DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 13 June 2022: Down in Dumps, MoEF becomes more opaque

(Feature image: Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav with PM Narendra Modi before taking oath on July 7, 2021 PTI/HT.)

While the news that India has achieved the worst ever ranking of 180, at the bottom of 180 country index in terms of Environment Performance Index was shocking, it should not surprise too many people considering the way environment is treated by the current central government, particularly the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). As expected, MoEF questioned the methodology of the assessment, and the criticism has been responded to and rejected by the authors of the EPI report.

Now with a dictate of the MoEF (dated Apr 8, 2022, preceding the EPI news) coming to light, the trajectory of the MoEF should leave no one in doubt. Through this dictate, the MoEF has asked the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), a supposedly autonomous institute of the Ministry, to seek the ministry’s approval before it publishes any document, that too with retrospective effect! WII in any case, was towing the ministry’s line in many of the cases as is evident from its performance in regulatory committees like the Forest Advisory Committee, National Board of Wild Life and Expert Appraisal Committee (on River Valley Projects, possibly among others). And yet the Ministry has come out with this dictate, without giving any reasons, possibly since some of WII reports have been problematic for the govt in judicial proceedings in some cases. But the MoEF move to stop WII from publishing (and hence doing) any credible studies only shows the paranoia of the ministry. Its performance index would not improve this way, it would only get worse.

Continue reading “DRP NB 13 June 2022: Down in Dumps, MoEF becomes more opaque”
DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 30 May 2022: Govt not serious about Rain Water Harvesting

(Feature image: Condition of a RWH structure in Karnal. The Tribune)

As India Meteorological Department (IMD) declared onset of 4 month South West Monsoon in Kerala on May 29, 2022 and published map of monsoon onset in rest of the country, key highlight of the news this week is how callous, non-serious is the govt in harvesting the rain where it falls. This is in spite of all the sloganeering about harvesting rain where and when it falls right from Prime Minister to downstairs. As they say, our actions speak louder than our words. The news came from Delhi and Karnal (Haryana) that in both states the rainwater systems even in government premises are lying defunct if all built.

The story would be similar from rest of the country. This also shows how serious is the government in working towards sustaining groundwater, India’s water lifeline as the biggest help GW can get is from harvesting rain where it falls, when it falls. This is particularly pertinent in the context of changing rainfall pattern with changing climate. If we had systems in place to harvest rain when and where it falls, it would also help reduce the flood peaks significantly. But until the government shows it is serious through demonstrable evidence of functioning rain water harvesting systems all across the river basins across India, there will be little morale authority in government pushing rest of us working to harvest rain, where and when it falls.

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Wetlands

Uttar Pradesh Govt Builds University in Suraha Tal Wetlands

(Feature Image: Screen shot of video report showing boats plying inside flooded JNCU campus in Oct. 2019. Source: Balia Express)

In blatant defiance of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, Wetlands (Conservation & Management) Rules, 2017, Suraha Tal Eco-Sensitive Zone Notification 2019, National Mission for Clean Ganga Notification 2016, the Uttar Pradesh State Government has allowed and funded construction of a college in core zone of Suraha Tal wetlands, a notified bird sanctuary in Balia District.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 9 May 2022: Forensic Team report: Michigan 2020 Dams failures were preventable

A Forensic engineering Team appointed by the USA’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission post the May 19, 2020 failure of Edinville and Sanford Dams in Michigan state of USA has published a 502 page comprehensive report on the dam failure within less than two years of the disaster. The full report published on May 4, 2022 is in public domain and has concluded that the dam failures were foreseeable and preventable.

There are a number of things we can learn from this. Firstly that there are such credible independent assessment of dam failures, we have none in India even after multiple dam failures each year. Secondly, such assessments are promptly in public domain. Thirdly, the reports are completed in less then two years. We have none of these. Even the Dam Safety Act passed by the parliament does not have provisions for any of these.

There are a lot of implications for India here. It means for example that we will never know the real reasons for the dam related disasters. Secondly, we won’t be able to learn any lessons. Thirdly we will never be able to improve the governance of our dams and rivers. Fourthly, we won’t be able to fix accountability.

There is so much at stake related to governance of our dams, but we seem completely unconcerned about it. There is a lot we can learn from others here.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 2 May 2022: Sand a strategic resource like water, rethink its exploitation: UN

A United Nations report released this week on Apr 26, 2022 has recommended that river sand needs to be considered by the governments as a strategic resource like water for its multiple roles in the environment and its extraction and use needs to be rethought. The UNEP report says sand is the second most exploited resource. And yet there are no credible governance guidelines or policies for the exploitation and use of this report, nor assessment of impact of unsustainable exploitation.

The report says: “Extracting sand where it plays an active role, such as rivers, and coastal or marine ecosystems, can lead to erosion, salination of aquifers, loss of protection against storm surges and impacts on biodiversity, which pose a threat to livelihoods through, among other things, water supply, food production, fisheries, or to the tourism industry.”

