DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 7 Sep 2020: On Himalaya Diwas, will Supreme Court stop destruction of Himalaya by Char Dham Road?

The people and state government of Uttarakhand would be celebrating Himalayan Diwas on September 9; the Supreme Court of India would be hearing the issues related to the controversial Char Dham Road project a day before it on September 08. During the last hearing on August 31, the apex court has rescheduled the case by extending the hearing date by a week amid concerns of recurring landslides raised by the petitioners.

The ongoing adverse impacts on forests, rivers, streams, soil covers, hills and people continue to concerns scientists, geologist who are alarmed by the scale of destruction and shocked by the brazen manner the state and central governments have been marching ahead without bothering to assess the impacts or address the genuine issues being raised by all concerned.

Multiple reports have been showing that the deliberate dilution of environmental rules and violations of already weakened norms applied by none other than governments themselves to avoid scientific scrutiny and push the project through climatically and ecologically sensitive mountains is proving to be a Himalaya blunder. There is still time to pause, ponder, review the project, assess the impacts, reduce road width and prepare an action plan to restore the damages and pay heed to scientific suggestions before the blunder leads to another inevitable disaster of Kedarnath or larger scale. Hope the apex court would not fail Himalayas.  

Continue reading “DRP NB 7 Sep 2020: On Himalaya Diwas, will Supreme Court stop destruction of Himalaya by Char Dham Road?”
DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 24 August 2020: Janta Parliament discusses some serious water issues

While Indian Parliament has not met since March 2020, Civil Society Groups came together and held a Janta (people’s) Parliament from Aug 16 to 21 Aug 2020, where citizens from across the country from all walks of life enthusiastically participated. On Aug 18 there was a three hour session on Environment issues (such a session is a rarity in Indian Parliament), as part of which, there was a presentation on Water related issues where SANDRP coordinator was invited to speak. Two water related resolutions were passed among others, by the Janta Parliament, one on Flood Management and another on Urban Water Management. See below for details.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 10 August 2020: CANCEL EIA 2020!

Anyone who cares for India, its people and their future and who even remotely understands environmental governance and democratic process will come to just one conclusion about the Draft EIA (Environment Impact Assessment) 2020: CANCEL IT.

We certainly need change in the current EIA process. The whole thing is a major fraud at every stage, from the exclusion from large number of activities from the scope of EIA process, to scoping to quality of EIA, to the track record of the EIA consultants, to the process of selection of EAC (Expert Appraisal Committee) and its functioning, to public hearing and consultation process, to the complete absence of capacity or even will to monitor and achieve compliance of the approved project, every step needs strengthening, from the current EIA process based on the 2006 notification.

But the Draft EIA 2020 takes the current EIA process in opposite direction: Weakening it every step of the way. So there is no doubt that the only real option before the govt is to CANCEL IT.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 03 Aug 2020: India needs to demand info from China on Brahmaputra issues

Two important developments this week underline once again the need for Indian govt to demand clear responses from China. One is about the threat of landslide outburst flood that may enter India via Siang. A landslide dam has been formed on the Jianpu glaciers that feeds the Yigong Tsangpo, a tributary of Yarlung Tsangpo, as Siang is known by that name in Tibet. This landslide dam can breach anytime, and bring a high wave of sudden & destructive flood in Arunachal Pradesh. Chintan Sheth, who monitors this area through use of satellite imagery, has once again (his warnings on such landslide outburst dams in the past has been very accurate and useful) warned us about this through an excellent and detailed article quoted below, in Arunachal Times. Such information should actually be coming from Govt of India’s elaborate satellite imagery capabilities. At least now the Govt of India needs to ask China to share all information about this landslide dam and share that information with the people of Arunachal Pradesh at greatest risk due to such floods.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 20 July 2020: Will the Supreme Court stop destruction of Ganga & Himalayas in the name of WIDER Char Dham Road?

Feature Image: Pithoragarh-Tanakpur Road widening work going and muck being dumped in Saryu river under Chardham project. (Manoj Matwal, April 2019) 

The Supreme Court appointed Ravi Chopra committee has submitted the report on Char Dham Road. It has not said NO to the all weather road which is the slogan of Gadkari and rest of the Union Government. It has in fact, going by the Union Ministry of Road Transport’s’ circular, as late as 2018, suggested that the road be of 5.5 m width with necessary precautions. It has provided elaborate justifications and reasons why it took this decision. And yet twelve govt members of the committee, claiming in the name of religion (as per interview by one of these twelve members in media today) has insisted that the road should be of 10 m width. Not bothering that religion was not part of their mandate, not bothering what impact such a road will have on the Ganga (and the impact will be massive, we will know the full extent only if the impacts are scientifically assessed), on Himalayas (again starting from deforestation, landslides, flash floods and so on will be unbelievably huge) and on people and future generations. One only hopes the Supreme Court will see through the mindlessness of the economic fundamentalism being pushed in the name of religion and not allow the proposal to go ahead.

The Union Environment Ministry is clearly out to destroy even the Bhagirathi Eco-Sensitive Zone by sanctioning the Zonal Master Plan without due process and in complete violation of the letter and spirit of the Bhagirathi notification. This will further open the flood gates for destruction of remaining stretch of Bhagirathi, considered original Ganga stream as it flows from Gangotri. Again one hopes the judiciary will strike this down.

One wonders what is the NMCG, National Mission for Clean Ganga, whose mandate is Ganga rejuvenation, is doing amidst all this? Why is it silent?

Continue reading “DRP NB 20 July 2020: Will the Supreme Court stop destruction of Ganga & Himalayas in the name of WIDER Char Dham Road?”

