DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 060223: Wetlands in India face damages, threats and Govt Apathy

(Feature Image:-Nayapakkam a lake near Chennai and a bird hotspot. 190 species have been recorded here and is a refuge for migratory harriers. https://ebird.org/hotspot/L3396760 Excavators were filling one end of the lake yesterday. Allegedly the ACS group is building an International school over it. M Yuvan, 05 Feb. 2023)

On the occasion of World Wetlands Day 2023 on Feb 2, 2023, SANDRP brought out five overviews about state of India’s wetlands. These included overview related to: 1. India’s Ramsar Wetlands 2. General overview of India’s wetlands 3. Top Ten stories about govt actions about wetlands 4. Top ten stories about judiciary actions about wetlands and 5. Positive stories about India’s wetlands. The links to the five overviews are available below.

The first thing that strikes from these overviews is that state of wetlands in India is bad, getting worse, they continue to face systemic neglect, damages, threats and govt apathy including Ramsar wetlands, which are supposed to have better protection than other wetlands, which is unfortunately not true. The nameplate of Ramsar wetland has now been given to 75 wetlands, but that provides no additional protection to them. in the name of information of Ramsar sites, there is only a combined interactive map apart from two separate pdf file links with location map and state wise listing Ramsar wetlands on Wetlands of India portal by MoEF&CC. The govt has neither prepared any concrete plan to address the threats nor has it developed credible monitoring mechanism which clearly shows it has no intention to improve the governance of these sites.

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Sand Mining

Riverbed Mining 2022: Judiciary tries but fails to bring effective change

(Feature Image: Screen shot of The Power Time Dec. 2022 video news report revealing large scale mechanized, illegal sand mining in Sone rivers in Sonbhadra district Uttar Pradesh)

Judiciary has been striving to remedy the lawless situation currently dominating riverbed mining in India. The year 2022 has been full of court cases and orders dealing with unsustainable and illegal riverbed mining operations. In this yearend overview, we have reported top ten judicial interventions to control exploitative minor mineral mining by various state governments and to make the regulators accountable against the illegalities & violations.

In 1st part of the annual Sand Mining overviews, we tracked the adverse impacts of riverbed mining activities on freshwater species and rivers’ eco-system. In 2nd part, we covered the riverine community’s agitations against destructive riverbed mining. The 3rd part highlighted the damages and threats to infrastructures by excessive, mechanized riverbed mining.

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Wetlands

WWD 2023: Some Positive India Wetlands Stories

In final part of annual World Wetlands Day overview, SANDRP highlights ten positive actions, efforts made by local communities, citizens groups for protection and conservation of wetlands in India in 2022. In earlier parts of the series, SANDRP has covered the general scenarios of wetlands (Part 1); steps taken by various governments (Part 2); judicial interventions (Part 3) and status of some of the Ramsar wetlands sites in the country (Part 4).

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Wetlands

WWD 2023: Top Ten Judicial Interventions to Improve Wetlands Governance

(Feature Image: Construction activities in Sukhatal lake area in Nainital, Uttarakhand. Source: Dainik Jagran, Nov. 2022)

In this third part of wetlands overview, SANDRP tracks top ten judicial interventions regarding protection of wetlands in India in 2022. The part one has highlighted general situation of wetlands and part two has covered some governmental actions for wetlands conservation.

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Wetlands

WWD 2023: Top Ten India Wetlands Stories about Govt Actions

(Feature Image: Kochi Corporation’s proposal to reclaim wetlands at Brahmapuram shot down. A view of the Brahmapuram solid waste treatment plant on the banks of the Kadambrayar. | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat/ The Hindu)

In this second part of annual wetlands overview of 2022, SANDRP compiles the top ten actions by various governments in India regarding wetlands in 2022. The compilation also highlights some of the controversial steps planned and taken by the governments with an adverse impacts on wetlands conservation. The first part of wetlands review 2022 has focused on the how wetlands continue to suffer from misgovernance. 

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Wetlands

WWD 2023: India’s Wetlands continue to face Rising Threats and Misgovernance

(Feature Image: Giri tal of Kashipur, Uttarakhand succumbing to govt’s apathy. Bhim Singh Rawat/SANDRP Nov. 2022.)

