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)
The coastline between Chavara and Alappad in Kollam district of Kerala, has a decades-long story of people’s battle for survival against mining companies. This stretch in Kerala is where the extensive mineral beach sand mining has been happening since the 1960s. The abandoned buildings are the remains of people’s failed agitations and indefinite strikes. One by one the villages in the area are vanishing from the map of Kerala.
– In Alappad panchayat, activists estimate that more than 6,000 fishermen families have vacated over the years due to beach erosion, drinking water scarcity and lack of fish availability. Sooner or later the panchayat will also be turned in to a sand bund, remaining residents say.
Save Alappad the anti-mining campaign has got support from actor Tovino and Vijay fans.
– In 1968, two public limited companies, Indian Rare Earth, which comes under the Centre, and Kerala Minerals and Metals Limited, under the state government, began mining beach sand in the region. According to reports, while a litho map of Alappad village showed 89.5 square kilometre of land in the area, this shrunk to a mere 8 sq km of land by 2019.
Fishermen claim hamlet after hamlet was ‘disappearing’ from the map due to mining activities by the Indian Rare Earth (IRE), a central Public Sector Undertaking, and state government-owned Kerala Minerals and Metals Limited (KMML).
Seeking to save their remaining villages, the people of Alappad and nearby hamlets under the banner of Anti-mining People’s Protest Council have been on a relay-hunger strike at Vellanathuruthu near here for the past over two months demanding a complete halt to the mining activities. However, an official of the IRE, when contacted, said the company was following all mining norms.The two firms together have been engaged in mineral sand mining along the beach off the Kollam coast since the 1960s. https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/alappad-a-tale-of-lost-land-to-mineral-sand-mining-119011100385_1.html (11 Jan. 2019)
KarnatakaPolice-politicians accuse each other of illegal sand mining Legislators and police at logger-head over illegal sand mining issues. While D Shekhar BJP MLA from Goolihatti tried to immolate himself in front of a police station in Hosadurga on Jan. 6 night alleging local police of being involved in illegal sand mining, another BJP MLA M Chandrappa threatens that he and his supporters would picket police stations and “torch” them if the police did not take concrete steps to stop illegal sand mining in Chitradurga district.
Madhya PradeshDespite change in Govt. no respite for rivers:- Large scale illegal sand mining through heavy machines happening in Ken river in Panna and Chhatarpur district of Bundelkhand since last week of Dec. 2018. Sources said that ever since the Congress has come to power, its local leaders are keen to get their share of sand.
Illegal sand mining has intensified in Chhatarpur and Panna in Bundelkhand region. Since last week of December, illegal sand mining is taking place on a large scale at Banjari and Hinota sand mines in Ken river through heavy machines in Luvkush Nagar tehsil of Chhatarpur.
In Nov. 2018, over 300 farmers including around 50 women, started ‘Jal Satyagrah’ by entering the waters of the Ken river to protest against sand mining in the area due to which their crops are getting damaged,” in Ken river near Kolawal Raipur in Girwan area of the Bundelkhand region. As per Naraini SDM Awadhesh Kumar Srivastava, the company involved in the sand mining deviated from the allotted place and has also made a temporary bridge on the river to make passage for the sand-laden trucks. https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/jal-satyagraha-against-sand-mining-in-ken-river-118110100758_1.html (1 Nov. 2018)
GujaratGovt keen on drones with night-vision to track illegal sand mining8 months after its launch, the government’s UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) surveillance project to track illegal sand mining across the riverbeds has reported 48 per cent success. However, with most of the missions returning unsuccessful due to difficulty in operating after dusk, the Geology & Mining Department is now looking to source drones with infrared capability. In the 22 successful missions, the department has imposed a penalty of Rs 13.96 crore and filed four FIRs.
According to officials, the UAV missions were flown after the department received “intelligence” about illegal mining happening on the river-beds. However, most of the missions returned without success, especially from the Sabarmati riverbed, as most of the mining activity is happening during the night, officials said. To combat these issues, the department is planning to get drones with infrared vision.
Punjab Sand mafia threaten a farmer Panchkula farmer threatened by sand mafia for objecting to illegal sand mining. Police on Jan. 6 registered a case under Arms Act and criminal conspiracy against six sadn mafias for threatening a resident of Jalouli village in Chandimandir. Complainant, Sanjeev Kumar, a farmer alleged that the accused threatened to kill him after brandishing weapons including pistol and gun which the accused persons possessed.
Himachal PradeshHC refuses to stay land transfer to hydro facilityThe Himachal Pradesh High Court has refused to stay the transfer of forest land to an Asian Development Bank-funded hydropower project in the state’s Kinnaur district being executed by the state-run Himachal Pradesh Power Corp Ltd. However, local residents, activists and environmental groups, who are opposing the project, said the court order for the 130 MW Integrated Kashang Stage II and III project is “disappointing”.
It was passed “without looking into the merits of the case, which include violations of constitutional laws like Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act of 1996 and Forest Rights Act of 2006”, they said in a statement to the media on Jan. 12.
The Gram Sabha of Lippa village, known for endangered Chilgoza trees, has been struggling against the forest diversion for the hydro power project for over a decade. The villagers say the construction and tunneling activity for the project will lead to severe destabilisation of the land in the region and affect the natural water sources. Even the diversion of the Kerang stream for the project will impact the local hydrology.
