Urban Rivers

Urban Rivers 2022-Top Ten Govt Actions: pre-occupation with STPs without accountable governance

(Feature Image:- A boat is anchored on Yamuna bank as toxic foam float in Delhi, June 5, 2021. PTI Photo/TIE)

This report focuses on various plans implemented and under consideration by respective governments vis- a-vis the plight of Urban Rivers in ten cities of India during past one year. It shows the preoccupation of the government in setting up of more and more Sewage Treatment Plants and Industrial Effluent Treatment Plants, even as most of the existing STPs and ETPs are known to be functioning far below the promised levels and many not functioning at all. Without addressing the governance of the STPs and ETPs transparent, accountable and participatory, there is little chance of these helping the rivers. It seems more like part of government’s pre-occupation and faith in infrastructure and no faith in governance or people. It also covers some questionable decisions which would further damage the eco-system of these already degraded and threatened rivers in addition to impacting the dependent urban communities adversely.

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Urban Rivers

India’s Urban Rivers in Crisis in 2022: Top Ten Cases

This report highlights top ten cases of the grave crisis faced by India’s Urban Rivers during the past one year.

1. Reality of Sabarmati River in Ahmedabad Effluents from 4 CETPs don’t meet parameters The untreated influent as well treated effluent from 4 CETPs under the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation jurisdiction do not adhere to prescribed parameters, stated 2 draft reports of CSIR–NEERI. The 2 draft reports submitted to the PCB on March 24, 2022 with respect to functioning of 4 of the total 7 CETPs under AMC jurisdiction — Naroda Enviro Project Ltd (NEPL), Gujarat Vepari Maha Mandal Odhav (GVMM), CETP Green Environment Services Co-op Society Ltd (GESCL) Vatva and CETP Narol Textile Infrastructure & Enviro Management (NTIEM) Narol.

The 2 drafts reports were submitted before the Gujarat HC on March 24 by way of an affidavit by GPCB in relation to a suo motu PIL being heard by the Gujarat HC concerning pollution in Sabarmati river. GPCB in its affidavit submitted that pursuant to the CSIR NEERI analyses of the 4 CETPs, the reports have also been forwarded to the concerned CETPs and have been asked to furnish the timeline of action plan to the GPCB at the earliest. Notably, CM Bhupendra Patel had told the Assembly that Rs 136 crore was spent in 2020 and 2021 to clean up Sabarmati river. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/ahmedabad/sabarmati-river-pollution-effluents-from-4-cetps-dont-meet-parameters-report-7838085/  (27 March 2022)

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Urban Rivers

Top Ten River Front Development Stories 2022: Destroying Rivers, Livelihoods

(Feature Image: Work on Rs. 700 crore Chambal RFD project in Kota which is supposed to be ready by Dec. 2022 end. Image Source: Free Press Journal)

The Central and various state governments have been pushing big budget River Front Developments (RFD) projects as panacea for all the urban water woes. In reality, these are River destruction projects with the objective of encroaching on river floodplain and even river beds of Urban Rivers. These RFDs have been failing to deliver on proposed claims and resulting in waste of public money apart from causing more damages to urban rivers eco-system and livelihoods of dependent communities. The projects are also multiplying the Urban Flood potential. In reality, India urgently requires an Urban River Policy as a subset of Urban Water Policy to guide how to treat urban water and urban rivers.

This compilation highlights situation of ten such RFD projects in the country which are failing miserably and facing stiff resistance from concerned citizens and dependent people during last one year or so.

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Urban Rivers

Urban Rivers 2022: Top Ten Positive Stories from India

(Feature Image: WATERMARK: An 1810 painting by J. Hammer of the Hooghly at Serampore/ Source, The Telegraph)

The plight of urban rivers in India has been going from bad to worse courtesy systematic neglect and unplanned development projects. On the one hand they are being increasingly deprived of freshwater flows by diverting water for domestic supplies and on the other have been turned into dumping place for mostly untreated solid and liquid waste in massive amounts from residential areas as well as industrial pockets. Nevertheless, there are some remarkable efforts being undertaken by individuals, organizations, government departments aiming at restoration of urban rivers at some places across the country. This compilation highlights top ten such positive urban river stories taking place during past one year. 

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 27 Dec 2021: PM pushes unviable, destructive Hydro projects in HP

Feature Image: Renuka Dam Sangharsh Samiti members take out a protest march at Dadahu in Sirmaur district on Dec. 19, 2021. Tribune photo

What will be the realistic cost of power from hydropower projects being pushed by the Prime Minister during this visit today to Himachal Pradesh? One indication of that comes from the 111 MW Sawra Kuddu HEP that he inaugurates during his visit. The cost of this project is already over Rs 2080 Crores, likely to go up further. Which means per MW installed capacity, the cost is around Rs 20 Crores. At this cost, the cost of power from the project is likely to be over Rs 8 per unit even without factoring in the social, environmental and increased disaster vulnerability costs that such projects impose on the fragile Himalayan Mountains. As if to also remind the active seismic zone, on the eve of his visit, there were tremors, even if mild, in Mandi.

