DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 24 Jan 2022: MoEF’s complete surrender: Rating SEIAA on faster clearances

If rating of the State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAA) of various states were to be done, it has to be based on how rigorous, how transparent, how participatory, how well defined, how consistent, how comprehensive, how rules following has been the functioning of the various SEIAA. Such an exercise has to be done by a panel of independent experts, who are experienced and knowledgeable about the various aspects of environmental governance and functioning of these authorities. In fact the exercise should also include the National EIAA too and the various Expert Appraisal Committees under it. It clearly cannot be what the MoEF has now proposed. What MoEF has proposed is completely against all basic norms of environmental governance and is part of MoEF’s complete surrender to the vested interests and not is not in the interest of environment governance. As the Tribune editorial noted, such blatant disregard of the environment is completely unacceptable. Similarly as the TOI editorial said, SEIAAs need to be independent of both business and governments. They should put the environment first, and last. There is a role of judiciary to step in here and ensure that MoEF does not go down this path.

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Wetlands

Top ten Judicial actions on India Wetlands-2021

Feature image: Deepor Beel boundaries still await proper demarcation (27 Dec. 2021) by G Plus.

This third part of Wetlands Overview 2021 provides details of top ten judicial interventions in India in 2021 regarding wetlands. The first part presented top ten stories about current situation of wetlands in the country and the second part covered top 10 actions by the state and central governments that affected the wetlands in positive and adverse manner. 

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Wetlands

Top ten India Wetlands stories about Govt actions in 2021

Feature image: UNDP mission to restore 9 wetlands in Andhra beings (The Hindu, 05 May 2021)

Here we highlight the top ten Wetlands India stories about Government actions in 2021 from media reports, including some positive and some adverse decisions taken by various state governments and centre. The first part has presented current situation of wetlands in the country through top 10 reports. The next part would present top 10 judicial interventions in India in 2021 regarding the wetlands.

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Wetlands

India’s Wetlands Overview 2021: Gross Misuse of even Ramsar sites

(Feature image:- Deepor Beel wetland area has been suffering from environmental degradation due to continuous encroachment and waste dumping. The Guwahati Municipality dump yard, located at Boragaon, lies in the eastern corner of Deepor Beel. Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar/Front Line)

Wetlands are important part of hydrological cycle and play critical role in water purification, climate moderation, biodiversity conservation and flood regulation apart from offering innumerable environmental services to aquatic, wildlife and human beings for which they are also referred as ‘kidneys of the earth’. There are more than 2 lakh wetlands in India covering nearly 4.6 per cent of its geographical area. Despite their essential services and significance, the already neglected wetlands eco-system have been facing multiple existential threats.

As part of its annual overview for 2021, SANDRP in three part series attempts to highlight the state of wetlands in India during past one year. This first part compiles the 10 top critical reports representing the present day status of wetlands across the country. The second part would cover various actions and initiative taken by the state governments and central government all through 2021 impacting the wetlands. The final part would deal with the judicial interventions on wetlands.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 17 Jan. 2022: Urban Water Mess visible in advocacy for Renuka and Mekedatu dams

This week brings heightened advocacy for major dams in the name of Urban Water supplies for cities that have no water policy, no worthwhile good water governance, but are happy demanding more and more water projects from further off places to cater to its unjustifiable demands. This is the underlying theme both in case of Renuka dam for Delhi and Mekedatu dam for Bangalore.

Some media reports are talking about need for additional storages, but in this advocacy there is no place for either efficient use of existing water storages, nor place for decentralised water storage options or underground water storage options, leave aside inclusion of soil moisture, which is a major storage option too.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 10 Jan 2022: Positive Groundwater stories from TN, Haryana

It’s rather rare that we have some positive stories related to groundwater. This week we have two: One each from Tamil Nadu and Haryana. A recent performance audit report, the CAG has lauded the Tamil Nadu Govt for regulating industry’s groundwater extraction. The CAG has also lauded TN for adopting ‘firka’(which are smaller than blocks and encompasses 10-15 villages) as the assessment unit in 2011 because this is expected to help in identification of pockets of groundwater potential within the over- exploited and critical blocks.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 27 Dec 2021: PM pushes unviable, destructive Hydro projects in HP

