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.
Residents of Muruga Tholuvu Harijan Colony in Chennimalai Union have urged the district administration to take steps to provide them water on a regular basis. In a petition, they said that villagers have to go in search of water from other areas and transport it in bicycles regularly. They said that most of the people were labourers and their livelihood is lost when they go in search for water. They said that the situation is worse during summer season, as water is not available at nearby areas and they are unable to purchase water from the market too. http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/provide-drinking-water-villagers/article22935093.ece (The Hindu, 5 March 2018)
With the beginning of summer season, there are several news reports describing the growing water crisis in different parts of country. Here are details of various Indian states suffering from water scarcity for industrial, irrigational and even for drinking purposes which given the due summer months could develop into grim scenario. These stories also show how the mismanagement of dam storages, exploitation of ground water resources and pollution of rivers have significant role in aggravating the situation.
Gujarat The state is staring at a water crisis this summer, with low water levels in the Narmada dam and almost all other major dams. On March 3, the CM Vijay Rupani has held a meeting with senior minister and bureaucrats to take stock of the water situation in the state and discussed ways to ensure drinking water availability. The government also has decided to allocate Rs 200 crore in special grants for augmentation of local water sources and instructed all collectors to form district committees, have weekly review meetings and start supply of water by tankers wherever required.
In this comprehensive article Mumbai-based author Vaishnavi Chandrashekhar throws the light on the plight of Uraban Rivers. “Rivers and streams have borne the brunt of the recent urban explosion in India, a nation whose population has nearly doubled in the last 40 years to 1.35 billion. Unplanned growth has led to the use of water bodies as dumping grounds for sewage and industrial effluent. According to CPCB, 63 % of the urban sewage flowing into rivers (some 62 billion liters a day) is untreated.
In addition, riverbanks, wetlands, and floodplains have been claimed over time by infrastructure, slums, offices, and housing developments – all of which has narrowed natural river channels and distorted flow, greatly reducing the ability of India’s rivers to buffer flooding. It also has taken a toll on biodiversity. http://e360.yale.edu/features/dying-waters-india-struggles-to-clean-up-its-polluted-urban-rivers (Yale Environment 360, 15 Feb. 2018)
In a remarkable development, Jammu & Kashmir Govt is reviewing its Hydro policy to assess whether the Hydro Electric Power Projects (HEPs) are still viable. As per sources, this is for the first time that the Govt is discussing the viability of generating hydro power.
An empowered committee led by the Chief Secretary has started this discussion by calling for an “approach paper” that will give an overall picture of the hydropower industry in India. Top sources in the State Power Development Corporation (SPDC), a government-owned company, told Kashmir Reader that the empowered committee wants to lay a roadmap for power generation in the state. “It will reflect the vision of the government. It will give the picture of hydropower generation in India, its rates, market, demand and supply. It will also lay down a roadmap for large power projects,”
The approach paper will be part of a new hydropower policy which will be submitted before the same committee, and then before the cabinet for approval. The SPDC had submitted a hydro policy draft in April last year, which was returned to it in December. Sources said the approach paper has to be submitted in two months’ time.
At present, India has a surplus generation of hydropower, which has plummeted its rate. This has led to losses for SPDC as it invested in projects whose generation costs were high. The blunt example is that of the 450-MW Baglihar II. SPDC has failed to lure any buyer for more than a year as its selling cost of per unit of energy, Rs 4.4, is nearly Rs 2 higher than the market rate. The SPDC has finally managed to sell the power at about Rs 4 per unit to the Uttar Pradesh government but for one year only. The SPDC may have to struggle again next year if the state of UP does not continue the contract.
Another example is that of Nimuno Bezgo, and Chutak hydropower projects, which sell energy at Rs 13 per unit. The SPDC also buys power from Dulhasti project at Rs 7, when the available rates for power in the market is around Rs 2 and Rs 4. https://kashmirreader.com/2018/02/02/cs-led-panel-to-lay-roadmap-for-power-generation-in-jk/ (Kashmir Reader. 2 Feb. 2018)
As per another report, facing a growing demand for electricity and unable to tap its vast potential for generating hydroelectric power, the state government is looking to boost solar power generation. Given the long gestation period of hydel projects, it is unlikely the generation of hydroelectric power will expand significantly in the near future, said. Hence, the focus on solar power. Indeed, when solar power potential exists, with lower installation and operation costs and impacts, why States continue after destructive, expensive hydro projects? https://scroll.in/article/866058/kashmir-can-generate-a-lot-more-hydel-electricity-than-it-requires-why-is-it-eyeing-solar-power (Scroll.In, 30 Jan. 2018)
There is one more interesting hydro power development in which the state cabinet of Bihar has approved closing 3 and cancelling the development of 2 others in addition to handing over of 8 hydropower projects to neighboring Jharkhand.
