This letter from SANDRP to MoEF and ETC on Etalin Project highlights how poor has been the EIA and E-flows reports of the Etalin Project and how flawed has been the Environmental Appraisal Process by the EAC. It also shows the shoddy Dibang Basin study for Cumulative Impact Assessment cum Carrying Capacity Study, shockingly done by the same consultant that also did the Etalin EIA, showing clearly that MoEF, EAC and CWC, all of whom were involved in the process, do not understand what is conflict of interest. The E flows study done by the CIFRI (Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute) does not even provide the list of fish they found in the Etalin project area! And shockingly, the EAC approved the biggest ever hydropower project of India based on such shoddy documents. The Environment Clearance approval needs to be reviewed, the EIA, E-flows and Dibang Basin CIA needs to be rejected and fresh studies need to be commissioned. https://sandrp.in/2020/05/23/open-letter-to-moef-river-valley-eac-review-recommendation-to-grant-ec-to-etalin-hep/ (23 May 2020)
These are rather ominous signs. As per the latest reservoir storage bulletin of Central Water Commission dated May 14, 2020, the 123 reservoirs monitored by CWC has massive, 64.6 BCM (Billion Cubic Meters) in live storage capacity, which is about 165% of the capacity on same date last year and average of last ten years, even as monsoon is just weeks away. Most dams known to create DAM INDUCED FLOODS in the past, including Bhakra dams (we wrote about it earlier this month: https://sandrp.in/2020/05/07/are-we-ready-to-use-more-water-from-snow-melt-in-indus-basin-this-year/), Narmada dams, Odisha and W Bengal dams (Cyclone AMPHAN is going to bring a lot of water here in next few days, even before the monsoon), Krishna basin dams, Cauvery basin dams, Bansagar and Gandhi Sagar Dams, and Kerala dams among others. All these dams have above average storage situation.
Himachal Pradesh is a hilly state where large scale, mechanized mining of riverbed minerals has been going on for past many years. The damaging impacts on rivers, streams and dependent communities are evident and on the rise. However the state government has failed to bring any change in the scenario as can be seen in this overview covering the related developments during 2019-20.
Punjab government has been successful in getting three more wetlands declared as Ramsar sites of international importance. The state already has three wetlands with Ramsar tags namely Harike, Kanjli and Ropar wetlands. The government in October 2019 had proposed a total of five sites including Ranjit Sagar conservation reserve and Hussainiwala wetland for Ramsar tags. The new wetlands selected for the tag are Keshopur-Miani community reserve, the Beas conservation reserve and Nangal wildlife sanctuary. So now six wetlands in the state are covered under Ramsar convention.
The state forest department and WWF team were working in this direction over past couple of years. In the year 2019, the government has also taken some remarkable decisions regarding conservation of wetlands in the state. However, by the year end, there has not been any significant progress on the issue from the government.
The statement of Shri U P Singh, secretary, Union Water Resources Ministry, that “industry (private or public sector) could adopt small rivers” seems to suggest that the government is moving towards handing over the rivers to Corporate bodies. The example Mr Singh gave of Drayavati River of Jaipur is even more disturbing since that river has been completely destroyed by the project implemented by the Tatas. It should not surprise though, considering that no less than the Prime Minister has been giving the example of canalisation of Sabarmati as an example of rejuvenation of the river. If this is what the government means by rejuvenation, that even Ganga and Yamuna are facing major risks of destruction. Its not less shocking that while Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar has questioned Modi government’s attempt to achieve Nirmal Ganga without attempting Aviral Ganga, his own government is basically following the same Sabarmati model on Ganga in Patna. If this is the example of “rejuvenation” of river according to the top most bureaucrat of of the government in charge of Water resources, nothing can save India’s rivers except a people’s movement against such moves wherever such destruction of rivers is attempted.