CWC - Central Water Commission · Floods

CWC flood forecasting: Inadequate, non transparent, inconsistent

As over 4 million people in the flood prone areas of North East go through second wave of floods and Ganga basin enters the long flood season, nation’s focus should be on one particular agency, Central Water Commission which is not only the only flood forecasting agency, but is also answerable in multiple other ways for the recurring flood disaster. But the flood forecasting of CWC[i] is grossly inadequate, inconsistent and non transparent.

To illustrate, let us look at the available information about CWC’s flood forecasting and compare it with happened in 2019 flood season. Out of 29 sites[ii] (7 level monitoring sites and 22 Lavel forecasting sites) where rivers crossed the previous Highest Flood Level as per CWC’s own hydrographs of last year, CWC has not updated HFL for at least 8 sites so far this year. In case Salavad in Jhalawar district in Rajasthan, on Kali Sindh river, in stead of updating the new HFL, CWC suddenly discovered this year that that the site had higher HFL achieved 35 years ago in 1985, though till last year, it listed 1996 HFL! Continue reading “CWC flood forecasting: Inadequate, non transparent, inconsistent”

Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 13 July 2020: “Rainwater harvesting is key to solving India’s water woes”

INDEED. With all the emphasis available at our command. We are in the midst of the rainiest season and such a statement is indeed music. It would become even more melodious if one knows who said it: it was none other than Mr G. Asok Kumar, Additional Secretary & Mission Director, National Water Mission, Department of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India who said it. Speaking on July 8, 2020, he said: “Rainwater harvesting has become inevitable in the current scenario of water scarcity across the country… The idea is to save the rainwater be it on the rooftop, compounds, and premises.” Mr Kumar also emphasised the importance of groundwater recharge. 

We can pass it as run-of-the-mill statement from the government, but one is tempted to think there is more to it than that. One wishes if there was a way to hold these officials accountable for such statements and ask as to how this translates into policies, projects and practices. There is no evidence of any of these, unfortunately. Unless we were to interpret it cynically the way Central Water Commission ideologues do: Dams are also rain water harvesting structures! By that definition, even river linking is also rain water harvesting structure!! But Mr Kumar do not seem to suggest that. So let us hold on to this statement optimistically and push the water resources establishment to implement through right policies, practices and projects. Since that is where solution to India’s water problem indeed is. Unfortunately so far there is no sign that this wisdom is accepted in any serious way by the water resources establishment.

Continue reading “DRP NB 13 July 2020: “Rainwater harvesting is key to solving India’s water woes””

Dams · Sand Mining

Andhra Pradesh Riverbed Mining 2020: Quicksand of mismanagement

In 2019 overview, we saw the state of Andhra Pradesh experiencing all the key problems associated with sand mining; growing demand and prices, inadequate supply, illegal excavation affecting rivers and villagers and inactive govt bodies. Reports revealed Krishna and Vamasdhara rivers facing large scale mechanized mining while indiscriminate mining in Nagavali river affecting drinking water schemes in Regidi mandal. Srikakulam district and beaches particularly suffered.

There were reports showing political parties involved or facilitating illegal mining. Like other states, the Andhra govt was seen rallying on technological solutions to manage the mining. https://sandrp.in/2019/02/26/sand-mining-2018-telangana-and-andhra-pradesh/

The following overview since then show a whole range of developments. Unsustainable excavation of riverbed minerals & mismanagement show no end.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 15 June 2020: Athirapally, Bodhghat, Cauvery, Dibang, Etalin: New growth alphabets from the PMO?

A for Athirapally, B for Bodhghat, C for Cauvery, D for Dibang, E for Etalin, seems to be the new growth alphabets from the Prime Minister’s Office. With the economic growth in negative territory, depression in the corner, the old and trusted Big Dams as major infrastructure to push up expenditure and hope for the growth was a formula used even in 1930s by US president Franklin D Roosevelt to bring the US economy out of the Great depression of 1929. It started with the Tennessee Valley Authority Act of May 1933, which then was pushed as growth model to other countries. In India it came in the form of Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) Act of 1948.

However that 20th century model was a failure even then, as the first CEO of the DVC, Sudhir Sen wrote. That model is no longer relevant in 21st century except possibly as an easy route to corruption and kickbacks. These dams and hydropower projects are no longer even economically viable and better options are now available for irrigation and power. In the changing climate scene they are even less relevant places of worship (temples). Dams and hydropower projects are seeing slow down across the globe, not just in India.

Continue reading “DRP NB 15 June 2020: Athirapally, Bodhghat, Cauvery, Dibang, Etalin: New growth alphabets from the PMO?”

Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 08 June 2020: Banda Satyagaraha shows tip of the Sandberg

Feature image: Women in Banda performing Jal Satyagrah against illegal sand mining in Ken river. (PARI) 

Sand mining menace has been a very dark spot on India’s governance. It affects not just the river beds or flood plains, but also water security, livelihood security, biodiversity, groundwater recharge among many other aspects. Banda Satyagarah provides a striking picture to highlight this issue, but the worrying fact is that we have no real sustained positive story on this front. Even major interventions by the highest judiciary has completely failed to make any major dent on ground.

SANDRP has been bringing out statewise updates on sand mining issues for several years now as we continue to do this year too, with the link to Kerala sand mining 2020 overview can be found below. These overviews make a rather dismal readind state after state, year after year. Occasionally we get stories like the NOIDA collector Durga Shakti Nagpal fighting sand miners in 2013 or 17 year girl from Kerala awakening us in 2018 or Sandhya Ravishankar getting Goenka award for exposing the Sand mining nexus in Tamil Nadu in 2019 or now the Banda women waking us up to this dark reality. Will we wake up to our collective failure in dealing with this SANDBERG?

Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 08 June 2020: Banda Satyagaraha shows tip of the Sandberg”