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Lakwar DamNGT asks EAC for re-appraisal of the projectCongratulations to petitioners, lawyers and everyone who supported this effort for achieving this NGT order dated January 10, 2019 on Lakhwar Dam on Yamuna, asking for stay till full appraisal is done. One only hopes the EAC will work with science and ecology in mind and not like dam ideologues that they are prone to.
“…direct the EAC to appraise the project afresh in terms of EIA notification 2006 and impose additional general and specific conditions as may be considered necessary. EAC will be free to call for any reports which it may consider necessary. EAC is further directed to complete the appraisal by 15.04.2019. Till the project is reappraised status quo shall be maintained,” a bench headed by Justice Raghuvendra Rathore noted. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/ngt-stays-lakhwar-project-asks-panel-to-appraise-it-afresh-5533345/ (11 Jan. 20169)
The green panel also took note of a study undertaken by an expert body, following Supreme Court orders after the 2013 disaster. “It was brought to the notice of the expert body that clearances to start work had been granted recently to the Lakhwar and Vyasi projects. This is in violation of the spirit of the SC’s August 2013 order. It is also noticed that these projects were approved more than 25 years ago. Consequently they do not have any EIA/EMP/DMP studies that are mandatory today,” the report which was submitted to the Centre in 2014, said.
Renuka Dam MoWR has entered into an agreement with six states — Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, UP and Uttarakhand — for the construction of the Renukaji Multi-Purpose Dam project in the Upper Yamuna Basin. The project is yet to receive the Stage-II forest clearance from the MoEF. About 1,508 hectares in the territory of Himachal Pradesh will be submerged by the project.
The project envisages construction of a 148-metre-high rock filled dam for supply of water to Delhi and other basin states. The project will also generate 40 MW of power during peak flow. The Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd. (HPPCL) will execute the project and its total live storage is 0.404 MAF. Stored water of the Renukaji Dam will be used by UP, Haryana, Delhi and Rajasthan from Hathnikund Barrage, Wazirabad Barrage and Okhla Barrage.
PIB PR on Jan 11, 2019 says: – Gadkari “said that the government will try to get the Cabinet approval as soon as possible.He added that a consensus on Kishau Multi Purpose project has also been developed and soon an agreement for it will also be signed. He also informed about the Lakhwar Multi Purpose project for which agreement was signed on August 28th, 2018 among six basin states.”
– “The live storage of Renukaji MPP is 0.404 MAF and total submergence area is about 1508 hectares in the territory of HP. After the construction of the dam, the flow of river Giri will increase (in lean season?) about 110% which will meet the drinking water needs of Delhi & other basin states up to some extent in lean period. Stored water of Renukaji Dam will be used by UP, Haryana & NCT of Delhi from Hathnikund Barrage, by NCT of Delhi from Wazirabad Barrage and by UP, Haryana and Rajasthan from Okhla Barrage.”
– “The total cost of the project was estimated on Price Level 2015 is Rs. 4596.76 Crores out of which the cost of irrigation/drinking water component is Rs. 4325.43 crores and the cost of power component is Rs. 277.33 crore. The 90% cost of irrigation/drinking water component of the project i.e. Rs. 3892.83 crore will be provided by the Central Govt. and rest 10% of the above cost i.e. Rs. 432.54 crore will be provided by the basin States of Haryana, UP/UK, HP, Rajasthan & NCT of Delhi in the proportion as allocated in MoU dated 12.05.1994 signed by the CMs of the basin states for the allocation of surface water of river Yamuna up to Okhla Barrage.
The shares of these states viz. Haryana, UP/UK, HP, Rajasthan and NCT of Delhi are 47.82%, 33.65%, 3.15%, 9.34% and 6.04% respectively. Govt. of NCT of Delhi has agreed to fund 90% of the cost of power component of the said project. All the mandatory clearances in respect of Renukaji dam project except Stage-II forest clearance, invest clearance and approval from CCEA have been obtained.” http://pib.nic.in/PressReleseDetail.aspx?PRID=1559576 (11 Jan. 2019)
– As per The Print, 4 Jan. report, MoWR has fixed new deadlines and revised budgets of three suspended multi-storage projects — Lakhwar, Kishau and Renukaji — in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. The projects were suspended at different stages since 1992 due to concerns over financial viability and environmental clearances from the basin states.
UttrakhandFor Ganga revival experts urge Govt to do away dam and hydro projects Ganga is a melting pot of many rivers that originate in the snowy mountains and make their journey through forests (about 45% of the State is forest) it hosts a diverse microbial life. This gives it anti-bacterial characteristics. Several research papers, and a 2015 report by the NEERI attest to the presence of ‘phages’, organisms that feed on bacteria, keeping the river clean and conducive to sustaining a spectrum of life forms — fish, turtles and dolphin.
