How is development possible along with environment protection? There are two kinds of answers possible to this question. The standard kind of reply would try to provide a list of options that are available to a given development need. Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 4 June 2018: WED 2018: Environment Protection and Development is NECESSARY and POSSIBLE, provided there is will”
Guest Blog by Dr. Ruchi Shree (Delhi University)
The fact that most of the civilizations of the world flourished on the river banks is more or less uncontested. The examples of early river valley civilizations range from Indus civilization near Indus River to Mesopotamia along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, Egypt on the bank of Nile, and Chinese civilization near Yellow River to name some of them. Even today most of the major cities of the world are situated on the banks of rivers viz. London near Thames, Paris near Seine, New York next to Hudson and the list is endless. Coming to the cities in India also, Delhi is on the bank of Yamuna, Kolkata is near Hooghly river, Allahabad at the confluence (popularly known as Sangam) of Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, Ahmedabad near Sabarmati and many more. Continue reading “RIVERS AS COMMONS: REALITY OR MYTH?”
Above: The Bhagirathi valley has a lot of beautiful bends, comparable to the most popular scenic spots across the world. But we’re busy cutting down the mountain to make broader roads in these eco-sensitive areas. Image taken in March 2017. Photo credits: Siddharth Agarwal
Guest Blog by Siddharth Agarwal
In the initial stages of planning the Moving Upstream project on the Ganga for Veditum, where we were going to walk along the whole length of the river, I had approached a lot of individuals to learn from their experiences about the river and the many connected stories around it. These learnings varied from science and activism to adventure and survival. Of all those who were approached, Himanshu Thakkar from SANDRP had been the most generous in extending knowledge resources and sharing contacts from the field. He even entertained a couple of my visits to their office and shared with me a copy of the SANDRP report prepared by Theo, called Headwater Extinctions (February 2014, see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/new-publication-headwater-extinctions-impact-of-hydropower-projects-on-fish-and-river-ecosystems-in-upper-ganga-and-beas-basins/, it includes link to full report), along with a few other documents.
Headwater Extinctions looks at the role played by small and large hydropower projects in altering the fish biodiversity and river ecosystems in the Himalayan reaches of the Ganga and Beas basins. It also speaks about the perspective of local people and that of the authorities towards hydropower projects. Theo, who is an adventurer and ecologist, penned down the report with a scientific aptitude, while I will limit myself here in this revisit report to updated observations made on ground while walking along the Ganga in Uttarakhand (March 2017). This comparative observation will hopefully enable a conversation that requires continuity. Continue reading “Walking along Ganga in Uttarakhand in 2017”
Power surplus, power exporter India, with record solar& wind wind generation trend, why push more destructive hydro projects According to power ministry statement on March 29, 2017, India for the first time became NET EXPORTER OF ELECTRICITY during 2016-17, it exported 4% more power during last 11 months (April-Feb), that what it imported from Bhutan. At the same time, power plants, on a national average, are opera ting at roughly 60%, down from nearly 65% in 2014-15.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the amendments in the Mega Power Policy to push 31 GW stuck projects entailing an investment of Rs 1.5 lakh crore. The stuck projects in mega power policy include hydro projects of above 350 Mw in designated states (J&K and eight NE states) and above 500 Mw in other states.
Amid this, New and Renewable Energy Ministry has added over 5400 Mw wind energy capacity in 2016-17 against the target of 4000 Mw. This year’s achievement surpassed the previous higher capacity addition of 3.423 Mw achieved in the previous year. The leading States in the wind power capacity addition during 2016-17 are Andhra 2190 Mw, followed by Gujarat 1275 Mw and Karnataka 882 Mw.
In the last couple of years, India has not only seen record low tariffs for solar power but wind power too has seen a significant drop in tariffs. The onshore wind power potential alone is about 302 Gw. Preliminary estimates show the Gujarat coastline has the potential to generate around 106,000 Mw of offshore wind energy and Tamil Nadu about 60,000 Mw.
