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.
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?
In July 2018, the National Green Tribunal appointed a Yamuna Monitoring Panel for Delhi, the term of this panel is over and it has submitted its final report. NGT had also appointed similar committees for Haryana and Uttar Pradesh stretch of Yamuna, but those panels never functioned as actively as did the Delhi panel. We urge NGT to accept the petition now filed by Manoj Mishra to give extension to the Delhi Yamuna Monitoring Committee (DYMC) and direct that this committee will continue to function and monitoring and compliance panel for Yamuna river in Delhi.
There is a lot one can say positively about this committee, but arguably the biggest factors are its activeness, responsiveness and transparency. This can be easily seen visiting its website or its twitter page (https://twitter.com/ngtmcyamuna2). The committee also acted as a bridge between various institutions dealing with Yamuna in Delhi and ensured better coordination. The committee’s work is also evident in the number of reports it has submitted, all available on its website. There is always room for improvement in functioning of any such organisation, but this a lot and there are very few cases where one can say this.
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?
This must be the defining (and predictable, this was the lead story in our DRP NB of April 27, 2020, see: https://sandrp.in/2020/04/27/drp-nb-27-april-2020-for-whom-is-this-unviable-etalin-project-being-pushed/) moment in the campaign to save the Dibang Valley now from the proposed 3097 MW Etalin Hydropower Project. The CEO of Jindal Power Ltd has said in so many words that project is NOT an attractive investment, they will struggle to find buyers for the costly power and only support from government can help make the project viable. The CEO seemed to suggest that they would be happy to sell the project to NHPC or form a joint venture with NHPC to get the govt funding for the project. Again completely on predictable line. The question then is why should government spend previous public money on such an unviable project?
So the question remains the same, the one we asked on April 27, 2020: For whom is this unviable Etalin Project being pushed?
WII skips multi-seasonal study on Etalin, cheats its way to compile a conservation plan; MoEFCC and FAC ignore all FANTASTIC REPORT The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) spent only four months on field while compiling a multi-seasonal replicate study on the Jindals’ 3097 mw Etalin Hydro Electric Power Company Ltd (EHEPCL) in Dibang Valley in Arunachal, and it relied on earlier studies conducted in the region. The forest advisory committee (FAC) of the union ministry of environment, forests & climate change (MoEFCC) and the ministry itself did not bother to ask any questions as to how the study was compiled, even though one of its own reports states that four months’ study was carried out. Instead, the FAC formed a subcommittee to look into the “concerns related to tree enumeration process and the aspects highlighted in biodiversity assessments study by WII.” The wildlife study done by the WII is accepted in toto by the subcommittee, the subcommittee report says. The subcommittee included a member of the WII who was part of the team that cheated its way to compile a questionable report on Etalin. https://arunachaltimes.in/index.php/2020/05/03/wii-skips-multi-seasonal-study-on-etalin-cheats-its-way-to-compile-a-conservation-plan-moefcc-and-fac-ignore-all/ (03 May 2020)
A large number of stories this week remind us that India urgently needs national urban water policy.
The water footprint of urban areas is gradually on the rise. The cities have several problems with management including destruction of water sources, groundwater exploitation, poor performance in treating and recycling the polluted water, pollution and encroachment on water bodies etc. To fulfil their growing demands new dams, barrages and check dams are being planned, proposed and built on the rivers in faraway places, which is in turn displacing and depriving the local people of equitable water share.
Even before onset of summer, the Army in Sagar district have started patrolling Chitora dam to prevent water thefts (denying farmers to take dam water for irrigation).
Cloud burst incidents are on the increase across Himalayan states. The states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh have faced 23 and 16 cloud burst incidents in the south west monsoon 2019. This account compiles such reports from Jammu Kashmir (J&K) and north eastern Himalayan states.
The Prime Minister finally found time to have the first ever meeting on National Ganga Council, over three years after the Ganga Notification of Oct 7, 2016. The meeting happened at Kanpur, where the NGT recently fined the state government for continuing to release untreated effluents into the Ganga. In fact NGT in recent weeks have taken several decisions that also shows how abysmally the govt has failed on Ganga front. And now after the first NGC meeting, the Prime Minister, in an effort to divert attention from Namami Gange failure, is proposing the new slogan of Arth Ganga, which basically seems to suggest focus on Money, which is Exactly what is not going to help the cause of Ganga. The Ganga is still on the lookout for the Ganga putra that promised a clean Ganga in May 2014.
Cloud burst incidents are emerging as a major threat for the Himalayan states. Of late, the extreme weather event have been causing large scale destruction in ecologically sensitive and remotely located vulnerable hilly areas. In 2018 between May 2 and July 20, the Uttarakhand state saw around 13 cloud bursts event which have increased to 23 in 2019 monsoon season resulting in wide scale damages.
This compilation for Himachal Pradesh state shows that the state is suffering even bigger destruction of infrastructure including roads, buildings, bridges and hydro projects due to increasing cloud burst events. At the same time the monitoring and mitigation efforts are totally insufficient and inadequate.