The World wetlands day 2019 later this week has slogan of: “We are not powerless against climate Change… stop draining wetlands”, connecting climate change and wetlands. But the news from Indian wetlands governance is scary.
The day before the World Wetlands Day the Vote on Accounts will be presented before the Parliament as full budget cannot be presented in light of forthcoming Parliament elections. But is there any hope that either the Budget or the elections will deal with the climate change or the environment issue with any sense of seriousness?
On November 16, 2017, the Supreme Court (SC) of India, prohibited 82 large lease holders from mining sand and stone activities in absence of scientific replenishment study. The ban continued all through the year of 2018 and so were the incidents of illegal sand mining and violent attacks on police officials.
The ban has reportedly hampered some development projects. The prices of sand has increased. Meanwhile the mining department is seen making efforts in exploring Manufactured Sand (M-Sand) as an alternative though it seems there is not much success as yet.
Good to see NGT rejecting the flawed Groundwater notification dated Dec 12, 2018 from CGWA that was also critiqued by SANDRP: https://sandrp.in/2018/12/31/groundwater-governance-why-dec-12-2018-cgwa-notification-would-be-disastrous/. However, NGT should have asked an independent panel to formulate the policy for sustainable groundwater use, rather than a committee of the same government persons. Besides, there is also need for restructuring of currently totally ineffective CGWA and make it COMPLETELY INDEPENDENT of government.
The landslide incident[i] on under construction Char Dham All Weather Road Project in Rudraprayag district of Uttrakhand has killed 8 labours on 21 December 2018 around 12.30 pm near Banswada in Ukhimath Bhiri area on the Rudraprayag-Gaurikund national highway (NH 107).
WhatsApp images of incident site
On 22 December 2018, body of a 19 year old worker was recovered[ii] by the rescue team. A total of 23 workers were at the site at the time of the incident. As per reports, 11 workers got buried under debris, 5 workers were critically injured while 12 others had narrow escape. All the victims[iii] are stated to be from Uri town in Baramula district of Jammu & Kashmir. As per locals, one of the JCB machine placed at the site has fallen[iv] in the river along with debris.
Man Made Disaster
The Ukhimath police has registered an FIR against a private construction company, holding it responsible for the mishap at the construction site of Char Dham all-weather road. Preliminary observations by police team has found major negligence[v] of the executive body.
As per police the work was being carried out without following the basic safety standards for the workers. The director and supervisor of the private construction firm have been booked[vi] under various sections of Indian Penal Code.
Manglesh Ghildiyal, the District Magistrate, Rudraprayag has also ordered[vii] magisterial inquiry into the incident. Jakholi SDM has been asked to submit the probe report within 10 days. Additional chief secretary of Uttarakhand, Om Prakash, has ordered a safety audit of the all-weather road construction sites to check whether the work is being done adhering to scientific norms.
The audit team will comprise of a senior geologist and a senior officer from the PWD. Some of the workers alleged that the landslide was triggered[viii] by construction work and had occurred as the mountain was being cut to widen the road.
Surprisingly about a week before the Rudraprayag landslide incidents, the DM has also found significant negligence being exercised by the Noida based RGB construction company in cutting the hill slopes. The company has not even provided helmets and insurance cover to the workers. Earlier, in June 2018 and September 2018 it was issued noticed for not following safety measures.
Rudraprayag Highly Landslide Prone Area
According to data compiled by the Uttarakhand’s Disater Mitigaton and Management Centre, 529 landslide prone areas have been identified on the Char Dham route. Rudraprayag district where the landslide occurred has the highest number of landslide zones at 319.
Local People Protesting Against The Project
The project would displace[ix] about 3000 villagers in the district. Many residents have been protesting against the project demanding fair compensation. On December 7, 2018, the local people including shopkeepers and traders closed the district and took out a massiveprotest rally[x]. On December 15, the protestors launched an indefinite hunger strike[xi] demanding proper rehabilitation and compensation.
Issue Pending in Supreme Court
This is one of the worst landslides so far due to the 889 km long highway project[xii] which has been broken into 52 parts to bypass the mandatory environmental clearances. The Rs 11,700 crore rupee project is ongoing despite the fact that the matter is sub-judice.
On 22 October 2018, the Supreme Court (SC) had stayed[xiii] National Green Tribunal (NGT) order clearing the two lane highway project. During 26 November 2018 hearing the SC has asked the Centre to file itsreply[xiv] within two weeks.
Another Landslide Caused By Char Dham Road Project
Meanwhile, Char Dham All Weather Road Project creates another landslideon Dec. 22, this time on Badrinath Rishikesh Highway near Farasu Mandoli village in Srinagar. The work is damaging the roads causing difficulties for local commuters who are also getting injured during night time. People say debris and stones are falling continuously disrupting the traffic for hours.
Compiled by SANDRP (email@example.com)
Despite SC orders muck dumping in Alaknanda River continues on Badrinath NH. Similarly many villages along the slope on Chamba Rishikesh highway are affected due to muck dumping says the Amar Ujala 16 Dec. 2018 report.
The local Hindi dailies (between 15-25 Dec. 2018) are replete with reports revealing serious negligence and violation of norms in execution of the project leading to fatal landslides across the state.
