DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 1 March 2021: Actions speak louder than words on PM’s appeal for water, river conservation

In his #MannKiBaat on Feb 28, 2021, India’s Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi appealed to people to conserve our Rivers, Water, referring to Magh Purnima on Feb 27 2021 and Sant Ravi Das teachings. He also said that India’s traditions, festivals, scriptures, etc have so much place for rivers, also mentioning the Kumbh mela this year at Haridwar. He mentioned that a 100 day campaign will be launched soon by the Jal Shakti Ministry for rainwater harvesting. He gave several examples from across the country where individuals and groups have taken up such words.

All that sounds fine and welcome. But the trouble is that his all-powerful government is working consistently and with increasing intensity towards opposite direction. This very week his Power Minister expressed ignorance if hydropower projects have any environmental adverse impact, right in the face of destruction wrought by the hydropower projects in Chamoli disaster in Uttarakhand on Feb 7, 2021. Why is the Union Government still pushing hydropower projects which are no longer even economically viable, they never were environmentally sustainable or socially acceptable.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 22 Feb 2021: Case against NTPC for criminal negligence in Tapovan Project?

(Feature image: NDRF personnel carry out rescue and restoration work at damaged Tapovan Vishnugad barrage after the massive flash flood. PTI/Arun Sharma)

Consider these facts: The NTPC, the project developer, failed to appraise that the 520 MW Tapovan Vishnugad Hydropower project, where maximum damage and deaths occurred in Chamoli Avalanche disaster that started on Feb 7, 2021 morning, is in Paraglacial influence zone. Such an appraisal would have meant a number of implications, including possibly a decision that the project is geologically unviable.

NTPC failed to take any action to save the workers even after it was known upto 10-20 minutes before the disaster struck. Something that Mangshri Devi could do to save about 25 lives, NTPC could not do.

The project had faced several disasters since 2008, but fails to put in early warning system in place. For several days post disaster, reports say that NTPC failed to share even the detailed map of the tunnel where over 30 workers were stuck. NTPC’s disaster management system showed no signs of existence throughout the disaster. Reports say that the barrage gates were closed, which if they were open, it may have helped the flow of the flood debris downstream, which in turn could have possibly meant more time and saving of more lives.

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Dams, Rivers & People

DRP NB 15 Feb. 2021: Why Mangshri Devi of Tapovan Should Head Uttarakhand’s Disaster Management Department?

Feature image Tapovan-Vishnugad hydropower project in Chamoli district on Feb., 7 by Gajendra Yadav, Express Photo

In a fantastic story, Shivani Azad of The Times of India has reported possibly the most remarkable story of the Chamoli avalanche disaster that started on Sunday morning on Feb 7, 2021. She reported that Vipul Kairuni of Dhaak village in Tapovan, working at the time at the now destroyed Tapovan Vishnugad project, got saved thanks to frantic calls by his mother Mangshri Devi as she and his wife saw from their village home, situated at a height from the river, that a massive flood is approaching the dam site. It was thanks to frantic, repeated calls by Mangshri Devi that not only Vipul, but at least two dozen more people could run to safety of a ladder and saved their lives.

So effectively, Mangshri Devi has saved at least two dozen lives in Chamoli disaster. Who else can claim to have achieved anything like that in the disaster? The disaster management department seems completely absent from the scene either in terms of pre disaster monitoring or in taking steps to save lives during the disaster. In fact, there should have been an early warning system in place that could have saved many more lives. But it does not exist. Either in Rishiganga/ Dhauliganga basin or anywhere else in Uttarakhand. NTPC’s Tapovan Vishnugad Project has faced so many disasters already since 2008, but is only now talking about putting in place early warning system. Should not the NTPC and power ministry top brass as well as Uttarakhand disaster management department held accountable for that?

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Dams, Rivers & People

DRP NB 8 Feb. 2021: Will NITI Aayog study the costs of overturning the Radhakrishnan Judgement on Uttarakhand?

NITI Aayog, we learn, has started studies of implications of the Supreme Court and NGT orders on environment issues. In the context of the massive Chamoli disaster now unfolding in Uttarakhand, NITI needs to urgently institute an inquiry as to who all are responsible for overturning the Justice Radhakrishnan led verdict of Aug 13, 2013 about the June 2013 Uttarakhand disaster and role of hydropower projects in the disaster and the costs of overturning that verdict. In fact if the Justice Radhakrishnan verdict were to have been sincerely and honestly implemented to its logical conclusion, the proportions of the current Chamoli disaster and others would have been majorly reduced. So the costs are no doubt huge and mounting. Will NITI Aayog institute such an independent inquiry urgently?

