DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 26 July 2021: “Unprecedented rainfall” used to escape responsibility?

(Feature image source: India TV https://www.indiatvnews.com/news/india/monsoon-mayhem-maharashtra-floods-landslides-death-toll-latest-news-721924)

As Maharashtra faced the worst flood disaster of SW Monsoon 2021 in India, we see the phrases like “unprecedented rainfall”, “record breaking rainfall”, “frequent landslides” etc. with increasing frequency along with phrases like climate change floating around. While these are not entirely incorrect claims, these should not be used to escape the responsibility and accountability for failing to either accurately forecast the rainfall or to manage the proportions of disasters, including operation of dams, encroachments into water bodies and water path, not accurately marking locations vulnerable to landslides in landslide prone areas or taking up inappropriate “development” projects in vulnerable areas. All of these factors can be seen at play in disasters this monsoon in Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh among others.

Using such phrases, there is an attempt to escape the accountability or responsibility. This is a culture increasing being propagated by Central Water Commission as they did in Kerala in 2018 and Krishna basin floods in Maharashtra in 2019 as in numerous other occasions. It is known now to everyone that climate change is going to lead to more instances of heavy rainfall that can frequently fall in unprecedented category, but that only means we need to take measures to reduce the damage in such instances, predict them accurately and manage them effectively. That is what the Action Plans for Climate Change and Disaster Management apparatus needs to work on, but we have clearly failed there so far.

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DRP NB 12 July 2021: Will Bhupender Yadav improve India’s Environment Governance?

It’s rather rare when some of the most well-known environmentalists of India, including Ritwick Dutta and Manoj Misra welcome the arrival of Bhupender Yadav as India’s new Environment Minister. The state of the environment governance under the outgoing minister, Prakash Javadekar has worsened so much, both in perception and substance, that possibly any change would look better. In fact Javadekar may be front runner for the label of India’s worst ever environment minister according to some analysts.

The environment appraisals, the constitution of committees including the various Expert Appraisal Committees, the Forest Advisory Committee and the Standing committee of National Board of Wildlife, the public hearings and consultation processes, the state of pollution and rivers, biodiversity, wetlands, floodplains, sand mining, to name just a few areas, were all seen going downhill on a steep slope during the Javadeker period. The monitoring and compliance remained non existent. Some would argue that was it much different before Javadekar. The point is Javadekar had no pretentions of trying to improve the environment governance. He was out to dilute every available norm and he seemed to have succeded significantly.

Even if Yadav were to genuinely wish to improve matters, how much will he be allowed to do, by the perceived imperatives of the economic fundamentalist agenda, the well-entrenched vested interests and the bureaucracy is a question that only time will tell, but there is little doubt that a lot can and needs to be done rather urgently and none of these perceived obstacles should come in the way if there is will. The climate change is making the improvement in environmental governance rather urgent.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 5 July 2021: Supreme Court pulls up MoEF, NGT over environment issues: Will it go far?

(Feature image:- Aerial image of the fire – Photo by Sachin Bharali, from the Facebook page I am Dehing Patkai https://www.facebook.com/iamdehingpatkai/photos/pcb.131915155180713/131915048514057/?type=3&theater)

In the last week, the Supreme Court of India used rather strong words against Union Ministry of Environment and Forests under the leadership of Prakash Javdekar. It said: “You must show it is a ministry for environment and not just ‘of environment’. You (ministry) have been constantly diluting the environmental standards. That’s all that has been happening”. While this was necessary and in fact it should have come several years earlier, one hopes the SC does not stop at using just strong words, but ensures that the MoEF is held accountable for its numerous unpardonable anti environment acts.

In another notable event, the Supreme Court also pulled up the NGT for not understanding even basic conflict of interest: “We are surprised by this order of the NGT. It is the OIL Ltd. which is responsible for the damage to the wetlands and its own Managing Director has been inducted into the committee? … We are very dissatisfied with the manner the NGT has pushed the matter off its hands. It is the National Green Tribunal, it must have some alacrity and concern for the environment. And after the report of the first committee, three committees have been set up separately! What is this?” This again is welcome and was long overdue. NGT had shown similar lack of understanding of conflict of interest in the Lower Subansiri case which also SC needs to open up for review. Conflict of Interest is a MAJOR dark spot in functioning of India’s governance and SC needs to do lot more to correct this.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 28 June 2021: Where is the impact of lessons of the water conservation efforts that Modi praises, on his government’s water projects and policies?

When the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi Mentioned some exemplary water conservation efforts in his Mann ki Baat on June 27, 2021, it was not for the first time he was doing it. These are certainly most welcome.

However, these mentions raise a number of questions. If the Prime Minister considers these local water options as exemplary, which they indeed are, where do we see the reflection of the lessons from such efforts in government programs and policies? In fact why there is no reflection of such lessons in what the government does in water sector? How can the government justify the destruction of Panna Tiger Reserve, over 9000 ha of forests, some 46 lakh trees, the catchment of Ken river and large part of Bundelkhand in the name of Ken Betwa Link Project, in the same Bundelkhand. How can his government justify the destructive projects like the Char Dham Highway, the big hydro projects and so on in the same Uttarakhand where Sachidanand Bharati (who was incidentally recipient of the Bhagirath Prayas Samman of India Rivers Week) works, whose efforts the PM praised? One hope the PM and his government will be awake to the implications and lessons of the works that PM praises.

