Dams · Inland Waterways

Debate on Ganga Waterways: Disagree on all counts

                                                         Guest Blog by Manoj Misra

Apropos Sri Pravir Pandey (Vice Chairman, IWAI) article (https://www.hindustantimes.com/analysis/the-inland-waterways-project-won-t-choke-rivers/story-3CTflDhyTxijS5AAqlQeqO.html) in HT (The Hindustan Times) dated 24 Jan 2019 rejecting our serious reservations (https://www.hindustantimes.com/analysis/the-inland-waterways-project-will-destroy-india-s-rivers/story-8TDyHX1UuzQzKwWhHXQVPJ.html) expressed earlier (HT, 4 Jan 2019) on the claimed merits of the Inland Waterways Transportation (IWT) project. While welcoming IWAI’s presumed willingness to debate the matter, we reject Sri Pandey’s contentions in their entirety as having been made on rhetoric and ‘confidential’ assessments rather than on sound and convincing facts.

There are two key considerations which require attention before merit, if any, could be found in a potentially impactful project like the IWT. First are of course its financial viability and the second and much more critical are its environmental impacts.

Continue reading “Debate on Ganga Waterways: Disagree on all counts”

DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 24 Dec. 2018: MoEF and WII’s Compromises Cater to Hydro Vested Interests

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.

Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 24 Dec. 2018: MoEF and WII’s Compromises Cater to Hydro Vested Interests”

Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 1 October 2018: Hungry Water Effect due to Dams & Unsustainable Sand Mining Worsened Kerala Floods

Dams and reservoirs make rivers sediment-starved and menacing manifold downstream. While heavy rainfall is also a key factor behind the floods, hungry water had a more pronounced effect, says D. Padmalal, Scientist and Head, Hydrological process group, National Centre for Earth Science Studies.

– “When the sediment transport is interrupted, the potential energy of the hungry water released from dams will scour the river banks downstream, uprooting trees or riparian vegetation and damaging bridges and other engineering structures,” explains Dr. Padmalal. Overloaded with silt and clay from the eroding river banks, the highly turbid and viscous water clogs drainage channels. Subsequent discharge of water from the dam will lead to inundation and waterlogging of large areas.

– Hungry water can also develop in high gradient river channels devoid of adequate quantity of sand and gravel, especially during periods of high rainfall. “Years of uncontrolled sand mining have left most of the rivers in Kerala depleted or exhausted of sand and gravel. This creates a situation similar to the release of hungry water from dams,” notes Dr. Padmalal. When the river channel has adequate supply of sand and gravel, the potential energy of the water is used to transport the mixture. The water does not scour the banks or turn muddy.

Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 1 October 2018: Hungry Water Effect due to Dams & Unsustainable Sand Mining Worsened Kerala Floods”

Dams

New Grounds Why Pancheshwar Dam Is Unviable Project

Date 3.12.2017

To,

The Chairman and members,     

The Expert Appraisal Committee,                                                                    

River Valley Projects,

Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Govt of India,

Jor Bagh, New Delhi 110 003

Sub: Urgent submission regarding the Environmental Clearance for the proposed 5040 MW Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project in Uttarakhand and Nepal.

Dear Chairman & Members of the Expert Appraisal Committee,

This is to bring to your notice, and to place on record, some serious concerns related to the Environmental Clearance of the proposed 5040 MW Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project. The concerns are both, on Points of Order, as well as observations on and serious flaws in the Environmental Impact Assessment report submitted by WAPCOS.

Continue reading “New Grounds Why Pancheshwar Dam Is Unviable Project”

Dams · Interlinking of RIvers

Open Letter of Protest on Ken Betwa Project to MoEF

Above: Part of proposed Ken-Betwa link submergence area (Photo by Joanna Van Gruisen)

To:

Shri. Anil Madhav Dave
Honourable Minister of State (Independent Charge),

Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEF&CC)

Indira Paryavaran Bhawan, Jor Bagh Road, New Delhi – 110003

May 2, 2017

Honourable Minister,

Please consider this joint letter (See PDF file with logos here: Letter to MoEF Ken Betwa 020517) from an informal coalition of environment and wildlife organisations as a collective note of protest against the proposed Ken-Betwa River Link Project. Continue reading “Open Letter of Protest on Ken Betwa Project to MoEF”

Expert Appraisal Committee · Interlinking of RIvers

Ken Betwa Link: Letter to Water Resources Minister and EAC in Dec 2016

December 27, 2016

To
Union Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation,
Govt of India,
New Delhi
 
