As can be seen from the news reports from Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Arunchal Pradesh, Karnataka, among others, the opposition to Large Hydro Projects and Big Dam is growing all over India. These projects are neither economically viable, nor Socially-environmentally sustainable. There are much better options exist and hope the governments takes informed, democratic decisions. Going by the agenda and minutes of the recent Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects and other decisions, this hope seems far fetched at the moment.
The India Rivers Week 2018, in fifth year, will be held at WWF, Delhi during Nov 24-26, 2018. The focus of the IRW this time is: “Can India Rejuvenate Ganga?“. Shri Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Director General of the National Mission for Clean Ganga will address the inaugural session with Chief Guest Shri Jairam Ramesh, former Union Minister, in Chair. The meeting will see over 150 people from all over India participate to discuss state of India’s rivers at the only meeting in India focussing exclusively on rivers.
The Annual River Lecture will be given by Prof Rajiv Sinha of Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. The Bhagirath Prayas Samman award for the best work on River Conservation and the Anupam Mishra Medal for exemplary media work on River conservation will be given away by famous Chipco leader Shri Chandiprasad Bhatt.
Shri U P Singh, Secretary, Union Ministry of Water Resources has agreed to the chief guest at the concluding session on Nov 26, Monday. Started in 2014, the meeting is collectively organised by Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, WWF-India, INTACH, Toxics Link, People’s Science Institute (Dehradun), Peace Institute and SANDRP.
For more information, please see: https://indiariversforum.org/2018/11/19/india-rivers-week-2018/. Follow IRW at: https://www.facebook.com/IndiaRiversWeek/ and https://twitter.com/IndiaRiversWeek
Well-known ecologist Madhav Gadgil, founder of the Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, has described the devastating floods in Kerala as a man-made disaster and a reaction to the illegal excavations and stone quarrying done over a decade. https://www.hindustantimes.com/pune-news/illegal-forest-land-acquisition-major-reason-for-floods-in-kerala-says-ecologist-madhav-gadgil-calls-it-man-made-disaster/story-vMHPKUH623GEnjyQHI09NP.html (19 Aug. 2018)
Further speaking to various regional media, Madhav Gadgil has said that irresponsible environmental policy is to blame for the recent floods and landslides in Kerala. He also called it a “manmade calamity”. He said that the committee report had recommended to protect the resources with the cooperation of local self-govt and people, but those recommendations were rejected.
He also pointed out that quarrying is a major reason for the mudslides and landslides. Other environmentalists also point fingers at the extensive quarrying, mushrooming of high rises as part of tourism and illegal forest land acquisition by private parties as major reasons for the recent calamity. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/kerala-floods-the-ghost-of-past-environment-policy-returns/65436707 (17 Aug. 2018)
Dams should never be filled before the end of the monsoons. Because then one doesn’t have any solution but to release the water in the surrounding areas: Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP says as one of panellist discussing role of dams in aggravating Kerala floods.
Also see, NDTV discussion on Kerala flood crisis, it included SANDRP coordinator:
Here is NDTV Hindi discussion on Kerala flood crisis, included SANDRP coordinator:
Here is admission about sudden, excessive releases and not foreseeing the coming disaster. The Kerala crisis could have been contained had the state “gradually released” waters from at least 30 dams, officials said, adding that the local authorities failed to foresee the imminent danger with high rain prediction. “Such floods have probably recurred after 100 years, exposing the state’s unprofessionally run reservoir management system and unpreparedness on disaster mitigation and disaster resilience, an official pointed out. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kochi/gradual-dam-water-release-could-have-contained-crisis/articleshow/65436339.cms (17 Aug. 2018)
This week there are exemplary and encouraging wetlands revival stories from three metro cities of Chennai, Hyderabad and Delhi. In the first example from Hyderabad, meticulously chosen plant species such as tulsi, aswagandha, citronella and hibiscus have been used to create an artificial island to clean Neknampur Lake. The treatment islands are composed of four layers of which the bamboo base keeps the entire structure afloat. Based on soil-less hydroponics, these floating treatment wetlands absorb excess nitrates, thereby reducing the chemical content of the lake water. Microorganisms present in the wetland break down organic matter while the root systems filter out pollutants and sediments. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/3500-saplings-floating-islands-help-rejuvenate-hyd-neknampur-lake-75819 (The News Minute, 3 Feb. 2018)
Similarly, Chennai-based Care Earth Trust along with the public works department (PWD) and the civic body has managed to restore three urban lakes. While many of the smaller wetlands have vanished over time, many mid-sized wetlands seem to have shrunk by almost 65 percent. Thanks to their joint effort, invasive hyacinth was removed from the Narayanapuram Lake in Pallikaranai, while sewer lines, which emptied into the Perungalathur Lake, have now been plugged. A detailed restoration proposal has been forwarded to the PWD regarding the Korattur-Madhavaram-Ambattur lakes. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/hyacinth-out-sewer-line-plugged-three-water-bodies-restored/articleshow/62748110.cms (The Times of India, 2 Feb. 2018)
Meanwhile, Delhi Jal Board (DJB) has taken up interesting new project of creating an artificial lake in Dwarka. The project will supply water in sub-city and improve ground water level too. DJB has approved Rs. 56 crore for the project which will be completed in next seven months. This would the first model project wherein a lake will be used to augment water supply. The special lake is being created next to the Dwarka water treatment plant (WTP) will have a sand bed to allow maximum percolation of water into the ground. It will have a capacity of 10 million gallons (MGD). The project is expected to add supply of 5-6 million gallons water to Dwarka every day.