The Renuka dam that he lays the foundation for does not even have all the statutory clearances. Its EIA has been the most dishonest exercise, as came out in the NGT hearings. What signal is the government sending by laying foundation stone for such a project? Similar are the issues with Luhri I and Dhaulasidh HEPs. The government seems to be pushing such outdated, unviable, costly and destructive projects in fragile Himalayan regions, purely on political arithmetic assumptions, but possibly need to realise that these projects are not even popular and they are also most inappropriate in the climate change context. Or is it the lure of spending such huge sums of unaccountable public money that provide opportunities for getting election funds for the party that is driving such undemocratic decisions?

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 20 Dec 2021: Judiciary fails the environment AGAIN

By allowing the Char Dham Highway to go ahead, putting aside all the environment, safety, disaster vulnerability and even norms and affidavits of the Ministry of Highways and the Defence Ministry, as well as the report of the expert panel set up by the apex court, the Judiciary has again failed the Environment, among other things. This is contrary to the generally held belief that Judiciary stands up for the cause of the environment. That belief has no real basis, as can be seen again. This is also failure of the governance, experts and environmental groups, besides also the failure of the media too.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 13 Dec. 2021: Gargai Dam Scrapped; Wise Move by BMC to Go for Alternatives

In a wise move, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has cancelled Gargai dam project. In its January 2014, submission to Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), SANDRP had highlighted the adverse impacts of this project on tribal people and Tansa Sanctuary stressing on alternatives including recycling of sewage and rain water harvesting. Finally, now the BMC has scrapped the unjustified project which would have caused felling of 4.5 lakh trees which BMC chief Iqbal Chahal rightly finds pointless in the wake of increasing climate change threats.

It is worth to mention that in February 2020 BMC was learnt reconsidering its Pinjal dam project and exploring other options including waste water recycling. Indeed the BMC is taking right steps. Dams are costly, destructive projects impacting rivers, forests and local people in multiple ways. The demand side management, efficient use of existing water supplies, rain water harvesting and recycling of waste water are among far better alternatives to meet urban water demands.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 6 Dec 2021: NGT demands accountability for Ganga Cleaning

The NGT demanding that there is need for greater transparency in the Ganga Cleaning efforts by NMCG and others, leading to accountability for the expected results is no doubt welcome if it were to become a reality. It has been required for long, since the Ganga Cleaning Efforts started in 1980s when Ganga Action Plan started, and it is even more required with the promises coming from the Prime Minister, no less today. Unfortunately, there is no real improvement in the state of the river, as the NGT has said. One only hopes that this latest initiative will lead to some real change, even through the track record of judiciary (including NGT) in this regard is far from inspiring.  

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 29 Nov 2021: Pathetic State of Sabarmati River Front in Ahmedabad

This photo from the Gujarat Samachar newspaper of Ahmadabad on Nov 25, 2021 depicts the reality of Sabarmati River Front Development. It shows that the growth of weed water hyacinth spread all over the stagnant, polluted river channel that is no longer a river. It says the boat service (running into losses) and AC Cruise services have stopped. There is no place for sea planes to land due to the growth of the water hyacinth, but the government has asked for permission to run two sea planes! There is the big issue of pollutants from industries and Ahmedabad flowing into the river that the Gujarat High Court is dealing with (see below).

Similar photos also appeared on the same date in two more Ahmedabad based two newspaper: Dainik Bhaskar and Nav Gujarat Samay, reinforcing the pathetic state of Sabarmati River Front.

Is there any doubt that all River Front Development projects are likely to face similar or worse fate than this? The situation could worsen in near future as both Sardar Sarovar Dam on Narmada and Dharoi dam on Sabarmati in the upstream of Ahmedabad have insufficient storage. In a related development, Rajasthan is threatening to stop flow of 45 TMC water to Mahi Dam, it is pertinent to note that Sabarmati also flows from Rajasthan to Gujarat.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 1 Nov 2021: Why is Ganga not ENTHU about Ganga Utsav?

The Government of India, through the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) under the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti has announced the celebration of Ganga Utsav this year from Nov 1-3, 2021. The Ganga Utsav is supposed to mark the anniversary of announcement of River Ganga as the ‘National River’ i.e. 4th November, 2008. It is supposed to be celebrated not only in Ganga basin, but across the country as River Festival. There is little enthusiasm or even knowledge about this across the country or even in Ganga basin, though.

Ganga River itself continues to face the onslaughts all across the basin in the name of development, some noteworthy aspect of these include: pushing unviable hydropower project in the upstream; pushing disastrous projects like the Lakhwar Dam project and the Ken Betwa River Link project in the Ganga basin; construction of Char Dham and other highways without any assessment of impacts of the project on the river; construction of huge infrastructure along the river in the name of Ganga waterway, further impacting the river and its biodiversity, again without any impact assessment or participatory decision making; continuously increasing water extraction, diversion, use, pollution and dumping of solid wastes along the river; increasing and indiscriminate sand and boulder mining and quarrying from the river bed and floodplain, without any credible impact assessment; increasing encroachments into the river bed in the name of solid waste dumping, river front development, channelisation etc, in absence of any policy, rules or regulation about the space belonging to the river, to name a few. No wonder, the rivers in the Ganga basin has shown no enthusiasm for the Ganga Utsav!

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