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 25 Jan. 2021: UN warns about aging Dams & Floods in changing climate

A new UN report released on January 21, 2021 UN has warned the major big dam owning counties about the aging population of fast silting up dams in changing climate and urgent need to start working on decommissioning of uneconomical large dams. Among the few countries that UN has warned includes India with its third largest number of big dams. The added problem in India is the ill maintained and ill operated large dams that UN report did not look into. Indian dams are sanctioned based on highly under estimated siltation rates, there is practically no transparency and accountability in operation of Indian dams and dam almost every year get away with creating avoidable flood disasters. This latest problem is not just related to old dams, but even the newest celebrated ones like the Sardar Sarovar Dam as happened in Gujarat in late August-early Sept 2020. No legal regime exists in India for dam safety, either structural safety or operational safety. And in changing climate, with increasing frequency of higher intensity rainfall events, such risks are already increasing multi-fold.

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Wetlands

Wetlands Overview 2020: Judiciary is active, but remains ineffective

The highlight of the overview of wetlands in India in 2020 here (keeping aside the Wetlands related developments in Maharashtra in 2020 and Positive wetlands related developments in 2020, on both these subjects we have published separate reports), is that the National Green Tribunal (NGT), various High Courts and even the Supreme Court have been quite active on wetlands front, but there is very little impact of this on the wetlands and their governance in India. This is basically because, and this is the second key highlight of this overview, the central and state governments have shown almost no interest, understanding or will to protect the wetlands. This is in spite of the huge number of new Indian wetlands brought under the Ramsar convention in 2020, since experience and also this overview shows that Ramsar convention does not seem to particularly help the fate of the wetlands. The third highlight of the overview is that there is a lot of civil society effort, both in terms of advocacy and work on ground for the protection of wetlands in India. In fact the legal action that we see in the NGT and Courts is largely due to their efforts. In fact whatever little positive developments we see here is coming from community and civil society efforts.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 4 Jan 2021: Bangladesh declares Halda River as Fisheries Heritage

Bangladesh has declared the whole 81 km long Halda River, a tributary of Karnaphuli River in Chittagong in South East Bangladesh. The Halda river is also famous for breeding pure Indian carp. This is the only pure Indian carp breeding field of Bangladesh, perhaps in South Asia. This is a remarkable river conservation decision that has a lot of lessons for much bigger India where no river has been protected as fisheries heritage. This is great way to begin the first weekly DRP Bulletin of 2021 and we hope the Indian government, civil society and judiciary will take due note of this.

Controversy is never far away from any such river conservation efforts as is evident from the news about proposal for a Halda River based water supply project for industrial estate that has been opposed by the Fisheries ministry, water resources ministry, the River Conservation Commission, the Department of Environment and independent researchers.

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Fish, Fisheries, Fisherfolk

Inland Fish, Fisheries, Fisher-folks: 2020 Overview

Inland fisheries support millions of people and remains a major source of nutrition for a very large number of poorest people. This includes riverine fisheries, reservoir fisheries, wetland and local water body fisheries. Here we try to provide an overview of developments in this sector during the year 2020.

The overview has following sections: Policy & Governance in Centre, followed by in States, some positive developments, Covid-19 & Fishing Community, Fisher folks’ struggles, New Fish Species, Invasive fish, Fish Deaths & Pollution, Over fishing & Extinction, Studies related to inland fisheries.

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Urban Water Bodies

CITIZEN’S AGENDA FOR BELLANDUR-VARTHUR CATCHMENT

Guest Blog by MS. NIRMALA GOWDA

Following the trail of Bellandur and Varthur lakes rejuvenation, we discovered the rejuvenation process of the infamous burning lake of Bengaluru to be ad-hoc , illogical and not supported by well documented data and scientific facts. We published a report, “Citizen’s Agenda for Bellandur/Varthur Catchment”, which is a critical review of the works done by the Karnataka state government based on its submissions to NGT and our own site investigations over a period of time. In-depth analysis revealed continued wanton neglect of responsibilities, eluding courts with inaccurate facts and escaping public scrutiny with non-transparent operations.   

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 2 Nov. 2020: Citizen Efforts to Save our Rivers

It’s heartening to see at least three citizen efforts that media has brought to limelight this week, two in Odisha and one from the banks of Godavari river in Nasik. Besides being citizen efforts, one common theme is that all these initiatives is that they concern rivers. Great news to celebrate in this festival season, also when India Rivers Week is also conducting weekly Dialogues on River sand mining.

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