SANDRP Blog Little for Bundelkhand, lot for contractors in Ken Betwa river-link The official executive summary of the Detailed Project Report of KBLRP on NWDA website says: “The main objective of the Ken-Betwa link project is to make available water to water deficit areas of upper Betwa basin through substitution from the surplus waters of Ken basin.” Upper Betwa basin (Raisen and Vidisha districts of MP) is not in Bundelkhand. So KBLRP is essentially facilitating export of water from drought prone Bundelkhand to area outside Bundelkhand, which, in fact is well endowed with over 900 mm of average annual rainfall.
The DPR further says, a third o the surplus water will be utilized for “enroute irrigation of 0.60 lakh ha. in the districts of Tikamgarh and Chhatarpur of MP and Mahoba & Jhansi of U.P.” The claim in the minutes of Expert Appraisal Committee meeting of Dec 30, 2016 that “It is proposed to provide irrigation facility in 6,35,661 ha of area in Panna, Chhatarpur, Tikamgarh Districts of Madhya Pradesh and Banda, Mahoba and Jhansi Districts in Uttar Pradesh” needs to be put in context here. Firstly, this claim is far in excess of what the presumed surplus water can irrigate.
In addition to allegations of fraud related to inflated bills, the officials report of Satish Verma the former chief vigilance officer (CVO) of North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) mentioned that there have been numerous instances of top government officials allegedly accepting hospitality and gifts that cost the PSU lakhs of rupees. These include gifts for officials in the Ministry of Power: a teak wood cabinet for the Personal Secretary to the Union Power Minister; an iPad Air 2 for the Secretary; payment of a Vodafone bill for a Special Secretary; and a mobile handset for an Additional Secretary. Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 26 Dec 2016 (Corruption & Fraud in 600 MW Kameng HEP in Northeast India)”
India Rivers Week 2016 to be organised at WWF-India during Nov 28-30 is just a week away. The theme of the event this year is STATE OF INDIA’s RIVERS. Groups from all the different states have put together reports about the status of rivers in their states with a view of classify rivers as Healthy (blue), Threatened (Pink) and Destroyed (Red) after assessing their health based on a large number of parameters, including Dams, Pollution, biodiversity, encroachment, mining, among others. This is the first ever attempt at such an exercise. The Event will also feature announcement of Bhagirath Prayas Samman Awards for exemplary work in river conservation, River Lecture Preview of a feature film and prominent speakers in inaugural and valedictory functions. Individuals and groups working for better future of our rivers will be travelling to the event from all over India.
National The cost of cheap drugs The Bollaram-Patancheru region in Hyderabad, Telengana is famous for being one of the most polluted industrial areas in India. The periphery around the area has become so toxic one that 2001 article recommended that “most of the soils should be removed from agricultural production” in Patancheru. There is an increase in higher abortion rates to birth defects and stunted growth in children, as well as greater incidence of skin diseases in the region. In the district of Medak in the state of Telangana, Greenpeace in its several reports has identified that people, animals, crops and land have been afflicted by the pollution of industrial waste. Villagers report many serious health issues, including miscarriages, skin disorders, cancers and intestinal problems. The livestock suffer from the same problems. Most, not to say all, food grown in the village is unfit for human consumption. An inspection report published by CSE in November 2015 noted that most companies in Pattancheru-Bollaram were manufacturing pharmaceutical ingredients for which they did not have permission; using more water than the permitted limit and dumping more hazardous waste than allowed. Two of the units were operating without clearance from authorities.
In the case of the Ghaggar river in Punjab, all along its river course, one can witness foul smell, contamination of subsoil water, spread of water borne diseases and chances of damage of crop due to the presence of industrial chemical waste due to industrial waste from the industries in Punjab and Himachal. Media reports report similar occurrences around the Bhiwadi belt, where pharmaceutical companies discharge untreated effluents into drainages which then seep into the groundwater, making way into drinking water supply and agricultural land, resulting in environmental and health risks of unimaginable proportions.