As per Counter View report, a well-informed Gujarat government source has told it that a major reason why the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL) recently declared there would be “no water” from the multi-purpose irrigation scheme, Sardar Sarovar dam, to Gujarat farmers starting March 15, 2018, is Madhya Pradesh elections, scheduled for this year-end.
The source, refusing to be identified, said, “Already, massive preparations are on in Madhya Pradesh to provide as much Narmada water to the state’s farmers by storing as much water as possible. The idea is to appease the farmers with Narmada waters in the same way as it was done last year before the elections took place in Gujarat.”
This shows how dams in Narmada Valley are being used for achieving political ends, once again. Earlier they were used for Gujarat elections, now they are being used for Madhya Pradesh elections. https://www.counterview.net/2018/01/narmada-waters-in-gujarat-stopped-to.html (Counter View, 20 January 2018)
In another report, anonymous official admits water shortage apparent in Nov 2017 before Gujarat polls was not announced, another indicator of how Narmada dams are used to achieve political ends. https://www.counterview.net/2018/01/narmada-water-for-irrigation-state.html (Counter View, 21 January 2018)
However, this is not happening for the first time. This also happened before the Nov 2017 Gujarat elections and also before 2014 General elections and 2012 Punjab elections, as illustrated below.
Before 2014 general elections too the level of water in Narmada reservoirs was depleted to generate additional power keeping in mind the elections. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/narmada-dams-levels-depleted-to-generate-more-electricity-threatening-water-security-for-gujarat-and-madhya-pradesh/
In case of Bhakra, the way the reservoir level was allowed to deplete in summer of 2012 had consequences in subsequent monsoon. https://sandrp.in/dams/PR_Why_precarious_water_situation_at_Bhakra_dams_was_avoidable_July_2012.pdf
As per NGT’s October 16, order, the Ministry of Environment & Forest (MoEF) was asked to set up a “neutral” panel to objectively consider conflicting recommendations that have stalled the 2,000-MW Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Project (HEP) on the Arunachal Pradesh-Assam border and come up with an “independent opinion” in three months.
The NGT said this was the only way to break the six-year logjam that has stalled a project vital to the “national interest.”
Contrary to this, MoEF on November 16, 2017 has set up a three-member panel with experts -who or their organisations- have all backed NHPC’s positions on the project in the past: Prabhas Pande, I D Gupta and P M Scott.
Apart from mentioning Govt failure in checking Ganga pollution, the Comptroller & Auditor General’s (CAG) performance audit report on Ganga rejuvenation tabled in Parliament on December 19, 2017 specifically mentions that National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) “could not finalize the long-term action plans even after more than six-and-a-half years of signing of agreement with the consortium of Indian Institutes of Technology”. The fact that NMCG does not have a “river basin management plan even after a lapse of more than 8 years of National Ganga River Basin Authority notification”, mentioned in the report also has great significance.
It is surprising that NMCG is working without a river basin management plan or a long-term action plan. The CAG performance audit is also lacking. It rightly mentions that infrastructure to treat pollution has not been created but does no assessment whether the creation of infrastructure alone would revive the river.
Further, CAG audit does not look into the issues if lessons from past failures have been learnt, corrections done, independent scrutiny institutionalised, participatory governance achieved, and if this business as usual approach is going to achieve any better results even if all the money were spent, all the DPRs were sanctioned, all the meetings happened, all the manpower available and all the STPs constructed?
Hence it critical that CAG performance audit should have tried to address these issues. Can the state of Ganga improve without improving the state of tributaries? CAG does not even look at this issue.
