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 5 July 2021: Supreme Court pulls up MoEF, NGT over environment issues: Will it go far?

(Feature image:- Aerial image of the fire – Photo by Sachin Bharali, from the Facebook page I am Dehing Patkai https://www.facebook.com/iamdehingpatkai/photos/pcb.131915155180713/131915048514057/?type=3&theater)

In the last week, the Supreme Court of India used rather strong words against Union Ministry of Environment and Forests under the leadership of Prakash Javdekar. It said: “You must show it is a ministry for environment and not just ‘of environment’. You (ministry) have been constantly diluting the environmental standards. That’s all that has been happening”. While this was necessary and in fact it should have come several years earlier, one hopes the SC does not stop at using just strong words, but ensures that the MoEF is held accountable for its numerous unpardonable anti environment acts.

In another notable event, the Supreme Court also pulled up the NGT for not understanding even basic conflict of interest: “We are surprised by this order of the NGT. It is the OIL Ltd. which is responsible for the damage to the wetlands and its own Managing Director has been inducted into the committee? … We are very dissatisfied with the manner the NGT has pushed the matter off its hands. It is the National Green Tribunal, it must have some alacrity and concern for the environment. And after the report of the first committee, three committees have been set up separately! What is this?” This again is welcome and was long overdue. NGT had shown similar lack of understanding of conflict of interest in the Lower Subansiri case which also SC needs to open up for review. Conflict of Interest is a MAJOR dark spot in functioning of India’s governance and SC needs to do lot more to correct this.

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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 24 May 2021: Campaign to protect Pune Rivers

An active campaign has been going on for several months now to save the Pune Rivers from the so called “River Front Development” Project as can be seen the following stories of just last one month. The RFC supporters are also out to push multi crore project, as can be seen from the numerous stories being planted in the media on regular intervals. There is no doubt that the Pune Rivers will be destroyed and the city will face increasing flood disasters if the project goes ahead. One hopes the Civil Society campaign continues and judiciary steps in to stop this destruction at the earliest.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 03 May 2021: Miners violating norms, Yamuna & people’s lives

(Feature image:- Rampant sand mining damaging Yamuna’s ecology. Hridesh Joshi/Mongabay India)

The Yamuna river has been facing excessive riverbed mining along Haryana and Uttar Pradesh states in upper segment for over last two years. There have been umpteen numbers of local people, mainly part of Yamuna Nadi Mitra Mandli have shared pictures, videos showing gross violation of norms. They have even been alerting and appealing the respective agencies including pollution control boards, district administration, mining departments to take strict action against the open violations but their pleas have largely been ignored.

This stretch is so mining ridden that in the last two years more than 30 people particularly teenagers have died after falling in deep sand mining pits. Similarly more than a dozen innocent people lost their live in accidents involving the transportation of Yamuna sand. The damage to village roads, flood protection structures, crops is immense. The noise and air pollution due to unabated mining operations have taken heavy toll on villagers’ health.

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Yamuna River

Yamuna Jayanti 2021: River needs flows; not dam, mining & pollution

Yamuna Jayanti the birthday of Yamuna river is celebrated every year on sixth day of summer Navratri. This year the day occurred on Sunday, April 18. On this occasion, Yamuna Nadi Mitra Mandlis [NMM (Friends of Yamuna River groups)] from all along the river through pics, videos share the latest updates on the issues affecting the river health and riverine community’s wellbeing. They also celebrate the river for its innumerable/ services and carry out activities to draw the attention of concerned governments and public at large towards gradual decline in river’s health.

This year due to Covid 19 pandemic and resultant restrictions, they could not organize public gatherings and undertake river related activities as usual, however they have shared some relevant pictures and videos depicting present status of River Yamuna which are presented here.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 29 March 2021: Better options exist to resolve water scarcity

Even as a strong voice of dissent rises from Bundelkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere against the fresh push for destructive Ken Betwa Project, this week there is interesting news from across India that reinforces the message that real solutions to Bundelkhand water scarcity not only exist, but they are far less destructive, cheaper, faster and more sustainable even in climate change context. This includes the report from CSE about the success of MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Authority) scheme as “the world’s largest climate change adaptation scheme” particularly for water havesting and water conservation. Similar stories also come from Bundelkhand and elsewhere.