But several dams built over the decades, first on the Bhagirathi and now increasingly on the Alaknanda, obstruct the flow of water. This accelerates siltation, chokes the oxygen supply in the recesses of the river, and eventually harms aquatic life. There is a ripple effect. The water loses its momentum lower down the course when the river extends beyond Haridwar, and from there it cannot deal with the immense volumes of sewage and industrial effluents released in Kanpur, Unnao and Allahabad. It leads to staggering levels of pollution, which extends all the way into Bihar and West Bengal. https://www.thehindu.com/society/and-quiet-flows-the-ganga/article25970106.ece (12 Jan. 2019)
Mullaperiyar Dam Dispute Tamil Nadu govt moves contempt plea over dam plan The State Govt has filed a contempt petition in Supreme Court (SC) against C.K. Mishra, Union Environment Secretary; Dr. S. Kerketta, Member Secretary, Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for River Valley and Hydro Projects, MoEF&CC; Tom Jose, Kerala Chief Secretary; and K.H. Shamsudeen, Chief Engineer, Office of the Chief Engineer Investigation and Designs, IDRB. The petition said that Kerala’s proposal for a new Mullaperiyar dam was in clear violation and utter disregard of a May 2014 Supreme Court judgment in the Mullaperiyar case. The court had specifically directed Tamil Nadu and Kerala to amicably agree to a new dam.
– The petition said the MoEF Secretary had responded in a letter on Nov. 8 that ToR were recommended by the EAC in view of the recent floods in Kerala and the condition of the existing dam which is 123 years old. “It was further stated granting ToR to the project does not necessarily mean that the project is eligible for getting Environmental Clearance (EC)…” the petition quoted the letter. The petition said the statement in the grant of ToR that the dam has “already outlived its useful life” amounts to contempt of the apex court judgment which had found the dam safe “in all respects”. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/tn-moves-contempt-plea-over-dam-plan/article25915489.ece (5 Jan. 2019)
Polavaram Projects Guinness Book of World Record for concrete pouring?? The Polavaram project on Jan. 7 entered the Guinness Book of World by pouring 32,100 cubic metres of concrete in 24 hours. The project had recently bagged the Central Board of Irrigation and Power (CBIP) award for speedy execution of Polavaram multipurpose project and best implementation of water resources project for better planning, implementation and monitoring.
Krishna-Godavari-Penna LinkNGT asks MoEF to submit reportThe green tribunal has directed the MoEF&CC to submit a report on the alleged non-compliance with environmental norms in various river interlinking projects such as Pattiseema, Purushottapatnam, Chintalapudi and Godavari-Penna in Andhra Pradesh. The bench gave the direction after hearing the arguments pertaining to the petition moved by former minister Vatti Vasanth Kumar and member of Water Users Association K Trinath Reddy contending that the State government did not obtain mandatory clearances from the Central Water Commission (CWC) and MoEF for the said projects.
The NGT’s four-membered Principal Bench, headed by justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, on Jan. 8 directed the MoEF to look into the issue and submit a report on whether or not the projects adhering to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification, and if they require the environment clearances. The bench posted the matter to Feb. 22. The tribunal also directed the petitioners to write a letter to MoEF and AP Pollution Control Board (PCB) regarding their grievances.It said that the authorities concerned have to take a decision on the grievances raised within a week of receiving the complaint. http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/andhra-pradesh/2019/jan/09/river-linking-ngt-asks-moef-to-submit-report-1922708.html (9 Jan. 2019)
RIVERS AS NATIONAL WATER WAYS
NW-IICall for subsidy in Kolkata-NE cargo movement via waterwaysThis shows Inlwand transport is neither cost effective nor cheaper:- Inland waterways cargo requires subsidy, at least till navigation in the protocol route via Bangladesh is smoothened to boost cargo movement to North East from Kolkata on the National Waterways-II, officials said.
“We are asking for some subsidy support for using NW-II, at least for a short term, till navigation issues in Bangladesh like dredging and installation of night navigation infrastructure are sorted out,” Summit Alliance Port East Gateway (SAPEL) COO Tushar Biswas told PTI.
Karnataka Irrigation plans no solution to farming woesDOES IT SMELL LIKE ANOTHER IRRIGATION SCAM? Since 2002, Karnataka’s irrigation allocation has steadily increased from a little over ₹1,600 crore to around ₹16,000 crore in the current fiscal, showing an average annual increase of around 6%. But this rise has not translated into a higher irrigated area. Area under irrigation in the state is around 3.1 million ha in 2016-17, which is below 30% of total farm area of 10.7 m ha. The area under irrigation increased from around 2.45 million hectares in 2002 to around 3.1 million ha in 2016-17 from all sources, including canals, tanks, lift irrigation, tube and borewells.