In many low and middle income countries, weak laws and ineffective regulatory bodies have led to rising incidences of industrial waste flowing into ponds, lakes and rivers. If we examine the causes, the role of the pharmaceutical industry is similar to printing, chemical and paint industries. Pharma effluents contain hazardous chemicals which are leading to antimicrobial resistance or AMR where the human body is resistant to antibiotics, and thus, becomes susceptible to common infections. The very same ingredients used to manufacture antibiotics get mixed up with the bacteria during waste disposal, through our waters. Studies have shown that high levels of antibiotics are found in streams and lakes in the area close to many plant than in the body of human beings. The phenomenon is such that it is assuming the form of a serious public health issue in developing as well as developed countries. Over 700,000 people die every year because of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) all over the world. If this trend persists and resistance continues, McKinsey studies has shown that by 2050, around 10 million people globally will die because of AMR (Antimicrobial Resistance)
It is pertinent to note that New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase superbug (NDM-1), a bacteria, first found in New Delhi’s public water supply in 2008, is resistant to almost all known antibiotics and has spread to over 70 countries in the world.
On the other hand, scientists from multiple institutes having done a detailed study on river pollution concluded that arsenic in the study areas poses potential health risk to the residents and indicates that the “ingestion of water over a long time could magnify the probabilities of cancer. They collected and assessed concentrations of 27 trace elements in surface water samples from 48 sites of waterways (lakes, canals, and tributaries of major rivers) in four states: Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Telangana. Analysis revealed that elements such as chromium, selenium, arsenic, iron, and manganese are the major pollutants, as their concentrations exceeded the acceptable national and international water quality standards in several sites of Vrishabhavathi, Ennore, Adyar, Cooum and Periyar rivers. Further, statistical analysis revealed that the Cauvery, Ennore, Adyar, Cooum and Periyar river basins are affected by various anthropogenic activities, leading to moderate-to-high pollution by arsenic, chromium, manganese, iron, and selenium. According to the scientists, potential pollution sources are industrial waste, sewage intrusion, paint industry waste, and automobile runoff.
Above Map of Cauvery basin from Indian Express, Sept 22, 2016
Higher demands than availability is the key problem in Cauvery basin. transparent, participatory, democratic, rule based management of demands over supply is the key need. Unfortunately, we do not have that. Greater misfortune is that the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal Award of Feb 2007, even as it is significantly flawed, is yet to be implemented since the Special Leave Petitions of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, admitted in the Supreme Court, remain pending for over nine years now. The Supreme Court, in the meantime, (through its orders of Sept 5, 12 and 20) deals with the issue in a manner, that seems ad hoc in absence of clarity as to how all the relevant factors have been taken into account. Continue reading “Cauvery: Is there will for way forward? Will constitution of CMB help?”
Hydro power projects impact riverine fisheries The bleak future of fisheries is reflected in the “Vision and Perspective Plan” released by the Department of Fisheries earlier this week. The department is keeping its fingers crossed to even maintain the production of 5,393 tonnes in 2014-15 as it feels that with the commissioning of 294 hydro power projects in the recent years, the downward trend will be difficult to arrest.
It says that the expansion of the hydro power sector has resulted in the shrinking of rivers and streams and high silt levels. Rampant sand mining and indiscriminate use of pesticides have further aggravated the problem.
The fish production from the rivers and streams is falling drastically each year and the multi-pronged environmental assault is proving to be too damaging for the fisheries promotion. The state has some precious mahseer reserves. Though the power policy stipulates a minimum discharge of 15% ecological flow of rivers, the failure of the regulatory authority to check this has converted riverbeds into sandy deserts. That’s how the department perceives the threat from hydro power generation. As a further blow to the riverine fisheries, under the revised hydro-power policy, there is no requirement for micro hydel project developers to prepare environmental and social impact reports.
The vision document reflects that the coming up of hundreds of micro-hydel projects has drastically affected the streams environmental flow in Kangra, Kullu and Chamba. The picture is so grim that the project commissioned on the Sujan Nullah is virtually threatening the hatchery of the prestigious Indo-Norwegian trout project which is the lifeline of the entire trout farming programme of the state.Perceived as one of the major threats, the commissioning of 92 power projects, in the last few years has altered the river hydrology and blocked migratory routes exterminating spawning and feeding grounds of fish.Adding to the already bad situation is the array of pesticides and insecticides being used by farmers and fruit growers.