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 4 April 2022: Gujarat Tribals unite to stop Par Tapi Narma

(Feature Image:-Tribals protesting against Par-Tapi-Narmada Project. The Indian Tribals)

The amazing unity and fight shown by Gujarat Tribals in their protest against the Par Tapi Narmada Link has led to both Gujarat govt and Central govt agreeing to suspend the project. However, the tribals are rightly not satisfied with the word of play indulged in by the Gujarat and Union govt so far. The central govt has said that the project will not go ahead as long as there is no consensus among the party states, but that statement is true even with or without the campaign launched against the project. The Maharashtra govt in any case is not in agreement with the project. Gujarat govt has not taken a clear decision to permanently cancel the project and without such a decision, Gujarat govt can again revive the project any minute. Same is true about the Central govt. So until both Gujarat govt and Central govt decide to cancel the project and come out with official notification to that effect, the tribals are right to continue the protest and not believe in either of the govt.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 14 March 2022: 25th Anniversary of International Day of Action for Rivers!

14th March is celebrated as International Day of Action for Rivers since 1997 after the resolution at the 1st International meeting of People Affected by Dams in Curitiba, Brazil. At this meeting of Dam affected people from 20 countries (including India) it was decided to celebrate this day as the International Day of Action Against Dams and For Rivers, Water and Life. It is thrilling to see the celebration continuing and spreading on 25th anniversary of that meeting. The focus this years is on Rivers for Biodiversity. To illustrate how the celebration of this day has spread, in 2021, even during pandemic, the day was celebrated with over 120 events in 32 countries. For details, see: https://www.internationalrivers.org/take-action/international-day-of-action-for-rivers/.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 070222: Union Budget provisions for ILR inappropriate, shows disrespect to statutory clearances and processes

(Feature image source Money Control:- https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/business/economy/union-budget-2022-live-updates-nirmala-sitharaman-crypto-bill-rail-itr-pf-contribution-cryptocurrency-income-tax-news-custom-duty-relief-gold-etf-8006461.html)

The Union Finance Minister (FM) Smt. Nirmala Seetharaman in her budget for 2022-23 presented in the parliament on Feb 1, 2022 provided Rs 4300 Cr for the controversial Ken Betwa Project in Revised Estimates for 2021-22 and Rs 1400 Cr in Budget estimates for 2022-23. The KBP has not received the final forest clearance. In fact its stage I forest clearance conditions cannot be implemented without changing the project and its cost benefits and impacts. Its wildlife clearance has been questioned by the Central Empowered Committee of the Supreme Court of India and the comprehensive scathing report of the CEC Is yet to be heard by the SC. Its environmental clearance is under challenge before the National Green Tribunal. The hydrological figures that are supposed to provide the scientific basis for the project are neither in public domain, nor has it gone through any independent scrutiny. In this situation, the allocation of the funds for the project in the Union Budget and inclusion of a statement about the project in the speech of the President of India before the Joint Session of Parliament on Jan 31, 2022 are inappropriate. They seem to be timed in view of the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 24 Jan 2022: MoEF’s complete surrender: Rating SEIAA on faster clearances

If rating of the State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAA) of various states were to be done, it has to be based on how rigorous, how transparent, how participatory, how well defined, how consistent, how comprehensive, how rules following has been the functioning of the various SEIAA. Such an exercise has to be done by a panel of independent experts, who are experienced and knowledgeable about the various aspects of environmental governance and functioning of these authorities. In fact the exercise should also include the National EIAA too and the various Expert Appraisal Committees under it. It clearly cannot be what the MoEF has now proposed. What MoEF has proposed is completely against all basic norms of environmental governance and is part of MoEF’s complete surrender to the vested interests and not is not in the interest of environment governance. As the Tribune editorial noted, such blatant disregard of the environment is completely unacceptable. Similarly as the TOI editorial said, SEIAAs need to be independent of both business and governments. They should put the environment first, and last. There is a role of judiciary to step in here and ensure that MoEF does not go down this path.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 13 Sept 2021: Misleading claim of Water Plus cities

Recently, when the government of India certified that cities like Indore, Surat, Hyderabad, Vizag, etc are Water Plus, it raised a number of questions including the credibility of the claim, lack of credit worthy independent assessment, how sustainable are the claims, etc. The author of the following article rightly raises the question if the cities are at all Water Plus. They are clearly not. While recycling and reuse of 30% of treated sewage and full treatment of waste water is welcome in view of the current pathetic status of city water management in cities, this achievement, if it is real as assessed by credit worthy independent assessment & judged against a set of well-defined criteria of sustainability among others, is worth appreciating, but it certainly does not deserve Water Plus City label. To achieve that label, a lot more and a lot different kind of achievements will be required.

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