DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 070222: Union Budget provisions for ILR inappropriate, shows disrespect to statutory clearances and processes

(Feature image source Money Control:- https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/business/economy/union-budget-2022-live-updates-nirmala-sitharaman-crypto-bill-rail-itr-pf-contribution-cryptocurrency-income-tax-news-custom-duty-relief-gold-etf-8006461.html)

The Union Finance Minister (FM) Smt. Nirmala Seetharaman in her budget for 2022-23 presented in the parliament on Feb 1, 2022 provided Rs 4300 Cr for the controversial Ken Betwa Project in Revised Estimates for 2021-22 and Rs 1400 Cr in Budget estimates for 2022-23. The KBP has not received the final forest clearance. In fact its stage I forest clearance conditions cannot be implemented without changing the project and its cost benefits and impacts. Its wildlife clearance has been questioned by the Central Empowered Committee of the Supreme Court of India and the comprehensive scathing report of the CEC Is yet to be heard by the SC. Its environmental clearance is under challenge before the National Green Tribunal. The hydrological figures that are supposed to provide the scientific basis for the project are neither in public domain, nor has it gone through any independent scrutiny. In this situation, the allocation of the funds for the project in the Union Budget and inclusion of a statement about the project in the speech of the President of India before the Joint Session of Parliament on Jan 31, 2022 are inappropriate. They seem to be timed in view of the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 03 Jan 2022: Are we any safer from Dam Disasters?

In the 2021 year-end review by the Ministry of Jal Shakti (Ministry of Water Resources), the passage of the Dam Safety Bill by the parliament figures in headlines. The question is are we any safer from dam disasters due to this? If we take a quick review of the numerous dam disasters just this year and also look at the dam disasters mentioned in this Bulletin that happened just in the last week of the passing year, the answer is clear no. Such disasters include ones in Himachal Pradesh, Nepal and Brazil.

There is also the news here of the Uttarakhand agency report about the Feb 2021 Chamoli disaster, about which the official govt agency has said failure of Early Warning System was a factor in the disaster. The bigger disaster is that the state govt has promptly issued show cause notice to the authors of the paper blaming the lack of EWS!

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 20 Dec 2021: Judiciary fails the environment AGAIN

By allowing the Char Dham Highway to go ahead, putting aside all the environment, safety, disaster vulnerability and even norms and affidavits of the Ministry of Highways and the Defence Ministry, as well as the report of the expert panel set up by the apex court, the Judiciary has again failed the Environment, among other things. This is contrary to the generally held belief that Judiciary stands up for the cause of the environment. That belief has no real basis, as can be seen again. This is also failure of the governance, experts and environmental groups, besides also the failure of the media too.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 13 Dec. 2021: Gargai Dam Scrapped; Wise Move by BMC to Go for Alternatives

In a wise move, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has cancelled Gargai dam project. In its January 2014, submission to Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), SANDRP had highlighted the adverse impacts of this project on tribal people and Tansa Sanctuary stressing on alternatives including recycling of sewage and rain water harvesting. Finally, now the BMC has scrapped the unjustified project which would have caused felling of 4.5 lakh trees which BMC chief Iqbal Chahal rightly finds pointless in the wake of increasing climate change threats.

It is worth to mention that in February 2020 BMC was learnt reconsidering its Pinjal dam project and exploring other options including waste water recycling. Indeed the BMC is taking right steps. Dams are costly, destructive projects impacting rivers, forests and local people in multiple ways. The demand side management, efficient use of existing water supplies, rain water harvesting and recycling of waste water are among far better alternatives to meet urban water demands.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 15 Nov 2021: District Level Vulnerability Assessment in India

This is the kind of study that was long overdue. In fact such a study should have been done before formulating India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) as SANDRP has been saying since 2009 (see SANDRP critique of NAPCC published under the title “THERE IS NO HOPE HERE) when NAPCC was made public by a dozen wise individuals sitting in a room without any participatory or transparent exercise. One hopes that India will restart the exercise of fresh formulation of NAPCC after doing such a study on an urgent basis, on the lines of the study described below. In any case one hopes the union and state governments will wake up and take up District level vulnerability assessment in India in an independent way on urgent basis.

“This study undertakes a first-of-its-kind district-level vulnerability assessment of India, which maps exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity using spatio-temporal analysis. To do this, we developed a climate vulnerability index (CVI) of Indian states and Union Territories (UTs). Instead of looking at climate extremes in isolation, we map the combined risk of hydro-met disasters and their compounded impacts on vulnerability. By doing so, we aim to inform policy goals in the resource-constrained context of India.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 1 Nov 2021: Why is Ganga not ENTHU about Ganga Utsav?

The Government of India, through the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) under the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti has announced the celebration of Ganga Utsav this year from Nov 1-3, 2021. The Ganga Utsav is supposed to mark the anniversary of announcement of River Ganga as the ‘National River’ i.e. 4th November, 2008. It is supposed to be celebrated not only in Ganga basin, but across the country as River Festival. There is little enthusiasm or even knowledge about this across the country or even in Ganga basin, though.

