21 November is celebrated as world fisheries day across the world. Apart from crucial source of food and livelihood to lakhs of fisherfolks in India, fish diversity determines the health of the water body including lakes, ponds and rivers. However with growing threats and pollution mass fish mortality has been taking place in various rivers and lakes in the country every year. On World Fisheries Day 2019 SANDRP has put together known mass fish kill incidents that took place this past year to highlight the gravity of threat so that corrective measures can be taken by respective Governments and others concerned.
Sangli, on the banks of river Krishna in Western Maharashtra faced a historic flood in Aug 2019. Nearly One Lakh people were displaced and over 30 lost their lives in this district alone. While we covered the impact of floods on the agricultural and rural fabric of Sangli in the earlier photoblogs, Sangli city with a population of more than 22 Lakhs, too suffered huge losses.
Sangli-Miraj-Kupwad Municipal Corporation is on the banks of Krishna-Warna confluence in Western Maharashtra. Both rivers reached historic High Flood Levels in the 2019 floods. Warna, in Samdoli Village, Sangli District recorded an HFL of 546.9 Meters on 09 Aug 2019, breaking all previous records. Irwin Bridge, a historic bridge built in 1929 in Sangli city, recorded a river stage that the bridge had never experienced. Sangli and the nearby region are is not new to floods and has witnessed devastating floods in 1853, 1856, 1914, 2005, 2006 and latest 2019.
Same is the story downstream. Especially in the pilgrimage center of Narsoba Wadi near Kurundwad town of Kolhapur District. Situated at the confluence of Krishna and Panchaganga, floods are not new to Narsoba Wadi. In fact, there are elaborate flood rituals, in which the deity is moved to upper precincts after each flood event. But here too, 2019 floods broke all previous records, including the 1914 HFL.
Photos, videos and brief interviews by Abhay Kanvinde (taken in September 2019), show us the extent that Krishna waters had reached and all that they had swallowed in the first two weeks of August 2019.
Following recent Punjab floods, the Punjab Chief Minister said that the state government would go for canalisation of rivers, as if that is going to help in managing or avoiding flood disaster. This proposal seems to come out from nowhere, but considering that the CM talked about funding by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, either this is already under discussion or these institutes have proposed this to the Chief Minister. The Proposal seems blind to the impacts, costs, risks and wider implications of the canalisation of rivers.
To avoid duplication, the excellent report in MINT below provides detailed reasons why it is a disastrous Idea. The Indian Express report below is in fact a bad example of reporting, since it does not even mention the impacts, costs or risks of the canalisation proposal. And the report that follows these two from California in USA shows how there the work is ongoing to reverse the trend and bring more flood plains in connection with the rivers at a huge cost. Why do we have to repeat the blunders of others, as propagated by the World Bank and ADB and then pay the price in reversing the blunders?
In a shocking revelation, Jay Mazoomaar in this Indian Express report exposes how Wildlife Institute of India not only accepted consultancies from hydropower companies, but also diluted the mandate for the studies for given by statutory bodies like NGT, NBWL and FAC, but also provided compromised reports catering to the interests of the hydropower developers, thus trying to clear the way for the two controversial mega hydropower projects, one each in Dibang and Lohit river basins in Arunachal Pradesh. https://indianexpress.com/article/north-east-india/arunachal-pradesh/wildlife-institute-all-for-hydel-projects-in-arunachal-pradeshs-tiger-zone-5499656/
In case of the 3097 MW Etalin project being developed by Jindal and Arunachal Pradesh govt, the IE report says: “the WII was asked by the Ministry (MoEF) to assess the feasibility of the plan that requires 1,166 hectares of forestland in the valley. The Ministry’s move followed a recommendation from its Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) to conduct an environment impact assessment study. Instead, the WII initiated a study to find how the project’s impact on wildlife can be minimised”. Thus instead of doing the mandated scientific impact assessment, the WII initiated a study to minimise the project’s impact.
The tendency of filling up reservoirs in the beginning and middle of monsoon season have been leading to avoidable flood disasters in the country. Apart from Kerala flood 2018, which was aggravated by mismanagement of reservoirs, various reports show that reservoirs in river basin of Cauvery, Krishna, Godavari and Ganga were also filled up well before the end of South West monsoon season. Resultantly there were many man made flood spells in downstream areas affecting lives and livelihoods of people.
After highlighting role of dams in floods in Kerala and how improper dam operation affected people in Assam and Himachal Pradesh, this third and concluding part throws light on other dam induced flood (and canal breach) incidents in 2018. Continue reading “Dams Floods 2018: Filling up Dams well before Monsoon end, Invitation to Disaster”
Central Water Commission is the only agency doing flood forecasting in India. As per CWC’s Flood Forecasting website[i] the Data Flow Map has information about 226 Flood Forecast Sites in the country comprising of 166 Level Forecast Sites and 60 Inflow Forecast Sites. It also monitors 700 Flood sites, information made available through List Based Exploration and Hydrograph View, but no flood forecasting is done for these sites.
