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DRP News Bulletin 15 January 2018 (Do We Care About Rivers’ Aquatic Bio-diversity?)

Great to see this focus on aquatic biodiversity (unfortunately the article keeps using the word marine biodiversity, not using the word aquatic or freshwater biodiversity even once) along the 120 km long Sindhudurg Coast line, one of the 11 ecologically sensitive habitats identified along India’s coasts.

The FIRST study of local Otter Population by Ela Foundation identified upto 591 Smooth coated otters (strangely article does not mention about existence of small clawed Otters in Sindhudurg), 561 Indo Pacific humpbacked dolphins, among many others. The coast is particularly river rich with some twelve creeks/ rivers including Shanti, Piyali, Naringre, Achra, Gad, Talavade, Otawane and Pithdhaval Rivers.

The biodiversity here is facing multiple threats including rapid urbanisation, tourism onslaught with attendant plastic and sewage disposal, unregulated fishing trawlers, illegal sand mining, and global warming. It also underlines the need to do assessment of any interventions done in the area, of impacts on the aquatic biodiversity. http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/orphans-in-the-wild-what-the-otter-s-trying-to-tell-us-about-our-oceans/story-IfRFFi63Q8nV7UkUK4c16O.html (The Hindustan Times, 14 January 2018)

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DRP News Bulletin 02 October 2017 (New Rules Disastrous For India’s Wetlands)

The wetlands are the hotspots of biodiversity, act as carbon sinks, act as buffers against floods and are essential for groundwater recharge. With groundwater reservoirs in the country heavily exploited, this last function has assumed greater importance. http://www.hindustantimes.com/environment/centre-notifies-wetland-rules-environmentalists-unhappy/story-3MoGp9D8eSzHI90zfOXWSO.html

Wetlands can be defined as lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic eco-systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water.

But they are threatened by reclamation and degradation due to activities like drainage and landfill, pollution, hydrological alteration (water withdrawal and changes in inflow and outflow), over-exploitation resulting in loss of biodiversity and disruption in ecosystem services provided by them.

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There are at least 115 wetlands that are officially identified by the central government and of those 26 are identified as wetlands of international importance under Ramsar Convention which is an international intergovernmental treaty for conservation of wetlands. India is a party to the treaty. http://www.livemint.com/Politics/y6Tr3tkrr3q28AmGKaBFII/Environment-ministry-notifies-new-wetland-rules.html

The Centre on September 26 notified a new set of rules under the head Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017 replacing the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/new-wetland-conservation-rules-notified/article19779100.ece

It is worth to mention that under the 2010 rules, not a single water body was notified as a wetland over and above the ones already recognised as such by the Centre and the Ramsar Convention, defeating its purpose in a way. http://www.zeebiz.com/agencies/centre-notifies-new-rules-for-preservation-of-wetlands-26312

Similarly, despite country’s space agency ISRO had in 2011 mapped over two lakhs of wetlands across the country, the centre has, so far, notified only 115 wetlands and 63 lakes in 24 states and 2 UTs for conservation and management.

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DRP New Bulletin 28 August 2017 (Need for Policy on Equitable Sharing of River Flow)

Krishna River Water Sharing Dispute  The Andhra Pradesh government is contemplating a legal battle against the Maharashtra and Karnataka governments for denying the “rightful share” of Krishna river water to the state. 

As per DU Rao, Water Resources Minister, Andhra Pradesh, State Government is consulting legal experts to file either a special leave petition or public interest litigation in the Supreme Court against Maharashtra and Karnataka for withholding water in river Krishna and depriving the lower riparian state of its rightful share. The minister also said that upper riparian states are not releasing water even as a humanitarian gesture to meet drinking water needs.

The minister further stated that due to abundant rains, reservoirs on river Krishna in Maharashtra and Karnataka were filled to the brim. Both these states have a total of 275 tmc ft of water stored in their reservoirs, but they are not letting out even one tmc ft to lower riparian states like Telangana and Andhra and instead taking cover under tribunals, those states are fully utilising the water.

