DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 051222: World Soil Day 2022: Soil where food begins

(Feature Image:-Several practical principles for soil and water conservations are important to be understood and combined. Source Wiki Farmer)

United Nations is celebrating today, i.e. Dec 5, as the World Soil day, the theme this year is “Soils: Where food begins”. The World Soil Day is held on Dec 5 each year since 2014, following the recommendation the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) in 2002. The FAO Conference unanimously endorsed World Soil Day in June 2013 and requested its official adoption at the 68th UN General Assembly. In December 2013, the UN General Assembly responded by designating 5 December 2014 as the first official World Soil Day as a global awareness raising platform.

In the context of climate change, the soil organic content assumes additional huge significance. While the organic content in soils is decreasing globally, it can be reversed. If we can increase the soil organic content, it will not only help in mitigation of climate change by helping reduce the carbon in the atmosphere, it can also help in adaptation as soil with higher organic context has much greater capacity to store soil moisture, which can then be helpful in both flood mitigation (as more of the rain water is stored in the soil), and drought mitigation (soils with most moisture storage will help crops survive longer dry spells).

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 281122: Justice Lokur at IRW 2022: We need to be vocally more aggressive to make a difference

In his key note address at the final session of India Rivers Week 2022, Justice Madan Lokur, former judge of Supreme Court of India said, “Time has come we need to be a little more active and aggressive vocally to ensure that we are listened to about the problems we all are facing. Farmers struggle, the CAA amendment etc. are good examples. There is need for a political will to bring about any change. How do we generate such a political will is the issue.”

Among other messages Justice Lokur gave in his key note address at the final session of India Rivers Week 2022 on Nov 27, 2022 included: “Rivers belong to all, not a select few… We need to ensure that we are effective in our work, our messages.”

The two day, five session India Rivers Week 2022 function focused on use of rivers as waterways, organized in collaboration between India Rivers Forum (IRF is constituted by ten organizations now) and Manthan Adhyayan Kendra ended on Nov 27, 2022. The IRW 2022 sessions had a number of highlights, we will try to bring them to you in separate articles.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 211122: IRF focus on Rivers as waterways as the World celebrates Fisheries Day

As the World Celebrates Fisheries day today, the India Rivers Forum (IRF) focusses this week on use of Rivers as waterways in its annual program. Spread over five sessions, the online event on Nov 26-27, 2022 is co-organised by Manthan Adhyayan Kendra and IRF. Riverine fisheries and fisherfolk are adversely affected by the current waterways program of the government, and as usual, the government does not even find it necessary to assess the impact of the program on these poorest, weakest, most neglected and most vulnerable section of our population, leave aside the question of compensating them or involving them in the program. The IRF program “Rivers as Waterways in India: Bane or Boon?” will highlight this and many other aspects of the waterways initiative of the government, which aims to include 111 rivers across the length and breadth of the countries.

The five sessions of the IRF program will be titled: “Overview of Indian Inland Waterways”, “Viability of Indian Inland Waterways”, “Impacts of Indian Waterways”, “Governance of Indian Waterways” and “Rivers as Waterways in India: Bane or Boon?”. The two event will have more than 25 speakers. The final session will be chaired by former judge of Supreme Court of India, Justice (Retired) Madan Lokur. Justice Lokur will also give away the Bhagirath Prayas Samman awards of 2022 and Anupam Mishra Medal 2022, the names of the recipients this year will be shared in that final session on Nov 27, 2022.

Continue reading DRP NB 211122: IRF focus on Rivers as waterways as the World celebrates Fisheries Day
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DRP NB 14 Nov 2022: Jal Shakti Ministry says: Groundwater extraction down, recharge up???

(Feature Image: The report also states that the monitoring of the groundwater resources was affected by the Covid-19 outbreak in the country. Source: Bloomberg/TIE)

This sounds so counter intuitive. The Ministry Jal Shakti on Nov 9, 2022 made some findings of its latest “National Compilation on Dynamic Ground Water Resources of India, 2022 public, strangely, without making the report public. It is not clear why the govt did not make the report public, though the counter intuitive nature of the findings provide some hint. The report claims that at all India macro level, the ministry claimed that the groundwater extraction is the lowest in 2022 since 2004, or 18 years and that the groundwater recharge has gone up.

