Dams · Wetlands

WWD 2023: India’s Ramsar Wetlands face Damages, Threats & Govt Apathy

(Feature Image: The dumping ground is adjacent to the Deepor Beel wetland. Photo by Surajit Sharma./ Mongabay India, Aug. 2022)

Marking the World Wetlands Day 2023, this fourth overview by SANDRP compiles reports from 2022 revealing the worsening situation of Ramsar wetlands sites in India. In past few years, the government has shown great hurry in getting Ramsar tag for 75 wetlands from 26 in the country to symbolically mark 75th anniversary of Independence without showing any interest in resolving the existing and looming threats including increasing pollution, siltation, encroachments and climate change threats over old and even new Ramsar wetlands.

The ground reports show that the sole focus of the government is on pushing destructive and ornamental projects in the name of tourism and beautification on these wetlands which are only seen damaging their remaining eco-systems and threatening the livelihoods of dependent communities as an additional threat which only underlines that Ramsar tag does NOT help in wetlands protection and conservation. Experts, citizen groups have been raising this fact for years but in vain. Furthermore the process for seeking Ramsar recognition lacks consultation and participation of primary stakeholders and concerned citizens.

Moreover, in the name of information of Ramsar sites, there is only a combined interactive map apart from two separate pdf file links with location map and state wise listing Ramsar wetlands on Wetlands of India portal by MoEF&CC. The govt has neither prepared any concrete plan to address the threats, nor has it developed credible monitoring mechanism which clearly shows it has no intention to improve the governance of these sites.   

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Wetlands

WWD 2023: Top Ten Judicial Interventions to Improve Wetlands Governance

(Feature Image: Construction activities in Sukhatal lake area in Nainital, Uttarakhand. Source: Dainik Jagran, Nov. 2022)

In this third part of wetlands overview, SANDRP tracks top ten judicial interventions regarding protection of wetlands in India in 2022. The part one has highlighted general situation of wetlands and part two has covered some governmental actions for wetlands conservation.

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Wetlands

WWD 2023: Top Ten India Wetlands Stories about Govt Actions

(Feature Image: Kochi Corporation’s proposal to reclaim wetlands at Brahmapuram shot down. A view of the Brahmapuram solid waste treatment plant on the banks of the Kadambrayar. | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat/ The Hindu)

In this second part of annual wetlands overview of 2022, SANDRP compiles the top ten actions by various governments in India regarding wetlands in 2022. The compilation also highlights some of the controversial steps planned and taken by the governments with an adverse impacts on wetlands conservation. The first part of wetlands review 2022 has focused on the how wetlands continue to suffer from misgovernance. 

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 230123: Welcome decision of FAC to deny clearance to Etalin HEP

(Feature Image:- Upper Dibang Valley District, Arunachal Pradesh, India (Source: Wikipedia Commons/IWP)

It’s rather rare that we get a hydropower project related decision from official decision makers that can be welcomed. It has happened this week when the MoEF’s (Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change) Forest Advisory Committee declined to give forest clearance to the controversial 3097 MW Etalin Hydropower Project in Dibang sub basin of Brahmaputra basin in Arunachal Pradesh and North East India. The project was under consideration for this clearance since 2014 and finally in the meeting on Dec 27, 2022, FAC conveyed that the current proposal cannot be considered for the clearance and revised proposal may be submitted. It is not a blanket rejection of the project, but considering the history of consideration of this project in FAC, it is closest we can come to that.

It is also welcome to know that the FAC has also looked at the poor track record of compliance of conditions of earlier forest clearances for the hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh among the many reasons why the project is rejected in current form. Arunachal Pradesh may do well to improve its track record before applying for forest clearance to any new projects in the state.

This decision is also a lesson for the MoEF’s Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects and also for MoEF itself for not even looking at the track record of compliance of the conditions of environment clearances that the EAC and MoEF give to the river valley and hydropower projects. They also never look at the implementation of the Environment Management Plans. Same is the case with the MoEF’s National Board of Wildlife.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 160123: Top Court appeals for EIAs for Urban Development: Welcome, but…

The Supreme Court of India, while disposing of a petition related Chandigarh, in its order on January 10, 2023 has said: “Before we part with this judgement, we observe that it is high time that the legislature, executive, and the policymakers at the centre and state levels take note of the damages to the environment on account of haphazard development and take a call to take necessary measures to ensure that the development does not damage the environment… We therefore appeal to the Legislature, the Executive and the Policy Makers at the Centre as well as at the State levels to make necessary provisions for carrying out Environmental Impact Assessment studies before permitting urban development.”

