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 020123: Looking Back to Look forward to 2023

(Feature Image:-River Ken inside Panna National Park from River Stories, Walking Across India-I by Siddharth Agarwal)

This is the first DRP bulletin of 2023 and we would like to begin on a positive note. But to remain grounded in reality we also need to look back at the events in 2022. We see a number of positives in 2022 and we hope that trend continues. The number of new dams and hydropower projects being started has remained on a declining trend. People and civil society has continued its protests against destructive projects and for more decentralised projects and governance.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 191222: Question marks over viability of pump hydro projects

(Feature Image: 1772 Mw PSHPs Spain. Photo courtesy of Iberdrola/ ENR)

The question marks over viability of huge number of pump storage hydro projects (PSHP) being pushed forward in India currently were flowing in the rivers for long. This week, Moody’s investors Service (MIS) seems to have strengthened this after it downgraded Greenko Energy Holdings’ corporate family rating. It may be noted that Greenko is the biggest investor in PSHPs in India from private sector and a major part of Greenko’s new investments are in PSHP.

This makes the implications of MIS’s downgrade all the more interesting. MIS has noted that PHSPs are capital intensive and each PHSP will generate cash flow only after at least 2-3 years of construction (in reality it can be much longer than 2-3 years, the operative phrase here is at least). It also noted that the additional debt to be raised from Greenko’s capital spending, coupled with a rising interest environment will put further pressure on “GEH’s already weak financial metrics” and that Greenko’s high financial leverage due to its substantial capital spending program will keep its financial metrics below its downgrade trigger “for an extended period of time”.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 121222: Green Hydrogen from Hydropower is false solution

(Feature Image: Reservoir of Vyasi hydro project dam on Yamuna river in Dehradun. Credit: Varsha Singh/The Third Pole.)

A section of the hydro lobby has been trying to push hydropower in the name of producing green hydrogen as an alternative energy source. However, it has been known for a long time that this is a false solution. There cannot be green hydrogen when sourced from hydropower as not only hydropower projects have huge social and environmental footprint, they also have huge carbon footprint as the following article shows. It would be best to out rightly reject any such claim of green hydrogen when sourced from hydropower project.  

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Cloud Burst

Himachal Pradesh Cloud Bursts 2022: Rise in Death, Disaster & Destruction

(Feature Image: मनाली में सोलंग नाला के पास सेरा नाले में बादल फटने से आयी बाढ़ का पानी। -प्रेट्र/ The Tribune)

Here is an analysis of cloud burst incidents in Himachal Pradesh during south west monsoon 2022. The first part of the series highlighted the impact of cloud bursts in Uttarakhand and the third and final part would cover the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. SANDRP has been tracking the cloud bursts in West Himalayan states since 2018 and our previous reports for the Himachal Pradesh can be seen here 2021(30 cloud burst incidents); 2020(3 incidents); 2019(16 incidents); 2018(21 incidents).

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 281122: Justice Lokur at IRW 2022: We need to be vocally more aggressive to make a difference

In his key note address at the final session of India Rivers Week 2022, Justice Madan Lokur, former judge of Supreme Court of India said, “Time has come we need to be a little more active and aggressive vocally to ensure that we are listened to about the problems we all are facing. Farmers struggle, the CAA amendment etc. are good examples. There is need for a political will to bring about any change. How do we generate such a political will is the issue.”

Among other messages Justice Lokur gave in his key note address at the final session of India Rivers Week 2022 on Nov 27, 2022 included: “Rivers belong to all, not a select few… We need to ensure that we are effective in our work, our messages.”

The two day, five session India Rivers Week 2022 function focused on use of rivers as waterways, organized in collaboration between India Rivers Forum (IRF is constituted by ten organizations now) and Manthan Adhyayan Kendra ended on Nov 27, 2022. The IRW 2022 sessions had a number of highlights, we will try to bring them to you in separate articles.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 14 Nov 2022: Jal Shakti Ministry says: Groundwater extraction down, recharge up???

(Feature Image: The report also states that the monitoring of the groundwater resources was affected by the Covid-19 outbreak in the country. Source: Bloomberg/TIE)

This sounds so counter intuitive. The Ministry Jal Shakti on Nov 9, 2022 made some findings of its latest “National Compilation on Dynamic Ground Water Resources of India, 2022 public, strangely, without making the report public. It is not clear why the govt did not make the report public, though the counter intuitive nature of the findings provide some hint. The report claims that at all India macro level, the ministry claimed that the groundwater extraction is the lowest in 2022 since 2004, or 18 years and that the groundwater recharge has gone up.

