India certainly urgently needs credible measures to achieve both structural and operational safety of dams. As the HINDUSTAN TIMES editorial emphasizes, we need much greater transparency, accountability and participation of independent, non government experts at every level of functioning of Dam Safety mechanism. Current Dam Safety Bill draft falls far short of that. This is also underscored by many of the news we bring in this July 16, 208 issue of DRP News Bulletin.
The Tamil Nadu CAG report, as Indian Express reports, has clearly said that the Chennai floods of Dec 2015 were majorly due to the wrong decision of dam operators to release 29000 cusecs of water for 21 hours, in violation of all safety norms, but no was punished for this wrong decision. The same has always been the case.
Aquifers in 16 States in the country are contaminated by uranium, whose presence in drinking water has been linked to chronic kidney disease by several studies, a recent study has shown. More importantly, uranium doesn’t figure on the list of contaminants monitored under the Bureau of Indian Standards’ drinking water specifications. The main source of this contamination is natural, but groundwater depletion by extensive withdrawal of water for irrigation and nitrite pollution due to the excessive use of nitrogenous fertilisers may be exacerbating the problem, said the study.
– The study was carried out by a team of researchers led by Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University in the US. The team, which also included experts from the Central Ground Water Board, the Rajasthan government’s Ground Water Department and Gujarat Water Resources Development Corporation, analysed groundwater samples from 226 locations in Rajasthan and 98 in Gujarat.
When Central Government is trying to push Ken Betwa link project terming it as beneficial for both Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, local people of Banda are now also protesting against it, in addition to the people of Panna that are already opposing it. On Feb. 13, 2018, the Ken Bachao Samiti comprising of farmers, citizens and social workers in Banda sat on a Dharna before district magistrate office. The group have also sent a memorandum to the President of India, demanding immediate cancelling of the project. Raising serious concerns over environmental and social of the linking project, they asked demanded proper impact assessment and public consultation and said the project wont be allowed to go forward. Indeed, as they have said, there has been no downstream impact assessment and people of Banda are likely to loose their river. https://www.livehindustan.com/uttar-pradesh/banda/story-demonstrate-against-ken-betwa-alliance-1800951.html (Hindustan Hindi,13 Feb. 2018)
SUPREME COURT The Supreme Court of India is hearing a matter Writ Petition(s)(Civil) No(s). 230/2001 in which there have been several orders of consequence this year (e.g. 8 Feb 2017 & 16 Aug 2017) for protection of wetlands. In spite of several directions for identification, preparation of brief documents, implementation of rules 4, notification of wetlands under the Wetlands Rules 2010, hardly any progress has happened.
Rule 4 of Wetlands Rules 2010 applicable to Wetlands of size ≥2.25 ha
“National Wetland Inventory & Assessment” was filed in SC. This Brochure indicates on page 11 that 2,01,503 wetlands have been mapped at 1:50,000 scale. All these wetlands have ‘an area of more than 2.25 hectares’. As a first step, the ‘Brief Documents’ with regard to these 2,01,503 wetlands should be obtained by the Union of India from the respective State Governments in terms of Rule 6 of the Wetlands (Conservation and management) Rules, 2010.
This story of Bandi River from Rajasthan is sixth in the series of online stories of urban rivers from across India. Please share your feedback and provide us with suggestions (read more in appendix). If you have any urban river stories or images that you might want to share, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Finally on World Environment Day, Swami Shivanand has withdrawn[I] his fast unto death agitation. It was thirteenth day of his indefinite hunger strike including six days of water fast (from May 25 – 30, 2017) against illegal mining in Ganga.
The saint ended his protest around 6pm on June 05, 2017, only after receiving written assurance from the Central Government. As per information, referring to Matri Sandan repeated pleas, UP Singh Director General of National Mission for Clean Ganga has accepted that there were violations[II] of rules specially Rule No. V of Environment Protection Act during mining in Ganga. Subsequently he has asked Chairman, Central Pollution Control Board initiate criminal proceedings against the officials[III] concerned for non-compliance of the rules.
The year has seen many news reports about national and global water bottling brands abstracting groundwater without valid licenses. In the wake of severe drought, thermal power plants have been criticized for aggravating the water crisis. Reports have suggested that many new thermal power plants are proposed to be built in already water scarce regions. This brief report also covers some judicial orders on this subject.
Featured image showing 36 Wetlands in India requiring urgent attention as per a 2014 petition filed in apex court (Image Source: Live Mint)
In the third part of Wetlands Review 2016, SANDRP presents an account of major decisions taken by respective Courts for the protection of Wetlands in India.
In a significant development in April 2016, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed all State Governments to submit a complete list of Wetlands under their jurisdiction. The green court was hearing a plea alleging commercial conversion and resultant destruction of several large ecologically important Wetland areas across the country in absence identification and notification by respective State Governments.
The court also asked the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to submit the list of States that had approached it with Wetlands conservation plans.
SC transfers PIL on cleaning Ganga to NGTIn 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.”
When human beings fall into manholes or die in traffic accidents on a highway they are all over the news. We pity and fear such news, and feel sad for the deceased, just because the whole event is so unfortunate. We are angered by the condition of traffic – that continues to remain appalling despite having six-lane highways that look deceptively magnificent. We wonder if these cases could have been avoided. It is therefore even more disturbing that not a single news item has covered a series of major accidents that have happened right in the middle of the Ganga River National ‘Waterway’ (India’s National Waterway No. 1; see Dams, Rivers & People: Feb-March 2016 issue: p. 1-7, 2016 for details[i]) in the last six months.
Over twenty people have died by drowning at the Barari Ghat (Image 1) at Bhagalpur in Bihar in this period. Offering prayers, taking dips, or lunging in for a calm swim, these people have slipped away as their feet have lost the ground all of a sudden. The river, scouring off the silt from under the concrete, has been catapulting their bodies into the deepening abyss on the fringes of the ghats. Many bodies have not even been found. Family members of many, whose bodies were found, must have never suspected that they would have to carry back their kin’s corpses. What made the same Barari Ghat, which people traditionally visited for years, so dangerous suddenly?