On April 16, 2019, Delhi High Court bench decided to initiate a Public Interest Litigation based on a newspaper report that not much rainwater harvesting or groundwater recharge is happening in spite of years of talk that seems to have remained empty. This is a welcome move and one hopes HC takes the issue to its logical conclusion.
Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has possibly inadvertently, started a debate that really needs to be honestly looked at: ARE BIG DAMS ATM MACHINES FOR POLITICIANS? He may have raised the issue only in the context of Polavaram Dam and Andhra Government, but the question is equally valid for all big dams across the country. Including for Sardar Sarovar Dam, as Andhra Water Resource Minister has possibly only rhetorically asked.
As analysis by SANDRP and others including by numerous CAG reports have shown, dams are not adding to Net National Irrigated area since over 25 years. They in fact worsen the groundwater recharge and sustainability situation, directly and indirectly. And groundwater remains our water lifeline since several decades and will remain so. And yet, thousands of crores get spent on big dam every year, while such resources are not available for sustenance of groundwater, India’s water lifeline. This election, we wont have that honest debate, since both the initiator and responder are not particularly serious about it. Nor the media seems to have the stomach for such a debate. WHEN WILL WE HAVE AN HONEST DEBATE THAT WILL ANSWER THIS QUESTION: ARE DAMS ATM MACHINES FOR POLITICIANS?
As joint monitoring report by Paryavaran Surakhsha Samiti (PSS) and Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) shows, Sabarmati is severely polluted river, downstream of Ahmedabad and is practically a dead river. Upstream of Ahmedabad, the once perennial river has no water of its own and is stealing the Narmada water meant for drought prone areas.
This incidentally is supposed to be model river rejuvenation as told to SANDRP coordinator on a television channel by no less than Executive Director (Technical) of National Mission on Clean Ganga. In fact posters during the 2014 Parliamentary elections in Varanasi, where Mr Modi fought from, said exactly that. So is the National Ganga river going down that path? Narmada itself is in same situation downstream of the dam in Gujarat as another report here shows. Gujarat model has many examples to show, it seems.
A report of groundwater pollution in Luna village accessed by Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) has once again pointed to the alarming rate of groundwater contamination in the industrial belt in Padra in Vadodara. The report accessed through RTI found that that the Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) level in groundwater was an alarming 2225mg/I and 27222mg/I in October and December 2018.
It should be noted that even in treated effluent water the accepted levels of COD is 250 mg/I. For ground water the level should be nil. The report was a result of joint investigation carried out by the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), Farmers Action Group (FAG) and affected farmers in October and December 2018.
Telangana Sand Mining Incidents
Illegal miners let scot free Allegations of illegal red sand mining surfaced at Dasugadd Tanda area barely 15 km from the Sangareddy district headquarters. Officials have seized vehicles and imposed a fine but the offenders were allowed to go scot-free. Officials reason that the accused were let off since they belonged to Lambada community and any action against them would have created unnecessary trouble for the administration. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/deep-pits-found-illegal-mining-of-red-sand-alleged/article22277688.ece (26 Dec. 2017)
Agents profiteering from illegal sale of sand A two-part YouTube video report titled, “How to do sand booking online and make 2000 Per Day” tells viewers how one could earn anywhere between Rs 500 and Rs 2000 for each booking by striking a deal with lorry drivers. The report revealed that, there are agents who are still profiteering from illegal sale of sand. The govt website called ‘sand.telangana.gov.in’ mandates that those who want sand need to do the booking from one of the govt operated stockyards across the state.
The YouTube video with over 60,000 views explains how one could book sand by striking a deal with any of the lorry drivers approved by the Road Transport Authority. The website lists out the phone numbers of the drivers, and says that a deal could be cut with them to resell this sand at a higher rate. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/it-easy-game-telangana-govt-s-sand-policy-video-surfaces-startling-claims-84513 (10 July 2018)
Karnataka is one of the leading states to witness the devastating effects of rampant sand mining. Between 2015 and 2018, the state has officially registered 20,779 cases of illegal sand mining, and 9,599 FIRs.
The state govt is receiving approximately Rs 150 crore per year as royalty from legitimate sand mining. As per estimates, the state govt is losing around Rs 200 crore per year due to illegal sand mining.
According to cement manufacturing companies’ data, around 18 million tonnes (MT) of cement is sold in the state every year. The cement-sand mix ratio is either 1:4 or 1:6 (four or six bags of sand per cement bag). Even if 1:4 ratio is taken, 72 MT of sand is approximately used in the state every year.
The official data from the Department of Mines and Geology shows that from the blocks permitted by it, a total quantity of 30 MT of sand (from all types of blocks – river sand, patta land, blocks allocated to govt departments, and manufactured sand) is produced in the state. Thus, there is a difference of at least 42 MT sand compared to the cement sold in the state.
Two interesting orders from National Green Tribunal (NGT) marked important developments on water-environment issues this week. NGT asking for PERFORMANCE AUDIT of pollution Control Mechanism is indeed long overdue necessity, considering the complete, abject failure of the pollution control mechanism in India. The hopes of effective action, like in the past, however, were dashed since CPCB, which is PART OF THE PROBLEM has been asked to do the audit. An independent audit, in addition to one possibly by CAG may have helped. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/ngt-slams-state-pollution-bodies/article26008687.ece (17 Jan. 2019)
Whatever positive signs were available by this order were further dashed by another NGT order in which it declared that EIAs (Environmental Impact Assessment) reports are already taking climate change into account, while the tribunal dismissed a petition asking that all development activities be screened/ regulated keeping climate change in mind.
This is totally WRONG contention. Just to illustrate, SANDRP has been pointing out to the EAC, MoEF and the developers how the EIAs of dams and hydropower projects are ignoring the climate change related issues and impacts. In response the consultants and developers have responded, approved by the silent or spoken nods by the EAC and MoEF that these were not even part of their TORs! One only wishes NGT was most discerning before making such claims and would have gone through a few EIAs to see if at all EIAs are dealing with these issues with any rigour or credibility. https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/climate-change-already-covered-under-environment-impact-assessment-ngt-119011600897_1.html (16 Jan. 2019)
The coastline between Chavara and Alappad in Kollam district of Kerala, has a decades-long story of people’s battle for survival against mining companies. This stretch in Kerala is where the extensive mineral beach sand mining has been happening since the 1960s. The abandoned buildings are the remains of people’s failed agitations and indefinite strikes. One by one the villages in the area are vanishing from the map of Kerala. Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 14 January 2019: Will the campaign of 17 year old Alappad Girl Wake up the NATION to the perils of unsustainable sand mining?”
Andhra Pradesh Water Resources Information and Management System[i] is truly impressive water information system, possibly not available in any other state or even at national level, at any time in India. The comprehensiveness of the water information system is striking, as it not only includes reservoir water storages of Major and Medium Projects, but also storages in minor projects, minor tanks, water conservation structures (check dams, percolation tanks) but also groundwater and most importantly, soil moisture. These are collected in real time from diverse information sources including on ground measurements, satellite based assessments and also sent via mobile apps from diverse sources. And the information is put out in real time, along with number of analysis. The data are collated and analysed using tools from Vassar Labs, like Machine learning, Artificial Intelligence and big data. Continue reading “APWRIMS: Impressive Water Information System of Andhra Pradesh”