A number of reports have appeared that show that the state of a number of rivers of India, including Hindon, Yamuna, Ganga and Cauvery has improved during the current lockdown due to Covid 19 crisis. That is indeed great news. At Kanpur and Varanasi there are reports that suggest the dissolved oxygen level has gone above 8 ppm and BOD level has gone down below 3 ppm at a number of places. While lack of industrial effluents entering the rivers due to closure of industrial units is a major reason, there are other reasons that has led to this situation, including above average winter rainfall, high snowfall now melting with onset of summer, reduction of irrigation water demand and also stoppage of sand mining along the rivers. The reduction of cultural activities including puja, bathing and cremations have also contributed to this situation.
The biggest lesson we can learn from this cleaner rivers after so many decades is that if our pollution control boards at the state and central level were doing their duty to ensure that no untreated effluents from the industries and also urban sewage enter the rivers, it is not that difficult to achieve cleaner rivers. But unfortunately there is no political will to achieve this simple and legally enforceable objective.
Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), with annual rainfall in access of 2000 mm, does not do much to harvest the rain. It does not protect its local water bodies. It does not recharge groundwater to the extent it can easily do. It does not reduce its transmission and distribution losses. It does not treat its sewage to recycle and thus reduce freshwater demand. It does no demand side management. And yet it keeps demanding more water, and for that building of more dams and thus pushing more destruction. Without any credible options assessment. It has no water policy or water vision for smart water management.
It was good to see MID DAY news paper report and EDIT highlighting some of these issues. Will the people of Mumbai Rise up, to stop this destructive dam, being pushed in their names, the way they stood up to save the far fewer Aarey Milk Colony trees?
Seeing large scale impacts of unsustainable riverbed sand mining, the Supreme Court (SC) of India had banned sand mining activities in the state on Nov. 16, 2017. The apex court had also asked the 82 lease holders to get fresh permission of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) after submission of replenishment study.
Following this, the state government had formed a committee to look into the issue. All through 2018 the ban remained[I]. The status has not changed even as the year 2019 is ending. Meanwhile cases of illegal sand mining are continuously taking place in across the state. So are the police actions as routine process, some political statements, and few court orders. Like last year, this annual round up by SANDRP compiles, all these and other relevant developments on the issue from the state of Rajasthan.
The Prime Minister finally found time to have the first ever meeting on National Ganga Council, over three years after the Ganga Notification of Oct 7, 2016. The meeting happened at Kanpur, where the NGT recently fined the state government for continuing to release untreated effluents into the Ganga. In fact NGT in recent weeks have taken several decisions that also shows how abysmally the govt has failed on Ganga front. And now after the first NGC meeting, the Prime Minister, in an effort to divert attention from Namami Gange failure, is proposing the new slogan of Arth Ganga, which basically seems to suggest focus on Money, which is Exactly what is not going to help the cause of Ganga. The Ganga is still on the lookout for the Ganga putra that promised a clean Ganga in May 2014.
Irked over “judicial impropriety” by some senior advocates in taking relief from its vacation benches by suppressing facts, the Supreme Court July 5 blasted them for “playing fraud” upon it. Terming this practice as “the height of judicial misconduct”, a bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Navin Sinha said senior advocates were “not above the law” and such conduct reflected that “no morality” is left in some of them.
It also took exception to the passing of order by the vacation bench, which had stayed the demolition of some buildings in Kerala for six weeks. Hearing the matter earlier, a bench headed by Justice Mishra had directed on May 8 that these buildings be removed within a month as they were constructed in the notified Coastal Regulations Zones (CRZ), which is part of the tidally influenced water body in Kerala.
When the matter came up for hearing on July 5, the bench said it has “serious objection” to what has happened in the case as “height of judicial impropriety has been done”. “During the vacation, the matter was mentioned before me but I refused to hear it. Then it came before another vacation bench. That bench should not have passed the order. You (lawyers) are permitting the court to commit judicial impropriety,” the bench told senior advocate Kalyan Banerjee, who is also a Lok Sabha MP from All India Trinamool Congress.