It will really be a good case if they draft it well. The Maharashtra and Karnataka parts of Krishna basin have stored 275 TMC of water and Maharashtra is also diverting water from Krishna basin to high rainfall Konkan area this monsoon, but not releasing any water to downstream Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. http://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/220817/ap-mulls-moving-sc-against-maharashtra-karnataka-over-krishna-water.html

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DRP News Bulletin 07 August 2017 (MANIPUR GOVT DEMANDS DECOMMISSIONING OF LOKTAK DAM & HYDROPOWER PROJECT)

In an interesting development, Biren Singh the Chief Minister of Manipur on August 01, 2017, has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to have a review of the Loktak Dam (Ithai barrage) and Hydropower Project, leading to decommissioning to the dam.  https://thenortheasttoday.com/manipur-cm-biren-singh-apprises-pm-modi-of-worst-man-made-ecological-disasters-faced-by-state/  

Mentioning that Ithai barrage has become the main cause of frequent flood in the State, the CM has also demanded Prime Minister to figure out a permanent solution to the frequent floods in the state. Stating that Manipur is facing one of the worst man made ecological disasters and the floods have severely affected the socio-economic life of the people, the CM asserted that the Ithai barrage should be removed so that natural course of water could be maintained. . He mentioned that at present, the state is having sufficient power resources from other sources.  http://www.easternmirrornagaland.com/modi-urged-to-review-manipurs-loktak-project-ithai-barrage/

Before this, on July 27, in a very significant statement, M. Asnikumar, the vice chairman of Manipur Infrastructure Development Agency (MIDA) and also the state vice president of BJP Manipur has said that the Loktak Hydro Electric Project and Ithai dam have been disastrous projects and they must be decommissioned. The people of Manipur can live better without the Loktak Project. But we cannot develop without the Loktak. The statement Ithai dam has been the main reason for flash flood in an around the Loktak lake.  http://www.ifp.co.in/item/2247-time-to-decommission-loktak-hydro-electric-project

Since the commissioning of Ithai Barrage in 1983, there have been disastrous flash floods in and around the lake. These floods have severely affected the socio-economic life of the people of Manipur. Since the construction and commissioning of this dam, there have been drastic overnight changes in the hydrological path of Loktak that have in turn adversely affected the environment and socio-economic condition of the people of Manipur, Loktak dwellers being the most affected.

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DRP News Bulletin 30 Jan 2017 (After 31 years, SC transfers Ganga case to NGT without achieving clean river)

People walking on the bank of Ganga in Allahabad

SC transfers PIL on cleaning Ganga to NGT In a major development, after monitoring Ganga cleaning work for last 31 years and without achieving any cleaner river,  the Supreme Court on January 24, 2017 wrapped up a PIL on cleaning of river Ganga and sent it to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for more effective adjudication. The apex court had been monitoring the issue for 31 years. A bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice N V Ramana said that since issues relating to municipal solid waste and industrial waste were already being heard by the NGT on a day-to-day basis, all other issues relating to sources of polluting the river should also be heard by the NGT.

The bench said that the tribunal will be required to submit an interim report to it every six months, only to give an idea about the progress made and difficulties, if any. It also granted liberty to the petitioner, environmentalist M C Mehta, to approach the court if he had any grievances in consonance with the law.

During last week hearing (January 17, 2017), the SC bench has directed the government to file a report on the construction and functioning of STPs alongside the river, which runs through five States.

It has been almost two years after the SC has voiced scepticism about the government’s self-proclaimed promise to clean up the Ganga River. Before this, in 2014, the apex court had voiced its reservations about the various efforts over the decades to return the Ganga to its pristine self, once even saying that it “does not expect Ganga to be cleaned up even after 200 years.”

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DRP News Bulletin 23 Jan. 2017 (Unjustified Ken-Betwa Link Costs: Bundelkhand To Gain Nothing, Panna To Lose Its Tigers)

SANDRP Blog Little for Bundelkhand, lot for contractors in Ken Betwa river-link The official executive summary of the Detailed Project Report of KBLRP on NWDA website says: “The main objective of the Ken-Betwa link project is to make available water to water deficit areas of upper Betwa basin through substitution from the surplus waters of Ken basin.” Upper Betwa basin (Raisen and Vidisha districts of MP) is not in Bundelkhand. So KBLRP is essentially facilitating export of water from drought prone Bundelkhand to area outside Bundelkhand, which, in fact is well endowed with over 900 mm of average annual rainfall.

