DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 12 July 2021: Will Bhupender Yadav improve India’s Environment Governance?

It’s rather rare when some of the most well-known environmentalists of India, including Ritwick Dutta and Manoj Misra welcome the arrival of Bhupender Yadav as India’s new Environment Minister. The state of the environment governance under the outgoing minister, Prakash Javadekar has worsened so much, both in perception and substance, that possibly any change would look better. In fact Javadekar may be front runner for the label of India’s worst ever environment minister according to some analysts.

The environment appraisals, the constitution of committees including the various Expert Appraisal Committees, the Forest Advisory Committee and the Standing committee of National Board of Wildlife, the public hearings and consultation processes, the state of pollution and rivers, biodiversity, wetlands, floodplains, sand mining, to name just a few areas, were all seen going downhill on a steep slope during the Javadeker period. The monitoring and compliance remained non existent. Some would argue that was it much different before Javadekar. The point is Javadekar had no pretentions of trying to improve the environment governance. He was out to dilute every available norm and he seemed to have succeded significantly.

Even if Yadav were to genuinely wish to improve matters, how much will he be allowed to do, by the perceived imperatives of the economic fundamentalist agenda, the well-entrenched vested interests and the bureaucracy is a question that only time will tell, but there is little doubt that a lot can and needs to be done rather urgently and none of these perceived obstacles should come in the way if there is will. The climate change is making the improvement in environmental governance rather urgent.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 28 June 2021: Where is the impact of lessons of the water conservation efforts that Modi praises, on his government’s water projects and policies?

When the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi Mentioned some exemplary water conservation efforts in his Mann ki Baat on June 27, 2021, it was not for the first time he was doing it. These are certainly most welcome.

However, these mentions raise a number of questions. If the Prime Minister considers these local water options as exemplary, which they indeed are, where do we see the reflection of the lessons from such efforts in government programs and policies? In fact why there is no reflection of such lessons in what the government does in water sector? How can the government justify the destruction of Panna Tiger Reserve, over 9000 ha of forests, some 46 lakh trees, the catchment of Ken river and large part of Bundelkhand in the name of Ken Betwa Link Project, in the same Bundelkhand. How can his government justify the destructive projects like the Char Dham Highway, the big hydro projects and so on in the same Uttarakhand where Sachidanand Bharati (who was incidentally recipient of the Bhagirath Prayas Samman of India Rivers Week) works, whose efforts the PM praised? One hope the PM and his government will be awake to the implications and lessons of the works that PM praises.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 07 June 2021: Local Water Options Stories from Five states

(Feature image A big main pond that has been constructed in the Phular village, Damoh. (Pic: Shahroz Afridi, News 18))

This week we would like to highlight some remarkable local water option stories from five states spread across India: Madhya Pradesh from Central India, Punjab from North India, Karnataka from South India, Rajasthan & Maharashtra from western India. These are stories just from this week among many others that show that local water options exist, they are the cheapest, sustainable, equitable, democratic and with least impacts and most appropriate in the climate change context. In a country like India where groundwater has been India’s water lifeline for over four decades now, these options are best suited for ensuring optimum recharge of groundwater aquifers at local level and sustaining those lifelines. Particularly when South West Monsoon is on our doorstep to gift its annual bounty to India. As UN starts the International Decade for Ecosystems Restoration with the theme of preventing, halting, reversing the degradation of ecosystems, these become even more important.     

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 17 May 2021: Dead Bodies in Rivers & Civilization

The human dead bodies in the rivers and on the river banks are one of the many defining images of the Corona pandemic that India is in grip of currently. There is clearly complete failure of governments at several levels in this pandemic, starting from complete failure to have systems in place to ensure that the pandemic situation would not have become such a massive disaster. No explanation or accountability is likely to come our way from the governments. They are too busy suppressing the critical voices exposing the abject failure of the governments, building Central Vista project or harassing the elected governments ruled by other parties.

As one of the reports mentioned in this issue of weekly DRP Bulletin shows, similar scenes were seen also during the 1918-19 Spanish Flu pandemic in India. But we may remind our rulers and ourselves that a century latter our governance is supposed to have improved and the 1918-19 pandemic was several times much larger one. Moreover our governance today should be much better than the governance of the British Govt a century ago?

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 22 March 2021: PM presiding over proposal for destruction of 46 lakh trees, Bundelkhand & Panna Tiger Reserve on World Water Day?

There cannot possibly be any worse news on World Water Day for India than that the Prime Minister is presiding over the agreement between Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh Chief Ministers to destroy some 46 lakh trees, Panna Tiger Reserve, Ken River, Bundelkhand and also downstream Banda district. All to export water from Bundelkhand to Upper Betwa basin.  All this in the name of pushing the mindless project called Ken Betwa River Link Project. Why is the government pushing this destructive project, a Rs 38 000 Crore proposition? The answer to that question is in that question: it is a Rs 38 000 Cr proposition!

