Drought

Can floods lead to drought? After the flood, severe drought looming over Kerala

Guest blog by: Madhusoodhanan C.G. and Sreeja K.G

The state of Kerala experienced extreme precipitation events during the 2018 South West monsoon period with multiple episodes culminating in devastating floods across the state during 14th-18th August 2018. This year, with an early onset of monsoons that dovetailed with strong summer showers, the state received about 41% excess rainfall (2394 mm against the normal of 1700 mm) during the period June 1st to August 22nd [1]. Almost all of its reservoirs were near full storage by mid-July.

The heavy downpour and the uncontrolled opening of the spillway gates of almost all reservoirs that inundated huge stretches of river banks and floodplains, along with massive landslides across the Western Ghats affected more than 1.5 million people, with close to 500 human casualties, immense losses to property, livelihoods and resource security apart from the extensive damage to forests, wildlife and biodiversity. Maximum destruction was observed along the rivers of Periyar, Chalakudy and Pamba, all having multiple dams on their tributaries. The debate is still on as to the various reasons, both manmade and natural, behind the floods and the resultant wide-ranging casualties [2,3,4,5,6]. Meanwhile things have taken a rather unexpected turn in the flood ravaged state.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 21 January 2019: NGT Asks For Audit of Pollution Control Regulation, But Fails on EIA

Two interesting orders from National Green Tribunal (NGT) marked important developments on water-environment issues this week. NGT asking for PERFORMANCE AUDIT of pollution Control Mechanism is indeed long overdue necessity, considering the complete, abject failure of the pollution control mechanism in India. The hopes of effective action, like in the past, however, were dashed since CPCB, which is PART OF THE PROBLEM has been asked to do the audit. An independent audit, in addition to one possibly by CAG may have helped.  https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/ngt-slams-state-pollution-bodies/article26008687.ece (17 Jan. 2019)

Whatever positive signs were available by this order were further dashed by another NGT order in which it declared that EIAs (Environmental Impact Assessment) reports are already taking climate change into account, while the tribunal dismissed a petition asking that all development activities be screened/ regulated keeping climate change in mind.

This is totally WRONG contention. Just to illustrate, SANDRP has been pointing out to the EAC, MoEF and the developers how the EIAs of dams and hydropower projects are ignoring the climate change related issues and impacts. In response the consultants and developers have responded, approved by the silent or spoken nods by the EAC and MoEF that these were not even part of their TORs! One only wishes NGT was most discerning before making such claims and would have gone through a few EIAs to see if at all EIAs are dealing with these issues with any rigour or credibility. https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/climate-change-already-covered-under-environment-impact-assessment-ngt-119011600897_1.html (16 Jan. 2019)

Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 21 January 2019: NGT Asks For Audit of Pollution Control Regulation, But Fails on EIA”

DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 10 Dec. 2018: Yamuna Pollution; Will NGT Panel Make Any Difference? 

Feature image: A Hindu woman worships the sun god in the polluted waters of River Yamuna during Chhath Puja in New Delhi, on Nov. 14. (Image Source: Quartz India.) 

In its latest report, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) appointed monitoring committee overseeing Yamuna River cleaning progress in Delhi says that the river is “fighting to stay alive” and it would not be possible to rejuvenate the Yamuna unless minimum environmental flow is provided as it is “virtually reduced to a trickle and remains dry in some stretches for almost nine months of the year”.

In the action plan, it is mentioned that “Although the Yamuna river flows only for 54 kilometres from Palla to Badarpur through Delhi, the 22 km stretch from Wazirabad to Okhla, which is less than 2 per cent of the river length of 1370 km from Yamunotri to Allahabad, accounts for about 76 per cent of the pollution level in the river”.

The committee has suggested that a team of scientists be formed from CPCB, DPCC and other institutions like IIT Delhi or NEERI to carry out inspections and submit reports to it for remedial action. The team can look into the risks and benefits of an alternative way of routing the same quantity of water which can help in reducing the pollution level, it said.

The monitoring committee also raised objection to the capacity utilisation of common effluent treatment plant (CETP) which is as low as 25 per cent. There are 28 industrial clusters in Delhi and 17 of these are connected to 13 CETPs. The remaining 11 clusters are not connected to any CETP. Another area of concern is the direct discharge of completely unregulated waste from industries and residences into the river.

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Dam floods · Dams

Dam Floods 2018: Assam, Himachal; Making Dam Operators Accountable

ASSAM: NEEPCO a repeat offender? On July 27, 2018 sudden release of water from NEEPCO’s Doyang Hydropower Electric Project (HEP), located in Wokha district, Nagaland led to flood disaster[1], submerging[2] about 36 villages in Golaghat a district in Upper Assam. According to Rony Rajkumar, project officer of the Golaghat district disaster management authority, around 5,575 people were affected by the deluge which damaged 887.9 ha of crop.

Earlier, on July 11, 2018, reviewing the severe flood situation Lakhimpur Assam, the Chief Minister (CM) Sarbananda Sonowal strongly warned[3] the state-owned power utility NEEPCO not to release water from its Ranganadi dam without warning like previous years.

