Dams · Wetlands

WWD 2023: India’s Ramsar Wetlands face Damages, Threats & Govt Apathy

(Feature Image: The dumping ground is adjacent to the Deepor Beel wetland. Photo by Surajit Sharma./ Mongabay India, Aug. 2022)

Marking the World Wetlands Day 2023, this fourth overview by SANDRP compiles reports from 2022 revealing the worsening situation of Ramsar wetlands sites in India. In past few years, the government has shown great hurry in getting Ramsar tag for 75 wetlands from 26 in the country to symbolically mark 75th anniversary of Independence without showing any interest in resolving the existing and looming threats including increasing pollution, siltation, encroachments and climate change threats over old and even new Ramsar wetlands.

The ground reports show that the sole focus of the government is on pushing destructive and ornamental projects in the name of tourism and beautification on these wetlands which are only seen damaging their remaining eco-systems and threatening the livelihoods of dependent communities as an additional threat which only underlines that Ramsar tag does NOT help in wetlands protection and conservation. Experts, citizen groups have been raising this fact for years but in vain. Furthermore the process for seeking Ramsar recognition lacks consultation and participation of primary stakeholders and concerned citizens.

Moreover, in the name of information of Ramsar sites, there is only a combined interactive map apart from two separate pdf file links with location map and state wise listing Ramsar wetlands on Wetlands of India portal by MoEF&CC. The govt has neither prepared any concrete plan to address the threats, nor has it developed credible monitoring mechanism which clearly shows it has no intention to improve the governance of these sites.   

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Wetlands

WWD 2023: Top Ten Judicial Interventions to Improve Wetlands Governance

(Feature Image: Construction activities in Sukhatal lake area in Nainital, Uttarakhand. Source: Dainik Jagran, Nov. 2022)

In this third part of wetlands overview, SANDRP tracks top ten judicial interventions regarding protection of wetlands in India in 2022. The part one has highlighted general situation of wetlands and part two has covered some governmental actions for wetlands conservation.

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Wetlands

WWD 2023: Top Ten India Wetlands Stories about Govt Actions

(Feature Image: Kochi Corporation’s proposal to reclaim wetlands at Brahmapuram shot down. A view of the Brahmapuram solid waste treatment plant on the banks of the Kadambrayar. | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat/ The Hindu)

In this second part of annual wetlands overview of 2022, SANDRP compiles the top ten actions by various governments in India regarding wetlands in 2022. The compilation also highlights some of the controversial steps planned and taken by the governments with an adverse impacts on wetlands conservation. The first part of wetlands review 2022 has focused on the how wetlands continue to suffer from misgovernance. 

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 230123: Welcome decision of FAC to deny clearance to Etalin HEP

(Feature Image:- Upper Dibang Valley District, Arunachal Pradesh, India (Source: Wikipedia Commons/IWP)

It’s rather rare that we get a hydropower project related decision from official decision makers that can be welcomed. It has happened this week when the MoEF’s (Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change) Forest Advisory Committee declined to give forest clearance to the controversial 3097 MW Etalin Hydropower Project in Dibang sub basin of Brahmaputra basin in Arunachal Pradesh and North East India. The project was under consideration for this clearance since 2014 and finally in the meeting on Dec 27, 2022, FAC conveyed that the current proposal cannot be considered for the clearance and revised proposal may be submitted. It is not a blanket rejection of the project, but considering the history of consideration of this project in FAC, it is closest we can come to that.

It is also welcome to know that the FAC has also looked at the poor track record of compliance of conditions of earlier forest clearances for the hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh among the many reasons why the project is rejected in current form. Arunachal Pradesh may do well to improve its track record before applying for forest clearance to any new projects in the state.

This decision is also a lesson for the MoEF’s Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects and also for MoEF itself for not even looking at the track record of compliance of the conditions of environment clearances that the EAC and MoEF give to the river valley and hydropower projects. They also never look at the implementation of the Environment Management Plans. Same is the case with the MoEF’s National Board of Wildlife.

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Sand Mining

2022: Riverine People’s Protest against Destructive Sand Mining Activities

The rampant riverbed mining in India have reached the alarming stage where the adverse impacts on river’s eco-system, river based environmental services including fishing, groundwater recharge, potable and irrigational water supply schemes have started affecting the riverine communities in multiple ways. Given the poor track records of responsible agencies in addressing their plight, the dependent, affected and concerned people have been left with no option but to resist. Like in past years, there have been several incidents of riverine people strongly opposing the destructive mining practices in many states in 2022. This overview compiles some such incidents which we could track. The first part of the overview highlighting the adverse impacts of riverbed mining on river eco-system and freshwater species can be seen here.      