The DPR further says, a third o the surplus water will be utilized for “enroute irrigation of 0.60 lakh ha. in the districts of Tikamgarh and Chhatarpur of MP and Mahoba & Jhansi of U.P.” The claim in the minutes of Expert Appraisal Committee meeting of Dec 30, 2016 that “It is proposed to provide irrigation facility in 6,35,661 ha of area in Panna, Chhatarpur, Tikamgarh Districts of Madhya Pradesh and Banda, Mahoba and Jhansi Districts in Uttar Pradesh” needs to be put in context here. Firstly, this claim is far in excess of what the presumed surplus water can irrigate.

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DRP News Bulletin 16 Jan. 2017 (MoEF’s Expert Committee Shows Anti-People, Anti-Environment Biases)

EAC against entertaining ‘anti-development’ representations The expert appraisal committee (EAC) on river valley and hydel projects of the Union Environment Ministry has decided “not to take any cognizance of such representations” received by its members. In its Dec. 30, 2016 meeting, the committee concluded that once a project proposal reaches the EAC for appraisal, it has crossed the stage of public consultation and “the EAC should not go back in time, and should not reopen it, by entertaining unsubstantiated representations received from the people”. 

The EAC noted that in case of any clarification regarding action taken on such representations under the RTI Act, the EAC prescribed that a standard reply “action has been taken in accordance with the decisions taken in the 1st meeting of the EAC for River Valley and HEP on 30.12.2016” should suffice. “It was also felt that many of the objections raised are repetitive. Many such kind of representations have an anti-development attitude so that the projects are kept on hold or delayed. This has financial implications to the developers in particular and to the nation in general.

The committee emphasized that relevant ministries scrutinised every aspect of a project and proposed it for final appraisal only when all details were in place. If not satisfied that public consultation had been completed properly, the EAC said it could ask the project promoter to do the needful. The committee also made allowance for representations with “new points” and “grave consequences” on which comments from project proponents could be sought. The EAC considered 13 projects in its December 30 meeting and cleared eight of them.

Environmental activists, however, pointed out the impracticality of the contention that representations should be restricted to the 30-day public consultation window. Sripad Dharmadhikari also, in his blog has mentions various reasons to counter the EAC’s suspicious justifications. He also says that the fact that a body which is supposed to represent the environmental perspective displays such an attitude is the biggest critique of the EAC and the environmental clearance process that it is a part of. The newly constituted MOEF’s EAC on River Valley Projects has in their very first meeting shown anti people, anti democratic and anti environment attitude.

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DRP News Bulletin 30 May 2016 (Centre’s new wetland protection rules reinforces the stereotype that Govt see wetlands as wastelands)

Centre’s new wetland protection rules reinforces the stereotype that govts see wetlands as wastelands  The draft Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016 which replace the existing Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010, are up for public comments till June 6, 2016. While wetlands nationwide are threatened by encroachment, pollution, catchment degradation and mindless development, the Narendra Modi government’s draft rules show no indications of acknowledging this threat. The draft rules, environmentalists say, reinforces the stereotype that governments see wetlands as wastelands. The essence of the new rules is to decentralise wetlands management to states. The Centre will have a say only in ‘exceptional cases’ While the 2010 rules gave some role to states, the draft rules gives them all powers. But in the process, the whole conservation process has been weakened. The period for public comments on the draft notification ends by the month. Several organisations, including BHNS, WWF, LIFE, International Rivers, INTACH, YJA & SANDRP have sent, or are in the process of sending, representations to the environment ministry. Among the concerns is that the 2010 rules itself were barely getting implemented. No state has identified a wetland yet, and few have made state-level nodal agencies mandated by the 2010 rules. In an ongoing case before the NGT, it emerged that states had not notified wetlands under the 2010 regulations. This forced the tribunal to demand that states begin to do so in at least 5-10 districts in a time-bound fashion. The Union meanwhile has proposed to substantially change the existing regulations. The new regulations do away with the elaborate list of activities that are prohibited or restricted. It prohibits reclamation of wetlands, conversion to non-wetlands, diversion or impediment of inflows and outflows from the wetland and ‘any activity having or likely to have adverse impact on ecological character of the wetland’. The need for the environmental impact assessment before permitting such activities is to be done away with. The earlier regulations allowed appeals against the decisions of the central wetlands authority with the NGT. This, too, is to be done away with, though aggrieved entities could continue to file cases against violations of these rules. The concerns were also raised during a discussion organized in Jodhpur on May 23 by three NGOs EIA Resource and Response Centre, Libra India and Life on Draft Wetland Rules 2016 issued recently by the environment ministry seeking suggestions and comments.

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