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Dams · Monsoon

Monsoon 2018 Overview: Serious Anomalies Hidden by Macro Figures

2018 becomes fifth year in a row when India’s south west monsoon has been below normal.  In the beginning of monsoon season, Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecasted rains to be normal with rainfall equal to 97 percent of the long term average. However at the end of the season the overall rainfall turned out to be 91 percent, with deficit of 9 percent at national level. However, as we see in this overview, the situation as move from national to local figures, is much different, mostly much worse.

According to IMD’s State Rainfall Map (cumulative) dated 30 Sept. 2018, the country received 804.0 mm rains against 887.5 mm of normal average. Thus the south west monsoon 2018 had 9.4 percent below normal rainfall.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 29 October 2018: Better Paddy Options Exist For Punjab

A try-out of the technique to grow paddy without puddling at village Chehlan of Ludhiana has resulted in higher yield in comparison to puddled fields, while saving water in the process. The crop was ready for harvest days before expected time, saving irrigation water otherwise to be used for another fourteen days. This trial was funded and supervised by ATMA, a central govt.  scheme under the Union Ministry of Agriculture.

Puddling is a traditional method of flooding paddy fields with running water, whereas in non-puddling technique, ‘ridges and furrows’ are formed in soil to let water store in spaces and let it stay, thus reducing irrigation frequency.

“Not paddy but puddling is the enemy of waters of Punjab. It is wastage of water to puddle fields as most of it just evaporates. We have saved 45-50 per cent of water in non-puddled fields. Our yield has been almost 30 per cent more from fields where crop was not puddled. Also, non-puddled crop matured very early, saving at least ten days of irrigation water,” says Rupinder Singh Chahal (43) who along with his brothers Jasvir Singh (48) and Kulwinder Singh (52) experimented with ‘non-puddling’ technique on four acres this year.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 22 October 2018: Looming Drought in Western India

(Feature image Gujarat state cumulative rainfall during SW monsoon 2018; Source: IMD)

Maharashtra State’s groundwater surveys and development agency (GSDA) has warned of a water scarcity in 11,487 villages of 167 tehsils in the State. In its 2018-19 report, the GSDA, which comes under the department of water supply and sanitation, has said the study of the groundwater level (in comparison to the level in October in the last five years) has shown that of the 353 tehsils in the State, 13,984 villages in 252 tehsils have shown a decrease by more than one metre.

Between October 15 and 21, 380 tankers were used across the State, against 91 tankers in the corresponding period last year. A week prior to that the number was 354, and 329 tankers were used in the first week of October.

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Dams · Monsoon

Uttarakhand Monsoon 2018 Overview: Rainfall Normal, Distribution Abnormal

Uttrakhand has received 3% below normal rainfall during South West Monsoon 2018. Though the figure falls in normal category, however district level rainfall data paints a very different picture. Out of total 13 districts in the Himalayan state, four districts namely Almora, Pauri Garhwal, Tehri Garhwal and Udham Singh Nagar have received deficit rains, whereas three districts which includes Bageshwar, Chamoli and Haridwar have got rainfall in excess. Out of the rest six districts four are on marginally positive side and two are on marginally negative side.

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Dams · Monsoon

Bundelkhand: Overview of 2018 Monsoon

Bundelkhand is known as a drought prone region. It is comprised of 7 districts of Uttar Pradesh and 6 districts of Madhya Pradesh. Monsoon rains are crucial. However for past several years, the region has faced deficit rains leading to water scarcity particularly for agriculture related activities. Let us the situation of of Monsoon rain in Bundelkhand this year.

Bundelkhand is part of Lower Yamuna Basin, for which IMD provides rainfall figures in its river basin wise rainfall maps. This basin received 785.4 mm rainfall in 2018 monsoon, 9% below  normal rainfall of 863 mm for this sub basin. IMD needs to provide rainfall figures for each sub basins, including Ken, Betwa, Dhasan etc.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 24 September 2018: If NGT Can’t Provide Environment Justice…

Unless immediate corrective action is taken, the NGT which has till recently served as an institution to provide environmental justice, will increasingly become an institution to perpetuate environmental injustice. If this is to happen, it will be a sad day for both India’s environment and democracy; writes Ritwick Dutta.

– Last few months have seen a massive decline in public confidence in the NGT. The first wake-up call was in July when the new chairperson of the NGT commented that around 50% of the petitions before the tribunal were filed by “blackmailers”. Nothing could be more distressing because this comes from an institution that was created to protect the rights of the people. Recently, the decision of the chairperson of NGT to rehear 18 cases, which were reserved for judgment, has raised concerns about both propriety as well as legality.

– The NGT, over the last two months, seems to have evolved four approaches to deal with litigations. First, dispose of existing cases. Second, form committees, comprising mostly people who were responsible for the problem, and outsource even adjudicatory functions. Third, refuse to entertain matters on the ground that the govt has approved the project or other hyper-technical grounds. And finally, rehear cases which were earlier reserved for judgment.

– One is not expecting the NGT to always give judgments in favour of those who approach it for protecting the environment. Rather, the cause for concern is the general reluctance of the tribunal to hear matters on merit, to consider the decision of the govt as virtually sacrosanct and submissions of project proponents as cast in stone. It must not be forgotten that the NGT is not a special tribunal, but a specialised tribunal set up to adjudicate on complex environmental issues through the use of both judicial and technical expertise.

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