Uttrakhand20 सालों से नदी को बचाने में जुटे हैं भूपाल सिंह नैनीताल तहसील के मुझारचौरा निवासी भूपाल सिंह कठायत ऐसे व्यक्ति हैं, जो पिछले बीस साल से बुरसौल नदी को बचाने में जुटे हैं। बीस वर्ष पूर्व बुरसौल नदी एकदम सूखने के कगार पर पहुच गई थी। उन्होंने ऐसा भगीरथ प्रयास किया कि आज बुरसौल नदी उन्हीं की बदौलत सिंदा है। इसके लिए उन्होंने नदी के स्रोत से ऊपर दीपामाई मंदिर, जाड़ापानी और मुझारचौरा में चौड़ी पत्ती के पौधों का रोपण किया। बिना किसी सरकारी इमदाद के भूपाल ङ्क्षसह प्रतिवर्ष बुरसौल नदी के मुहाने से ऊपर सौ मीटर की दूरी पर चौड़ी पत्ती के पौधों का रोपण करते आ रहे हैं।
इतना ही नहीं वे खेती-किसानी करने के बाद अपना अधिकांश समय नदी किनारे लगाए गए पेड़-पौधों की देखभाल करने में बिताते हैं। उन्होंने नदी में पानी को मापने का यंत्र भी लगाया है। उन्होंने बताया कि उन्होंने इस उदगम स्थल से ऊपर दो सौ मीटर की दूरी पर तिमुल, कुरैणी, बांज, फलयांट समेत बहुजातीय प्रजाति का जंगल विकसित किया है। जिससे बुरसौल नदी अब सदानीरा बनी हुई है। उन्होंने बताया कि कुरैणी जलीय पौधा है। इससे काफी पानी मिलता है।इसे बहुतायत में लगाया जाना चाहिए। https://www.jagran.com/uttarakhand/nainital-bhopal-singh-is-busy-saving-the-river-for-20-years-18819047.html (4 Jan. 2019)
Uttar Pradeshसूख गई स्याही नदी, किसानों को सिंचाई के लिए पानी नहीं, पेयजल संकट भी गहराया Hindi report on drying up of Syahi river and its impact on village farming community:- यूपी के देवरिया और बिहार के गोपालगंज जिले के 150 से अधिक गांवों के लाखों लोगों की जीवनरेखा स्याही नदी सूख गई है। एक दशक से इस नदी में पानी नहीं है। इस कारण इसके तट पर बसे गांवों के लोगों को सिंचाई, पीने के पानी की दिक्कत का सामना करना पड़ रहा है।
GANGA Report‘66 of 97 towns along Ganga have at least 1 drain flowing into river’ – About 78 per cent of towns in West Bengal along the river Ganga have nullahs (drains) flowing directly into the river, a third party inspection of all 97 Ganga towns across five states has revealed. Overall, 66 of the 97 towns had at least one nullah draining into the Ganga, 31 of those were in West Bengal. West Bengal has the largest chunk of towns (40) along the river, followed by Uttar Pradesh (21), Bihar (18), Uttarakhand (16) and Jharkhand (2).
YAMUNA Delhi3 New STPs for treatment of drains 3 new STP of 166 MLD capacity will be developed in the city for the treatment of highly polluted 61 drains directly discharging in river Yamuna. An amount of Rs. 857.26 crore will be spent on the development of these 3 STP und the rehabilitation of Agra sewerage scheme.
Karnataka Workshop on lakes, wetlands and civic interventions in Bengaluru– A participatory planning workshop was recently held by Sensing Local-Living along with Biome Trust, Varthur Rising and Whitefield Rising, bringing together the various stakeholders to discuss and arrive at the appropriate guidelines for designing the Varthur Lake wetlands. The objective was to adopt the right approach for the development of the wetlands around the lake, arriving at the right size, depth, capacity as well as appropriate type, so as to impact positively its biodiversity.
The workshop witnessed representatives from four neighbourhoods, presenting their experience with rejuvenating their neighbourhood lake. These included Agara Lake, Puttenahalli Lake, Jakkur Lake and Lower Ambalipura Lake which had been revived with the active involvement of the local neighbourhoods and currently feature as fine examples of what citizen involvement and partnership can do to the city’s waterbodies. The workshop also had a lengthy presentation by T.V. Ramachandra, professor from IISc, on various components of wetland design, its type, biodiversity and the plant typologies best suited for it. https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/homes-and-gardens/lakes-wetlands-and-civic-interventions/article25970930.ece (11 Jan. 2019)
Kaggadasapura Lake froths; residents fumeKaggadasapura Lake, near CV Raman Nagar in east Bengaluru, on Jan. 9 began frothing, sending foam flying into the neighbourhood. Residents from areas abutting the water body were forced to close their doors and windows. After Bellandur, Varthur and Kalkere lakes, Kaggadasapura Lake is the fourth water body in Bengaluru to froth at its surface.
Residents from the neighbourhood said the lake had frothed a few times earlier. Locals alleged that industries in Pai Layout and Versova Layout were the major cause. “These industries release waste into the lake and these effluents are the major cause for the frothing,” said Krishnamurthy Iyer, a resident of Versova Layout.
Spread over 47 acres, the lake in under the custody of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). According to the Koliwad committee report, 3 acres 24 guntas of the lake bed have been encroached. “We have given 5 acres to BWSSB for installing an STP at the lake and work is under way,” said BBMP commissioner N Manjunatha Prasad.
GujaratWith dried Nalsarovar, livelihoods also dry upSAD situation at Nalsarovar:- But this January, there is none — neither the colony of birds nor the swarming tourists. Nearly 300 boatmen, who ferried tourists from one side of the lake meandering through flocks of brahminy ducks and purple moorhen, are sitting idle. The lake has dried up completely, revealing its cracked and blackened bed.
TelanganaExperts slam govt for apathy to water bodies In a workshop ‘Frothing Lakes: Causes and Mitigation,’ organised by CSIR-NEERI on Jan. 9, experts and concerned have criticized state govt. careless attitude towards water bodies alleging that situation would soon be worse than Bengaluru if corrective measure are not taken.
Maharashtra US-Based engineer help village save 200 Cr litres of water – He may be a resident of California’s Santa Clara with a lucrative annual package as the Director of Engineering for Yahoo USA, but Halgara (Six kilometres away from the Maharashtra-Karnataka border lies the tiny village of Halgara in Latur district) remain close to his heart for a very important reason. it was due to this young man that the drought-hit village embarked on the path of becoming jalyukt or drought-free in the last three years.