Copy to Ministers of State (MoWR), Secretary (MOWR), OSD (MoWR), PS to MoWR
 
Respected Uma Bharati ji, 
 
We have seen reports in today’s news papers (e.g. http://www.uniindia.com/last-hurdle-for-ken-betwa-link-over-uma-bharti/india/news/730656.htmlhttp://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/ken-betwa-river-linking-project-gets-wildlife-board-clearance/articleshow/56186886.cms andhttp://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/environment/developmental-issues/ken-betwa-river-linking-project-gets-wildlife-board-clearance/articleshow/56186901.cms) which were basically giving an old news, several times published already, that Ken Betwa link has been recommended NBWL clearance. When enquired, we were told that this was based on MOWR’s official press release, published through PIB y’day evening, that is at 18.29 hours on Dec 26, 2016, see: http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=155857

Continue reading “Ken Betwa Link: Letter to Water Resources Minister and EAC in Dec 2016”

CAG Report · Environment Impact Assessment · Forest Advisory Committee

State plans to take up Human dam in eco-sensitive region of Vidarbha while existing projects in vicinity remain incomplete

(Above: Location of Proposed Human Dam and the tiger Corridor cutting across (Map by GREENPEACE) ( Source:http://www.greenpeace.org/india/Global/india/report/2011/Report-Undermining-Tadoba’s-Tigers.pdf)

While Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) has been undergoing inquiry by Anti Corruption Bureau and facing a Public Interest Litigation for financial irregularities & cost escalations exposed during the irrigation scam of 2012, the State Government of Maharashtra continues to push new projects in the ecologically sensitive region of Vidarbha.

State Government of Maharashtra has decided to give yet another try to revive Human River Project, a major irrigation project proposed on the Human River near Sirkada Village of Sindewahi Taluka, Dist. Chandrapur. Human dam with storage capacity of about 247 MCM (Million Cubic Meters) plans to irrigate 46,117.00 ha. for which it will submerge 7651.11 ha of land. This disproportionately large submergence (nearly 16% of the proposed irrigation!) also includes 1925.55 Ha of rich full grown forest of Vidarbha. (which is nearly 4.2% of the proposed irrigation!) (Earlier figure for forest submergence in print media and few other documents was 1535.85 ha. But latest official documents mention 1925.55 Ha)

Human River is a tributary of the Andhari River that merges into the Wainganga. The reservoir that will be created after impoundment of the waters will be just 4.25 km from the boundaries of the Tadoba National Park and 3.2 km. from the Andhari Wildlife Sanctuary, both of which form the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR), a vital area for tiger conservation in central India. The proposed dam falls in the Eco-Sensitive Zone of TATR and thus needs National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) clearance.

The project is being pushed by Sudhir Mungantiwar, who is currently a State Cabinet Minister of Finance, Planning, and Forest Departments in the Government of Maharashtra. State Government is seeking clearance from State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) before it could be sent to NBWL for approval. In September 2014 a four-member high-powered committee constituted by Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to visit Human dam site at Sirkada, 3.5km from TATR in Chandrapur district.[i] The meeting in which the decision was taken to revive the project was held due to Mungantiwar’s follow up with then Minister of Environment Prakash Javadekar.[ii]

The report of the committee has been kept under wraps till date. Continue reading “State plans to take up Human dam in eco-sensitive region of Vidarbha while existing projects in vicinity remain incomplete”

NBWL

Open Letter to NBWL Standing Committee Members: Why NBWL should not consider Ken Betwa River Link Proposal

Above: A fabulous view of Ken river. Nesting sites of Long-billed vultures are to the right. All will go under water if Ken-Betwa linkup is carried out, Photo by AJT Johnsingh

November 3, 2015

To

Chairman & Members, NBWL Standing Committee, MoEF&CC, New Delhi

Respected Chairman and members,

We have just learnt that NBWL standing committee is to meet tomorrow, that is Nov 4, 2015 and one of the proposals that the NBWL is to consider is the Ken Betwa River Link proposal INSIDE Panna Tiger Reserve. We are unable to find the agenda, agenda papers and names and contact details of the NWBL SC members. Prudent, transparent and democratic decision making requires that these should be in public domain at least two weeks in advance of the NWBL meeting, so that all concerned from any part of the nation can know about this, and write to NBWL with their views and concerns. We hope MoEF, full NBWL and NBWL standing committee will take urgent steps to ensure that until this minimum requirement is satisfied, no meeting of NBWL or NBWL SC is held, and we request you postpone the meeting proposed on Nov 4, 2015 till this requirement is fulfilled.  Continue reading “Open Letter to NBWL Standing Committee Members: Why NBWL should not consider Ken Betwa River Link Proposal”

