The Prime Minister finally found time to have the first ever meeting on National Ganga Council, over three years after the Ganga Notification of Oct 7, 2016. The meeting happened at Kanpur, where the NGT recently fined the state government for continuing to release untreated effluents into the Ganga. In fact NGT in recent weeks have taken several decisions that also shows how abysmally the govt has failed on Ganga front. And now after the first NGC meeting, the Prime Minister, in an effort to divert attention from Namami Gange failure, is proposing the new slogan of Arth Ganga, which basically seems to suggest focus on Money, which is Exactly what is not going to help the cause of Ganga. The Ganga is still on the lookout for the Ganga putra that promised a clean Ganga in May 2014.
In a shocking revelation, Jay Mazoomaar in this Indian Express report exposes how Wildlife Institute of India not only accepted consultancies from hydropower companies, but also diluted the mandate for the studies for given by statutory bodies like NGT, NBWL and FAC, but also provided compromised reports catering to the interests of the hydropower developers, thus trying to clear the way for the two controversial mega hydropower projects, one each in Dibang and Lohit river basins in Arunachal Pradesh. https://indianexpress.com/article/north-east-india/arunachal-pradesh/wildlife-institute-all-for-hydel-projects-in-arunachal-pradeshs-tiger-zone-5499656/
In case of the 3097 MW Etalin project being developed by Jindal and Arunachal Pradesh govt, the IE report says: “the WII was asked by the Ministry (MoEF) to assess the feasibility of the plan that requires 1,166 hectares of forestland in the valley. The Ministry’s move followed a recommendation from its Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) to conduct an environment impact assessment study. Instead, the WII initiated a study to find how the project’s impact on wildlife can be minimised”. Thus instead of doing the mandated scientific impact assessment, the WII initiated a study to minimise the project’s impact.
Above: Illegal Sand Mining in Pune (Photo: Indian Express)
At State level the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) is the regulatory authority for granting environmental clearance to the projects falling under Category ‘B’ in Schedule of EIA notification, 2006, which receives projects recommended by State level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC). SEAC is constituted for the purpose of assisting the SEIAA. Both SEAC and SEIAA are constituted under the EIA notification. For Maharashtra there are three SEACs. SEAC-I looks after appraisal of all the projects related to Industries, Mining, Irrigation and others, excluding building projects. SEAC-II looks appraises all the building projects falling under Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) and SEAC-III appraises the building projects falling under Non-MMR region.
SANDRP looked at the decisions of SEAC-I (hereafter referred to as SEAC) for 17 meetings (of year 2015-16) specifically for projects which involve rivers, water bodies and also which have large water footprint e.g. sugarcane. The projects related to rivers and water bodies mainly consisted of sand mining projects, medium irrigation projects, dredging of rivers for proposed waterways, newly proposed or capacity enhancement of sugar factories and few other specific projects such as solid waste dumping site proposed by Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Corporation (KDMC) which is close to the river etc.
At the outset it has to be said that the minutes for all the meetings are highly generic with little or no project specific elaboration especially of the environmental impacts. For most of the projects especially sand mining the remarks and conditions are standard. If one is trying to understand the rationale behind sanctioning some projects it finds no mention. Many of the projects like sand mining, river dredging or solid waste management sites near flood lines have been approved despite of evident grave risk. ‘No project’ does not seem to be an option at all.
Minutes of the meetings reflect how the project proponents (PP) have taken rivers for granted. Despite repeated violations SEAC has bestowed tremendous faith in PP that the conditions it stipulates will be complied with.
Remarks made by the committee give an impression of inadequate impact assessment of the projects. There is enough room to question if any serious impact assessment happened at all.
All in all after studying the minutes it becomes apparent how government bodies have failed to curb violations and damage to the rivers. Continue reading “Maharashtra State Environment Protection Agency: Pathetic performance, sits over destruction of rivers”
Above: Children trying to understand why their River Mutha is so polluted Photo: Parineeta Dandekar
Treating even 50% of its sewage is a dream that has been eluding Pune for decades. Mula, Mutha, Pavna and Indrayani Rivers crisscrossing Pune have routinely made headlines for pouring Pune’s sewage into Ujani Dam in the downstream, which supplies drinking water to several towns and villages, including the city of Solapur. All these rivers are classified as one of the 35 most polluted river stretches of India by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has recently agreed to extend a loan of 1000 Cr. under project ‘pollution abatement of River Mula-Mutha’. Utilizing this funding PMC has proposed to build 11 new sewage treatment plants (STPs) with treatment capacity of 396 MLD. It is one of the star projects under Smart City programme and engineers of water supply department are gearing up for the construction of new STPs. As stated in the PMC newsletter of Feb 2016, the 11 new STPs will increase treatment capacity of Pune from current 477 MLD (Million Liters a Day) to 873 MLD which, it is claimed, will be sufficient to cater to sewage generation till year 2027. Continue reading “Pune plans more STPs while existing plants under perform and there is no attempt to fix them”
Above: Dying rivers, as they leave Pune Photo: Parineeta Dandekar
In May, decision of Pune’s Guardian Minister and head of canal committee of releasing 1 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) water from Khadakwasla Dam to downstream regions of Daund and Indapur saw huge protests from the city’s political parties and civic administration. Ensuring that Pune suffers no further water cut, even when downstream regions face historic drought, seems to have become the Mayor’s crusade. Keeping urban areas insulated and away from a terrible water crisis has its own major equity issues.
Pune is a water surplus city in upper riparian region of Krishna Basin. In a report “Reimagining Pune: Mission Smart City” submitted to Urban Development Department by Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), it is admitted that Pune has water availability of 219 lpcd (liters per capita per day). Even so, the city has been much reluctant to share its water with downstream villages. it has seen barely 20% water cuts since last October.
While discussions and debates about drought revolve around sugarcane, industries, rural water use, irrigation management etc, etc., the growing, unjustified footprint of urban areas generally is left scot free and Pune is a classic example if this.
Here, we take a brief look at PMC’s water supply approach with its monomaniacal supply-side focus. While sourcing much more water than allocated from four upstream dams, PMC has been shirking from its responsibility of treating waste water before releasing it for the downstream. PMC has taken the upstream dams for granted and is planning for expansion of water supply system with 24×7 water supply in near future, relying on more water from these dams. Continue reading “Consume more, Pollute more, Pay less, Ask for more Dams: Pune City’s water policy”
How a citizens’ initiative is protecting the Godavari in Nashik
14th July was the first day of the Simhastha Kumbh Mela in Nashik (Maharashtra), on the banks of Godavari River, the largest river basin of Peninsular India (Godavari’s Story: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/an-introduction-to-godavari-basin/). For perhaps more than a thousand years, people have been congregating on the banks of Godavari every twelve years on the occasion of Simhasta Kumbh, making the ghats come alive. Kumbh has a distinction of being the largest peaceful gathering of humans in the world (Peaceful is subjective term. In Nashik Kumbh 2003, 39 people were trampled to death in a stampede and bloody fights between the sects are not uncommon). Continue reading “गोदावरी ध्वजारोहण : Hoisting Godavari’s Flag this Kumbh”