Sand and gravels forming riverbed materials hold immense ecological value for living and healthy rivers systems. The inbuilt water filtration capacity and absorbing characteristic of the minor minerals plays critical functions in groundwater recharge and in ensuring lean season flow in the rivers. However for over two decades the brazen illegal and mechanized mining activities across the country have been irreversibly affecting the rivers and riverbank communities. The state of Punjab is among leading states where state government has failed[I] to ensure sustainable sand mining practices. The 2019 overview the state shows strong clout of political parties over the illegal sand mining operations without sharing a thought for the rivers and public.
This report shows pretty bad situation of rain fed farmers in Marathwada due to excess Oct Rains. Severe and wide spread damage to crops. https://www.gaonconnection.com/desh/massive-crop-damage-in-marathwada-due-to-heavy-and-continuous-rain-farmers-are-looking-support-for-pm-fasal-bima-yojana-46581 (31 Oct. 2019)
Here is some figures about the massive impact of untimely rain in Marathwada and rest of the Maharashtra. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/after-drought-marathwadas-farmers-hit-by-untimely-rain-6098730/ (2 Nov. 2019)
The South West Monsoon in 2019 in India brought the highest rainfall of last 25 years and issues related to heavy rainfall continue even to the end of October 2019. Here we have listed major instances during the monsoon when there were question marks over safety of dams either due to structural safety or due to wrong operations of the dams. Some issues of breaches of embankments/ canals are also included here. As we can see, the instances come from across the country, including North East, North, West, Centre, South.
There is a lot that Bihar and Union Govt that need to answer why did Patna go under water in spite of fully knowing its vulnerabilities. Why was the city not prepared to face this kind of situation? Some of the major man made reasons include: Sewage Pumps not working, drainage map not available, no emergency plan in place. Not too many people know that there is GANGA FLOOD CONTROL COMMISSION, sitting right in Patna, an organisation under Union Ministry of Water Resources, existing since 47 years now. WHAT HAVE THEY BEEN DOING is a mystery.
Its high time questions are asked if GFCC is doing any useful work. The government may like to brush aside the issues, saying its too high rainfall due to climate change, but that wont help. Patna is bang in the way of Ganga and it doing all kind of mindless activities including river front development, destruction of local water bodies and wetlands, and of course not knowing its drainage map. It shows abysmal failure of the World Bank funded flood management project that existed not so long ago, housed in Patna. And Patna was being funded under Smart city program to do all kinds of water unsmart activities. Over a week since the flooding started, parts of the city is still under water and now the city is facing fresh crisis in the shape of Dengue. The trouble is, there is no sign that the city, state or the country is doing anything to learn from this man made disaster.
Under India’s constitution, water is supposed to be STATE subject. That seems to be under serious threat. First it happened with Waterways Act in 2015 (this was opposed by a number of ministries at centre and number of states, but the bill still got passed). Now the three new bills, as listed below are further threatening this. The advocates of centralisation, including the World Bank and the Central govt big dam lobby, have been wanting to change the constitutional status, but they have not succeeded so far, but now effectively, they could achieve that objective if all these bills are passed.
3 Water Bills Threatening Federalism Three Bills are presented by the Centre in the recently concluded session: a) River Basin Management Bill, 2019 proposing 13 River Basin Authorities for various river basins in our country, b) River Water Disputes Bill, 2019, to have a dispute resolution committee DRC, and c) Dam Safety Authority Bill, 2019, which significantly shift rights and authority of the States over rivers to the Centre.
With these Bills staring at federalism, the new question emerging is: Who will have final say on the water in rivers; the Centre or the States, the Peoples’ representatives or bureaucrats? https://countercurrents.org/2019/09/three-water-bills-threatening-federalism (25 Sept. 2019)
The Interstate River Water Dispute Bill is making it mandatory for the Central government to make such scheme. Under the Act, the Central government maintains a data bank and information system at the national level for each river basin. The Bill provides that the Central government will appoint or authorise an agency to maintain such data bank.
This amendment Bill is a mix of some good provisions which are very much required, and over-centralisation of power. Some States like Tamil Nadu and Odisha have expressed apprehension of appropriation of more powers by the Centre. https://countercurrents.org/2019/09/interstate-river-water-dispute-bill-2019-more-centralisation-of-centres-power (26 Sept. 2019)