If only the eyes, ears and minds of the decision makers were open and they had any fear of being held accountable for such mindless decisions.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 8 March 2021: Will Madras HC action help save water bodies?

While on the face of it the Madras High Court order on March 2, 2021 that all district collectors of Tamil Nadu must upload by March 17, GPS/ satellite images of all the water bodies in their districts is not only welcome, it needs to be done in all the districts across India. This order is by the bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy.

The same bench had earlier in January 2021 said, in response to a PIL that the government officials must have zero tolerance towards encroachment of waterbodies and ensure that every inch of such encroachment gets removed at the earliest by following the due process of law. The PIL had sought for removal of encroachments from a two-acre swamp at Arehalla in Ithalar, a village in Nilgiri hills.

While these are welcome, we hope these orders get implemented and provisions be made by the HC to ensure accountability of the DMs to ensure that all information is put out on the district water bodies website in form and manner that people understand as also in english and should be archived so that the information can be used in future. The information from the past should also be put up on such websites and a transparent, participatory monitoring of the water bodies be instituted for each district.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 1 March 2021: Actions speak louder than words on PM’s appeal for water, river conservation

In his #MannKiBaat on Feb 28, 2021, India’s Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi appealed to people to conserve our Rivers, Water, referring to Magh Purnima on Feb 27 2021 and Sant Ravi Das teachings. He also said that India’s traditions, festivals, scriptures, etc have so much place for rivers, also mentioning the Kumbh mela this year at Haridwar. He mentioned that a 100 day campaign will be launched soon by the Jal Shakti Ministry for rainwater harvesting. He gave several examples from across the country where individuals and groups have taken up such words.

All that sounds fine and welcome. But the trouble is that his all-powerful government is working consistently and with increasing intensity towards opposite direction. This very week his Power Minister expressed ignorance if hydropower projects have any environmental adverse impact, right in the face of destruction wrought by the hydropower projects in Chamoli disaster in Uttarakhand on Feb 7, 2021. Why is the Union Government still pushing hydropower projects which are no longer even economically viable, they never were environmentally sustainable or socially acceptable.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 01 Feb 2021: Dissolving YMC is retrograde

In a shocking and disappointing move, the National Green Tribunal last week dissolved the Yamuna Monitoring Committee (YMC) in Delhi, UP and Haryana along with Justice Pritam Pal Committee and asked the state government to implement the various measures in earlier YMC and NGT reports and directions. This seems like a major set back for the future of Yamuna and other rivers. This seems to have been a direct fall out of the Supreme Court of India Suo Moto taking up the Yamuna pollution issue. This is not going to help solve the seemingly intraceable issue of tackling pollution of our rivers. If the states were interested and capable of implementing the necessary measures, we won’t have required YMC in the first place. YMC was taking a number of useful steps and as we wrote in the DRP lead story dated January 18, 2021, what is required is strengthening the hands of the YMC, but as if our worst fears were to come true, YMC has now been dissolved, even before it could make its mark in achieving cleaner rivers.

It should be noted that our judiciary does not have very remarkable track record in achieving cleaner rivers. In fact the same Supreme Court took up Yamuna case Suo moto in 1994 and not having been able to achieve any better state of Yamuna, after dealing with it for 23 long years, handed over the case to NGT in 2017. Supreme Court had been dealing with Ganga case even longer, and again not achieving better state of the river, handed over the case to NGT in 2017. It seemed like NGT had done something right in setting up YMC, but that also has been dissolved. Its clear that unless the citizens and society does not rise up, there is no hope for our rivers.

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