For several decades now, groundwater has been India’s water lifeline. It is going to remain India’s water lifeline for long time to come. So when Prime Minister Modi called for people’s movement on water conservation during his MANN KI BAAT Radio program on June 30, 2019 (http://pib.nic.in/PressReleseDetail.aspx?PRID=1576353), the first thing the people would expect the government to do is to acknowledge the reality that groundwater is India’s water lifeline and make the sustenance of that water lifeline as the focus of all National Water Policies, programs and plans.
India also urgently needs a National Urban Water Policy that would also define what is a water smart city. The government will need to show it is serious by putting in place rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharging systems at ALL government buildings and lands across the country and show that these are functioning.
The government will also need to bring back the watershed development as the focus of its work on water conservation and reverse the wrong steps this government took five years back (see the detailed report below).
The government also needs to urgently start work on restructuring of water institutions of India, starting with CWC. Unless people see the government’s seriousness through actions, the one listed here are the initial steps, there is little likelihood of credibility of what the government says.
With rainfall in June 2019 during the South West Monsoon already showing a deficit of massive 33%, the fifth highest deficit in last 100 years, its possibly the most opportune time to take these steps on URGENT BASIS.
The new government at the centre, headed by Shri Narendra Modi, if we go by the signals so far, is likely to push the mega project agenda including Inter Linking of Rivers (ILR). It also seems that Gadkari may continue to be the Water Resources Minister, if we go by the statements and signals so far. Both these steps would be wrong. The PM has said he wants to provide piped drinking water to everyone in the country in his new term. Such one size fits all solutions are likely to create more problems than solutions, as we can see from the dumping of honey sucker tankers close to drinking water sources, thanks to building of crores of soak pit toilets.
If the government wanted to listen, this weekly bulletin (like any other week) from SANDRP provides enough food for thought. Very large part of India, including huge parts of big dam building states of Gujarat and Maharashtra are in grip of drought. Like they have been repeatedly over the last few years. ILR is an extension of the big dam agenda and no amount of false promises of Godavari water are going to fetch votes, as they did not for the BJP in current elections in Tamil Nadu or Andhra Pradesh. Similarly big hydro is no longer viable, and pushing them either in Ganga basin or in North East India will only invite dis-satisfaction, destruction and distress. Big dams are making the floods worse as Kerala example showed in Aug 2018, among many others. We can choose to close our eyes to these realities, but that wont change the realities.
On April 16, 2019, Delhi High Court bench decided to initiate a Public Interest Litigation based on a newspaper report that not much rainwater harvesting or groundwater recharge is happening in spite of years of talk that seems to have remained empty. This is a welcome move and one hopes HC takes the issue to its logical conclusion.
Sindhudurg has become the country’s first district to have successfully documented and mapped wetlands, following a Mumbai HC order in Vanashakti petition. Engaging community participation in the eight-month long process, the district is now training bodies of other districts in the state to replicate its documentation model. This was the state response to Mumbai HC as a pilot in Sindhudurg district. The district administration approached the team of local organization Syamantak, which suggested engaging community participation in the documentation and mapping process.
– “Conducting mapping through community is an effective way to save public money. If this model is implemented across the state, the government can save crores,” said Sachin Desai, who is running Syamantak’s study centre for experiential learning in Dhamapur. The committee completed the task of mapping 57 wetlands in the district in about eight months. Sindhudurg will soon be releasing the first volume of magazine ‘Sindhudurg — Land of Wetland’, the first-of-it-kind in the country. The district planning and development council (DPDC) is giving financial support to the magazine through the forest department.
As joint monitoring report by Paryavaran Surakhsha Samiti (PSS) and Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) shows, Sabarmati is severely polluted river, downstream of Ahmedabad and is practically a dead river. Upstream of Ahmedabad, the once perennial river has no water of its own and is stealing the Narmada water meant for drought prone areas.
This incidentally is supposed to be model river rejuvenation as told to SANDRP coordinator on a television channel by no less than Executive Director (Technical) of National Mission on Clean Ganga. In fact posters during the 2014 Parliamentary elections in Varanasi, where Mr Modi fought from, said exactly that. So is the National Ganga river going down that path? Narmada itself is in same situation downstream of the dam in Gujarat as another report here shows. Gujarat model has many examples to show, it seems.