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”
According to an energy expert, 6,000 megawatts’ worth of wind and solar contracts had been signed in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos in the last six months, seriously challenging the financial viability of major hydropower projects on the river. Buoyed by a recent Thai government decision to delay a power purchase deal with a major mainstream Mekong dam, clean-energy proponents and economists told the third Mekong River Commission summit that the regional energy market was on the cusp of a technological revolution.
A six-year Mekong River Commission Council study on development plans for the Mekong, which was the focus of the summit, suggested catastrophic impacts upon the health of the river system if all planned hydropower dams — 11 mainstream projects and more than 100 on tributaries — were built.
After review of North India and Maharashtra Rivers, SANDRP presents the development surrounding rivers in rest of West Zone: Gujarat, Goa, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan states in 2017.
Dams, industrial pollution killing State Rivers In MoEF report, Gujarat ranks 4th among top 5 states with highly polluted rivers. Sabarmati is among Gujarat’s 20 most polluted rivers including Narmada and Mahi. Over Rs 200 cr has been spent to curb pollution in Sabarmati & Mindola rivers. This fund is the highest amount ever spent outside the Ganga river conservation project on which Uttar Pradesh has spent Rs 917.24 crore, West Bengal Rs 411.26 crore and Bihar Rs 216.46 crore. As per activist, Rohit Prajapati, industrial effluents are being released in big rivers like Sabarmati, Mahi and Narmada without being treated and big dams have been built on big rivers due to which the rivers are drying up and vanishing as a result, the condition of rivers in Gujarat is going from bad to worse. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/polluted-rivers-guj-ranks-4th/articleshow/62685910.cms (The Times of India, 29 Jan. 2017)
When Central Government is trying to push Ken Betwa link project terming it as beneficial for both Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, local people of Banda are now also protesting against it, in addition to the people of Panna that are already opposing it. On Feb. 13, 2018, the Ken Bachao Samiti comprising of farmers, citizens and social workers in Banda sat on a Dharna before district magistrate office. The group have also sent a memorandum to the President of India, demanding immediate cancelling of the project. Raising serious concerns over environmental and social of the linking project, they asked demanded proper impact assessment and public consultation and said the project wont be allowed to go forward. Indeed, as they have said, there has been no downstream impact assessment and people of Banda are likely to loose their river. https://www.livehindustan.com/uttar-pradesh/banda/story-demonstrate-against-ken-betwa-alliance-1800951.html (Hindustan Hindi,13 Feb. 2018)
This week there are exemplary and encouraging wetlands revival stories from three metro cities of Chennai, Hyderabad and Delhi. In the first example from Hyderabad, meticulously chosen plant species such as tulsi, aswagandha, citronella and hibiscus have been used to create an artificial island to clean Neknampur Lake. The treatment islands are composed of four layers of which the bamboo base keeps the entire structure afloat. Based on soil-less hydroponics, these floating treatment wetlands absorb excess nitrates, thereby reducing the chemical content of the lake water. Microorganisms present in the wetland break down organic matter while the root systems filter out pollutants and sediments. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/3500-saplings-floating-islands-help-rejuvenate-hyd-neknampur-lake-75819 (The News Minute, 3 Feb. 2018)
Similarly, Chennai-based Care Earth Trust along with the public works department (PWD) and the civic body has managed to restore three urban lakes. While many of the smaller wetlands have vanished over time, many mid-sized wetlands seem to have shrunk by almost 65 percent. Thanks to their joint effort, invasive hyacinth was removed from the Narayanapuram Lake in Pallikaranai, while sewer lines, which emptied into the Perungalathur Lake, have now been plugged. A detailed restoration proposal has been forwarded to the PWD regarding the Korattur-Madhavaram-Ambattur lakes. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/hyacinth-out-sewer-line-plugged-three-water-bodies-restored/articleshow/62748110.cms (The Times of India, 2 Feb. 2018)
Meanwhile, Delhi Jal Board (DJB) has taken up interesting new project of creating an artificial lake in Dwarka. The project will supply water in sub-city and improve ground water level too. DJB has approved Rs. 56 crore for the project which will be completed in next seven months. This would the first model project wherein a lake will be used to augment water supply. The special lake is being created next to the Dwarka water treatment plant (WTP) will have a sand bed to allow maximum percolation of water into the ground. It will have a capacity of 10 million gallons (MGD). The project is expected to add supply of 5-6 million gallons water to Dwarka every day.