The CAG report shows that this programme provides no real hope for better future of Ganga and Modi and his government will have a lot to answer when they go to polls in less than 1.5 years. It’s a serious indictment for the govt in general and Modi in particular since he has said right from the beginning that Ganga is their priority and all that they have tried is audited here. http://www.livemint.com/Politics/KW6MIOrOvMvZvEGeozwifJ/CAG-slams-Centre-for-failing-to-utilize-funds-for-Ganga-reju.html; http://indianexpress.com/article/india/ganga-pollution-hc-orders-uttarakhand-govt-to-seal-establishments-polluting-rivers-4991923/; https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/building-of-ghats-crematoria-on-ganga-misses-nov-deadline/articleshow/62234114.cms https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/environment/pm-modi-fails-to-clean-up-his-mother-ganga
A recent IMD study has found that rain-bearing clouds have been thinning out across the country over the last 50 years. The study, published in the IMD journal Mausam, shows that between 1960 and 2010, annual mean low cloud cover (responsible for the bulk of the rainfall) over India has been decreasing by 0.45% per decade on an average.
According to the study, the number of rainy days is also declining during the monsoon season at an average rate of 0.23 days for every decade. This means that the country has lost approximately one rainy day over the last five decades. The study found that while the number of rainy days is decreasing, there is not much change in the total amount of rainfall. This shows a trend towards shorter, heavier bursts of rain.
That is bad news, because heavier raindrops can dislodge wheat and rice grains from their stalks while on the farm. It also means rainwater flows down a slope that much faster instead of percolating underground.
Meanwhile, a new NASA study has warned the amount of rainfall in the Earth’s tropical regions will significantly increase as the planet continues to warm. As per study rainfall is not related just to the clouds that are available to make rain but also to Earth’s “energy budget” — incoming energy from the Sun compared to outgoing heat energy. High-altitude tropical clouds trap heat in the atmosphere. If there are fewer of these clouds in the future, the tropical atmosphere will cool.
EAC against entertaining ‘anti-development’ representations The expert appraisal committee (EAC) on river valley and hydel projects of the Union Environment Ministry has decided “not to take any cognizance of such representations” received by its members. In its Dec. 30, 2016 meeting, the committee concluded that once a project proposal reaches the EAC for appraisal, it has crossed the stage of public consultation and “the EAC should not go back in time, and should not reopen it, by entertaining unsubstantiated representations received from the people”.
The EAC noted that in case of any clarification regarding action taken on such representations under the RTI Act, the EAC prescribed that a standard reply “action has been taken in accordance with the decisions taken in the 1st meeting of the EAC for River Valley and HEP on 30.12.2016” should suffice. “It was also felt that many of the objections raised are repetitive. Many such kind of representations have an anti-development attitude so that the projects are kept on hold or delayed. This has financial implications to the developers in particular and to the nation in general.
The committee emphasized that relevant ministries scrutinised every aspect of a project and proposed it for final appraisal only when all details were in place. If not satisfied that public consultation had been completed properly, the EAC said it could ask the project promoter to do the needful. The committee also made allowance for representations with “new points” and “grave consequences” on which comments from project proponents could be sought. The EAC considered 13 projects in its December 30 meeting and cleared eight of them.
Environmental activists, however, pointed out the impracticality of the contention that representations should be restricted to the 30-day public consultation window. Sripad Dharmadhikari also, in his blog has mentions various reasons to counter the EAC’s suspicious justifications. He also says that the fact that a body which is supposed to represent the environmental perspective displays such an attitude is the biggest critique of the EAC and the environmental clearance process that it is a part of. The newly constituted MOEF’s EAC on River Valley Projects has in their very first meeting shown anti people, anti democratic and anti environment attitude.
Above: Mahadayi River (Photo: oneindia)
Goa, twenty fifth state of the Indian Union, is small but picturesque state, famous all over the world as “The Tropical Paradise of Tourists”. Ensconced on the slopes of Western Ghats which skirts its eastern boundary and lapped by the blue expanse of the Arabian Sea in the West, Goa admeasures an area of about 3,702 sqkm. Situated between Karnataka and Maharashtra, Goa is bounded on the North by the Terekhol river, surrounded on the South and East by Karnataka while on the West is the Arabian sea. This state is divided into two districts, North and South, administered from Panaji, the capital city and Margao, respectively.
Eleven rivers are sustaining the Goan ecosystems. These rivers have sustained the earliest forms of human habitation. The discovery of rare Stone Age carvings on the banks of Kushavati and Zarme rivers stands testimony to this. From the period of Satvahanas, Chalukyas of Badami, Bhojas Kshatrapas and Abhiras, Traikutas of Konkan, Kalachuris, Mauryas of Konkan, Shilaharas, Kadambas…. the Goan rivers have encouraged development of civilization. However excessive load of anthropogenic activities such as mining, tourism etc. have been affecting these rivers from past few decades. While many of the big rivers are critically polluted, many small ones face threat of extinction. Urgent steps need to be taken to protect the rivers of this state which is more intimately linked with its rivers due to unique physiography. Continue reading “Goa River Profile”