There are large number of stories this week from all over India highlighting the crisis that Urban Rivers in India face. Urban rivers, like the Urban Water sector, exist in complete policy vacuum. There is no policy to guide the Urban water governance. Cosmetic efforts being done when President Donald Trump of USA visits India on Feb 24-25, 2020 at Yamuna (in view of his visit to Agra) or Sabarmati (visit to Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad) won’t really help. The crisis not only affects the rivers, but the health, livelihoods and lives of millions and millions of city dwellers too, in addition to the downstream river users. Our Water Resources establishment has no clue, as is evident from their calling the Dravyawati river channelization in Jaipur as an example of river rejuvenation and suggesting such rivers should be given to corporates to rejuvenate in similar ways! It’s doubtful if the new National Water Policy now being formulated will help, unless it dares to suggest radical changes.
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)
And this fantastic infographic: https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/INDIA-FLOOD/010080MF18N/index.html (11 Oct. 2018)
Above: The Bhagirathi valley has a lot of beautiful bends, comparable to the most popular scenic spots across the world. But we’re busy cutting down the mountain to make broader roads in these eco-sensitive areas. Image taken in March 2017. Photo credits: Siddharth Agarwal
Guest Blog by Siddharth Agarwal
In the initial stages of planning the Moving Upstream project on the Ganga for Veditum, where we were going to walk along the whole length of the river, I had approached a lot of individuals to learn from their experiences about the river and the many connected stories around it. These learnings varied from science and activism to adventure and survival. Of all those who were approached, Himanshu Thakkar from SANDRP had been the most generous in extending knowledge resources and sharing contacts from the field. He even entertained a couple of my visits to their office and shared with me a copy of the SANDRP report prepared by Theo, called Headwater Extinctions (February 2014, see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/new-publication-headwater-extinctions-impact-of-hydropower-projects-on-fish-and-river-ecosystems-in-upper-ganga-and-beas-basins/, it includes link to full report), along with a few other documents.
Headwater Extinctions looks at the role played by small and large hydropower projects in altering the fish biodiversity and river ecosystems in the Himalayan reaches of the Ganga and Beas basins. It also speaks about the perspective of local people and that of the authorities towards hydropower projects. Theo, who is an adventurer and ecologist, penned down the report with a scientific aptitude, while I will limit myself here in this revisit report to updated observations made on ground while walking along the Ganga in Uttarakhand (March 2017). This comparative observation will hopefully enable a conversation that requires continuity. Continue reading “Walking along Ganga in Uttarakhand in 2017”
Since May 2017, several flood related incidents have taken place in the North East showing how our shortsightedness in understanding the rivers, how our thoughtless construction along the rivers in the name of flood control and how our careless operation of dams have converted floods into a disaster.
At the same time, there have been incidents raising suspicion over quality of construction of built and ongoing dams. Then the news of NHPC being accused of forging Gram Panchayats signs to build 520 MW Teesta IV dam is shocking revelation in itself. Contribution of such factors in worsening the floods is always underplayed.
The countless landslides and Cyclone Mora (http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/cyclone-mora-reaches-northeast-many-houses-damaged-in-mizoram/story-UzcDuPOge0drAklftXW38L.html) have already left the region crippling, despite this there is no regular monitoring of flood situation and no timely warning being issued by States or Central Agencies about the rainfall and floods. All this is enough to prove that the ongoing flood devastation in North East has very much to do with the way we are destroying rivers with hydro projects, dams and embankments and disturbing the fragile environment of North East. These incidents also put question mark before govt agencies which are first pushing the destruction in the sensitive region and then lagging way behind in monitoring and issuing timely precautionary warnings.
Finally on World Environment Day, Swami Shivanand has withdrawn[I] his fast unto death agitation. It was thirteenth day of his indefinite hunger strike including six days of water fast (from May 25 – 30, 2017) against illegal mining in Ganga.
The saint ended his protest around 6pm on June 05, 2017, only after receiving written assurance from the Central Government. As per information, referring to Matri Sandan repeated pleas, UP Singh Director General of National Mission for Clean Ganga has accepted that there were violations[II] of rules specially Rule No. V of Environment Protection Act during mining in Ganga. Subsequently he has asked Chairman, Central Pollution Control Board initiate criminal proceedings against the officials[III] concerned for non-compliance of the rules.