The Prime Minister, on Dec 16, 2017, while dedicating to nation the 60 MW Turial HEP, should have also mentioned:
– PUBLIC PROTESTS: The project faced strong protests from local people, so much so that work had to be stopped for over 7 years from 2004 to 2011. Even a day before PM dedicated the project, people took out a protest march.
– NO PUBLIC CONSULTATION: One of the reasons people protested was that the project did not have any proper public consultation.
– NO PROPER IMPACT ASSESSMENT: Another reason for people’s anger was no proper environment or social impact assessment, or proper compensation and rehabilitation.
– HIGH COST: The project cost was Rs 368.72 Crores, but now already has gone above Rs 1441 crores officially, likely to go up further. That means per MW cost is already above Rs 24 crores, one of the highest in the country. WHO WILL PAY THE HIGH COST OF ELECTRICITY FROM THE PROJECT?
– HUGE COST ESCALATION from Rs 369 crores to over Rs 1440 crores
– HUGE TIME OVER RUN: The project was supposed to be completed many decades back but has seen huge time over run, not only because of protests, but also because of inadequate mobilisation by the contractor, poor approach road, power house slope failure, among many other reasons.
This latest project once again shows that big hydro is no longer viable, one wishes, the Prime Minister would also highlight these realities in his speeches.
It is getting increasingly clear that days of large hydro power projects are coming to an end. While in India large numbers of big hydro power projects are stalled, this week there was news from Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and rest of North East India of cancellation or stoppage of hydro power projects. http://www.sentinelassam.com/story/main-news/0/subansiri-project-not-to-see-light-for-4-years/2017-11-12/1/325720#.WgpysVuCzIV
Pancheshwar project on India Nepal border continues to face opposition. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/traders-oppose-pancheshwar-dam/articleshow/61705308.cms
Nepal this week cancelled the agreement for 1200 MW Budhi Gandaki hydropower project. In Bhutan, the Prime Minister declared that they are in no hurry to go ahead with new hydropower projects. http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2017-11-13/govt-scraps-budhigandaki-project-with-chinese-company.html
In Pakistan, the agreement for the massive 4500 MW Diamer Bhasha hydropower company with China has fallen through. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/chinas-strict-conditions-force-pakistan-not-to-include-diamer-bhasha-dam-in-cpec-officials/articleshow/61660935.cms
In Mynmar, too the agreement with China for massive hydropower project stands cancelled. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-myanmar-energy/china-says-will-keep-talking-to-myanmar-over-stalled-dam-scheme-idUSKBN1D80X4?il=0
This is further reinforced by study by Dr. Luke Gibson, Honorary Assistant Professor of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Hong Kong, which concludes that among so called green energy sources, hydropower is most dangerous. https://phys.org/news/2017-10-green-energy-hydropower-dangerous.html#jCp
The minutes of expert appraisal committee (EAC) shows that Environmental Clearance (EC) for the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project has been deferred. The minutes were uploaded after 16 days of EAC meeting conducted on Oct 24, 2017. http://environmentclearance.nic.in/writereaddata/Form-1A/Minutes/09112017PCU6UH80Finalminutesof9thEACmeeting1.pdf
In the minutes, the EAC said that it would require to study the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the Nepal portion of the project to get a holistic view. It also directed the project proponent to obtain wildlife clearance as the project was located 300 metres from the Ascot Wildlife Sanctuary.