– Datta returned to Halgara with his family and spent almost three lakh rupees from his own pocket to start the watershed activities. His idea was simple. To preserve every drop of rainfall in his village by helping it seep into the ground and recharge the groundwater table, rather than allowing it to run off. The first step was desilting the 20 km canals in Halgara. It was only when the silt covering the riverbeds was cleared, that the water seeped into the layers of the ground below.
“Even if we manage to ensure that 30 per cent of this water (that runs off from the river beds into the sea) recharges groundwater tables, we can bring over 50 per cent of Indian agricultural land under the secure water zone,” informs Datta. They also used about 1,500 hectares of farmland to create compartment bunds to store water during the monsoons. The impact of the project is visible in how the groundwater level of Halgara, which was previously at a depth of 800 ft has now risen to 100 ft. https://www.thebetterindia.com/169271/latur-swades-real-story-water-drought-village-maharashtra/ (11 Jan. 2019)
Monga Bay reportRestoring tank irrigation can strengthen rural climate resilience –Since India’s Independence, tank water irrigation has declined in the country due to a combination of reasons: policies, neglect, population rise and the shift to groundwater. Tank water harvesting and irrigation offer a host of benefits such as replenishing groundwater levels, providing drinking water for rural communities and livestock, conserving top-soil and harbouring fish.
Op-Ed Politicians must recognise that groundwater plays big role in farmers’ crisisby K A S Mani:– India’s farm economy can be sustained only if its groundwater distress is properly assessed and ecological solutions implemented. The farm crisis is more serious in ecologically fragile regions, which are drought-prone, witness high temperatures with poor irrigation facilities and depend chiefly on groundwater irrigation. And it only become worse with climate change. In effect, politicians have to factor the global implications of the problems in their backyard into their manifestoes and promises.
Politicians can initiate schemes at the watershed level, through local institutions like the gram panchayat. Such schemes can be aimed at improving soil fertility, soil moisture, organic content, arrest degradation, reducing flash floods and manage pest impact.
A lot of farmers are indebted because of failing wells and falling groundwater levels, especially in the absence of a sustainable groundwater management policy. Moreover, the economic value of groundwater in food production hasn’t been assessed yet.
Tamil NaduMonsoon fails and groundwater level dips in 20 districts –Tamil Nadu is staring at a serious water crisis this summer. While on the one hand, the northeast monsoon failed the State, on the other groundwater levels have dipped remarkably. Analysis of December 2018, data – released by the State Ground and Surface Water Resources Data Centre of the Water Resources Department – reveals that the situation is much worse than the peak summer months of April-May.
Toxic threat to Chennai’s groundwater A cluster of tanneries based in Pallavaram are working to lay a 13.5 km-long underground pipeline to transport treated effluents to the Perungudi Sewage Treatment Plant. Because the Zero Liquid Discharge system — that they are required to use — “costs a lot to maintain” and encounters “technical glitches”. The pipeline project, pegged to cost about `40 crore — has received a No Objection Certificate from the TNPCB. Construction is likely to begin in April. While industrialists have welcomed the move, ecologists are worried about the potential damage it can cause to water bodies and groundwater.
Currently, there are 130 tanneries in the Pallavaram cluster that generate close to 2 MLD of effluents, which is treated at the Common Effluent Treatment Plant that has a capacity of 3 MLD. But that is not enough. To adhere to the pollution control board norms, tanneries must maintain a low rate of Total Dissolved Solids (TLD). They are supposed to send the treated effluents to a Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) system to completely eliminate any discharge.
But the Pallavaram Tanners Company has not been doing that. The (ZLD) system installed at their premises 10 years ago is not being used anymore. They are currently dumping the treated effluents into Adayar River. But since this does not solve the problem of maintinating a “low TLD rate”, they have come up with the pipeline idea. Their effluents will now be taken to Perungudi sewage treatment plant, mixed with domestic sewage and then released into Buckingham Canal.
A highly placed source privy to the matter explained the issue the tanners have with ZLD. Due to high contaminants in the reject water, the zero liquid discharge system is unable to turn the effluents completely into salt crystals. Instead, it turns into a paste-like consistency. “This is because of improper biological process. Reject water will have five times more toxins than the effluents. If the effluents are treated more rigourously, salt formation will not be a problem,” says the source.
The tanners have a different theory: “To be environmentally friendly, we did try to use the ZLD system. As we convert only semi-finished goods unlike other tanneries in the State, our effluents have low levels of dissolved solids — at 6,000 mg/l. Because of this, the salt in the effluents does not crystallise and instead turns into a paste,” says Mohamed Nazeeb, MD of the Pallavaram Tanners Industrial Effluent Treatment Company (PTIET).
Remember the 2012 Tondiarpet oil leak? A major leak was detected then in one of Bharat Petroleum’s pipeline transporting crude oil from Chennai Port to refineries. The accident severely contaminated groundwater table. Experts fear a similar scenario could occur here — industrial waste, though treated, contains contaminants that can pollute groundwater and damage human health.
