages are proposed to be constructed. On the other hand, former CM Ajit Jogi having broken away from the Congress on July 25 attacked Congress over its opposition to Chhattisgarh’s plan to construct dams & barrages on Mahanadi river.

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DRP News Bulletin 11 July 2016 (Namami Gange proving mere an extension of Ganga Action Plan)

Ganga Manthan to Ganga Act: No progress made Chairing the 6th meeting of the National Ganga River Basin Authority on July 04  Water Minister Uma Bharti has said that a new act will be formulated for speedy implementation of Namami Gange programme. On July 06, giving a major boost to Namami Gange Programme Ms Uma Bharti has also announced that 231 projects will be inaugurated at various locations in Uttrakhand, UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Haryana and Delhi on July 07. Incidentally, on July 07, 2014 NDA Govt. launched the Namami Gange programme to rejuvenate the river to be executed over five years. The project has a budget outlay of Rs 20K crore which is 10 times more than what was allocated in previous Ganga Action Plan (GAP) phase I and II. But more money and the PM minister’s zeal, notwithstanding, Namami Gange seems a carryover from its predecessor in one crucial respect.  The overwhelming emphasis on pollution abatement that had led to the GAP’s failure bedevils Namami Gange as well. In certain respects, Namami Gange is an improvement on the GAP. It seems that the govt has not learnt lessons from the GAP’s failure. The lag between sewage generation and treatment has remained between 55% & 60% even as new STPs were built under the GAP. This is because a lot of the waste is generated outside the sewerage network and is not conveyed to the STPs. A large section of the country’s urban population lives outside this network. Moreover, the STPs can only do so much. The official statistics show that the STPs are currently running at a deficiency of 55%. The problem of STPs is three-fold: underestimation, shortage and underutilization due to lack of a well-connected underground sewage system.

The problems associated with river Ganga, however, do not end or begin in its middle course dotted by factories. The upstream of the river, where Bhagirathi and Alaknanda join to form the Ganga, is part of a very fragile Himalayan ecosystem. Caution is needed in implementing the Namame Gange projects along this stretch. The Kedarnath flood of Uttarakhand is an example of what a combination of melting glaciers and mindless construction can do to a sensitive geological zone. With more than 40 dams, barrages and weirs  and many more planned aviral Ganga seems nothing more than an empty catchphrase. Ganga is the sum total of the contribution of some 12 major tributaries. Without a rejuvenation strategy for each of Ganga’s tributaries, there can be no Ganga rejuvenation.

Meanwhile, increased fishing activity and vessel traffic are proving to be the disturbing element downstream. Deploying more scientific methods for fishing and limiting it to levels enough for species’ sustenance might help without significantly affecting livelihoods. The direct consequences of climate change are also felt in the lower belts, around the Ganga Sagar region. Land is disappearing but no comprehensive plans have emerged as yet to provide for the rehabilitation of the region’s inhabitants.

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Interlinking of RIvers

ILR fundamentalism: Union Minister threatens regulators, media and civil society

Above: A fabulous view of Ken river. Nesting sites of Long-billed vultures are to the right. All will go under water if Ken-Betwa linkup is carried out, PHOTO by: AJT Johnsingh

It’s a curious case of Dam fundamentalism: now manifest as ILR fundamentalism. On June 7, 2016, (as widely reported by media[i]) Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti “threatened to go on hunger strike if the Ken-Betwa river linking project is further delayed and termed the attempt to delay the project by environmentalists as a “national crime”” as reported by Business Standard. The threat was directed against all those raising questions about Ken Betwa River Link proposal of her ministry. Continue reading “ILR fundamentalism: Union Minister threatens regulators, media and civil society”

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DRP News Bulletin 04 July 2016 (In Proposed Hydro Policy, Govt Unjustifiably Pushing Hydro Through Subsidies)

New Hydro Policy: Govt unjustifiably pushing hydro through subsidies A comprehensive policy to promote hydropower generation is set to be announced by September—with viability gap funding for projects, compulsory hydropower purchase obligations for distribution companies and a set of good practices that states have to follow. The idea is to address factors that currently drive hydropower costs up way above those of other sources of power and give policy support in its market development, according to a government official, who asked not to be named. The policy being prepared by the power ministry will have provisions for viability gap funding, which will help in meeting the shortfall in project costs and reducing hydroelectricity tariffs for consumers. Hydropower is expensive and in some cases more than double the cost of power from coal-based thermal plants, which is available at Rs.3-5 per unit.The ministry will also expand the scope of power distribution companies’ renewable power purchase obligations to include hydropower from projects with a capacity greater than 25 Mw. At the moment only power from those with less than 25MW is considered renewable power. According to officials, compulsory hydropower purchase from large projects will either be made part of the existing renewable power purchase obligation of distribution companies or a separate requirement, so that its inclusion does not affect the market for other renewable sources of energy like wind, solar or biomass. Govt unjustifiably pushing hydro through subsidies in proposed new hydro policy can be lead story. It is not going to help push hydro.   Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 04 July 2016 (In Proposed Hydro Policy, Govt Unjustifiably Pushing Hydro Through Subsidies)”

Interlinking of RIvers

River Ken, as I saw it

Guest Blog by: Manoj Misra, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan

Rivers are often seen merely as carriers of utilizable water and little more. Such utilization could be for supply of water to meet human domestic, commercial, irrigation or industrial needs or as a motive force to produce electricity. That there could be far more to a river than water flowing in it is rarely appreciated far less investigated. The reason also is that in case of perennial rivers water flowing in them tends to hide from public view a lot residing in their interiors, including their living and non living components. So a drought, notwithstanding its adverse impacts on water dependent people and their commensals[i], is an opportunity nevertheless to easily see what is otherwise normally hidden.     Continue reading “River Ken, as I saw it”

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DRP News Bulletin 13 June 2016(Uma Bharati Threatens Stir Over Delay In Ken-Betwa Clearances)

Uma threatens stir over delay in Ken-Betwa interlinking Water Minister Uma Bharti on June 07 threatened an agitation if there were further delays to the wildlife clearances necessary for the storied Ken-Betwa river-interlinking project. This is TOO Much! Union Minister threatening to go on Fast, demanding environment clearance to Ken Betwa link! Calling it a national crime  to stop clearance to Ken Betwa link. Saying if the project is not cleared in next meeting, she will go on fast! Claiming that the link will help Marathwada!! It wont help even Bundelkhand, but the Union Minister seems to be setting completely wrong, precedent, which also ultra legal. On the other hand The Hindu has been consistently underplaying the impacts of the Ken Betwa project and over playing the official lines. Very strange to see this from THE HINDU. Before this in its June 02 meeting the expert appraisal committee (EAC) of environment ministry has deferred environment clearance for the ambitious Rs.10,000cr Ken-Betwa river linking project in its last meeting on June 2, and has sought more clarity on its wildlife & hydrological impact. The meeting could not come to a conclusion as the members of the EAC had several doubts regarding the project’s hydrological feasibility, its impact on hydrology and wildlife too and found that many serious issues related to the project are yet to resolved. In the last week of May 2016, SANDRP in a letter to EAC has written about Ken-Betwa project & why EAC should not clear this. Please help us spread the word and urgently write to EAC if you agree. Himanshu Thakkar coordinator SANDRP points out that the Ken-Betwa link, in essence, Ken-Betwa link will facilitate transfer of water from the Ken River Basin (Bundelkhand) to Upper Betwa Basin (outside Bundelkhand), so it is actually exporting water out of Bundelkhand. 

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