This week brings a heartening development: Legal Initiative for Forests and Environment (LIFE), headed by lawyers Ritwick Dutta and Rahul Choudhary, are recipients of the Right Livelihood Award 2021, also known as Alternative Nobel Prize for their amazing work on empowerment of the communities through environment defense. This is much deserved recognition for the exemplary work of this group for over 16 years not only through the legal cases in National Green Tribunal (& its predecessor NEAA etc.), High Courts and Supreme Court, but also influencing the government policy and project decisions and also effective training of government officials in environmental matters.
LIFE is one of four organisation to get this award this year. The Swedish Right Livelihood Foundation, which awards the prize, said that in the face of the worsening climate crisis, powerful governmental and corporate interests, and even a terrorist threat, the 2021 Laureates prove that solidarity is key to a better future for all. The 2021 Right Livelihood Laureates are leaders in advancing the rights of women and girls, environmental protection and reclaiming Indigenous rights through mobilising communities and empowering grassroots initiatives. “Hailing from Cameroon, Russia, Canada and India, this year’s change-makers show that lasting change is built on communities banding together,” it said.
Continue reading “DRP NB 4 Oct 2021: Congratulations to LIFE for much deserved Right Livelihood Award 2021”
(Feature image source: India TV https://www.indiatvnews.com/news/india/monsoon-mayhem-maharashtra-floods-landslides-death-toll-latest-news-721924)
As Maharashtra faced the worst flood disaster of SW Monsoon 2021 in India, we see the phrases like “unprecedented rainfall”, “record breaking rainfall”, “frequent landslides” etc. with increasing frequency along with phrases like climate change floating around. While these are not entirely incorrect claims, these should not be used to escape the responsibility and accountability for failing to either accurately forecast the rainfall or to manage the proportions of disasters, including operation of dams, encroachments into water bodies and water path, not accurately marking locations vulnerable to landslides in landslide prone areas or taking up inappropriate “development” projects in vulnerable areas. All of these factors can be seen at play in disasters this monsoon in Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh among others.
Using such phrases, there is an attempt to escape the accountability or responsibility. This is a culture increasing being propagated by Central Water Commission as they did in Kerala in 2018 and Krishna basin floods in Maharashtra in 2019 as in numerous other occasions. It is known now to everyone that climate change is going to lead to more instances of heavy rainfall that can frequently fall in unprecedented category, but that only means we need to take measures to reduce the damage in such instances, predict them accurately and manage them effectively. That is what the Action Plans for Climate Change and Disaster Management apparatus needs to work on, but we have clearly failed there so far.
Continue reading “DRP NB 26 July 2021: “Unprecedented rainfall” used to escape responsibility?”
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.
Continue reading “DRP NB 12 July 2021: Will Bhupender Yadav improve India’s Environment Governance?”
Velcan Holdings Group is developing Heo and Tato-1 Hydropower projects with total installed capacity of 426 MW in Siang basin in Arunachal Pradesh since 2007. The international company with deep pockets and access to international capital markets has not been able to start work even in 2021. It obtained a number clearances, some of the like the CEA (Central Electricity Authority) techno-economic clearance has lapsed. No significant progress is seen in Land Acquisition as local people are rightly opposing. It is unable to find any buyers for the power to be generated, no one is ready to sign PPA (Power Purchase Agreement). The company questions if the low allocation to hydropower purchase obligations will at all help in making the projects bankable (clearly implying that the projects are not bankable currently). This is the state what it describes its Siang basin hydropower projects as the “the only hydropower projects of such size in India owned and developed by a foreign investor”, which “are amongst the most advanced private projects and present competitive techno-economic and environmental features”. The state of the rest of the large hydro projects will clearly be much worse. Why is the government pushing such unviable, destructive projects?
Read the excerpts from the company’s statutory filing in Europe on Apr 30, 2021 below.
Continue reading “DRP NB 10 May 2021: Velcan Holdings provide another evidence of unviable large hydro in India”
A large number of stories this week remind us that India urgently needs national urban water policy.
The water footprint of urban areas is gradually on the rise. The cities have several problems with management including destruction of water sources, groundwater exploitation, poor performance in treating and recycling the polluted water, pollution and encroachment on water bodies etc. To fulfil their growing demands new dams, barrages and check dams are being planned, proposed and built on the rivers in faraway places, which is in turn displacing and depriving the local people of equitable water share.
Even before onset of summer, the Army in Sagar district have started patrolling Chitora dam to prevent water thefts (denying farmers to take dam water for irrigation).
Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 20 Jan 2020: India urgently needs national urban water policy”
Wetlands are critical part of hydrological systems. They provide multiple ecological services to people living in proximal areas. The invisible contribution of wetlands in saturating aquifers and checking groundwater depletion is essential given the growing water scarcity. Additionally, wetlands are home to a variety of plants and animals species making them fully functional and self-sustaining eco-system. Sadly, despite the environmental significance and associated support services, wetlands have been subjected to degradation for past many decades.