Ganga River itself continues to face the onslaughts all across the basin in the name of development, some noteworthy aspect of these include: pushing unviable hydropower project in the upstream; pushing disastrous projects like the Lakhwar Dam project and the Ken Betwa River Link project in the Ganga basin; construction of Char Dham and other highways without any assessment of impacts of the project on the river; construction of huge infrastructure along the river in the name of Ganga waterway, further impacting the river and its biodiversity, again without any impact assessment or participatory decision making; continuously increasing water extraction, diversion, use, pollution and dumping of solid wastes along the river; increasing and indiscriminate sand and boulder mining and quarrying from the river bed and floodplain, without any credible impact assessment; increasing encroachments into the river bed in the name of solid waste dumping, river front development, channelisation etc, in absence of any policy, rules or regulation about the space belonging to the river, to name a few. No wonder, the rivers in the Ganga basin has shown no enthusiasm for the Ganga Utsav!

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 22 March 2021: PM presiding over proposal for destruction of 46 lakh trees, Bundelkhand & Panna Tiger Reserve on World Water Day?

There cannot possibly be any worse news on World Water Day for India than that the Prime Minister is presiding over the agreement between Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh Chief Ministers to destroy some 46 lakh trees, Panna Tiger Reserve, Ken River, Bundelkhand and also downstream Banda district. All to export water from Bundelkhand to Upper Betwa basin.  All this in the name of pushing the mindless project called Ken Betwa River Link Project. Why is the government pushing this destructive project, a Rs 38 000 Crore proposition? The answer to that question is in that question: it is a Rs 38 000 Cr proposition!

There is still some hope though for the people of Panna, Banda and Bundelkhand if there is any respect for the law of the land. This is because the project does not have final forest clearance and the conditions of the stage I forest clearances are not implementable. The Wild Clearance of the project is challenged by the Central Empowered Committee of the Supreme Court, following a petition. The Environment Clearance to the project has also been challenged before the National Green Tribunal. Let us hope there is sufficient respect for the law of the land, to ensure that the project does not go ahead even with the agreement signed. But a key propriety question arises is, should the prime minister endorse a project that does not have all the statutory clearances and legal challenge to whose clearances are before the judiciary?

But the prime minister’s advocacy for rainwater harvesting on the same also loses a lot of its credibility, seeing that he is presiding over this destruction that goes totally against the central message of harvesting rain where it falls, when it falls.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 8 March 2021: Will Madras HC action help save water bodies?

While on the face of it the Madras High Court order on March 2, 2021 that all district collectors of Tamil Nadu must upload by March 17, GPS/ satellite images of all the water bodies in their districts is not only welcome, it needs to be done in all the districts across India. This order is by the bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy.

The same bench had earlier in January 2021 said, in response to a PIL that the government officials must have zero tolerance towards encroachment of waterbodies and ensure that every inch of such encroachment gets removed at the earliest by following the due process of law. The PIL had sought for removal of encroachments from a two-acre swamp at Arehalla in Ithalar, a village in Nilgiri hills.

While these are welcome, we hope these orders get implemented and provisions be made by the HC to ensure accountability of the DMs to ensure that all information is put out on the district water bodies website in form and manner that people understand as also in english and should be archived so that the information can be used in future. The information from the past should also be put up on such websites and a transparent, participatory monitoring of the water bodies be instituted for each district.

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Dams

Why are we still building Large Dams?

Analysis of official information shows that Big dams are not longer necessary or viable or optimal in India. Most (over 95% of India’s 5701 large dams (5264 completed and 437 under construction as per CWC’s National Register of Large Dams[i]) are built for irrigation, but most of our irrigation now comes from groundwater. In fact, about 90% of additional irrigation in last four decades has come from groundwater.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 19 Oct 2020: India Rivers Week 2020: IS SAND MINING KILLING OUR RIVERS?

India Rivers Week (IRW) Organising Committee is excited to announce that the theme of the forthcoming annual event IRW 2020 will be: “Is Sand Mining Killing our Rivers?”. As part of IRW-2020, India Rivers Forum is organizing a series of Dialogues (digitally). This includes four regional dialogues focusing on North (Oct 31), South (Nov 7), West (Nov 12) and East (including North East: Nov 21)) India, and the final one (Nov 28) focusing on Sand Mining as a National issue.

Sand mining or mining of River Bed Material (RBM, including sand, gravel, boulders) has a huge impact on Rivers, in multiple ways: physical, ecological, livelihood impacts among others. While sand is also sourced from sources other than rivers, IRW 2020 will focus on sand sourced directly or indirectly from rivers. Sand is by definition, a key ingredient of the rivers. It provides habitat for multiple species of the biodiversity in the river. It provides both sub surface storage space and a mechanism to recharge the groundwater. The sand, along with silt, clay, pebbles and boulders are part of the river and are supposed to reach the deltas and provide a key existential medium in floodplain and deltas. To achieve that, sustaining river connectivities is very important.

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