Interestingly, of the 14 CETP facilities across the State, only the ones in Chennai do not follow the Zero Liquid Discharge model. In the ZLD model, toxic effluent is converted into salts. This will prevent it from being released into water bodies or farmlands and thereby harming human or animal health. In this process, 80 per cent of tannery waste is treated through reverse os mosis method while 20 per cent is evaporated to obtain salts. http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/2019/jan/11/toxic-threat-to-citys-groundwater-1923497.html (11 Jan. 2019)
West BengalOppn flags groundwater concerns, demands intervention of mayorWith three lakh people in Kolkata affected by depleting groundwater level — which is also triggering arsenic threat — Left Front councillors on Jan. 10 sought mayor Firhad Hakim’s intervention in the matter. From Shakuntala Park and Sarsuna in Behala to Subhaspally in Garia, the scene is the same everywhere.
PunePMC seeks to hike water charges by 15 per cent – The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) administration has tabled a proposal to hike water charges by 15 per cent and introduce user charges for the processing of garbage in the next financial year. The civic administration has submitted its tax proposal before the civic body’s Standing Committee, which would be taken up for discussion in a special meeting. According to the proposal, there will be no hike in property tax, but there will be a 15 per cent hike in water charges and the civic body will introduce user charges for garbage processing.
BengaluruResidents may soon have to pay 30 pc more for water The Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) officials are now working on a proposal which recommends the increase in water tariff by 30-35% and officials say that the proposal will soon be sent to the Karnataka govt for approval. The water supply agency is also planning to recover some of the expenses it incurred in projects in the city by increasing the tariff.
BWSSB will have to hold public consultation before the proposal is sent to the government. Officials say that in March 2018, the Karnataka government rejected the agency’s initial proposal made in October 2017 and had recommended that BWSSB hold public consultation. In 2014, the BWSSB had increased the minimum water tariff from Rs 48 to Rs 57 per month and the minimum monthly bill from Rs 83 to Rs 100 per month for domestic usage. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/bengaluru-residents-may-soon-have-pay-30-pc-more-water-94821 (10 Jan. 2019)
HyderabadWater crisis looms large Despite a bountiful monsoon, the city is heading towards a water crisis in the summer with levels in the Krishna river basin depleting at an alarming pace. On Jan. 11, water stood at 541 feet at Nagarjunasagar, and was depleting at the rate of a feet a week. Out of the 465 million gallons supplied to the city daily, Hyderabad receives 190.62 MGD from Nagarjunasagar.
The Water Board has decided to supply water from Manjira and Singur to conserve resources in the Krishna basin. Board officials have written to the irrigation department to stop supply for irrigation and maintain minimum draw down levels in Nagarjunasagar and Srisailam. A high-level meeting would be held soon to discuss measures to overcome the crisis. If water is released for irrigation, emergency pumping will have to be started from February and the situation would worsen in summer. Explaining why water was scarce despite the rain, a Water Board official said TS had not received Krishna water from Karnataka. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/120119/hyderabad-water-crisis-looms-large.html (12 Jan. 2019)
KarnatakaWaste water use in agriculture: ball reaches SCVishwanath Srikantiah on this important development:- The SC has put a stay on the pumping of treated wastewater to Kolar tanks from the wastewater treatment plants in the Koramangala and Chalaghatta valley of Bengaluru, comes the news.
The stay means that this volume of treated wastewater will flow in the Dakshina Pinakini, mix with volumes of untreated wastewater and reach Kelavarapalle dam near Hosur in Tamil Nadu. These waters will then be used to irrigate 1085 acres of land to be cultivated by Tamil Nadu farmers. Some amount of the water will also be picked up by farmers in Karnataka through pumps for irrigation.
A city consumes vast volumes of water. That which is consumed for domestic purpose should reach wastewater treatment plants, be treated to standards prescribed by the pollution control board and then released into the environment or reused. The Govt has thought up a scheme to pump this water from the sewage treatment plants in the Koramangala and Challaghatta valley to fill 136 tanks in Kolar District. This will recharge aquifers in the surrounds and be used for agriculture is their thinking.
BiharKoshi flood affected people “not being compensated”: NAPM writes to CMLed by the Koshi Nav Nirman Manch (KNNM), people displaced by the Koshi embankment area have been on an indefinite dharna at the Supaul district headquarters since January 10, 2019, seeking government assistance, as they have had to leave their place of residence following the disaster that has struck them because of frequent floods leading to soil erosion.
NAPM says, “Before they were forced to sit on dharna, the district administration was communicated about their plight, and on August 30, a protest meeting was held, after which district office bearers promised to fulfill all their demands, but it this has remained a mere assurance. On December 21 they met Principal Secretary, Disaster Relief Department, and on January 7 they declared their intention to start dharna.”
KNNM demands include a survey of the houses damaged due to floods, crop damage, providing compensation to the disaster affected people in accordance with SOP set by the government, providing people ration for the whole year to those who are deprived of food security, loans waiver to farmers, MNREGA work, and their resettlement and rehabilitation. https://www.counterview.in/2019/01/koshi-flood-affected-people-not-being.html (13 Jan. 2019)
Gujarat Ahmedabad: Canal incomplete, water for farming ends up in riverThe Dhatarvadi-II dam in Amreli district in Gujarat was completed in 2004 and is designed to irrigate around 2,600 ha. However, the command area development is hobbled by land acquisition issues. The water is released into the river for farmers to lift water from there. Water was released in a similar manner in 2014 and 2017.
