DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 13 Sept 2021: Misleading claim of Water Plus cities

Recently, when the government of India certified that cities like Indore, Surat, Hyderabad, Vizag, etc are Water Plus, it raised a number of questions including the credibility of the claim, lack of credit worthy independent assessment, how sustainable are the claims, etc. The author of the following article rightly raises the question if the cities are at all Water Plus. They are clearly not. While recycling and reuse of 30% of treated sewage and full treatment of waste water is welcome in view of the current pathetic status of city water management in cities, this achievement, if it is real as assessed by credit worthy independent assessment & judged against a set of well-defined criteria of sustainability among others, is worth appreciating, but it certainly does not deserve Water Plus City label. To achieve that label, a lot more and a lot different kind of achievements will be required.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 6 Sep 2021: DISASTERS GOING UP in Himalayas, across India & Globally

(Feature image: Rani Pokhri bridge on the Dehradun Rishikesh highway collapsed near Dehradun, August 27, PTI https://www.thequint.com/news/india/uttarakhand-rains-bridge-on-dehradun-rishikesh-highway-collapses-no-casualties#read-more)

Data published this week (see below) shows that disasters are going up almost five fold in the Himalayas (data from Uttarakhand, HP below, but this is not different in rest of Himalayas), nationally and even globally. The data from UN report this week shows that the disasters are up five fold in recent years. Damage is up even more. As the data of landslides due to Char Dham High way and hydropower projects show, the contribution from these projects to the disaster is clear. So much so that even the editorial in The Hindustan Times this week asked to stop these disastrous projects. While it is unlikely that the governments or politicians would wake up to this reality anytime soon, one expects the judiciary, media, civil society and academics to take up this issue on urgent basis.

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DRP NB 30 Aug. 2021: Why no protection for aquatic biodiversity?

(Feature image Wildlife Along Indian Rivers by Green Humour:- http://www.greenhumour.com/2017/09/wildlife-along-indian-rivers.html)

Aquatic freshwater biodiversity has seen the maximum decline over the years and yet has the least protection under law. In fact fish is not even considered for protection under the Wildlife Protection Act. Fishing cat, Mahseer, Otters, Trout fish, Hilsa fish are all at top of the food chain in freshwater sources, like the tiger is in the forests, but none of them have the legal protection. If we have any serious intension of protecting this important source of biodiversity, we urgently need measures, including policy, legal and institutional measures to recognize and protect this biodiversity.

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DRP NB 16 August 2021: Landslides in Himachal worsened due to mindless “development” projects

The numerous landslides this monsoon in Kinnaur and other districts of Himachal Pradesh and other Himalayan states have been literally deadly, killing hundreds of people this monsoon. Mindless “development” projects including Hydropower projects, indiscriminate building of roads in mountains, blasting, tunnelling, mining, dumping of waste into the rivers and valleys, deforestation, building townships, all without any credible impact assessment, public consultations, appraisal, monitoring or compliance. While climate change (another anthropogenic factor) leading to more frequent events of high intensity rainfall is worsening the landslide potential of the area, what we are doing in the name of developments is multiplying the disaster potential several fold. The governments at centre and states and judiciary can continue to be blind to this realities, but local people cannot. The local communities in Kinnaur, Lahaul-Spiti have been opposing such projects strongly and such protests are bound to increase and spread. One hopes this pushes the governments and judiciary to act urgently.

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DRP NB 9 Aug 2021: Doubtful validity of GOI’s July 15 notification on AP-Telangana water disputes

(Feature image: Two Telugu states, one river — why Andhra & Telangana are fighting it out over the Krishna https://theprint.in/india/two-telugu-states-one-river-why-andhra-telangana-are-fighting-it-out-over-the-krishna/696801/)

The July 15 2021 Govt of India notification on Andhra Pradesh-Telangana water disputes is of doubtful legal validity and the Supreme Court urgently needs to examine this. The 2014 AP Regorganisation Act didn’t make provision for the Centre to take over water infrastructure of the two states, which is what effectively the centre has done through the July 15 notification. The Jul 15 notification effectively dismissing powers of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana without any consultations and there is no provision in constitution for this.

There is no doubt that the long lingering water sharing disputes between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh and which was the major reason for the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, needs to be resolved. But the blame for not achieving any resolution of the disputes also lies with the Centre, the KRMB and GRMB are not even functioning with necessary urgency or effectiveness.

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DRP NB 2 Aug 2021: Disappointing UKD HC order on Chamoli disaster: Will SC intervene please?

( Feature image:- Women members of Raini village’s gram sabha, Source: Atul Sati/ Facebook/The Quint)

The July 14, 2021 order of Uttarakhand HC, dismissing the petition of those affected by the Chamoli disaster of Feb 2021 and asking that NTPC, developer of the Tapovan Vishnugad project be accountable, is most distressing. While Indian judiciary is rightly credited with doing a lot for the cause of environment and people in general, in the unequal battle of the communities and activists against injustice and negligence of giant projects and their developers, the judiciary has more often failed to ensure that the developers are held accountable and are not allowed to bulldoze ahead using their might, supported by the state, to crush attempts to achieve just and democratic results. In the Chamoli disaster, there are many many questions that remained unanswered and one expected the HC to use the petition to seek those answers. But in stead, the HC has chose to question and fine the petitioners. One hopes the higher judiciary will correct this and stay the order and in stead seek answers from the developers of the hydro projects in such fragile, disaster prone areas and those that sanctioned such projects, including the environment ministry, the state government, the CWC, the CEA, the Geological Survey of India and also the project developers.

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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 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 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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