Ministry of Environment and Forests · NBWL

“We want a robust National Board for Wildlife”: Submission from several organisations and individuals

4 August 2014

 To,

  • Shri. Narendra Modi,

Prime Minister of India and Chairperson, National Board for Wildlife

  • Shri. Prakash Javadekar,

Minister of State of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (IC) and

Chairperson, Standing Committee, National Board for Wildlife

  • Shri. V. Rajagopalan,

Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change

  • Shri. S. S. Garbyal,

Director General of Forests and Special Secretary,

Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change

Subject: Request to urgently amend the flawed constitution of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) as indicated in Notification issued by MoEF dated 22 July 2014 & not hold any meetings based on this flawed notification.

Respected Prime Minister, Hon. Minister and Sirs,

It is with great concern that we write to you about the constitution of the new NBWL as indicated in the Government Notification dated 22ndJuly 2014.

The term of the previous NBWL and its standing committee ended in Sept 2013, as was noted by the then chairperson of the standing committee and recorded in the minutes of the latest (Sept 2013) meeting of the standing committee (see: http://www.moef.nic.in/sites/default/files/MOM-30-NBWL-04.09.2013.pdf): “At the outset, Hon’ble Chairperson while welcoming all participants to the 30th Meeting of Standing Committee of NBWL expressed deep appreciation of the contribution of the non-official members in the meetings of the Standing Committee of NBWL and their selfless dedication for the cause of conservation. She added that the present term of NBWL was coming to an end on 5th September 2013 and that the discussions and deliberations made by the present members during the Standing Committee of NBWL meetings had helped the Chair in taking judicious decisions.” (Emphasis added.)

So country was without NBWL and standing committee for more than the ast ten months and the country expected that the government would constitute a proper NBWL honouring the letter and spirit of the Wildlife Protection Act and the need to protect wildlife and biodiversity in protected areas. The concerned people of the country stand disappointed by the July 22, 2014 notification.

At the outset, the Notification dated 22 July 2014 is ambiguous about the constitution of the NBWL and its Standing Committee. It is not even available on MoEF website.  The notification seems to be in violation of the Wildlife Protection Act in letter and spirit and is not in the interest of the wildlife, biodiversity or protected areas in the country. A comparative reading of Sept 2003, May 2007 and Sept 2010 notifications of the MoEF about constituting NBWL further strengthen this view.

The notification only mentions a small subset of the NBWL members as listed in the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act, 2002. The limited list  is in violation of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and its subsequent amendment in 2002 by way of the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act, 2002. The Director General of Forests is on record having said that this is the entire NBWL. (Please see:http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-otherstates/new-national-wildlife-board-flouted-wlpa-guidelines/article6261988.ece) This confirms the illegality of the notification.

We would respectfully like to submit that a notification issued by the government cannot override or violate an Act passed by the Parliament, with the ascent of the Hon. President of the Union of India.

Main points of divergence between Wildlife (Protection)Amendment Act, 2002 and the Notification issued on 22nd July, 2014 are as follows:

  1. Clause (e) of the Wildlife Protection Amendment Act, 2002 states:

“(e) five persons to represent non-governmental organisations to be nominated by the Central Government”

However, the Notification dated 22 July 2014 does not nominate any NGO. The only name notification gives for NGO member, namely GEER is not an NGO.

The nominated “Gujarat Ecological Education and Research (GEER) Foundation, Gandhinagar, Gujarat” is a Gujarat Government organisation and not an NGO. Its website is http://www.geerfoundation.gujarat.gov.in, says, it has been set up in 1982 by the Forests & Environment Department, Government of Gujarat” and the Chairperson of its board is Chief Minister of Gujarat while majority board members too are from Gujarat Government. Thus GEER stands disqualified from being nominated as an NGO.

  1. Clause (f) of the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act, 2002 states:

“(f) ten persons to be nominated by the Central Government from amongst eminent conservationists, ecologists and environmentalists”

However, the notification dated 22 July 2014 replaces this by just two people.

“(i) Prof. Raman Sukumar,

(ii) Dr. H.S. Singh.”

  1. Clause (v) of the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act, 2002 states:

“v) one representative each from ten States and Union territories by rotation, to be nominated by the Central Government”

However, the notification dated 22 July 2014 replaces this with just five states.