Surat farmers march against water rationing Thousands of farmers marched on the streets of Surat on Jan. 8 against the ongoing water scarcity in the district and demanded the state government to supply water for irrigation for 80 days during the summer season instead of the 42 days as notified by the Irrigation Department. The farmers, under the banner of Khedut Samaj, also asked the government to rescind its circular asking farmers to not sow paddy next summer.
Following a deficient monsoon this year and less rainfall in the catchment areas, the water level in Ukai dam stood at 318.56 feet. Following which, the Irrigation Department decided that water from the dam will be released for 22 days in March and 20 days in April. The water from the dam supplies water for irrigation to farmers in Surat, Navsari, Bharuch, and Valsad districts. Last year, the water level in Ukai dam was 323 feet after monsoon, and the government had decided to supply irrigation water for 116 days on a rotation basis. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/surat-farmers-march-against-water-rationing/ (9 Jan. 2019)
To meet Rajkot city’s water demand, Narmada water reaches Aji-I dam After the Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC) approached the state government with a request to pump more water in Aji-I dam to meet drinking water requirement during summer, the state irrigation department had started pumping 150 MLD water from Dholidhaja dam in Surendranagar to Aji-I dam via link-III of SAUNI (Saurashtra Narmada Avataran Irrigation) Yojana from the beginning of this month. The department expect to last this water till the end of April 2019 and as a precautionary measure, requested state govt to pump 600 million cubic feet more Narmada water.
India- Pakistan‘Breakthrough’ as India greenlights Chenab hydropower projects inspection by PakistanPakistani Commissioner for Indus Waters Mehr Ali Shah said a delegation of Pakistani experts will visit the two Indian project sites on Chenab River for an inspection, scheduled for later this month. “India has also given positive signals regarding inspection of other projects constructed on Chenab River,” he revealed. Pakistan has objections to the pondage and freeboard of Lower Kalnal, and pondage, filling criteria and spillway of Pakal Dul hydropower projects on Marusadar River — a right bank tributary of the Chenab. https://www.dawn.com/news/1456907 (11 Jan. 2019)
Nepal Way forward for hydropower developmentThe article says half of this potential is unviable. Much more is likely to be unviable. – Karnali and Mahakali river basins have a catchment area of 48,811 km2 and 16,097 km2, with approximate hydropower potential of 36,180 MW (the watershed area of the Mahakali River lies in India and Nepal)
– Gandaki river basin has a catchment area of 36,607 km2 and approximate hydro potential of 20,650 MW. Koshi river basin has a catchment area of 57,700 km2 and hydro potential of 22,350 MW (the watershed area lies in Tibet/China and Nepal)
BangladeshTeesta, Dharla turn into canals 12 small rivers have already dried up and two major rivers — Teesta and Dharla — have been turned into canals in the district due to lack of water flow from upstream India.
– Mile of chars have developed on the rivers, causing problems for the char people as they have to cross many kilometres of sandy char land to go to the mainland.
The judgement was issued on a suo motu case pertaining to selling by the companies of water extracted from underground sources without any charge as well as the quality and fitness of the same for human consumption, Dawn newspaper reported.
StudySocial and environmental costs of hydropower are underestimated, study showsThe warning comes from an article by researchers at Michigan State University published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The lead author is Emilio Moran, a visiting professor at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in São Paulo State, Brazil. “We argue that if the construction of large dams in developing countries is to continue, it must always be preceded by a painstaking assessment of their real cost, including the environmental and social impact they have,” Moran said.
– “When a large dam is built, the result is a downstream loss of a great many fish species that are important to riverine populations. These communities will have to continue somehow making a living despite dwindling fish stocks for 15 or 20 years, for example, and the costs of these projects don’t take such economic and social losses into account.”
– “The cost of removing a dam once its useful life is over is extremely high, and should be taken into account when computing the total cost of a new hydro development,” Moran said. “If the cost of removal had to be included, many dams wouldn’t be built. It would be far more expensive to produce a kilowatt-hour of electricity via a hydro complex with a useful life of 30 to 50 years, like those under construction in Brazil.” https://phys.org/news/2019-01-social-environmental-hydropower-underestimated.html (11 Jan. 2019)
Easter Island statues: mystery behind their location revealedMystery of the Easter Island Statues:-The huge stone figures of Easter Island have beguiled explorers, researchers and the wider world for centuries, but now experts say they have cracked one of the biggest mysteries: why the statues are where they are.
Researchers say they have analysed the locations of the megalithic platforms, or ahu, on which many of the statues known as moai sit, as well as scrutinising sites of the island’s resources, and have discovered the structures are typically found close to sources of fresh water. They say the finding backs up the idea that aspects of the construction of the platforms and statues, such as their size, could be tied to the abundance and quality of such supplies. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jan/10/mystery-of-location-of-easter-island-statues-revealed (10 Jan. 2019)
Op-EdA National Law for Urban TreesVERY useful article from RITWICK DUTTA on: However, unlike forest, wildlife, water, and air, there exists not even a single central legislation for the protection of trees in areas that are not a part of the forestland. Protection and preservation of trees is governed only through state-specific tree preservation laws of the respective states. This article examines the basic structure of the tree preservation laws, and appraises how effective these have been in protecting trees in certain instances where these were invoked.