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DRP NB 21 June 2021: MGNREGS ALSO helps carbon sequestration

A new study by the researchers at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, the works undertaken under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme captured 102 Million Tonnes of Carbon Dioxide in 2017-18 through plantation and soil quality improvement works. The MGNREGS has proved remarkable for other reasons, including it being the World’s largest anti-poverty program and also helping improve the local livelihoods, food, employment and water security on a massive scale. If the program is taken up with necessary commitment, priority, planning and participatory governance, it can achieve lot more. Unfortunately the NDA government has not been showing such commitment, priority or financial allocation even for its regular functioning. The IISc Study says that by 2030, the MGNREGS can create annual carbon dioxide sink equal to 249 MtCO2. One hopes our governments would, rather than denigrating the scheme would allocate sufficient financial, human and institutional resources for MGNREGS, rather than false solutions like the destructive projects like big hydropower projects.

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DRP NB 14 June 2021: IPCC-IPBES Scientists: Biodiversity protection & climate change action HAVE TO work together

In a remarkable new report, the 50 top scientists of Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) have come together to deliver the first ever joint collaboration report with the message that Biodiversity crisis and climate change crisis are not independent of each other. The message from scientists is clear: The claimed Climate “solutions” that hurt biodiversity or their habitat are false solutions.

By protecting and restoring nature, the report said, we can safeguard biodiversity, help limit warming, improve human well being and even find protection from the consequences of climate change, like intensified flooding and storms.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 07 June 2021: Local Water Options Stories from Five states

(Feature image A big main pond that has been constructed in the Phular village, Damoh. (Pic: Shahroz Afridi, News 18))

This week we would like to highlight some remarkable local water option stories from five states spread across India: Madhya Pradesh from Central India, Punjab from North India, Karnataka from South India, Rajasthan & Maharashtra from western India. These are stories just from this week among many others that show that local water options exist, they are the cheapest, sustainable, equitable, democratic and with least impacts and most appropriate in the climate change context. In a country like India where groundwater has been India’s water lifeline for over four decades now, these options are best suited for ensuring optimum recharge of groundwater aquifers at local level and sustaining those lifelines. Particularly when South West Monsoon is on our doorstep to gift its annual bounty to India. As UN starts the International Decade for Ecosystems Restoration with the theme of preventing, halting, reversing the degradation of ecosystems, these become even more important.     

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 17 May 2021: Dead Bodies in Rivers & Civilization

The human dead bodies in the rivers and on the river banks are one of the many defining images of the Corona pandemic that India is in grip of currently. There is clearly complete failure of governments at several levels in this pandemic, starting from complete failure to have systems in place to ensure that the pandemic situation would not have become such a massive disaster. No explanation or accountability is likely to come our way from the governments. They are too busy suppressing the critical voices exposing the abject failure of the governments, building Central Vista project or harassing the elected governments ruled by other parties.

As one of the reports mentioned in this issue of weekly DRP Bulletin shows, similar scenes were seen also during the 1918-19 Spanish Flu pandemic in India. But we may remind our rulers and ourselves that a century latter our governance is supposed to have improved and the 1918-19 pandemic was several times much larger one. Moreover our governance today should be much better than the governance of the British Govt a century ago?

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DRP NB 10 May 2021: Velcan Holdings provide another evidence of unviable large hydro in India

Velcan Holdings Group is developing Heo and Tato-1 Hydropower projects with total installed capacity of 426 MW in Siang basin in Arunachal Pradesh since 2007. The international company with deep pockets and access to international capital markets has not been able to start work even in 2021. It obtained a number clearances, some of the like the CEA (Central Electricity Authority) techno-economic clearance has lapsed. No significant progress is seen in Land Acquisition as local people are rightly opposing. It is unable to find any buyers for the power to be generated, no one is ready to sign PPA (Power Purchase Agreement). The company questions if the low allocation to hydropower purchase obligations will at all help in making the projects bankable (clearly implying that the projects are not bankable currently). This is the state what it describes its Siang basin hydropower projects as the “the only hydropower projects of such size in India owned and developed by a foreign investor”, which “are amongst the most advanced private projects and present competitive techno-economic and environmental features”. The state of the rest of the large hydro projects will clearly be much worse. Why is the government pushing such unviable, destructive projects?

Read the excerpts from the company’s statutory filing in Europe on Apr 30, 2021 below.

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DRP NB 19 Apr 2021: Hydro lobby at work, but it won’t help forget the WCD guidelines

The Hydropower lobby continues to push unsustainable, unviable, destructive hydropower projects. They want everyone to forget about the World Commission on Dams report and guidelines and the lobby keeps bringing out its own guidelines which has zero credibility. They are looking for new voices to sing their song, and have appointed Ashok Khosla, as the Chair of the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Council but Ashok Khosla already stands discredited. He or his organisation is not known to be doing any credible work in the area of hydropower projects. He or his organisation Development Alternatives has never taken a stand on any public spirited campaign against destructive hydropower projects in India. So that voice is neither independent nor credible. So this new move by the hydro lobby is not going to help the cause of the lobby either in India or beyond. The write up below, as expected does not mention the WCD report or guidelines. Mr Khosla possibly does not even know about the existence of the WCD report or guidelines because he had no credible role to play there or in any hydropower related work in the past. The write up has loads of misleading and wrong statements too. But all these attempts are not going to help forget people about WCD guidelines as the only globally credible and accepted guidelines on dams and hydropower projects.

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