In view of the above, the notification dated 22 July 2014 violates Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act 2002 and should be urgently taken back. Any meetings or any decisions taken by this board will not stand legal scrutiny.

Apart from the legal issue, it is important for a board like NBWL to have a broader regional representation of independent experts, NGOs and members and this was one of the the objectives behind  nominating these members on the NBWL and its standing committee. We hope that the government will appreciate this issue. Indian Wildlife, biodiversity and its habitat like the protected areas, forests, rivers, wetlands, etc., are under tremendous pressure and we hope the new government is committed to conserve our rich wildlife heritage.

We therefore look forward to urgent action on the points mentioned above by immediately taking back the 22nd July 2014 Notification and replacing it with a notification that spells out constitution of NBWL respecting the WLPA in letter and spirit and also respecting India’s wildlife and its dwindling habitat. We hope that no meetings of the NBWL happen before a correct constitution of the board.

Looking forward to your response on the points raised above.

 Yours sincerely,

  1. No.
Name/ Organisation Location  
 1. Kalpavriksh Environment Action Group Pune
 2. Dr. Bhaskar Acharya, Researcher, Bangalore Bangalore
 3. Dr. Sunil K. Choudhary University Dept. of BotanyT.M.Bhagalpur UniversityBhagalpur-812007, India
 4. Dr. Rajeev Raghavan South Asia Co-Chair, IUCN SSC/WI Freshwater Fish Specialist GroupMember, IUCN SSC Red List CommitteeMember, IUCN WCPA/SSC Joint Task Force on Biodiversity and Protected Areas
 5. Shripad Dharmadhikary Pune
 6. Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP 86-D, AD block, Shalimar Bagh, Delhi, 09968242798 Delhi
 7. Lyla Bavadam
 8. Ranjana Pal
 9. Dr. Latha Anantha, River Research Centre, Kerala
 10. Cara Tejpal, Conservationist Delhi
 11. Girish A. Punjabi, Researcher, Pune
 12. Nachiket Kelkar, Ecologist Bangalore
 13. Shardul Bajikar, Ecologist, Mumbai Mumbai
 14. Adv. Indavi Tulpule Murbad, Thane
 15. Anand Arya Delhi
 16. Vijay Diwan, Aurangabad Social Forum Aurangabad
 17. Manshi Asher, Himdhara, Himachal Pradesh,
 18. Jitn Yumnam, Citizens Concern for Dams and Development, Committee on the Protection of Natural Resources in Manipur, Centre for Research and Advocacy Imphal, Manipur
 19. Samir Mehta, River Basin Friends Mumbai
 20. Bharat Seth, International Rivers Delhi
 21. Joy KJ, SOPPECOM Pune
 22. Deepali Nandwani
 23.  Ravi, Namita and Medha Potluri.
 24. Jagdeep Chhokar
 25. Nitu.S
 26. Munish Kaushik
 27. Ramanathan Sriram
 28. Soma Jha
 29. Dr. V K Gupta
 30. Sabyasachi Patra
 31. Manoj Gupta
 32. Sarita Kumar
 33. Dipu Karuthedathu,Member BNHS, Co-Moderator of keralabirder egroups 301, Jaya Emerald, Maruthinagar, Bangalore
 34. Aditya Panda Naturalist | Wildlife Conservationist | Photographer Bhubaneswar
 35. Virat Jolli
 36. Santanu ChacravertiDISHA Kolkata
 37. Smita Pradhan
 38. Amrita Neelakantan
 39. Pranav Capila
 40. Bipasha Majumder
 41. Anurag Sharma
 42. Anubhuti Sharma
 43. Jl Singh
 44. Vandana Singh
 45. Sumit Dookia
 46. Nikhil Devasar
 47. Jassal J S
 48. Jaikant Saini Bharatpur,Rajasthan
 49. Ranjan Panda, Water Initiatives, Odisha Sambalpur, Odisha
 50. Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP, 09860030742 Pune

Additional endorsements:

51. Dr. Sudhirendar Sharma, Delhi

52. Rohit Prajapati, Prayavaran Suraksha Samiti, Gujarat

53. Dr. Jagdish Krishnaswamy, Landscape Ecologist, Bangalore

54. Goa Foundation, Goa

55. Mhadei Research Centre, Goa

56. Shankar Sharma, Karnataka

57. Sahil Nijhawan, Delhi

58. C. Udayshankar, Andhra Pradesh

59. M.D. Khattar

60. Kaustuv Chatterjee

61. Shri Santosh Martin, ex-honorary wildlife warden, Bellary district, UP

62. Ms. Carmen Miranda, Chair, Save Goa Campaign UK, London

63. Nandikesh Sivalingam, GreenPeace India

Media:

– http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/City/Mumbai/Over-50-organisations-write-to-PM-Modi-against-reconstitution-of-National-Board-for-Wildlife/articleshow/39685716.cms

 

Maharashtra · Ministry of Environment and Forests · NBWL · Western Ghats

Problematic functioning of Maharashtra State Wildlife Board

Maharashtra SBWL The State Board for Wildlife has been formed under the Section 6 of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972) (and its subsequent Amendment in 2002) in all states of the country. The main functions of this Board are conservation and protection of wildlife in Protected areas, selection and appraisal of areas to be declared as sanctuaries, etc. It also appraises proposals which affect Protected areas or buffer zones around Protected areas and only after the recommendation of the State Board for Wildlife (SBWL), is the proposal forwarded to the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife.

In Maharashtra, Chief Minister is the Chairperson of the Board, while chief wildlife warden is the member-secretary. Forest minister is the vice-president of the board and minister of state for forest, FDCM (Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra) managing director, head of forest force (HoFF), field directors of tiger reserves, principal secretary (forest), and principal secretary (tribal development) among others are on the board.

Apart from the government representation, the SBWL also has sizable representation from reputed Wildlife Experts and organizations, some of which have been the members of the SBWL for more than a decade now. Some members include: Sanctuary Asia editor Bittu Sahgal, Bombay Natural History Society’s (BNHS) Dr. Asad Rehmani, Satpuda Foundation’s Kishor Rithe, Bharati Vidyapeeth’s Dr. Erach Bharucha, Executive Director of Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) Belinda Wright, Wildlife expert Anish Andheria, Wildlife Conservation Trust’s (WCT) Hemendra Kothari, Eco-Pro president Bandu Dhotre, MLAs Anandrao Gedam from Armori and Jagdishchandra Valvi, Honorary Wildlife Warden of Pune Anuj Khare etc.

SBWL minutes, Agenda not in public domain Due to some problematic projects considered in the NBWL from Maharashtra, SANDRP tried to access the minutes of the SBWL to understand it’s functioning and decision making. We could not find the minutes in the open domain, the minutes should have been available on the website. Even the agenda and minutes of the National Board for Wildlife which recommends Wildlife Clearance, Expert Appraisal Committee of MoEF which recommends Environmental Clearance or the Forest Advisory Committee which recommends Forest Clearance are available in public domain.

RTI gets no reply We wrote to the Principal Secretary, Revenue and Forests, and PCCF, requesting them to share the minutes but we received no response. We wrote to some members of the SBWL for the minutes, we received no response. ( We could not write to all members as the constitution of the Board and list if members too is not available in the open domain).We contacted the media persons who wrote on SBWL meetings, but they did not have access to minutes. In the meantime, many problematic projects like Gargai Project involving 750 hectares inside the Tansa Sanctuary, Nardawe Irrigation Project, Shirapur Lift Irrigation Scheme, which involved clear violations, were recommended by the SBWL. We wrote about these projects and violations involved to some members, but received no response.

Nardawe Dam is more than 60% complete and has violated EPA (1986), EIA Notification (2006), Forest COnservation Act (1980), FOrest Rights Act (2006) as well as WPA (1972). This project was recommended by the SBWL in its last meeting Photo: SANDRP
Nardawe Dam is more than 60% complete and has violated EPA (1986), EIA Notification (2006), Forest COnservation Act (1980), FOrest Rights Act (2006) as well as WPA (1972). This project was recommended by the SBWL in its last meeting Photo: SANDRP

Finally we filed an RTI for all past agenda items and minutes of the SBWL. We filed this RTI in April 2014 with the Wildlife Department, Nagpur. Again we received no response. When we called the PIO, Wildlife Division, we were told “There are 32 PIOs in the department, How on earth would they know where our application is?”  We talked with the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, but he asked us to file an RTI again as the original application was untraceable at the office. We filed a new application, even this time we did not get a response in the mandated 30 days. To cut the long story sort, we received half of the information we asked for 3 months after the application. In the meantime we were also told by the office that these proposals are considered by NBWL again, so why are you worried?

Of the 8 Meetings of the SBWL conducted, we received agenda notes and minutes for 4 meetings exactly over 4 years: from 4th meeting in 20.02.2009 to the 8th Meeting in 20.02.2014. The decisions of the SBWL in these meetings on WRD projects are compiled in the table at the end of this report.

