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South India Rivers Review 2017: More Water for Cities from Drying Rivers

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)

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DRP News Bulletin 19 February 2018 (How Are We Treating Our Urban Rivers?)

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) 

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DRP News Bulletin 15 January 2018 (Do We Care About Rivers’ Aquatic Bio-diversity?)

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)

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Rivers Profile of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana States 

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.

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Karnataka Rivers Profile

Karnataka is one of the four southern states of Peninsular India (Figure 1a), came into existence with the passage of the States Reorganisation Act (1956, Nov 1) and is located 11°30′ North and 18°30′ North latitudes and 74° East and 78°30′ East longitude (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geography_of_Karnataka). The state covers an area of 191,976 km² (5.83% of India‘s geographical area). Karnataka is the eighth largest Indian  state by area, the ninth largest by population and comprises 30 districts (figure 1b) divided in to 4 administrative divisions, 270 towns and 29406 villages (http://ssakarnataka.gov.in/). The state is situated on a table land where the Western and Eastern Ghats ranges converge into the complex, in the western part of the Deccan Peninsular region of India. Karnataka is bordered by the Arabian Sea to the west, Goa to the northwest, Maharashtra to the north, Andhra Pradesh to the east, Tamilnadu to the southeast, and Kerala to the southwest.

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Maharashtra Rivers Profile

Above: Major River Basins of Maharashtra Source: MWRRA

Major Issues faced by Rivers of Maharashtra include complete lack of governance geared towards protecting rivers as ecological systems, unjustifiable dam projects blocking most of the rivers of the state without even comparable benefits, increasing water conflicts, depleting groundwater levels which affect base flow of the rivers, catchment degradation, climate change induced changes in river hydrology, repeated droughts and increasing levels of pollution.

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