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Groundwater

2022: Judicial Interventions in India for Groundwater Conservation

In this yearend overview, we highlights some remarkable judicial decisions particularly by National Green Tribunal (NGT) and some ongoing legal disputes regarding violation of groundwater norms and its pollution in India in 2022. The NGT not only criticized MoJS (Ministry of Jal Shakti) new groundwater guidelines but also ordered penalizing Pepsi’s and Coke’s bottling plants in Uttar Pradesh for operating without NOCs. These were unfortunately later stayed by Supreme Court. Though the judicial interventions have once again revealed the sheer ineffectiveness of concerned bodies at central and state level however these orders have failed to bring any change in their functioning so far. NGT proceedings into allegations of groundwater pollution by liquor factory in Firozpur, Punjab has remained inconclusive while affected villagers and farmers have been staging protest for months.   

In the first part of the overview, we have tracked the worsening situation of groundwater depletion and contamination in the country while in second part, we have covered some positive efforts and initiative taken by various governments for its management in 2022.     

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 160123: Top Court appeals for EIAs for Urban Development: Welcome, but…

The Supreme Court of India, while disposing of a petition related Chandigarh, in its order on January 10, 2023 has said: “Before we part with this judgement, we observe that it is high time that the legislature, executive, and the policymakers at the centre and state levels take note of the damages to the environment on account of haphazard development and take a call to take necessary measures to ensure that the development does not damage the environment… We therefore appeal to the Legislature, the Executive and the Policy Makers at the Centre as well as at the State levels to make necessary provisions for carrying out Environmental Impact Assessment studies before permitting urban development.”

This is most welcome. And urgently required. That India’s urban development is happening at the cost of life sustaining environment resources including rivers, water bodies, forests, wetlands among others is well known. That the government sees all requirements of environmental scrutiny as road blocks is also well known. The consequences of this are clear for all concerned, not only in case of Bangalore as cited by the Supreme Court Bench, but also in case of Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Chennai, Delhi, Ernakulam, Faridabad, Gurugram, Hyderabad, Indore, Joshimath, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai and so on. So is there a good chance that the apex court suggestion will be followed either in letter or in spirit? Unlikely. So what is clearly required is that the apex court emphatically directs the centre and states in this regard and follows it up with ensuring its implementation.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 020123: Looking Back to Look forward to 2023

(Feature Image:-River Ken inside Panna National Park from River Stories, Walking Across India-I by Siddharth Agarwal)

This is the first DRP bulletin of 2023 and we would like to begin on a positive note. But to remain grounded in reality we also need to look back at the events in 2022. We see a number of positives in 2022 and we hope that trend continues. The number of new dams and hydropower projects being started has remained on a declining trend. People and civil society has continued its protests against destructive projects and for more decentralised projects and governance.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 261222: People on roads against hydro projects that govt is pushing

(Joshimath residents staging protest against land sinking and damages to their homes demanding rehabilitation & halt in NTPC’s Tapovan Vishnugad HEP tunnel work on Dec. 24, 2022. Image source: Atul Sati, Joshimath)

People of at least four states are opposing hydropower projects that the central and state governments are pushing, ignoring all the ground realities. In Uttarakhand, the Joshimath residents are on roads to wake up the government that seems deaf to their protests due to their houses cracking and land subsiding due to the tunnels being blasted for hydropower projects and Char Dham highway being built ignoring the voices of not only the affected people, but also the experts.

In Arunachal Pradesh, people have been writing to the central govt authorities against the Etalin and Dibang projects being pushed in Dibang valley of Brahmaputra basin.

In Himachal Pradesh, the people of Kinnaur and Lahaul Spiti districts have made it an election issue the destructive hydropower projects being pushed there both by the state and central governments.

In Andhra Pradesh too people have been protesting against the pump storage projects being given permission in schedule tribe areas without their prior informed consent and ignoring the statutory requirements.

2022 is thus ending with people’s active protests across the country against destructive, disaster prone and unviable projects being pushed against their wishes and in violation of any proper consultations or even any credible impact assessments. In the escalating impacts of climate change, these projects are even more problematic as they not only worsen the adaptive capacity of people and invite more frequent, intense and spread of the disasters, but they also destroy the mitigation tools like forests and flowing rivers. This when all these projects are not even economically viable, and when better, cheaper options are available. It would be best if sooner the government listens to the people and stop pursuing such projects.

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Dams · Hydro Power Projects

2022: People’s Resistance against Unviable HEPs, Destructive Dams

(Feature Image: No Means No Campaign message against hydro projects on a rock in Kinnaur. Source: ToI)

There have been many instances of opposition by local people, organizations and experts against unviable hydroelectric power (HEP) and destructive dam projects in 2022. Such instances of the resistance from across the country have been successful in a number of ways including leading to the funding agencies, corporate houses and government agreeing to withdraw from the project in many cases. This overview presents top ten stories highlighting successful opposition to hydro and dams projects in 2022 in India followed by some relevant reports on the issue. In first part of the annual overview, SANDRP has tracked the dam failures and dam induced floods incidents in India in 2022, along with separate report on unraveling of Polavaram project and another one on breaches of fly ash dams.

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