Feature Image: Renuka Dam Sangharsh Samiti members take out a protest march at Dadahu in Sirmaur district on Dec. 19, 2021. Tribune photo

What will be the realistic cost of power from hydropower projects being pushed by the Prime Minister during this visit today to Himachal Pradesh? One indication of that comes from the 111 MW Sawra Kuddu HEP that he inaugurates during his visit. The cost of this project is already over Rs 2080 Crores, likely to go up further. Which means per MW installed capacity, the cost is around Rs 20 Crores. At this cost, the cost of power from the project is likely to be over Rs 8 per unit even without factoring in the social, environmental and increased disaster vulnerability costs that such projects impose on the fragile Himalayan Mountains. As if to also remind the active seismic zone, on the eve of his visit, there were tremors, even if mild, in Mandi.

The Renuka dam that he lays the foundation for does not even have all the statutory clearances. Its EIA has been the most dishonest exercise, as came out in the NGT hearings. What signal is the government sending by laying foundation stone for such a project? Similar are the issues with Luhri I and Dhaulasidh HEPs. The government seems to be pushing such outdated, unviable, costly and destructive projects in fragile Himalayan regions, purely on political arithmetic assumptions, but possibly need to realise that these projects are not even popular and they are also most inappropriate in the climate change context. Or is it the lure of spending such huge sums of unaccountable public money that provide opportunities for getting election funds for the party that is driving such undemocratic decisions?

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 13 Dec. 2021: Gargai Dam Scrapped; Wise Move by BMC to Go for Alternatives

In a wise move, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has cancelled Gargai dam project. In its January 2014, submission to Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), SANDRP had highlighted the adverse impacts of this project on tribal people and Tansa Sanctuary stressing on alternatives including recycling of sewage and rain water harvesting. Finally, now the BMC has scrapped the unjustified project which would have caused felling of 4.5 lakh trees which BMC chief Iqbal Chahal rightly finds pointless in the wake of increasing climate change threats.

It is worth to mention that in February 2020 BMC was learnt reconsidering its Pinjal dam project and exploring other options including waste water recycling. Indeed the BMC is taking right steps. Dams are costly, destructive projects impacting rivers, forests and local people in multiple ways. The demand side management, efficient use of existing water supplies, rain water harvesting and recycling of waste water are among far better alternatives to meet urban water demands.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 6 Dec 2021: NGT demands accountability for Ganga Cleaning

The NGT demanding that there is need for greater transparency in the Ganga Cleaning efforts by NMCG and others, leading to accountability for the expected results is no doubt welcome if it were to become a reality. It has been required for long, since the Ganga Cleaning Efforts started in 1980s when Ganga Action Plan started, and it is even more required with the promises coming from the Prime Minister, no less today. Unfortunately, there is no real improvement in the state of the river, as the NGT has said. One only hopes that this latest initiative will lead to some real change, even through the track record of judiciary (including NGT) in this regard is far from inspiring.  

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Fish, Fisheries, Fisherfolk

WFD 2021: Of looming & existing threats on fish & fisherfolks

The fish species, fisheries sector and fisherfolk communities in India and South Asia have been undergoing a whole range of anthropogenic threats, sustainability challenges amid turbulent climatic factors casting a complex and uncertain impacts on the overall wellbeing of their future and survival. As part of World Fisheries Day (WFD) 2021, SANDRP has been tracking the critical issues. In first two parts of three part series we have already put together incidents of mass fish death and positive developments taking place in past one year.

This third and final part of the 2021 series focuses on remarkable ongoing resistance by fisher-folks showing constant struggle and firm determination. The report also covers relevant studies underlining adverse impacts of dams, hydro projects and climate change on freshwater fish and dependent fisherfolks. It has briefs on how impacts of pollution and encroachment of water bodies, mining, coastal zone development, invasive fish, aquaculture is gradually going up along with concerns and efforts to address them. Some of the pro and anti-fish, fisherfolks decisions by central and state govts are also compiled here.  

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