This is most welcome. And urgently required. That India’s urban development is happening at the cost of life sustaining environment resources including rivers, water bodies, forests, wetlands among others is well known. That the government sees all requirements of environmental scrutiny as road blocks is also well known. The consequences of this are clear for all concerned, not only in case of Bangalore as cited by the Supreme Court Bench, but also in case of Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Chennai, Delhi, Ernakulam, Faridabad, Gurugram, Hyderabad, Indore, Joshimath, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai and so on. So is there a good chance that the apex court suggestion will be followed either in letter or in spirit? Unlikely. So what is clearly required is that the apex court emphatically directs the centre and states in this regard and follows it up with ensuring its implementation.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 090123: Atal Bhujal Yojana just chaff without any wheat?

According to this detailed report, possibly the first independent review of the Atal Bhujal Yojana, a 5-year program of the Union govt for management of groundwater, India’s water lifeline, with over half of the project period completed, seems bereft of the fundamental aspects that the scheme itself says are necessary for any sound foundation of the scheme. The review describes it as a dish full of chaff, without almost any kernels of wheat for some sound reasons. It says hardly 18% of allocated money has been spent on Gram Panchayat level community-led Water Security Plan. Only 4% of the planned Gram Panchayat level trainings have been held, with Gujarat and Haryana holding none. Only 27% of money allocated for Gram Panchayat level Hydrogeological monitoring network has been spent. The data gathering instruments that were required from the beginning of the program have not been installed in over half the planned locations. On Information, Education and Communication activities, only 16% of allocated amount is spent.

More detailed independent review of the program implementation will help, but from the available information so far, the signs do not look particularly promising. Is it due to ineptness or lack of intention? Only time will tell.

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Hydro Power Projects

2022: Environment & Forest Clearances to Dams, Hydro, Irrigation Projects

On the basis of minutes of meetings held by Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change’s (MoEF) Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for River Valley and Hydropower Projects from January 12, 2022 to November 30, 2022; we present region wise details of various Dams, Hydroelectric Power (HEP), Pumped Storage Hydro Projects (PSHP) and Irrigation Projects proposals considered and approved for Terms of Reference (TOR) and Environment Clearance (EC) by the EAC. It also lists out various water projects related proposals seeking Forest Clearances (FC) from and decisions by the Forest Appraisal Committee (FAC) of MoEF in this period.

SANDRP’s 2020 and 2021 overviews on the subject can be seen by clicking the links. You may also like to visit our 2022 overviews on (1) Dam induced floods & damages, (2) Fly ash dam breach incidents, (3) Impact of floods on Polavaram project, (4) People’s resistance against dams and hydro projects, (5) Disasters and accidents at HEPs sites, (6) Dam Safety Issues, (7) Hydro projects opposition and accidents in South Asia.

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Hydro Disaster

2022: Accidents & Damages related to Hydro projects in India

In this annual review, SANDRP compiles the hydro power related accidents, disasters and damages in North West and North East Himalayan states during 2022. It also covers relevant reports revealing gradual decline in power generation by hydro power projects amid growing concerns over physical and financial viabilities of new projects. There are also reports highlighting the looming climatic and geological threats over these projects. It is good to see that taking lessons from Chamoli disaster in Feb. 2021, NDMA has officially asked central govt not to rely on hydro power.

In previous parts of yearend roundups, we have covered (1) Dam induced floods & damages, (2) Fly ash dam breach incidents, (3) Impact of floods on Polavaram project, (4) People’s resistance against dams and hydro projects. Please see links for reports tracking hydro power projects related accidents and disasters in 2021 and 2020.

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Dams · Hydro Power Projects

2022: People’s Resistance against Unviable HEPs, Destructive Dams

(Feature Image: No Means No Campaign message against hydro projects on a rock in Kinnaur. Source: ToI)

There have been many instances of opposition by local people, organizations and experts against unviable hydroelectric power (HEP) and destructive dam projects in 2022. Such instances of the resistance from across the country have been successful in a number of ways including leading to the funding agencies, corporate houses and government agreeing to withdraw from the project in many cases. This overview presents top ten stories highlighting successful opposition to hydro and dams projects in 2022 in India followed by some relevant reports on the issue. In first part of the annual overview, SANDRP has tracked the dam failures and dam induced floods incidents in India in 2022, along with separate report on unraveling of Polavaram project and another one on breaches of fly ash dams.

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Dam Disaster

2022 Fly ash dam breaches in India

(Feature image:- This is the second time in the six months that Rautdih village has become inundated by the breach of ash pond embankment in Bokaro. ToI, Oct. 09, 2022)

Most mining companies make dams to store the semi solid slurry waste from the mines. Similarly most thermal power projects have fly ash dams to store the fly ash slurry. These dams store highly toxic slurries but there is little happening by way of regulation, monitoring or compliance at design, construction or operation level. Many of these dams breach or overflow, leading of release of the toxic slurry in the downstream areas. These dams do not even come under monitoring of Central Water Commission or under the dam safety act passed by the parliament. Despite accidents happening with huge adverse consequences, there is no accountability.

In this report, we have compiled the instances that we could locate about breaches of such dams in 2022. We earlier wrote about the Singrauli instance in April 2020 and in the 2019 SW Monsoon dam breach compilation report.

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