Large scale Sewage Treatment Plants (STP) are being promoted as must have infrastructure to control Urban sewage pollution in rivers across the country. However, most of the Large Scale STPs are mired in controversies from planning to construction and during operational phase, often failing to achieve the basic objective for which they are built, investing crores of rupees. A case in point is Ramna STP of Kashi, Uttar Pradesh. Interestingly, this is a story from Varanasi, many also call it Banaras, the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.Continue reading “Uttar Pradesh: Curious Case of Ramna STP in Kashi”
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!Continue reading “DRP NB 1 Nov 2021: Why is Ganga not ENTHU about Ganga Utsav?”
INDEED. With all the emphasis available at our command. We are in the midst of the rainiest season and such a statement is indeed music. It would become even more melodious if one knows who said it: it was none other than Mr G. Asok Kumar, Additional Secretary & Mission Director, National Water Mission, Department of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India who said it. Speaking on July 8, 2020, he said: “Rainwater harvesting has become inevitable in the current scenario of water scarcity across the country… The idea is to save the rainwater be it on the rooftop, compounds, and premises.” Mr Kumar also emphasised the importance of groundwater recharge.
We can pass it as run-of-the-mill statement from the government, but one is tempted to think there is more to it than that. One wishes if there was a way to hold these officials accountable for such statements and ask as to how this translates into policies, projects and practices. There is no evidence of any of these, unfortunately. Unless we were to interpret it cynically the way Central Water Commission ideologues do: Dams are also rain water harvesting structures! By that definition, even river linking is also rain water harvesting structure!! But Mr Kumar do not seem to suggest that. So let us hold on to this statement optimistically and push the water resources establishment to implement through right policies, practices and projects. Since that is where solution to India’s water problem indeed is. Unfortunately so far there is no sign that this wisdom is accepted in any serious way by the water resources establishment.
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.
The Dam Bachao Abhiyaan has been coming up in various forms. They blame the upstream water use in the catchment for dams not filling up. The catchment area could be using the water through groundwater (e.g. Hussain Sagar in Hyderabad), Johads (e.g. Sahibi catchment in Alwar), Tanks (e.g. Cauvery catchment in Karnataka), or check dams (e.g. Gandhisagar catchment in Madhya Pradesh, Bisalpur and Ramgarh catchment in Rajasthan), the latest episode reflected in the news below.
One key question that is never answered is, does the construction of dam extinguish all the rights of the catchment area to harvest and use any water for even basic needs and livelihoods? Does the very existence of the dam make all such water use in the catchment illegitimate? What about the right to water and livelihood of the catchment area? Should dam filling be so sacrosanct as to not allow any legitimate water use in the catchment? Hope the court and the government resolves these issues. Hope there is debate on this to decide in which circumstances there will be legitimacy to such Dam Bachao Abhiyaan.
Guest Blog by Debadityo Sinha
The Government of India has undertaken the ambitious project of plying cargo ships from Haldia to Prayagraj on the river Ganga, also known as National Waterways-1 (NW-1).
The justification for promoting waterways on such a massive scale as stated in National Waterways Bill, 2015 when introduced is as follows:
- …inland water transport is recognised as fuel efficient, cost effective and environment friendly mode of transport, especially for bulk goods, hazardous goods and over dimensional cargos. It also reduces time, cost of transportation of goods and cargos, as well as congestion and accidents on highways.
As per the Government of India’s Press Release dated 21 July 2016, the cost of transportation of goods by rail was estimated at about Rs. 1.36 per ton kilometre, by waterways at Rs. 1.06 per ton kilometres and by road at Rs. 2.50 per ton kilometre. At first glance, the waterway appears to be far more economical.
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.
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.
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.
There has been no lack of symbolism, funds, infrastructure, technology, promises, big statements and periodic announcements for Ganga by the Modi government. In fact, grand statements started even before the 2014 Parliamentary elections. But how do we gauge if there was an intention to rejuvenate the Ganga? May be if we could see a credible road map, a clear sense of purpose. If we could see signs of attempt to understand what the “development” plans are doing to the river. If we had a clear definition of what constitutes Ganga and what are the time bound goals of Nirmal and Aviral Ganga. Does the Namami Gange, the central program of Modi government on Ganga since May 2014 clear any of the tests? Even towards achieving Nirmal (clean) Ganga, if not Aviral (incessantly flowing) Ganga? Unfortunately, there is none.
As INDIA RIVERS WEEK 2018 gets underway in Delhi during Nov 24-26, 2018 with theme “Can India Rejuvenate Ganga“, let us try and see the state of Ganga and Namami Gange in the context of what is happening on this front in recent years. Continue reading “Namami Gange: Where is the intention?”