Fed by Dudhatoli forest range, the Ramganga West and Nayaar East and West in Uttarakhand are perennial rivers of immense scenic beauty amid emerging and looming threats. This photo blogs highlights some of the charms and concerns of these non-glacial rivers of the Ganga Basin.
During the night of June 20, 2020 pre-monsoon showers left series of gully formations on one of the muck dump sites of the under construction 120 MW Vyasi Hydro Electric Project (HEP) in Hathiyari area of Vikas Nagar tehsil, Dehradun district in Uttarakhand. Huge amount of muck washed down into Yamuna River, exposing the credibility of the Uttarakhand Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd. (UJVNL), the developer of Vyasi HEP.
Local people said that since June 2019, the UJVNL has spent over Rs. 40 lakh on geo jute and hydro seeding (grass slope protection) work at Hathiyari muck dumping yard. The project has already missed several deadlines, the work is far from complete. The careless handling of muck generated during the construction of 2.7 km long, 7-m dia tunnel in last eight years has added -+to the woes of local people and Yamuna river.
This past week we just completed seven years since the worst ever flood disaster in Himalayas, the Uttarakhand-Himachal Flood disaster that got launched with the massive unseasonal rainfall during June 15-17, 2013, along with the Glacial Lake Outburst Flood from Chorabari glacier upstream from Kedarnath. It was a massive wake up call.
To briefly recall, that unprecedented rainfall occurred when monsoon had not even set in Uttarakhand and neighbouring Himachal Pradesh. The first thing that strikes about this disaster where by official accounts over 6000 people died and by unofficial accounts over 20 000, is that we do not even have a comprehensive report from the government about this disaster. It would have told us a lot of things, including what we can learn from this disaster.
Second big thing that strikes is that big dams and hydropower projects, both due to their construction and operation impacts, both completed and under construction projects played a big role, as brief SANDRP video films in English and Hindi shows. But we continue to play with the Himalayas, the Ganga and lives of the lakhs of people by pushing more dams and such destructive activities (e.g. Char Dham Highways) in the fragile mountains without even honest impact assessments.
In 2019 overview, we found at least three people had died in Telangana due to illegal sand mining related incidents amid growing number of cases of illicit excavation of riverbeds. The state govt was seen laying stress on technological solutions to curb illegal sand mining and even reportedly had taken significant steps towards manufacturing and use of M-sand as a viable alternative, while its viability and impacts on environment during production remain to be fully studied and understood. https://sandrp.in/2019/02/26/sand-mining-2018-telangana-and-andhra-pradesh/ Here we track the key developments in the state since then.
In 2019 overview, we saw the state of Andhra Pradesh experiencing all the key problems associated with sand mining; growing demand and prices, inadequate supply, illegal excavation affecting rivers and villagers and inactive govt bodies. Reports revealed Krishna and Vamasdhara rivers facing large scale mechanized mining while indiscriminate mining in Nagavali river affecting drinking water schemes in Regidi mandal. Srikakulam district and beaches particularly suffered.
There were reports showing political parties involved or facilitating illegal mining. Like other states, the Andhra govt was seen rallying on technological solutions to manage the mining. https://sandrp.in/2019/02/26/sand-mining-2018-telangana-and-andhra-pradesh/
The following overview since then show a whole range of developments. Unsustainable excavation of riverbed minerals & mismanagement show no end.
[Feature Image: Vital resource; Nearly 80% of the State’s output of river sand comes from quarries on the Cauvery and Coleroon rivers in Karur and Tiruchi districts. File photo Credit: M. Moorthy/The Hindu]
The 2019 overview for Tamil Nadu showed that the illegal sand mining incidents, protests, govt actions and court orders kept taking place concurrently. It revealed involvement of govt official in illegal sand extraction activities. In fact, sand mining was reportedly among reason leading to collapse of 185 year old regulator on Kollidam river. Also one officials and two citizens lost their lives in illegal mining related incidents.
Sandhya Ravi Shankar who revealed the gross violations of norms and irregularities in beach sand mining faced defamation cases, threats and stalking. Govt efforts to promote of M-sand & imported sand as alternative to river sand didn’t help.
Feature image: Extraction of sand from the banks of the Tunga near Chibbalagudde in Tirthahalli taluk posing a threat to the fish sanctuary that hosts 27 species of fish. (The Hindu)
2019 Karnataka sand mining overview showed that the incidents of illegal sand mining were on the rise, state was reportedly consuming around 70 MT (Million Tons) sand annually while the govt was able to produce 30 MT. The govt was losing about Rs 200 crore to illegal sand mining, while about 29,000 cases of illegal stone quarrying and sand mining were detected in past 3 years. Towards the end of 2018, the govt was seen working on 4 separate mining policies for sand, granite, building material and stone crushers to stop the revenue losses.
There were discussions in govt circle promoting M-Sand and importing sand from Malaysia. M-Sand was being produced in 18 districts of state. However there was no clarity on its quality and usage. MSIL had imported 8000 T of sand and sold half of it. Despite facing sand dearth, the govt in Sept. 2018 decided to send imported sand to Kerala. About 0.15 MT Malaysian sand was stuck at two ports.
उत्तराखंड के पर्वतीय इलाकों में प्राकृतिक जल स्रोत हजारों गांवों की जल जीवन रेखा है। इन्हें पन्यारा, नौला, छौई, धारा इत्यादि नामों से जाना जाता है। यह जल स्रोत प्राचीन समय से ही गांव में पीने एवं अन्य घरेलू आवश्यकताओं के लिए जलापूर्ति का मुख्य जरिया रहे हैं।
दुख की बात है कि बदलते दौर, जीवनशैली में आए बदलाव और पाइपलाइन आधारित पेयजल आपूर्ति के चलते, ये धरोहर पहाड़ समाज की अनदेखी और सरकार की उपेक्षा का शिकार हो रहे हैं। अगर इन जल स्रोतों को सहेजा जाये तो ये आज भी उतने ही प्रभावी एवं उपयोगी साबित हो सकते हैं। पौड़ी गढ़वाल के पोखरी गांव के युवाओं का इसी दिशा में एक काबिलेतारीफ प्रयास है। विश्व पर्यावरण दिवस 2020 की थीम प्रकृति का समय[i] के अवसर हमने महसूस किया कि इन युवाओं का प्रयास सबके सामने उजागर किये जाने लायक है।
Latest and disturbing images taken on May 27, 2020 display brazen riverbed mining in Yamuna river in Dehradun, Uttarakhand. The images related to Vikas Nagar stretch of river show that miners have not only created a temporary bridge across the riverbed to transport mined material but also using heavy machines to dig the riverbed. In the process the river flow has been impounded at the location.
Sources reveal that active river channel is being compromised by in-stream mining operations. It is learnt that the mining is being done hardly 300 meters from Haripur bridge connecting Vikas Nagar to Kalsi.
Following large scale illegal mining incidents in Yamuna, Chambal, Ken, Betwa and many other rivers in Uttar Pradesh, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in past few years has issued significant orders. Towards the end of 2018, the Central Board of Investigation (CBI) had also started inquiry into illegal mining case in Betwa river in Hamirpur district which involved the then Mining Minister Gyatri Prajapati and the district magistrate among others. The raids regarding the issue kept taking place throughout 2019. So far the case has not reached the conclusion.
With the help of available media & other reports SANDRP tracks the illegal sand mining incidents of Uttar Pradesh during past one and half years. The 2018 sand mining overview in UP can be seen here.