Urban Rivers

Urban Rivers 2022: Top Ten Positive Stories from India

(Feature Image: WATERMARK: An 1810 painting by J. Hammer of the Hooghly at Serampore/ Source, The Telegraph)

The plight of urban rivers in India has been going from bad to worse courtesy systematic neglect and unplanned development projects. On the one hand they are being increasingly deprived of freshwater flows by diverting water for domestic supplies and on the other have been turned into dumping place for mostly untreated solid and liquid waste in massive amounts from residential areas as well as industrial pockets. Nevertheless, there are some remarkable efforts being undertaken by individuals, organizations, government departments aiming at restoration of urban rivers at some places across the country. This compilation highlights top ten such positive urban river stories taking place during past one year. 

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 13 June 2022: Down in Dumps, MoEF becomes more opaque

(Feature image: Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav with PM Narendra Modi before taking oath on July 7, 2021 PTI/HT.)

While the news that India has achieved the worst ever ranking of 180, at the bottom of 180 country index in terms of Environment Performance Index was shocking, it should not surprise too many people considering the way environment is treated by the current central government, particularly the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). As expected, MoEF questioned the methodology of the assessment, and the criticism has been responded to and rejected by the authors of the EPI report.

Now with a dictate of the MoEF (dated Apr 8, 2022, preceding the EPI news) coming to light, the trajectory of the MoEF should leave no one in doubt. Through this dictate, the MoEF has asked the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), a supposedly autonomous institute of the Ministry, to seek the ministry’s approval before it publishes any document, that too with retrospective effect! WII in any case, was towing the ministry’s line in many of the cases as is evident from its performance in regulatory committees like the Forest Advisory Committee, National Board of Wild Life and Expert Appraisal Committee (on River Valley Projects, possibly among others). And yet the Ministry has come out with this dictate, without giving any reasons, possibly since some of WII reports have been problematic for the govt in judicial proceedings in some cases. But the MoEF move to stop WII from publishing (and hence doing) any credible studies only shows the paranoia of the ministry. Its performance index would not improve this way, it would only get worse.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 21 Mar 2022: Centre’s unconvincing Plan to rejuvenate 13 major rivers

The government of India, through joint announcement of Union Ministries of Jal Shakti & Environment and Forests (such joint addresses are rather rare events) this week announced its plans to rejuvenate 13 major rivers of India (excluding Ganga but including some of the key Ganga tributaries!) through the limited activity of plantations is not every convincing on many counts. Firstly it is welcome to see that the government sees a role of forests as a hydrological asset. Unfortunately, this is clearly and completely absent in government’s forest management, both in policy and practice. If we see the forest governance of India through the functioning of the Forest Advisory Committee of MoEF, we see absolutely no sign of acknowledgement of this reality that forests are major hydrological assets. So for example when a decision is taken to allow diversion of major chunks of existing forests, there is never any discussion, assessment or counting of hydrological eco system services that forests provide. This is apparent in many cases, but most recently in the case of Ken Betwa project where the Supreme Court’s Central Empowered Committee too has acknowledged this reality. So again it seems government’s mind or heard does not seem to know what the tongue is conveying!

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 9 Aug 2021: Doubtful validity of GOI’s July 15 notification on AP-Telangana water disputes

(Feature image: Two Telugu states, one river — why Andhra & Telangana are fighting it out over the Krishna https://theprint.in/india/two-telugu-states-one-river-why-andhra-telangana-are-fighting-it-out-over-the-krishna/696801/)

The July 15 2021 Govt of India notification on Andhra Pradesh-Telangana water disputes is of doubtful legal validity and the Supreme Court urgently needs to examine this. The 2014 AP Regorganisation Act didn’t make provision for the Centre to take over water infrastructure of the two states, which is what effectively the centre has done through the July 15 notification. The Jul 15 notification effectively dismissing powers of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana without any consultations and there is no provision in constitution for this.

There is no doubt that the long lingering water sharing disputes between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh and which was the major reason for the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, needs to be resolved. But the blame for not achieving any resolution of the disputes also lies with the Centre, the KRMB and GRMB are not even functioning with necessary urgency or effectiveness.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 12 July 2021: Will Bhupender Yadav improve India’s Environment Governance?

It’s rather rare when some of the most well-known environmentalists of India, including Ritwick Dutta and Manoj Misra welcome the arrival of Bhupender Yadav as India’s new Environment Minister. The state of the environment governance under the outgoing minister, Prakash Javadekar has worsened so much, both in perception and substance, that possibly any change would look better. In fact Javadekar may be front runner for the label of India’s worst ever environment minister according to some analysts.