These are counter intuitive findings, even if at macro level for a number of reasons. It is also unclear what methodology is used to arrive at these conclusions and if there has been any independent scrutiny of the same. Since groundwater extraction has been going up for over six decades now, this reversal will need plausible reasons. There are no indications that there is any reduction in this groundwater use. Secondly, the groundwater recharge mechanisms are under attack all over India, and thus the finding that there is increase in recharge raises questions. Particularly since the efforts at groundwater recharge through rainwater harvesting are far from convincing.

More importantly, the real story is at micro level, since groundwater occurs in decentralised aquifers and any significant reduction in use, increase in recharge has to happen at the aquifer level and the assessment also needs to be done and made available at aquifer level for it to have any impact on future regulation of groundwater. In fact the only regulatory body working for groundwater regulation, the CGWA, works in a centralised way and its work has been far from confidence inspiring. That makes this whole findings questionable. Moreover, it would also be useful to see if the extraction has reduced in over exploited areas and if the recharge has increased where it is required most: in over exploited areas. Too many questions and no answers, unfortunately.

Continue reading DRP NB 14 Nov 2022: Jal Shakti Ministry says: Groundwater extraction down, recharge up???
DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 071122: Increasing focus on Urban Rivers; they continue to face destruction

(Feature Image Source: Question of cities)

It is good to see that focus on Urban Rivers is increasing not only in media, but also by the government. The focus of the latest edition of “Question of Cities” is on Urban Rivers, carrying articles on, beside the lead article by SANDRP coordinator, Article “Rivers & Cities”, Sabarmati (Ahmedabad), Mula-Mutha (Pune), on River Centric Urban Planning Guidelines from Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning. In addition, this SANDRP DRP update also carries articles on Dravyawati River of Jaipur, Godavari river in Nasik and a report on Mandakini river in Badrinath.

All this increased focus is welcome, but will be worthwhile only when we see an effective impact of this on rejuvenated Urban rivers. We have yet to see that. In fact, if at all, the movement is hugely in opposite direction, with increasing destruction of Urban Rivers.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 31×22: Unviable Hydro Projects rejected in Himachal, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam

(Feature Image: Group photo during No Means No campaign in April 2022 against destructive hydro power projects in Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh. Source: The Pahari Zone, You Tube)

A number of developments this week once again show how unviable large hydropower projects are facing rejection in a number of states. In Kinnaur (Himachal Pradesh) the local youth are demanding that the candidates in the state assembly elections to be held in November 2022 promise to work against the hydropower projects in the district.

In Arunachal Pradesh, the state government has told that High Court that they have cancelled all the 44 large hydropower projects proposed in Siang basin when locals alleged in the petition “the projects have been initiated in a reckless manner without any regard to the consequences of the same and without following any scientific research”.

In Assam with new accidents, the commissioning of the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri HEP has been pushed back further, making the over Rs 20000 crore project even more unviable. In J&K, the landslides killing 4 people at the under construction Ratel Hydropower project in Kishtwar district on Chenab River has again rung a warning as to what is in store for future if proper appraisal studies are not done. In Uttarakhand, the bid to take over the Lanco Hydropower project on Mandakini river, now undergoing bankruptcy case in the court have been rejected and same is likely to be the fate for the revised bid.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB2 24X2022: Stay on Shimla Draft Development Plan 2041 A Right Step by NGT

(Feature Image:- Locals gather near the debris of the building which collapsed at Kachi Ghati in Shimla. Credit Amit Kanwar/ The Tribune Oct. 2021)

In a welcome development, National Green Tribunal (NGT) has put Shimla Draft Development Plan (SDDP) 2041 on hold finding it ill-conceived and in directly violation of its earlier order of regulating haphazard construction activity in the state capital. This is a major set back of present government which had been hoodwinking the judiciary to provide relief to unauthorized structures with Shimla Planning Area in view of upcoming state assembly election.

To push the SDDP, the government went on to challenge NGT’s judicial power and even approached Supreme Court and chose to ignore the principle of sustainable development.  The NGT order is a validation of the crusade launched by environmentalists and social organizations to save the Queen of Hills from further concretization and degradation.

The government has failed to get any relief from NGT, High Court and Supreme Court on the issue. Its time, the government wake up to the gravity of concerns and fragility of the hill station which has also been struggling to meet potable water demand and performing poorly on solid and liquid waste treatment front.

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