A letter, addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and prepared by senior activists led by Aruna Roy on behalf of the Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG), and signed, among others, by 80 members of Parliament, has regretted that, despite repeated public statements by his government promising employment and job creation that will boost the country’s growth, the country’s only employment guarantee programme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), “is being systematically undermined. https://www.counterview.net/2019/01/99-mgnrega-funds-exhausted-govt-of.html (12 Jan. 2019)
Good to see NGT rejecting the flawed Groundwater notification dated Dec 12, 2018 from CGWA that was also critiqued by SANDRP: https://sandrp.in/2018/12/31/groundwater-governance-why-dec-12-2018-cgwa-notification-would-be-disastrous/. However, NGT should have asked an independent panel to formulate the policy for sustainable groundwater use, rather than a committee of the same government persons. Besides, there is also need for restructuring of currently totally ineffective CGWA and make it COMPLETELY INDEPENDENT of government.
On Dec 12, 2018, The government introduced the Dam Safety Billamid din in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday even as Biju Janata Dal group leader Bhartruhari Mahtab questioned the legislative competence of the House on the matter.
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.
PM Modi inaugurated the first multi-modal terminal on the Ganga river in Varanasi on Nov. 12 under a project aimed at promoting inland waterways as a cheaper and more environment-friendly means of transport. The multi-modal terminals are being built as part of the central government’s Jal Marg Vikas Project that aims to develop the stretch of the river Ganga between Varanasi and Haldia for navigation of large vessels weighing up to 1,500-2,000 tonnes. https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/pm-modi-to-inaugurate-1st-multi-modal-terminal-on-ganga-river-in-varanasi-1944924 (9 Nov. 2018)
Allowing Swami Gyan Swarup Sanand (formerly Prof. GD Agarwal) to die unheard is perhaps the most tragic but not the only serious faux pas committed by Prime Minister Modi and his team in the matter of Ganga rejuvenation. It was actually the culmination of a series of missteps that began early in his tenure.
It can reasonably be presumed that candidate Modi was sincere and serious when he made those famous statements at Varanasi during his campaign (and even later) regarding Ganga rejuvenation. They seemed straight from his heart and seemed to be convincing to many. Everybody thought, “Here is a Prime Minister, who does not – contrary to his predecessor – need goading to make all the right noises”. Hopefully these noises shall result into right actions as well. So much so that Swami Sanand waited almost four years before making his discomfort on lack of any worthwhile progress on Ganga rejuvenation known directly to the Prime Minister. He wrote a number of letters before and after embarking (beginning 22 June 2018) on his legendary 111 day fast that ultimately led to his martyrdom on 11 Oct 2018.
International news agency, after independent research, have corroborated what SANDRP has been saying: Mismanagement of dams played big role in worsening Kerala floods.
-“The release could have started earlier so that by Aug. 9 there would have been left-over capacities in the reservoirs to store the water,” said Biswajit Mukhopadhyay, director of water resources at U.S-based engineering firm IEA, who analysed some of the publicly available data at the request of Reuters.
– Still, dozens of flood victims interviewed by Reuters, who live in villages dotting the banks of Kerala’s biggest river, the 244 km Periyar, say they faced no floods despite torrential rain in late July and early August. All of them said waters only rose overnight on Aug. 15. That was when more intense rainfall forced KSEB to rapidly ramp-up releases of water from Idukki and Idamalayar reservoirs, which feed into the Periyar.
– Kerala’s revenue secretary and head of disaster management, P.H. Kurien, told Reuters he has twice written to KSEB requesting EAPs and has yet to receive them. KSEB’s Pillai said EAPs and dam operation manuals were still being prepared. CWC said it was working with Kerala’s government to speed this up. The Kerala Chief Minister’s office did not respond to requests for comment. https://widerimage.reuters.com/story/did-dams-make-indias-once-in-century-floods-worse (11 Oct. 2018)
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.
Kutch and North Gujarat are likely to face severe water scarcity this year, officials said. The Kutch region has received a mere 26.51 percent of average rainfall so far, while North Gujarat has received 42.93 percent, central Gujarat 66.83 percent, Saurashtra 72.20 percent and South Gujarat the highest 94.79 percent.
However, the Sardar Sarovar Dam is filled up to 125.82 meters, and it can provide drinking water for the entire state till the next summer, the govt said. As per Govt. storage in Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada, which will be enough to meet the state’s need for drinking water through the next summer.
The Narmada water will also be used to fill up empty dams in Saurashtra including Aji 1, Macchu 2, Vadod and Ankadia through the Sauni scheme, officials said.
“The state govt will provide 20,000 cusecs water for the next 20 days to save the crops in water-starved areas,” Deputy CM Nitin Patel told reporters in Gandhinagar said.
“We plan to fill up 400 big and small ponds in North Gujarat by Narmada water through canals and pipeline network of the Sujlam Suflam scheme,” he said.
RajasthanRainfall deficit in many districts As per IMD, Badmer district of Rajasthan has received rainfall 48 percent below normal till Sept. 16. Similarly rainfall deficit in Hanumangarh 58 percent so far. Jallor district is facing maximum rainfall deficit of 60 per cent less than normal. Likewise the rainfall in Pali district is 35 per cent below the normal and in Jaislmer is facing a rainfall deficit of 38 per cent. In Western Rajasthan it rained only 193 mm during entire monsoon season causing a deficit of 24 per cent below the normal.