As we will see below there are many concerns about the way SBWL is functioning.  This is worrisome because the current 33-member committee has ample number of non-government representatives, some noted wild lifers who are passionate about their work. Some of these organisations and individuals have been a part of the SBWL for more than decade now. Although the SBWL is not functioning transparently and accountably, we hear no protest from these members or demands that SBWL needs to function in a transparent way in the open domain. Neither is any dissent minuted in the SBWL meeting minutes.

At the same time, we are aware that some members are trying to fight this situation and have been raising issues, this too gets hidden due to lack of transparency about the functioning of the Board.

Some of the major issues about the functioning of SBWL include:

  • Many projects are cleared despite clear violations.  There is nothing in the minutes to reflect if SBWL members are aware of the ground realities.
  • Decisions taken in an earlier meeting are changed in the next with no explanations given.
  • Contradictory decisions being taken, no consistency in decision making.
  • SBWL Members do not respond to submissions, even if they outline serious issues.
  • Agenda and Minutes not in open domain. Forest Officials do not share these even when requested
  • Minutes of the SBWL meetings have no discussions, only decisions.

SANDRP analyzed agenda items of 4 meetings from 2009 to 2014 which were provided to us under RTI. During this period, the SBWL did seem to be taking some good decisions and initiatives about wildlife conservation. This mainly included declaration of new Protected Areas and some conservation reserves. This is commendable, although here too we see only a few members of the SBWL being active on these proposals.

On the other hand, SBWL’s decision making about sanctioning projects is seriously problematic. As SANDRP deals with issues concerning rivers and dams, we are specifically looking at these examples as illustrated below:

  1. Ignoring clear violations: In the  8th meeting the SBWL (on 20.02.14) recommended:
    • Alewadi Irrigation project in Buldana, 1 km from Melghat Tiger Reserve
    • Ar Kacheri Irrigation project in Buldana, 1 km from Melghat Tiger Reserve
    • Shirapur Lift Irrigation Scheme in Solapur parts of it inside Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary, Solapur
    • Nardawe Irrigation Project, Sindhudurg, 2.5 kms from Radhanagari Sanctuary
DSC02398
It can be seen that part of Shirapur Lift Irrigation Project was completed back in 2009. The project was considered by SBWL in its Feb 2014 meeting . Photo: SANDRP
DSC02408
Canals of Shirapur LIS completed and close to Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary Photo: SANDRP

 

Shockingly, ALL of these projects are already under construction when they came before SBWL, in clear violation of WPA (1972) and Supreme Court Orders. Projects are supposed to obtain the Wildlife clearances before even starting survey works and of course before initiating the work. And the fact that no-one raised the issue of these violations seems to indicate that either the members did not know of this ground reality or they chose to ignore it.

In this case, all of the projects are in violation of the WPA and should undergo necessary punitive action. But what we see in the minutes is that all these projects are recommended for clearance!  This indicates the serious issues with the SBWL. When the same projects were considered for Environmental Clearance by the EAC of the MoEF, this committee did not clear these projects and passed strictures against GOM for violations. Note that this was BEFORE these projects were considered by the SBWL.

In April 2014, SANDRP sent an email to some members[1] of the SBWL as well as the Chief Minster, Principal Secretary and PCCF, drawing their attention to the violations, strictures passed on these projects by MoEF’s Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects[2], requesting the SBWL to take back their recommendation of clearance to these violating projects. But we have received no response till now.

  1. Hugely Contradictory Decisions:
  • While considering the Tambadi Irrigation Project in Roha, Raigad (Buffer Zone of Phansad Sanctuary) in the 7th SBWL Meeting on 24.1.13, the SBWL passed strict comments on the Water Resources Department , Maharashtra (WRD), stating that:

“All members were of the opinion that no proposal of Irrigation Department should be recommended as the department did not comply with the instructions about mitigation measures which should be taken up like construction of over passes and steps in canals within wildlife corridors. It was reiterated by the Board that unless required action is taken, no proposal would be considered by the board.”

Please note this is the part of the APPROVED minutes circulated to the members on the 7th March 2013. Reading this, anyone would get an impression that all further projects from WRD would not be considered. Shockingly, Action Taken Report for the same project attached to the Agenda of the 8th Meeting (20.02.14) states that: “As decided in the 7th meeting a committee comprising 4 members has been constituted to study this and….it came out with possible mitigation measures.”