As per NGT’s October 16, order, the Ministry of Environment & Forest (MoEF) was asked to set up a “neutral” panel to objectively consider conflicting recommendations that have stalled the 2,000-MW Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Project (HEP) on the Arunachal Pradesh-Assam border and come up with an “independent opinion” in three months.
The NGT said this was the only way to break the six-year logjam that has stalled a project vital to the “national interest.”
Contrary to this, MoEF on November 16, 2017 has set up a three-member panel with experts -who or their organisations- have all backed NHPC’s positions on the project in the past: Prabhas Pande, I D Gupta and P M Scott.
On conclusion of five month long Narmada Sewa Yatra, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is today ( May 15, 2017) launching a road-map for steps to be taken for the conservation of the Narmada river. The MP state assembly has also recently declared river Narmada a living entity. Even otherwise quiet on rivers environment minister Anil Madhav Dave has expressed concerns for Narmada.
Contrary to all this, the Central Govt and 3 states of MP, Maharashtra and Gujarat have begun a process towards sanctioning completion of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, with closure of the 17 meters high gates. It is a countdown towards impounding waters in the 214 km land stretch where more than 40,000 families are residing till date. There are standing crops and massive plantations; thousands of pakka houses, schools, other public and private services erected; hundreds of temples, tens of mosques (as opposed to three temples claimed by the authorities), adivasi gods and worship places, all of which will be submerged. In protest thousands of people from Narmada valley, to be affected by Sardar Sarovar Project created a Human Chain on the borders of living village communities and on the banks of the river, protesting against any decision to close the dam gates.
People walking on the bank of Ganga in Allahabad
SC transfers PIL on cleaning Ganga to NGT In a major development, after monitoring Ganga cleaning work for last 31 years and without achieving any cleaner river, the Supreme Court on January 24, 2017 wrapped up a PIL on cleaning of river Ganga and sent it to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for more effective adjudication. The apex court had been monitoring the issue for 31 years. A bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice N V Ramana said that since issues relating to municipal solid waste and industrial waste were already being heard by the NGT on a day-to-day basis, all other issues relating to sources of polluting the river should also be heard by the NGT.
The bench said that the tribunal will be required to submit an interim report to it every six months, only to give an idea about the progress made and difficulties, if any. It also granted liberty to the petitioner, environmentalist M C Mehta, to approach the court if he had any grievances in consonance with the law.
During last week hearing (January 17, 2017), the SC bench has directed the government to file a report on the construction and functioning of STPs alongside the river, which runs through five States.
It has been almost two years after the SC has voiced scepticism about the government’s self-proclaimed promise to clean up the Ganga River. Before this, in 2014, the apex court had voiced its reservations about the various efforts over the decades to return the Ganga to its pristine self, once even saying that it “does not expect Ganga to be cleaned up even after 200 years.”
INTER-STATE WATER DISPUTES
Center Meeting held to sort out Mahanadi issue Union Water Ministry on July 31 called a Meeting of representatives of Odisha & Chattisgarh Govts to consider the various water resources issues/projects in Mahanadi Basin. It was decided that the Central Water Commission would invariably ensure that the DPRs for the projects in Mahanadi basin which are appraised by it, are duly shared with the other riparian State and that the riparian State is given a period of 45 days to convey their views/comments on the project. It was also decided that the DPRs would be delivered to the Resident Commissioners of respective States and thereafter the representatives of the State would be invited to share their observations. The meeting was called in pursuance of the assurance given by Water Minister Uma Bharti in Parliament on July 26. Earlier, fearing that dams on river Mahanadi in Chhattisgarh would have adverse impact on Odisha, former union minister Jairam Ramesh has asked CM Naveen Patnaik to take up all party team to Delhi to raise the matter with the PM. He also said that Congress will send a delegation to Chhattisgarh in a week to study the sites where dam and barrages are proposed to be constructed. On the other hand, former CM Ajit Jogi having broken away from the Congress on July 25 attacked Congress over its opposition to Chhattisgarh’s plan to construct dams & barrages on Mahanadi river.