World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year on February 2. The theme for year 2023 is Wetlands Restoration. Marking the occasion, SANDRP has been presenting annual overviews on various governance aspects of wetlands in India including general scenario, governments’ plans, judicial interventions and positive efforts to save these crucial eco-systems. This first part of the 2023 series covers the overall situation of wetlands in the country in 2022. The reports show that the wetlands continue to face rising threats and misgovernance.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 230123: Welcome decision of FAC to deny clearance to Etalin HEP

(Feature Image:- Upper Dibang Valley District, Arunachal Pradesh, India (Source: Wikipedia Commons/IWP)

It’s rather rare that we get a hydropower project related decision from official decision makers that can be welcomed. It has happened this week when the MoEF’s (Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change) Forest Advisory Committee declined to give forest clearance to the controversial 3097 MW Etalin Hydropower Project in Dibang sub basin of Brahmaputra basin in Arunachal Pradesh and North East India. The project was under consideration for this clearance since 2014 and finally in the meeting on Dec 27, 2022, FAC conveyed that the current proposal cannot be considered for the clearance and revised proposal may be submitted. It is not a blanket rejection of the project, but considering the history of consideration of this project in FAC, it is closest we can come to that.

It is also welcome to know that the FAC has also looked at the poor track record of compliance of conditions of earlier forest clearances for the hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh among the many reasons why the project is rejected in current form. Arunachal Pradesh may do well to improve its track record before applying for forest clearance to any new projects in the state.

This decision is also a lesson for the MoEF’s Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects and also for MoEF itself for not even looking at the track record of compliance of the conditions of environment clearances that the EAC and MoEF give to the river valley and hydropower projects. They also never look at the implementation of the Environment Management Plans. Same is the case with the MoEF’s National Board of Wildlife.

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Sand Mining

2022: Riverbed Mining Destroying Indian River Eco-system & Freshwater Species

(Feature image sources: Clock wise (1) Mahseer fish/ Mongabay India, April 2022. (2) Gharials in Chambal/India Today, July 2022. (3) Gangetic dolphin/ECO NE. (4) Smooth-coated Otters in Cauvery/Round Glass, Jan. 2023.)

Indiscriminate mining of riverbeds for sand, gravel, pebbles have been rampant across the country increasingly damaging India’s rivers. The incidents of illegal sand mining, mafias, administrative actions & inactions, govt policies and court cases are routinely covered by the media. However the irreversible impacts of destructive riverbed mining operations on fresh water species and river eco-system are little understood, least explored, rarely covered by media and fails to attract the required attention from govts, judiciary and public at large. 

To some extent, we have been monitoring and highlighting the loop holes in sand mining governance. As part of our annual overview, in 2022 we have complied this separate report underlining the adverse impacts of riverbed mining on rivers and on aquatic life, fresh water species including endangered gharials, dolphins, turtles, fish etc.

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Groundwater

2022: Judicial Interventions in India for Groundwater Conservation

In this yearend overview, we highlights some remarkable judicial decisions particularly by National Green Tribunal (NGT) and some ongoing legal disputes regarding violation of groundwater norms and its pollution in India in 2022. The NGT not only criticized MoJS (Ministry of Jal Shakti) new groundwater guidelines but also ordered penalizing Pepsi’s and Coke’s bottling plants in Uttar Pradesh for operating without NOCs. These were unfortunately later stayed by Supreme Court. Though the judicial interventions have once again revealed the sheer ineffectiveness of concerned bodies at central and state level however these orders have failed to bring any change in their functioning so far. NGT proceedings into allegations of groundwater pollution by liquor factory in Firozpur, Punjab has remained inconclusive while affected villagers and farmers have been staging protest for months.   

In the first part of the overview, we have tracked the worsening situation of groundwater depletion and contamination in the country while in second part, we have covered some positive efforts and initiative taken by various governments for its management in 2022.     

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Groundwater

2022: Some positive reports on groundwater management 

This second part of yearend overview, SANDRP highlights some positive reports and steps taken by various state governments in India for management and conservation of groundwater in 2022. In first part of the overview, we have tracked the situation of groundwater depletion and contamination in the country and in third part covered some remarkable judicial interventions regarding groundwater conservation in 2022.

Centre Recharge wells to power multi-city groundwater project. A pilot project on shallow aquifer management, initiated by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs for 10 cities, under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), has identified recharge wells as key to improving groundwater availability. Experts have cited the non-availability of space to allow the percolation of rainwater as a major hurdle to recharging Bengaluru’s groundwater table. The Million Wells programme was launched by Biome Environmental Trust in 2015 to encourage citizens and communities to dig and maintain their own recharge wells. It also opened up employment for the traditional well-digger community, the mannu vaddars.

In Bengaluru, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) will be the nodal agency for the project. Biome Environmental Trust and Advanced Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM) will be technical partners in the project, which is led by the National Institute of Urban Affairs, a national think-tank on urban planning and development. The pilot project also covers Chennai, Dhanbad, Gwalior, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Rajkot, Thane, and Pune. https://www.deccanherald.com/city/recharge-wells-to-power-multi-city-groundwater-project-1157262.html  (28 Oct. 2022)

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