Firstly, approved minutes do not reflect this decision and secondly, the approved minutes had taken a completely opposite stand than what is decided. This indicates serious problems in not only minuting the meetings but also inconsistency in decision-making.

  • Similarly, the committee considered diversion proposal of Savarde Irrigaton project in its 5th Meeting on the 28.06.11.

Dr Asad Rahmani after conducting a Site visit to the project recommended several strong conditions for the project which included:

  • Cumulative impact assessment of major and medium projects on Radhanagari Wildlife Sanactuary,
  • Permission from Western Ghats Expert appraisal Panel headed by Prof Gadgil and
  • WRD to give in writing that no new project impinging directly or indirectly or Radhanagari Sanctuary will be taken up.

WRD provided no responses on this.

When the proposal was discussed for the third time in NBWL on the 24th April 2011, the CCF told the NBWL that Maharashtra Government agreed with ALL conditions raised by Dr. Rahmani, except the one on sharing water[3]. The WRD had still not provided any response.

This indicates that the Maharashtra Government, especially WRD (Water Resources Department) is not bothered about any statutory clearance related processes surrounding its projects and that the GOM (Government of Maharashtra) has agreed that no new WRD projects will be undertake affecting Radhanagari Sanctuary.

Disturbingly, the same SBWL considered Nardawe Irrigation Project in its 8th meeting, which was affecting Radhanagari Sanctuary and also cleared it, without even mentioning its earlier commitment from WRD.

Add to this the fact that Nardawe Irrigation project was an ongoing project which had violated Forest Conservation Act (1980), Environment Protection Act (1986) and EIA notification 2006.

State Level Appraisal Bodies facing problems in Maharashtra Exactly one year back in July 2013, the Chairperson and majority members of the State Expert Appraisal Committee resigned together stating political and industrial pressures as the reasons.[4][5]

When SANDRP talked with some present and past SBWL members, it was clear that there are several serious issues and hindrances in functioning of SBWL. Agenda is not sent even a week before the meeting giving the members no time to understand the projects, in some meetings agenda was put on the table at the time of the meeting. It is significant to note that the  Agenda notes received by SANDRP under RTI do not carry dates.

Many of the meetings are “clearance” meetings where projects are set out, expected to be cleared, like the 8th Meeting before the Lok Sabha Election, which had a number of proposals from WRD, when it was stated by the SBWL itself that it will not consider any further proposal from WRD. Not surprisingly, 4 project considered and recommended by the SBWL in its last meetings were in violation of the WPA (1972) as noted above.

At the same time, some active members on the condition of anonymity stated that many members do not raise voice against problematic projects and it is left only to a few members, who raise issues all the time. Some members are happy being a part of a board which is headed by the CM and attend meetings where CM is present and will not raise issues. Some members and organizations have to be in the good books of the Forest and Environment Departments as well as the politicians.

We have stated upfront that the SBWL has also taken some commendable decisions, like the formation of new protected areas. However there is no denying the fact that functioning of SBWL is seriously problematic, opaque, non-transparent and contradictory.

It is high time that the Forest Officials, bureaucracy, politicians as well as the non-officials members take steps to improve the functioning of SBWL.  Many of their current decisions will not stand legal scrutiny. The SBWL is a regulatory body and its functioning needs to be governed with some ‘rules of business’, rather than be arbitrary. For starters, the SBWL needs to put their agenda notes and minutes in open domain and invite comments on the same, as is being done by several other decision making bodies.

