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 090123: Atal Bhujal Yojana just chaff without any wheat?

According to this detailed report, possibly the first independent review of the Atal Bhujal Yojana, a 5-year program of the Union govt for management of groundwater, India’s water lifeline, with over half of the project period completed, seems bereft of the fundamental aspects that the scheme itself says are necessary for any sound foundation of the scheme. The review describes it as a dish full of chaff, without almost any kernels of wheat for some sound reasons. It says hardly 18% of allocated money has been spent on Gram Panchayat level community-led Water Security Plan. Only 4% of the planned Gram Panchayat level trainings have been held, with Gujarat and Haryana holding none. Only 27% of money allocated for Gram Panchayat level Hydrogeological monitoring network has been spent. The data gathering instruments that were required from the beginning of the program have not been installed in over half the planned locations. On Information, Education and Communication activities, only 16% of allocated amount is spent.

More detailed independent review of the program implementation will help, but from the available information so far, the signs do not look particularly promising. Is it due to ineptness or lack of intention? Only time will tell.

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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 191222: Question marks over viability of pump hydro projects

(Feature Image: 1772 Mw PSHPs Spain. Photo courtesy of Iberdrola/ ENR)

The question marks over viability of huge number of pump storage hydro projects (PSHP) being pushed forward in India currently were flowing in the rivers for long. This week, Moody’s investors Service (MIS) seems to have strengthened this after it downgraded Greenko Energy Holdings’ corporate family rating. It may be noted that Greenko is the biggest investor in PSHPs in India from private sector and a major part of Greenko’s new investments are in PSHP.

This makes the implications of MIS’s downgrade all the more interesting. MIS has noted that PHSPs are capital intensive and each PHSP will generate cash flow only after at least 2-3 years of construction (in reality it can be much longer than 2-3 years, the operative phrase here is at least). It also noted that the additional debt to be raised from Greenko’s capital spending, coupled with a rising interest environment will put further pressure on “GEH’s already weak financial metrics” and that Greenko’s high financial leverage due to its substantial capital spending program will keep its financial metrics below its downgrade trigger “for an extended period of time”.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 121222: Green Hydrogen from Hydropower is false solution

(Feature Image: Reservoir of Vyasi hydro project dam on Yamuna river in Dehradun. Credit: Varsha Singh/The Third Pole.)

A section of the hydro lobby has been trying to push hydropower in the name of producing green hydrogen as an alternative energy source. However, it has been known for a long time that this is a false solution. There cannot be green hydrogen when sourced from hydropower as not only hydropower projects have huge social and environmental footprint, they also have huge carbon footprint as the following article shows. It would be best to out rightly reject any such claim of green hydrogen when sourced from hydropower project.  

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 211122: IRF focus on Rivers as waterways as the World celebrates Fisheries Day

As the World Celebrates Fisheries day today, the India Rivers Forum (IRF) focusses this week on use of Rivers as waterways in its annual program. Spread over five sessions, the online event on Nov 26-27, 2022 is co-organised by Manthan Adhyayan Kendra and IRF. Riverine fisheries and fisherfolk are adversely affected by the current waterways program of the government, and as usual, the government does not even find it necessary to assess the impact of the program on these poorest, weakest, most neglected and most vulnerable section of our population, leave aside the question of compensating them or involving them in the program. The IRF program “Rivers as Waterways in India: Bane or Boon?” will highlight this and many other aspects of the waterways initiative of the government, which aims to include 111 rivers across the length and breadth of the countries.

The five sessions of the IRF program will be titled: “Overview of Indian Inland Waterways”, “Viability of Indian Inland Waterways”, “Impacts of Indian Waterways”, “Governance of Indian Waterways” and “Rivers as Waterways in India: Bane or Boon?”. The two event will have more than 25 speakers. The final session will be chaired by former judge of Supreme Court of India, Justice (Retired) Madan Lokur. Justice Lokur will also give away the Bhagirath Prayas Samman awards of 2022 and Anupam Mishra Medal 2022, the names of the recipients this year will be shared in that final session on Nov 27, 2022.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 14 Nov 2022: Jal Shakti Ministry says: Groundwater extraction down, recharge up???