These are counter intuitive findings, even if at macro level for a number of reasons. It is also unclear what methodology is used to arrive at these conclusions and if there has been any independent scrutiny of the same. Since groundwater extraction has been going up for over six decades now, this reversal will need plausible reasons. There are no indications that there is any reduction in this groundwater use. Secondly, the groundwater recharge mechanisms are under attack all over India, and thus the finding that there is increase in recharge raises questions. Particularly since the efforts at groundwater recharge through rainwater harvesting are far from convincing.

More importantly, the real story is at micro level, since groundwater occurs in decentralised aquifers and any significant reduction in use, increase in recharge has to happen at the aquifer level and the assessment also needs to be done and made available at aquifer level for it to have any impact on future regulation of groundwater. In fact the only regulatory body working for groundwater regulation, the CGWA, works in a centralised way and its work has been far from confidence inspiring. That makes this whole findings questionable. Moreover, it would also be useful to see if the extraction has reduced in over exploited areas and if the recharge has increased where it is required most: in over exploited areas. Too many questions and no answers, unfortunately.

Continue reading DRP NB 14 Nov 2022: Jal Shakti Ministry says: Groundwater extraction down, recharge up???
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DRP NB 31×22: Unviable Hydro Projects rejected in Himachal, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam

(Feature Image: Group photo during No Means No campaign in April 2022 against destructive hydro power projects in Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh. Source: The Pahari Zone, You Tube)

A number of developments this week once again show how unviable large hydropower projects are facing rejection in a number of states. In Kinnaur (Himachal Pradesh) the local youth are demanding that the candidates in the state assembly elections to be held in November 2022 promise to work against the hydropower projects in the district.

In Arunachal Pradesh, the state government has told that High Court that they have cancelled all the 44 large hydropower projects proposed in Siang basin when locals alleged in the petition “the projects have been initiated in a reckless manner without any regard to the consequences of the same and without following any scientific research”.

In Assam with new accidents, the commissioning of the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri HEP has been pushed back further, making the over Rs 20000 crore project even more unviable. In J&K, the landslides killing 4 people at the under construction Ratel Hydropower project in Kishtwar district on Chenab River has again rung a warning as to what is in store for future if proper appraisal studies are not done. In Uttarakhand, the bid to take over the Lanco Hydropower project on Mandakini river, now undergoing bankruptcy case in the court have been rejected and same is likely to be the fate for the revised bid.

Continue reading DRP NB 31×22: Unviable Hydro Projects rejected in Himachal, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam
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DRP NB 031022: Great Victory of People: MP govt scraps all contracts related to Maheshwar Dam

(Feature image: A protest by Narmada Bachao Andolan in Nov. 2006. Source: @Sripadmanthan)

On Sept 27, 2022, the Madhya Pradesh Government cancelled all contracts related to the Maheshwar Dam Project on Narmada. This massive dam on Narmada River in Madhya Pradesh upstream of Sardar Sarovar Project and downstream of the Omkareshwar Project was to be a multi-purpose project with a 400 MW hydropower component and water supply component among others. It was opposed by the people’s movement lead by Narmada Bachao Andolan for over two decades now. The project being implemented by the private textile company S Kumars showed no will or intention of taking care of the social or environment impacts of the project. Madhya Pradesh government so far was trying to push ahead with the project by hook or by crook, but finally had the sense to realise that this is going to be a massively costly affair at estimated Rs 42000 crores and the state and the people of state are only going to suffer costs and adverse impacts. The cancellation of all the contracts for the project signals a major victory of the people’s movement.

While congratulating the state government for cancelling the contracts, we would also suggest that the government needs to quickly decide about decommissioning of the dam, so that it does not pose safety risk to the people upstream and downstream and also perpetuates unnecessary adverse social and environment impacts. Earlier the dam is decommissioned, quicker will be the relief from these impacts. Moreover, the MP government should also not let the private company go scot free and all attempts should be made to recover the money spent and also penalise them for breach of the contracts. The private company should also be made to pay for the decommissioning costs.

