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. Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 14 January 2019: Will the campaign of 17 year old Alappad Girl Wake up the NATION to the perils of unsustainable sand mining?”
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 Bill amid 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.
The Bill provides for “surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of specified dams for prevention of dam failure related disasters and to provide for institutional mechanism to ensure their safe functioning”. There are over 5,200 large dams in the country and about 450 are under construction. There are also thousands of medium and small dams whose safety remains a matter of concern due to lack of legal and institutional safeguards. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/parliament-winter-session-govt-introduces-dam-safety-bill-5490911/ (13Dec.2018) Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 17 December 2018: Dam Safety Bill Introduced, Tamil Nadu, Odisha Oppose; Why No Role For Independent Experts?”
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)
Explaining the negative impact of waterways projects on Ganga River, Shripad Dharmadhikary in Hindi report titled जलमार्ग परियोजना बदहाल नदियों पर एक हमला writes that the projects lack public consultation “गंभीर बात है कि जलमार्ग विकास से सबसे ज्यादा प्रभावित होने की सम्भावना स्थानीय जनता को है। इसके बावजूद जलमार्ग के विकास से संबंधित ज्यादातर कामों के आयोजन और क्रियान्वयन के लिए न तो इनकी सलाह ली गई है, और न ही इनके बारे में जनता को जानकारी दी गई है। कुल मिलाकर इन जलमार्गों के सामाजिक और पर्यावरणीय प्रभावों का ठीक से आकलन नहीं हुआ है, ऊपर से इन्हें पर्यावरणीय मंजूरी के दायरे से बाहर रखा गया है और सारी प्रक्रिया में लोगों की सहभागिता का भी पूरा अभाव है। ऐसे में जलमार्गों के रूप में इतना बड़ा हस्तक्षेप हमारी नदियों पर एक और बड़ा हमला है जो पहले से बुरी हालत में हैं। https://www.downtoearth.org.in/hindistory/%E0%A4%A8%E0%A4%A6%E0%A5%80%E0%A4%B9%E0%A4%82%E0%A4%A4%E0%A4%BE-%E0%A4%AA%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4%B0%E0%A4%AF%E0%A4%BE%E0%A4%B8-62034 (5 Nov. 2018)
Guest Blog by Manoj Misra
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)
And this fantastic infographic: https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/INDIA-FLOOD/010080MF18N/index.html (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.
- Gujarat suffering due to political use of water for elections in 2017.
- Rajasthan given more water for elections there in 2018. Will Punjab, Haryana suffer now?
- Kerala drought: how much could have been reduced if dams were operated more prudently?
- North Interior Karnataka is suffering, but Krishna basin dams are almost full? Issue of unsustainable cropping patterns, groundwater overuse, and neglect of recharge & regulation?
- 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.
- “We also plan to fill the dams in Saurashtra region and provide water for irrigation from Narmada Dam under the SAUNI scheme,” he said. https://www.firstpost.com/india/water-scarcity-looms-large-in-gujarat-with-state-receiving-only-74-rainfall-so-far-this-monsoon-says-government-5188271.html (15 Sept. 2018)
Himachal Pradesh Rajasthan quietly given extra water by BBMB to improve BJPs Poll prospects A detailed story about how BBMB, controlled by Central Power Ministry, released excess water to BJP ruled Rajasthan this poll year, which has deepened the water availability at BBMB dams this year. This is not that the first time that the water releases have happened to achieve poll objectives. https://www.huffingtonpost.in/2018/09/16/rajasthan-quietly-given-extra-water-by-bhakra-dam-board-to-improve-bjps-poll-prospects_a_23528788/ (14 Sept. 2018)
Rajasthan Rainfall 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.
Well-known ecologist Madhav Gadgil, founder of the Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, has described the devastating floods in Kerala as a man-made disaster and a reaction to the illegal excavations and stone quarrying done over a decade. https://www.hindustantimes.com/pune-news/illegal-forest-land-acquisition-major-reason-for-floods-in-kerala-says-ecologist-madhav-gadgil-calls-it-man-made-disaster/story-vMHPKUH623GEnjyQHI09NP.html (19 Aug. 2018)
Further speaking to various regional media, Madhav Gadgil has said that irresponsible environmental policy is to blame for the recent floods and landslides in Kerala. He also called it a “manmade calamity”. He said that the committee report had recommended to protect the resources with the cooperation of local self-govt and people, but those recommendations were rejected.
He also pointed out that quarrying is a major reason for the mudslides and landslides. Other environmentalists also point fingers at the extensive quarrying, mushrooming of high rises as part of tourism and illegal forest land acquisition by private parties as major reasons for the recent calamity. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/kerala-floods-the-ghost-of-past-environment-policy-returns/65436707 (17 Aug. 2018)
Dams should never be filled before the end of the monsoons. Because then one doesn’t have any solution but to release the water in the surrounding areas: Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP says as one of panellist discussing role of dams in aggravating Kerala floods.
Also see, NDTV discussion on Kerala flood crisis, it included SANDRP coordinator:
Here is NDTV Hindi discussion on Kerala flood crisis, included SANDRP coordinator:
Here is admission about sudden, excessive releases and not foreseeing the coming disaster. The Kerala crisis could have been contained had the state “gradually released” waters from at least 30 dams, officials said, adding that the local authorities failed to foresee the imminent danger with high rain prediction. “Such floods have probably recurred after 100 years, exposing the state’s unprofessionally run reservoir management system and unpreparedness on disaster mitigation and disaster resilience, an official pointed out. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kochi/gradual-dam-water-release-could-have-contained-crisis/articleshow/65436339.cms (17 Aug. 2018)