It is worth to mention that the Pancheshwar dam with a height of 315 meters is world’s second tallest dam proposed in ecologically sensitive region. Scores of media reports have underlined the unfair and politically influenced Environment Public Hearing (EPH) process, conducted during peak monsoon month in landslide ridden and disaster prone region. The venue of the EPH was also several kms away from villages going to be affected thus depriving the local people participation in essential decision making process. As a result the concerns and voices of villagers to have their voices heard. The EIA report of the project has also not mentioned several grave environmental issues of GOLFs events, cloud bursts, earthquakes etc in the catchment of the dam let alone the question of impact on endangered wildlife like Mahseer fish.
In a remarkable development, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on October 24 has suspended the clearances given to the 1750-megawatt (MW) Demwe Lower Hydroelectric Project (HEP) planned on the Lohit river in Arunachal Pradesh.
In its detailed order, released on October 27, the NGT ruled that the Environment Minister as Chairperson of the National Board for Wildlife (NWBL), a statutory body constituted under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, could not “just brush aside” the views of the majority of NBWL standing committee members.
Suspending the clearances given by the Centre and the state govt, the NGT order added that “the decision taken by the Standing Committee is not in accordance with established principles of law and hence the Standing Committee shall reconsider the issue and pass appropriate orders within a period of six months from the date of the judgment”.
Environmental clearance for the project was given by the Union environment ministry’s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for river valley and hydroelectric projects back in 2009. An in-principle forest clearance for the Lower project was given in February 2012 and agreed upon in 2013.
However, the in-principle clearance of the project was opposed by a majority of the Standing Committee of the NBWL but subsequently cleared by the then-environment minister of state (independent charge), Jayanthi Natarajan, who was also the chairperson of the Standing Committee.
Natarajan is currently under the CBI’s scanner for alleged anomalies in clearance given for diversion of land in Saranda forest in Singhbhum district, Jharkhand to mining company Electrosteel during the previous UPA regime.
The NGT said that it is “of the view that either the Chairperson (Natarajan) should have given a proper reason for rejecting the objection of the majority of the non-official members or the decision ought to have been arrived at based on the opinion of the majority of the members. Even though the Standing Committee is a recommendatory body, the same being a statutory committee, is bound by the laudable principles of justice and fair play”.
The wetlands are the hotspots of biodiversity, act as carbon sinks, act as buffers against floods and are essential for groundwater recharge. With groundwater reservoirs in the country heavily exploited, this last function has assumed greater importance. http://www.hindustantimes.com/environment/centre-notifies-wetland-rules-environmentalists-unhappy/story-3MoGp9D8eSzHI90zfOXWSO.html
Wetlands can be defined as lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic eco-systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water.
But they are threatened by reclamation and degradation due to activities like drainage and landfill, pollution, hydrological alteration (water withdrawal and changes in inflow and outflow), over-exploitation resulting in loss of biodiversity and disruption in ecosystem services provided by them.
There are at least 115 wetlands that are officially identified by the central government and of those 26 are identified as wetlands of international importance under Ramsar Convention which is an international intergovernmental treaty for conservation of wetlands. India is a party to the treaty. http://www.livemint.com/Politics/y6Tr3tkrr3q28AmGKaBFII/Environment-ministry-notifies-new-wetland-rules.html
The Centre on September 26 notified a new set of rules under the head Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017 replacing the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/new-wetland-conservation-rules-notified/article19779100.ece
It is worth to mention that under the 2010 rules, not a single water body was notified as a wetland over and above the ones already recognised as such by the Centre and the Ramsar Convention, defeating its purpose in a way. http://www.zeebiz.com/agencies/centre-notifies-new-rules-for-preservation-of-wetlands-26312
Similarly, despite country’s space agency ISRO had in 2011 mapped over two lakhs of wetlands across the country, the centre has, so far, notified only 115 wetlands and 63 lakes in 24 states and 2 UTs for conservation and management.