March 14 marks 25th anniversary of International Day of Actions for Rivers, a unique campaign dedicated to indigenous communities striving to protect and preserve their rivers from a whole range of destructive anthropogenic activities. The Hydro Electric Projects (HEPs) are among key threats affecting rivers eco-system and riverine communities greatly, in multiple ways.
The resistance against destructive, unviable HEPs growing stronger in India. Over the past one year there has been several protests against hydro projects across the country particularly in Himalayan states. On the occasion of International Day of Actions for rivers celebrating people’s resistance, SANDRP has compiled top ten stories of such community led opposition during the year, along with relevant additional stories. .
March 14 is International Day of Action for Rivers, against destructive projects. The main objective is to ensure that the river people have their say in the decision-making processes which affect their rivers and related livelihoods sources and that the decisions are informed decisions.
Here we are bringing forth the struggles of riverine communities in India in past one year to make decision makers aware of their hardships and impacts of destructive hydro and dam projects on the riverine eco-system.
In the years 2018 and 2019, I spent months walking East across India with Paul Salopek on the Out of Eden Walk (For details, see: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/projects/out-of-eden-walk/#section-0). His trail started in the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia in East Africa, roughly following the path of the early human migration out of Africa and across the globe.
The India trail of the Out of Eden Walk started from the India-Pakistan border at Wagah, Punjab. It then moved East through the Indus Basin, followed by the basins of West flowing rivers like Luni, then a large chunk through the southern Gangetic plains in Central India before crossing over to the Brahmaputra basin close to Siliguri in West Bengal. The crossover to Myanmar happened at Moreh in Manipur, also incidentally very close to the basin boundary of Brahmaputra and Irrawady. He entered India in March 2018, and crossed over to Myanmar in July 2019.
This last week, one Contempt of Court case was deservedly in news, when on the eve of India’s 74th Independence day, the apex Court found public spirited Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt of Court. Prashant Bhushan’s commitment for the cause of the people and responsible governance of various institutions is beyond question. He is known for being critical of the government and judiciary’s track record and is supported in this by most independent minded persons.
However, there was another contempt case this last week, related to environmental issues, that was not so much in the news. On June 30, 2020, Delhi High Court bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan in response to petition by environmentalist Vikrant Tongad had directed, among other things, that Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) should translate the Draft EIA (Environment Impact Assessment) Notification of 2020 into all the official languages of India and disseminate widely in ten days. (https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/delhi-hc-extends-public-response-deadline-to-draft-eia-2020/article31951610.ece)
HISTORIC COURT JUDGMENT: TREAT RIVES AS LIVING ENTITY
In a historic judgment, the High Court (HC) of Bangladesh has declared Rivers as living entities and the NRPC (National River Protection Commission) as the legal guardian of all rivers. The HC said that river encroachers cannot run in any elections or get bank loans. The HC delivered the judgment in response to a petition (WP No. 13989/2016) by Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh. The writ petition was filed on Nov. 7, 2016. Continue reading “Bangladesh DRP Overview 2019”→
Central Water Commission (CWC) monitors water level at several hundred sites in the country during monsoon every year. It publishes this information on its Flood Forecast (FF) website[I]. The website has three ways to get this information: Data Flow Map, List Based Exploration, and Hydrograph view. The Hydrograph view provides information for past 72 hours, supposed to be updated every hour. This is in addition to the list of current forecasts.
The CWC’s FF website had in 2018 monsoon, information about 226 Flood Forecast Sites in the country comprising of 166 Level Forecast Sites and 60 Inflow Forecast Sites. It also monitors 700 Flood sites, information made available through List Based Exploration and Hydrograph View. As reported below, the number of sites have gone up during 2019 monsoon, which is welcome. However, most of the new sites, along with some old ones do not have key information.
Feature image: A Hindu woman worships the sun god in the polluted waters of River Yamuna during Chhath Puja in New Delhi, on Nov. 14. (Image Source: Quartz India.)
In its latest report, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) appointed monitoring committee overseeing Yamuna River cleaning progress in Delhi says that the river is “fighting to stay alive” and it would not be possible to rejuvenate the Yamuna unless minimum environmental flow is provided as it is “virtually reduced to a trickle and remains dry in some stretches for almost nine months of the year”.
In the action plan, it is mentioned that “Although the Yamuna river flows only for 54 kilometres from Palla to Badarpur through Delhi, the 22 km stretch from Wazirabad to Okhla, which is less than 2 per cent of the river length of 1370 km from Yamunotri to Allahabad, accounts for about 76 per cent of the pollution level in the river”.
The committee has suggested that a team of scientists be formed from CPCB, DPCC and other institutions like IIT Delhi or NEERI to carry out inspections and submit reports to it for remedial action. The team can look into the risks and benefits of an alternative way of routing the same quantity of water which can help in reducing the pollution level, it said.
The monitoring committee also raised objection to the capacity utilisation of common effluent treatment plant (CETP) which is as low as 25 per cent. There are 28 industrial clusters in Delhi and 17 of these are connected to 13 CETPs. The remaining 11 clusters are not connected to any CETP. Another area of concern is the direct discharge of completely unregulated waste from industries and residences into the river.
Central Water Commission is the only agency doing flood forecasting in India. As per CWC’s Flood Forecasting website[I] the Data Flow Map has information about 226 Flood Forecast Sites in the country comprising of 166 Level Forecast Sites and 60 Inflow Forecast Sites. It also monitors 700 Flood sites, information made available through List Based Exploration and Hydrograph View, but no flood forecasting is done for these sites.
In order to better understand the CWC’s flood monitoring and forecasting work, in this article we have given an overview of CWC’s flood forecasting and monitoring sites in East India. It includes state wise list of CWC’s Level Forecast, Inflow Forecast and level monitoring sites in East India. Similar report has been published for North India[II] and North East India[III] and we hope to publish reports covering other regions of India too.
Swami Gyan Swarup Sanand (Prof G D Agarwal formerly) writes to Prime Minister on Feb 24 with three demands on Ganga and says if these are not satisfied by Ganga Dashera (June 22, 2018), he will go on fast unto death. The three demands are: 1. stop work on Vishnugad Pipalkoti, Singoli Bhawari and Phata Byung HEPs 2. Pass in Parliament the Draft Ganga protection act drafted by Just (retired) Girdhar Malviya headed committee and 3. Create a National Ganga follower committee whose permission will be necessary before taking any decision about Ganga. See the detailed blog by Arun Tiwari ji and link to the letter to PM. http://hindi.indiawaterportal.org/Swami-Sananda-open-letter-pm-modi-clean-ganga