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DRP NB 260922: Need for new credible Polavaram backwater study

(Feature Image:- The construction of the Polavaram dam across the Godavari river has posed a big threat to the Pulasa fish, as its movement to the upstream of the river could be curtailed. HT PHOTO).

Telangana state has demanded fresh backwater study for the Polavaram dam based on a number of grounds including the higher spillway capacity and outdated river cross sections of 1990s used in the old study. The changing rainfall pattern and resultant changing river flow pattern, both due to changed rainfall and changed state of catchment area also should be a reason for such a fresh study. However, more importantly, the study needs to be done in a credible way involving independent experts, not just state or central govt officials or academics from govt run institutions. Moreover, the study and all the information related to it has to be completely and promptly in public domain as these studies are required for the affected people and affected area. Normally Central Water Commission does such studies and refuses to make it public. What is the use or reason for backwater study to be secret? Possibly CWC is not confident of the quality of the study and that is why it is very important to have experts in the study team who are known to take independent stand. It is useful not only for the states of Telangana, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, but also for the people of Andhra Pradesh too. And earlier this is done, better it will be for all concerned.

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DRP NB 190922: Dams bringing unprecedented changes to the World’s Rivers

A new study published this week once again highlights not so well known impact of large dams on the rivers: role of rivers in building, supplying sediment, nutrients to floodplains, deltas, coastlines, estuaries, oceans and supporting so much biodiversity and how large dams are majorly adversely impacting this role of rivers. The study by scientists at Dartmouth using images from the NASA-US Geological Survey for 414 of the world’s largest rivers show the unprecedented changes the dams are bringing to World’s rivers, the impacts that in many cases are outweighing the impacts of climate change. This is particularly true of the northern hemisphere that includes India, World’s third largest dam builder.

Unfortunately in India, there is very little appreciation or acknowledgement of this role of rivers and how dams are affecting it. The least one can expect is that the Government of India should urgently initiate a study to document and understand this phenomena and also highlight what needs to be done about it. The study should be done by an independent team of multidisciplinary experts.

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DRP NB 290822: MP’s Dam safety mess: Publish the Karam inquiry report

(Feature Image: Karam dam after breach. Source: Patrika)

Every week we get more evidence of the massive Dam safety mess in Madhya Pradesh. The Karam dam disaster that started on the eve of independence day is still unfolding. The inquiry committee report has been submitted, but it has not been made public. This is totally wrong and shocking. Dam Safety is a public interest issue and all information related to dam safety has to be in public domain. The inquiry committee report should be immediately put in public domain. More importantly an independent inquiry should be set up as the inquiry set up earlier was more of an in-house inquiry.

Close on heals of Karam dam disaster comes the news of risks due to unattended Maheshwar dam, a massive dam on Narmada river that remains unfinished and unattended, with one of the gates damaged and story of stolen motors, wires and other spare parts and power cut, which means the hydraulic system for gates is non-functional. Again the report of the NVDA-MWR officials after visit to the dam site should be in out in public domain, as also the reports of the dam safety committee reportedly set up the MP govt for assessing safety of all the dams of MP.

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DRP NB 080822: Why is Centre not taking action against violations, defects of Kaleshwaram Project of Telangana?

(Feature image source: Pratidin News)

Union Water Resources or what is now called Jal Shakti minister Shri Gajendra Shekhawat made a rare and rather interesting statement this week about Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project of Telangana, supposed to be the world’s biggest lift irrigation project, India’s most expensive ever irrigation project. The Union Minister publicly said that the Kaleshwaram project did not have all the clearances, project thus involved violations, and had defects, leading to submergence of three barrages and a massive power house last month. It is not clear if the Union Minister has also written to this effect to the Telangana state government and also taken action against the project. This is because the allegations made by the Union Minister are about such a huge project and are serious in nature.

If the Union Minister has done neither, as seems to be the case, he hope he is doing something on these lines soon. We do not expect a responsible Union Minister not take any action on such an important matter and is only making such statements for public consumption (incidentally, he seems to have made these statements in Karnataka, not in Telangana). Questions will be raised if the Union Minister fails to take such an action.

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