-Parineeta Dandekar (parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com)

~~~~~~~~~

Dam projects considered in the past 4 Maharashtra SBWL Meetings

No Name District PA Affected Decision & issues Meeting
 1. Kukadi Left Bank Caal through GIB Santuary Ahmedanagar- Solapur Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary Recommended 4th20.02.09
 2. Survey & Invstigation for Savarde Irigation Project Kolhapur Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary RecommendedMinutes note no new projects of WRD to be considered 5th28.06.11
 3. 400 MW Humbarli Pumped Storage HEP Satara Koyna Sanctuary Recommended 5th28.6.11
 4. Baglinga Irrigation Project Melghat Sanctuary Recommended 6th7.6.12
 5. Survey and investigation Gargai Dam Project 750 hectares inside Tansa Sanctuary Recommended.No discussion of site visit, further studies, etc. 6th7.6.12
 6. Dams at Chena and Yeoor for drinking water of Thane Thane 80 hectares inside Sanjay Gandhi National Park Not recommended.Thane EE gave letter that after Shai, no new drinking water source will be required till 2031 6th7.6.12
 7. Survey & Investigation for dams at Deokhinpada Vasai. Water supply of Vasai Virar Tungareshwar Sanctuary Recommended.CCF refused recommendation, but SBWL recommend clearance for Survey and investigation 6th7.6.12
 8. Tambadi Irrigation Project Roha, Raigad Phansad Sanctuary Initially stated that no project to be considered from WRD, but later suggested mitigation measures for the project 7th24.1.13
 9. Khindsi Feeder Canal Pench Irrigation Project Nagpur Pench Tiger Reserve Recommended after site visit and mitigation measures 7th24.1.13
 10. Raperi Irrigation Project Washim Recommended 7th24.1.13
 11. Naradwe Irrigation Project Sindhudurg Radhanagari Sanctuary Recommendeddespite clear violation and ongoing work. Despite SBWLs decision of not considering projects in Radhanagari WLS 7th24.1.13
 12. KholsapadaIrrigation tank Wasai, Thane Tungareshwar WLS Recommended 8th20.02.14
 13. Patiya Irrigation Project Amravati Melghat Tiger Reserve Recommended 8th20.02.14
 14. Shirapur LIS Solapur Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary Recommended(Clear violation, nearly 75% scheme is complete) 8th20.02.14
 15. Alewadi Irrigation Project Buldana Ambabarva Sanctuary Recommended(Violation: Work has started, MoEF has passed strictures) 8th20.02.14
 16. Ar Kacheri Irrigation Project Buldana Ambabarva Sanctuary Recommended(Violation: Work has started, MoEF has passed strictures) 8th20.02.14

Current Constitution of the Maharashtra SBWL as per the RTI Response from Wildlife Department

Chief Minister

Chairperson
Minister, Forests Vice Chair
State Minister for Forests Member
Anandrao Gedam, MLA, Gadchiroli Member
Jagdishchandra Valvi, MLA, Member
Representative, BNHS (Dr. Asad Rehmani)
Representative from Sahyadri Nisarg Mitra, Chiplun, Ratnagiri Member
Representative from Satpuda Foundation (Dr. Kishor Rithe) Member
Dilip Yardi, Aurangabad Member
Anuj Khare, Pune Member
Devaji Tofa, Mendha Lekha, Gadchiroli Member
Dr. Erach Bharucha, Pune Member
Prakash Amte, Hemlkasa, Gadchiroli Member
Anish Andheria, Mumbai Member
Hemendra Kothari, Wildlife Conservation Trust Member
Ramratan Bhart Bapu Raut Member
Gopal Bodhe, Mumbai Member
Papa Patil, Sangli Member
Bittu Sahgal, Sanctuary Asia Member
Ms. Belinda Wright, WPSI Member
Principal Secy, Forests and Revenue Member
 PCCF Member
Principal Secy, Tribal Development Department Member
Managing Director, MTDC Member
Representative Police, not below the rank of Superintendent Member
Representative from Armed Forces ( not below the rank of Brigadier) Member
Commissioner, Animal Husbandry, GOM Member
Commissioner, Fisheries Development Member
Representative from WII, Dehradun Member
Representative from Botanical Survey of India Member
Representative from Zoological Survey of India Member
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Nagpur Member Secy
Forest_Gargai_Near-Ogade
Forests inside Tansa Sanctuary which will be submerged if Gargai Dam comes up. The dam has survey and investigation clearance from SBWL Photo: SANDRP

 

Balganga Dam, nearly complete in the buffer zone of Karnala Bird Sanctuary,without any permission from the SBWL or NBWL Photo: SANDRP
Balganga Dam, nearly complete in the buffer zone of Karnala Bird Sanctuary,without any permission from the SBWL or NBWL Photo: SANDRP
Canals of Shirapur Lift Irrigation Scheme, adjacent to Great Indian Bustard WLS. Photo: SANDRP
Canals of Shirapur Lift Irrigation Scheme, adjacent to Great Indian Bustard WLS. Photo: SANDRP

END NOTES:

 

[1] We could not send a letter to all the members as even the information about constitution of the Board and its present members is not available in the open domain.

[2] http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/mumbai/six-green-panel-members-resign-citing-interference/article1-1094262.aspx

 

[1] For details see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/04/26/eac-rejects-2-vidc-projects-from-buldhana-for-violations/

[2] http://envfor.nic.in/sites/default/files/NBWL-22-Mom.pdf

[3] http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=TOINEW&BaseHref=TOIPU/2013/07/19&PageLabel=5&EntityId=Ar00501&ViewMode=HTML