Continue reading “DRP NB 11 Nov. 2019: Wetlands can help water security, help adapt to and mitigate climate change impacts”
India’s environmental Legal system is in deep trouble. Ritwick Dutta shows this through two brilliant articles, but this is also apparent from the failure of pollution control mechanism and people, rivers and environment continues to suffer as is apparent from the poisonous Hindon river basin water that people of over a hundred villages are forced to drink while the cases have been going on in National Green Tribunal. The Yettinahole verdict of the Supreme Court now and NGT earlier seem to have completely ignored all the illegalities and falsehoods involved in the case. The verdict thus also ignored the severe vulnerabilities of the Western Ghats that is getting worse with such mindless developmental interventions. And the government seems happy to destroy the independence status of the NGT through problematic appointments, as Ritwick Dutta shows through another article. What is the hope when the judiciary itself is blind to such glaring disasters?
Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 14 Oct 2019: Whither Environmental Jurisprudence in India?”
FANTASTIC piece of work that shows how Ministtry of Finance, NITI Ayog, MoWR and MoEF raised objections to the National Waterways bill, but it was bull dozed by Gadkari, without even sharing the comments with cabinet.
पोत परिवहन मंत्रालय को यह चेताया गया था कि व्यापक विचार-विमर्श के बिना किसी जलमार्ग को राष्ट्रीय जलमार्ग घोषित करना सही नहीं होगा. इतनी बड़ी संख्या में राष्ट्रीय जलमार्ग विकसित करने पर न सिर्फ केंद्र सरकार पर आर्थिक बोझ पड़ेगा बल्कि पर्यावरण को भी गहरा नुकसान होगा, जिसे कभी ठीक नहीं किया जा सकता है. द वायर द्वारा सूचना के अधिकार (आरटीआई) के तहत प्राप्त किए गए आधिकारिक दस्तावेजों से ये खुलासा हुआ है कि वित्त मंत्रालय ने एक ही बार में इतने सारे जलमार्गों को राष्ट्रीय जलमार्ग घोषित करने के फैसले को लेकर कड़ा ऐतराज जाहिए किया था.फाइल नोटिंग और आधिकारिक पत्राचारों की करीबी जांच से यह भी पता चलता है कि वित्त मंत्रालय की टिप्पणियों को केंद्रीय कैबिनेट के सामने विचार के लिए रखा ही नहीं गया और कैबिनेट ने बिना इसके ही राष्ट्रीय जलमार्ग विधेयक, 2015 के प्रस्ताव को 25 मार्च 2015 को मंजूरी दे दी थी.
– देश के 106 जलमार्गों को राष्ट्रीय जलमार्ग घोषित करने के फैसले को लेकर केंद्र के दो प्रमुख विभाग नीति आयोग और वित्त मंत्रालय ने कड़ा विरोध जताया था.
– पांच फरवरी 2015 को भेजे अपने जवाब में नीति आयोग ने कहा कि जिन जलमार्गों को राष्ट्रीय जलमार्ग घोषित करने का प्रस्वाव रखा गया है, उसे लेकर ये चर्चा नहीं हुई कि आखिर किस आधार पर इन्हें राष्ट्रीय जलमार्ग घोषित किया जा रहा है.आयोग के यातायात विभाग ने अपने पत्र में लिखा, ‘सबसे पहले किसी भी नदी को राष्ट्रीय जलमार्ग घोषित करने के लिए कुछ व्यापक मापदंड जैसे कि उद्योगों से संपर्क, पर्यावरण प्रभाव आकलन, पूरे साल में पानी की मौजूदगी, नौपरिवहन इत्यादि तय किए जाने चाहिए.’
Continue reading “DRP NB 16 Sept 2019: Wire Exposes How ill thought River Navigation was Pushed by the government”
June 21 seemed like a new day with all the national newspapers carrying full front page advertisements about Kaleshwaram project of Telanagana, advertised with more than usual share of superlatives: Lifeline of Telangana, record breaking projects, the world’s highest lift project completed in fasted time and so on. At three (Maharashtra – the upstream state- Andhra Pradesh – the downstream state and Telangana the project state) Chief Ministers and one governor gathered on the banks of Godavari river in Jayashankar Bhupalpally district to inaugurate a project that opposition mocked, saying it is just 20% completed.
But there were many serious unanswered questions and problems around the costliest irrigation project of India from a region and sector that is infamous for corruption. Water availability itself is in doubt, the impact assessments are hardly done even in name sake, public consultations non existent. Even statutory clearances are being questioned. If this is the best or even least cost option for the Telangana is not even debated, for a project that may need over 5000 MW of power for lifting the water to over half a km height. That too in a state where no district has below 500 mm rainfall.
Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 24 June 2019: Questions about Kaleshwaram as big as the project”
In its latest report, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has questioned implementation of sixteen National Irrigation Projects. Before this, the CAG has held mismanagement in dams’ operation responsible for Chennai floods in 2015. Both these reports are available on its website now.
The CAG report on National Irrigation Projects, tabled in Parliament on July 20, has revealed that sixteen major multi-purpose water projects, taken up on an expeditious basis about a decade ago, are nowhere near completion, with no work being undertaken in as many as 11 projects despite the incumbent govt’s much-wanted focus on improving irrigation facilities in the country.
The report also mentioned that out of the 16 projects, undertaken under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP) in Feb 2008, only five projects with estimated irrigation potential of 25.10 lakh hectares were under implementation and even these projects suffer from 8 to 99 per cent shortfall in physical progress, the CAG said. The remaining 11 projects with estimated irrigation potential of 10.48 lakh hectares are yet to commence and are at different stages of approval.
Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 23 July 2018: Landmark CAG Reports on DAM FLOODS & Ineffective; Costly Mega Irrigation Projects”