The environment appraisals, the constitution of committees including the various Expert Appraisal Committees, the Forest Advisory Committee and the Standing committee of National Board of Wildlife, the public hearings and consultation processes, the state of pollution and rivers, biodiversity, wetlands, floodplains, sand mining, to name just a few areas, were all seen going downhill on a steep slope during the Javadeker period. The monitoring and compliance remained non existent. Some would argue that was it much different before Javadekar. The point is Javadekar had no pretentions of trying to improve the environment governance. He was out to dilute every available norm and he seemed to have succeded significantly.

Even if Yadav were to genuinely wish to improve matters, how much will he be allowed to do, by the perceived imperatives of the economic fundamentalist agenda, the well-entrenched vested interests and the bureaucracy is a question that only time will tell, but there is little doubt that a lot can and needs to be done rather urgently and none of these perceived obstacles should come in the way if there is will. The climate change is making the improvement in environmental governance rather urgent.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 28 June 2021: Where is the impact of lessons of the water conservation efforts that Modi praises, on his government’s water projects and policies?

When the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi Mentioned some exemplary water conservation efforts in his Mann ki Baat on June 27, 2021, it was not for the first time he was doing it. These are certainly most welcome.

However, these mentions raise a number of questions. If the Prime Minister considers these local water options as exemplary, which they indeed are, where do we see the reflection of the lessons from such efforts in government programs and policies? In fact why there is no reflection of such lessons in what the government does in water sector? How can the government justify the destruction of Panna Tiger Reserve, over 9000 ha of forests, some 46 lakh trees, the catchment of Ken river and large part of Bundelkhand in the name of Ken Betwa Link Project, in the same Bundelkhand. How can his government justify the destructive projects like the Char Dham Highway, the big hydro projects and so on in the same Uttarakhand where Sachidanand Bharati (who was incidentally recipient of the Bhagirath Prayas Samman of India Rivers Week) works, whose efforts the PM praised? One hope the PM and his government will be awake to the implications and lessons of the works that PM praises.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 24 May 2021: Campaign to protect Pune Rivers

An active campaign has been going on for several months now to save the Pune Rivers from the so called “River Front Development” Project as can be seen the following stories of just last one month. The RFC supporters are also out to push multi crore project, as can be seen from the numerous stories being planted in the media on regular intervals. There is no doubt that the Pune Rivers will be destroyed and the city will face increasing flood disasters if the project goes ahead. One hopes the Civil Society campaign continues and judiciary steps in to stop this destruction at the earliest.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 12 Apr 2021: Meghalaya, Himachal, MP people oppose Dam & Hydro projects

(Feature image: Locals protest against the proposed mega dam project on the Umngot river. Shillong Times)

From the news this week we can see news reports of strong protests to dam and hydro projects from North East India (protests against the proposed 240 MW Umngot hydropower project), North India (protests against the Jangi Thopan power project in Himachal Pradesh) and Central India (protests against the Ken Betwa Link Project and Basania Dam on Narmada, both in Madhya Pradesh), among others. These protests underline not only the protests against the social and environmental destruction such projects bring, but also the abysmally poor environmental governance and decision making processes, the shoddy Environment Impact Assessments, the Public Hearings and over all undemocratic decision making process. One hopes the government realises the underlying issues and addresses them urgently rather than ignoring the messages and messengers.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 5 Apr 2021: Maan Dam affected get hope for justice: Salutes to NBA

A Supreme Court appointed Appeal Forum, appointed as per the SC order in 2012 has directed the Madhya Pradesh (MP) Govt to provide minimum 2 ha land to every displaced family as per the policy. This has raised hopes for just rehabilitation for the thousands of people displaced by the Maan dam in Dhar district of MP by the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA). This is a major victory for the three decades long struggle of the affected people, led by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA). The Forum has asked the govt to provide land to the affected in three months. The dam has been constructed on Maan river, a tributary of Narmada. One hopes the displaced get the justice soon as per the orders of the SC appointed appeal forum. Salutes to NBA for this. One hope the Supreme Court will ensure this happens in a just and expeditious way.

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Bridges · Dams · Urban Rivers

Bridges of Pune and the People who Stop and See

Several bridges, old and new crisscross over the rivers Mula and Mutha in Pune. Some of them are old and stately like the Lakdi Pul built over 250 years ago or the beautiful Shivaji Pul, while there are low ones like the Baba Bhide Bridge, which routinely gets submerged in the monsoons.

I try to walk across these bridges on most evenings.

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