In case of the 3097 MW Etalin project being developed by Jindal and Arunachal Pradesh govt, the IE report says: “the WII was asked by the Ministry (MoEF) to assess the feasibility of the plan that requires 1,166 hectares of forestland in the valley. The Ministry’s move followed a recommendation from its Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) to conduct an environment impact assessment study. Instead, the WII initiated a study to find how the project’s impact on wildlife can be minimised”. Thus instead of doing the mandated scientific impact assessment, the WII initiated a study to minimise the project’s impact.
Ken Betwa river interlinking project is back to drawing board with Union water resources ministry approaching the ministry of environment and forest to relax conditions imposed as part of forest clearance accorded in May 2017 for diversion of forest in the Panna Tiger reserve (PTR).
Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) while according Stage-I clearance to the project had recommended that the project proponent and state govt should consider equivalent non-forest area (6,017 ha) adjoining to PTR from the revenue and private land and add to the PTR as a part of core/corridor (for tiger movement) with other areas or satellite core area. According to water resources ministry, they are unable to find land adjoining to PTR.
(Feature image showing preparation of Kumbh 2019 at Prayagraj by Siddharth Agarwal of Veditum)
EDIT article in SCIENCE magazine by TUSHAR SHAH and others on Ganga: “The quickest, cheapest, and most effective way for Mr. Modi to show a less polluted Ganga by 2019 would be operating dams and barrages in the Ganga basin with the sole objective of augmenting river flows. This would be a start to controlling discharge of untreated sewage and industrial waste, which will take a long time.” http://science.sciencemag.org/content/362/6414/503 (2 Nov. 2018)
DOWN TO EARTH says about Ganga: “the river will continue to run as – and even more – polluted as ever… Till August 31, 2018, only a little more than a quarter of the total number of projects sanctioned under it (Namami Gange) had been completed… according to CPCB’s Water Quality Map, only five out of the 70-odd monitoring stations on the river had water that was fit for drinking; only seven had water that was fit for bathing…”
-“Down To Earth quotes a study report and CPCB data to say that the actual measured discharge of wastewater into the Ganga is 123 per cent higher than what has been estimated…”
-“Numerous hydroelectric projects on the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda have turned the upper stretches of the Ganga into ecological deserts, says the Down To Earth assessment. The baseflow amount of the river has decreased by a huge 56 per cent in 2016, as compared to the 1970s.”
– “about 180 MLD of sludge will be generated in the five Ganga Basin states (Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal) when they become ODF. If proper sludge management is not done, this would invariably pollute the Ganga. What should cause further concern is that faecal sludge is a bigger pollutant than sewage – while BOD of sewage is 150-300 mg/litre, that of faecal sludge would be 15,000-30,000 mg/litre.” https://www.cseindia.org/ganga-may-not-flow-clean-in-the-near-future-says-new-analysis-9085 (30 Oct. 2018)
A try-out of the technique to grow paddy without puddling at village Chehlan of Ludhiana has resulted in higher yield in comparison to puddled fields, while saving water in the process. The crop was ready for harvest days before expected time, saving irrigation water otherwise to be used for another fourteen days. This trial was funded and supervised by ATMA, a central govt. scheme under the Union Ministry of Agriculture.
Puddling is a traditional method of flooding paddy fields with running water, whereas in non-puddling technique, ‘ridges and furrows’ are formed in soil to let water store in spaces and let it stay, thus reducing irrigation frequency.
“Not paddy but puddling is the enemy of waters of Punjab. It is wastage of water to puddle fields as most of it just evaporates. We have saved 45-50 per cent of water in non-puddled fields. Our yield has been almost 30 per cent more from fields where crop was not puddled. Also, non-puddled crop matured very early, saving at least ten days of irrigation water,” says Rupinder Singh Chahal (43) who along with his brothers Jasvir Singh (48) and Kulwinder Singh (52) experimented with ‘non-puddling’ technique on four acres this year.
International news agency, after independent research, have corroborated what SANDRP has been saying: Mismanagement of dams played big role in worsening Kerala floods.
-“The release could have started earlier so that by Aug. 9 there would have been left-over capacities in the reservoirs to store the water,” said Biswajit Mukhopadhyay, director of water resources at U.S-based engineering firm IEA, who analysed some of the publicly available data at the request of Reuters.
– Still, dozens of flood victims interviewed by Reuters, who live in villages dotting the banks of Kerala’s biggest river, the 244 km Periyar, say they faced no floods despite torrential rain in late July and early August. All of them said waters only rose overnight on Aug. 15. That was when more intense rainfall forced KSEB to rapidly ramp-up releases of water from Idukki and Idamalayar reservoirs, which feed into the Periyar.
– Kerala’s revenue secretary and head of disaster management, P.H. Kurien, told Reuters he has twice written to KSEB requesting EAPs and has yet to receive them. KSEB’s Pillai said EAPs and dam operation manuals were still being prepared. CWC said it was working with Kerala’s government to speed this up. The Kerala Chief Minister’s office did not respond to requests for comment. https://widerimage.reuters.com/story/did-dams-make-indias-once-in-century-floods-worse (11 Oct. 2018)