In order to better understand the CWC’s flood monitoring and forecasting work, in this article, we have given an overview of CWC’s flood forecasting and monitoring sites in South India. It includes state wise list of CWC’s Level Forecast, Inflow Forecast and level monitoring sites in South India. Similar report has been published for North India[ii] and North East India[iii] and East India[iv].
Tamil Nadu There are 3 Level Forecasting, 48 Level Monitoring and 14 Inflow Forecasting sites in Tamil Nadu State. Out of total 65 sites, 19 Level Monitoring and 2 Inflow Forecasting sites are inactive. MWL information is given only for 1 Inflow Forecasting site out of 14. IRRUKKANKUDI, Sathanur and Gomukhi sites are repeated with incomplete information. Out of 48, HFL figure and date is not provided for 25 Level Monitoring sites.
This fourth rivers review presents developments related to rivers in States of South India including Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka.
Telangana Rivers 2017
Manair River Garbage polluting Manair river The shores are being polluted by the Municipal Corp of Karimnagar (MCK), which is dumping garbage generated from the town. Other private agencies such as chicken centres, hotels, private hospitals, mechanical shops and others too are also dumping garbage generated at their places into the river Manair. The State Govt had decided to develop the Manair front on the lines of Sabarmati river front development, which would spell further disaster for the river. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/Garbage-polluting-Manair-river/article17113713.ece (The Hindu, 30 Jan. 2017)
In this comprehensive article Mumbai-based author Vaishnavi Chandrashekhar throws the light on the plight of Uraban Rivers. “Rivers and streams have borne the brunt of the recent urban explosion in India, a nation whose population has nearly doubled in the last 40 years to 1.35 billion. Unplanned growth has led to the use of water bodies as dumping grounds for sewage and industrial effluent. According to CPCB, 63 % of the urban sewage flowing into rivers (some 62 billion liters a day) is untreated.
In addition, riverbanks, wetlands, and floodplains have been claimed over time by infrastructure, slums, offices, and housing developments – all of which has narrowed natural river channels and distorted flow, greatly reducing the ability of India’s rivers to buffer flooding. It also has taken a toll on biodiversity. http://e360.yale.edu/features/dying-waters-india-struggles-to-clean-up-its-polluted-urban-rivers (Yale Environment 360, 15 Feb. 2018)
Great to see this focus on aquatic biodiversity (unfortunately the article keeps using the word marine biodiversity, not using the word aquatic or freshwater biodiversity even once) along the 120 km long Sindhudurg Coast line, one of the 11 ecologically sensitive habitats identified along India’s coasts.
The FIRST study of local Otter Population by Ela Foundation identified upto 591 Smooth coated otters (strangely article does not mention about existence of small clawed Otters in Sindhudurg), 561 Indo Pacific humpbacked dolphins, among many others. The coast is particularly river rich with some twelve creeks/ rivers including Shanti, Piyali, Naringre, Achra, Gad, Talavade, Otawane and Pithdhaval Rivers.
The biodiversity here is facing multiple threats including rapid urbanisation, tourism onslaught with attendant plastic and sewage disposal, unregulated fishing trawlers, illegal sand mining, and global warming. It also underlines the need to do assessment of any interventions done in the area, of impacts on the aquatic biodiversity. http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/orphans-in-the-wild-what-the-otter-s-trying-to-tell-us-about-our-oceans/story-IfRFFi63Q8nV7UkUK4c16O.html (The Hindustan Times, 14 January 2018)
This is about two states, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana (the latter being 29th Indian state formed in 2013 after a protracted struggle). Since the discussion is on the state of rivers, it may be noted that these are two states whose historical trajectory is intrinsically linked to the history of, mainly, two major rivers—Krishna and Godavari, although the two states have many other rivers.
In fact, Telangana, was created after many years of struggle and out of one basic river-water discourse: over the utilisation of Godavari river and unequal development of the Godavari delta region vis-à-vis Telangana on account of the numerous irrigation projects and hydro-power projects commissioned and implemented in the coastal Andhra region.
In the wake of the recent contention between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh and the resolution over utilisation of the other river, Krishna, the state of rivers in Andhra Pradesh cannot be seen without addressing the same in Telangana, which have a historical trajectory that necessitates an understanding of the two states together while discussing rivers.
To some extent, this report looks at the politics over rivers and the contemporary development paradigm, involving construction of hydro-electric projects and several subsidiary projects using rivers, as one of the major threats to the life of rivers. These projects also add to pollution, displacement, protracted battles, sometimes involving violence, such as the one we are witnessing over Cauvery river between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, where even Tribunals seem to have failed.