(Feature Image: The report also states that the monitoring of the groundwater resources was affected by the Covid-19 outbreak in the country. Source: Bloomberg/TIE)

This sounds so counter intuitive. The Ministry Jal Shakti on Nov 9, 2022 made some findings of its latest “National Compilation on Dynamic Ground Water Resources of India, 2022 public, strangely, without making the report public. It is not clear why the govt did not make the report public, though the counter intuitive nature of the findings provide some hint. The report claims that at all India macro level, the ministry claimed that the groundwater extraction is the lowest in 2022 since 2004, or 18 years and that the groundwater recharge has gone up.

These are counter intuitive findings, even if at macro level for a number of reasons. It is also unclear what methodology is used to arrive at these conclusions and if there has been any independent scrutiny of the same. Since groundwater extraction has been going up for over six decades now, this reversal will need plausible reasons. There are no indications that there is any reduction in this groundwater use. Secondly, the groundwater recharge mechanisms are under attack all over India, and thus the finding that there is increase in recharge raises questions. Particularly since the efforts at groundwater recharge through rainwater harvesting are far from convincing.

More importantly, the real story is at micro level, since groundwater occurs in decentralised aquifers and any significant reduction in use, increase in recharge has to happen at the aquifer level and the assessment also needs to be done and made available at aquifer level for it to have any impact on future regulation of groundwater. In fact the only regulatory body working for groundwater regulation, the CGWA, works in a centralised way and its work has been far from confidence inspiring. That makes this whole findings questionable. Moreover, it would also be useful to see if the extraction has reduced in over exploited areas and if the recharge has increased where it is required most: in over exploited areas. Too many questions and no answers, unfortunately.

Continue reading DRP NB 14 Nov 2022: Jal Shakti Ministry says: Groundwater extraction down, recharge up???
DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB2 24X2022: Stay on Shimla Draft Development Plan 2041 A Right Step by NGT

(Feature Image:- Locals gather near the debris of the building which collapsed at Kachi Ghati in Shimla. Credit Amit Kanwar/ The Tribune Oct. 2021)

In a welcome development, National Green Tribunal (NGT) has put Shimla Draft Development Plan (SDDP) 2041 on hold finding it ill-conceived and in directly violation of its earlier order of regulating haphazard construction activity in the state capital. This is a major set back of present government which had been hoodwinking the judiciary to provide relief to unauthorized structures with Shimla Planning Area in view of upcoming state assembly election.

To push the SDDP, the government went on to challenge NGT’s judicial power and even approached Supreme Court and chose to ignore the principle of sustainable development.  The NGT order is a validation of the crusade launched by environmentalists and social organizations to save the Queen of Hills from further concretization and degradation.

The government has failed to get any relief from NGT, High Court and Supreme Court on the issue. Its time, the government wake up to the gravity of concerns and fragility of the hill station which has also been struggling to meet potable water demand and performing poorly on solid and liquid waste treatment front.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 120922: Decisive judicial action dire necessity for wetlands

( Feature Image:- Satish Acharya’s illustration on Bengaluru floods: Whose land is it anyway? 07 Sept. 2022)

The wetlands reports tell us a lot, but the key point is that decisive judicial action is necessary if our wetlands are to have any future. The directions of the Tamil Nadu High Court to geo reference all wetlands of Tamil Nadu, including small (Less than 2.25 ha area) is good beginning, but the court will need to ensure continuous monitoring and ensure implementation. Because the past shows that the government and other stakeholders have collectively failed to take any decisive action to save our wetlands. The disastrous results are evident at so many places, this week it is most clear from the flooding of Bangalore, mainly due to encroachment of lakes, wetlands, water channels and their catchments.

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River Biodiversity

When a gharial landed in a cow shelter in Delhi

It’s been more than six months since I got a Whatsapp video forward from my friend Yayati Bhardwaj along with a message in Hindi about some cow vigilant rescuing a ‘crocodile’ from Swaroop Nagar area of Delhi and sending it to a cow shelter in Narela, a bustling town in North West Delhi bordering Haryana.

It was around 07:00 pm on November 12, 2021 when busy in market, I had quick glance over the video. It was not very clear and shot with loud Punjabi music playing in the background. It showed some monitor lizard kind reptile lying motionlessly on ground with wheat grains scattered around it. At first sight, I found nothing to be surprised or worth responding.

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