There is still some hope though for the people of Panna, Banda and Bundelkhand if there is any respect for the law of the land. This is because the project does not have final forest clearance and the conditions of the stage I forest clearances are not implementable. The Wild Clearance of the project is challenged by the Central Empowered Committee of the Supreme Court, following a petition. The Environment Clearance to the project has also been challenged before the National Green Tribunal. Let us hope there is sufficient respect for the law of the land, to ensure that the project does not go ahead even with the agreement signed. But a key propriety question arises is, should the prime minister endorse a project that does not have all the statutory clearances and legal challenge to whose clearances are before the judiciary?

But the prime minister’s advocacy for rainwater harvesting on the same also loses a lot of its credibility, seeing that he is presiding over this destruction that goes totally against the central message of harvesting rain where it falls, when it falls.

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Dams, Rivers & People

DRP NB 15 Feb. 2021: Why Mangshri Devi of Tapovan Should Head Uttarakhand’s Disaster Management Department?

Feature image Tapovan-Vishnugad hydropower project in Chamoli district on Feb., 7 by Gajendra Yadav, Express Photo

In a fantastic story, Shivani Azad of The Times of India has reported possibly the most remarkable story of the Chamoli avalanche disaster that started on Sunday morning on Feb 7, 2021. She reported that Vipul Kairuni of Dhaak village in Tapovan, working at the time at the now destroyed Tapovan Vishnugad project, got saved thanks to frantic calls by his mother Mangshri Devi as she and his wife saw from their village home, situated at a height from the river, that a massive flood is approaching the dam site. It was thanks to frantic, repeated calls by Mangshri Devi that not only Vipul, but at least two dozen more people could run to safety of a ladder and saved their lives.

So effectively, Mangshri Devi has saved at least two dozen lives in Chamoli disaster. Who else can claim to have achieved anything like that in the disaster? The disaster management department seems completely absent from the scene either in terms of pre disaster monitoring or in taking steps to save lives during the disaster. In fact, there should have been an early warning system in place that could have saved many more lives. But it does not exist. Either in Rishiganga/ Dhauliganga basin or anywhere else in Uttarakhand. NTPC’s Tapovan Vishnugad Project has faced so many disasters already since 2008, but is only now talking about putting in place early warning system. Should not the NTPC and power ministry top brass as well as Uttarakhand disaster management department held accountable for that?

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Dams

Gangetic dolphin deaths in 2020

More than a decade after Gangetic dolphins (platanista gangetica) was granted the status of national aquatic animal, the rare mammal species continue to face multiple threats impacting their habitat and population in Ganga rivers. Just in past one year, the year when the Prime Minister of India declared the Project Dolphin, six dolphins were found dead for unnatural reasons in three states along the Ganga. In addition to Gangetic, river dolphin were killed in three other states.

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Fish, Fisheries, Fisherfolk

Inland Fish, Fisheries, Fisher-folks: 2020 Overview

Inland fisheries support millions of people and remains a major source of nutrition for a very large number of poorest people. This includes riverine fisheries, reservoir fisheries, wetland and local water body fisheries. Here we try to provide an overview of developments in this sector during the year 2020.

The overview has following sections: Policy & Governance in Centre, followed by in States, some positive developments, Covid-19 & Fishing Community, Fisher folks’ struggles, New Fish Species, Invasive fish, Fish Deaths & Pollution, Over fishing & Extinction, Studies related to inland fisheries.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 14 Dec 2020: Constitution of EAC for River Valley Projects Challenged in High Court

The Karnataka High Court has taken up the petition challenging the constitution of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River Valley and Hydropower projects. Notices have been issued to MoEF and also all the members of EAC on a petition filed by the United Conservation Movement Charitable Welfare Trust. Such a scrutiny of the appointment of the EAC was long overdue and urgently required. One hopes the High Court will take the matter to its logical conclusion and ensure that MoEF has a credible, transparent process of appointment of these committees as without such a process, the MoEF gets away with appointing only yes people on the committee who are happy to tow the government line. That nullifies the whole purpose of the constitution of the committee, the EIAs, the public consultations, the appraisals, the clearances and even credible monitoring and compliance. It is complete failure of environment governance and laws and MoEF even gets away with appointment of people with clear conflict of interest. MoEF has no process of selection of the chair and members of these committees. Hoping for the best for the case to correct all this.

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floodplains · Rivers

Please keep your tree Plantations away from River Floodplains

Guest Blog by: Manoj Misra

River Floodplains are not vacant wastelands awaiting tree plantations. They are extensions of a flowing river with key roles for keeping it healthy.

‘Afforestation’ has been cited as one of the key components of the ongoing Rs 20,000 Crores ‘Namami Gange’ program launched with much fanfare by the Modi government for the rejuvenation of river Ganga. Forestry interventions for Ganga rejuvenation are reportedly underway in accordance with a Detailed Project Report (DPR) prepared by the Dehradun based Forest Research Institute (FRI)[i].

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