River carrying capacity is such a crucial factor in deciding if certain areas will be flooded and with what severity. This capacity is constantly changing, more so in tropical climate and high silt carrying rivers of South Asia, as new research shows. However, most models that are used in India, including by CWC, assume steady state situation. Nor are there constant and credible efforts to assess the river cross sections and river conveyance capacities and put them in public domain. The study shows how important it is that we wake up to this reality and ensure credible, consistent monitoring and assessments by credible independent agencies at the earliest. This has become even more urgent, the study underlines, since in changing climate, the rainfall patterns are changing fast.
Guest Blog by: Amruta Pradhan
Background Three rivers (among some others) with a total length of 44km traverse through Pune city. Mula river flows a distance of 22.2 km, Mutha River 10.4 km and Mula-Mutha River 11.8 km. Plight of these rivers is well known. They have been featured in the list of 300 most polluted rivers of India. Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), Maharashtra Water Resources Department (WRD) etc. have pulled number of controversies over river pollution, illegal construction of roads and townships through river bed and most recently Pune Metro being proposed through the river bed. Making a case for ‘rejuvenation’ of the ‘neglected rivers’, PMC has now proposed Pune Riverfront Development Project (PRDP). The project has been designed by the same HCP Design Planning & Management Pvt. Ltd (HCP) led by Ar. Bimal Patel from Ahmedabad who conceived and implemented Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project (SRFDP).
In September 2014 SANDRP in its article “Riverfront Development in India: Cosmetic make up on deep wounds” had raised serious issues regarding several riverfront development projects sprouting across India. Following the footsteps of SRFDP these projects treat rivers as extension of urban spaces and are more about encroachment of floodplains and river beds for real estate than restoration. Pune’s Mula-Mutha Riverfront Project being one among them, maintains the same focus. The project also shows several signs of an ill planned project which may exacerbate the risk of flooding and may take a severe toll on water quality and river health. This article questions some underlying assumptions upon which the project has been designed. Draft Master Plan (DMP) of the project prepared by HCP has been referred as a base document. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report of the project is of a poor quality and devoid of even basic information about the project. Thus was not referred for details. Continue reading “Pune Riverfront Development Project: Encroachment in the name of Rejuvenation?”
Southwest Monsoon provides about 75% of our water and yet we have not learnt how to manage that rain water, without creating avoidable flood disasters, without using submergence as weapon to displace people as is being attempted in case of Sardar Sarovar Project in Gujarat, without allowing water to flow to Pakistan, which is against all the rhetoric of the top most government persons and without the needless push for more big dams or interlilnking rivers or such mega centralised projects and programs? If we go through this week’s DRP News Update, it does not seem like we have. All the contrary elements are there for all to see.
It is certainly possible to manage the rain better so that more of it is available beyond the monsoon in a decentralised manner, as decentralised as the rainfall itself. The elements of it all well known: harvest rain where it falls, recharge groundwater, create local water systems, desilt existing such systems, protect wetlands, forests, increase soil’s capacity to hold moisture through increasing carbon/ organic conent of the soils (we know how this can be achieved), use the created large reservoirs judiciously, ensure all the dams in a basin are filled up simultaneously and not sequentially, ensure water flow in the river for maximum period as that will also help recharge groundwater, reduce deforestation in the catchments, increase forest area in the catchments where possible, protect local water systems everywhere including Urban areas, protect flood plains and ensure rivers have capacity to carry floods that it is required to carry, have better and more accurate rainfall forecasts (including riverbasin wise/ sub basin wise forecasts), coordinated actions across river basins and states. There is some minor improvements here and there as we see in this bulltin, but no major change.
It’s more optimal rain water management that will help better water security, sustainable water availability, food production, livelihoods and agricultural security, among others. What is the road map to learn this and learn fast? There is no immediate light to the end of the tunnel.
India urgently needs a lot of effective work on Dam Safety, but the bill before the Parliament makes CWC (Central Water Commission) as focal point of Dam Safety, but CWC has conflict of interest and poor track record. The Bill does not provide any real independent oversight, nor clearly defined norms of complete transparency in the dam safety matters, and there is no role of the vulnerable communities, the most important stake holders. The Bill also tends to centralise the power with the Union govt, and states legitimately suspects this. https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/dam-safety-bill-2019-why-evokes-opposition-stakeholders-1576391-2019-08-02 (Aug 2, 2019)
The Interstate Amendment Water Disputes Amendment Bill before the Parliament is basically tinkering with the existing system, which will not change anything fundamentally. It needs to be understood that disputes arise when an upper riparian state (or a country) build a large dam or diverts the massive amount of water, leading to lower availability of water for the lower riparian state (or country). When it comes to resolution, the tribunals look at a river as a channel of water and its distribution, ignoring that it is a complete ecosystem and that water in a river depends on the state of its basin and catchment area. It also depends on the extraction of groundwater. These aspects are ignored by the tribunals. Moreover, a state does not represent a river basin or all its stakeholders (the people using river water), which is why the Narmada tribunal’ award created a conflict between the states and their people. The central government’s impartiality is suspect and would have a great bearing on the resolution process. https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/interstate-river-water-disputes-bill-2019-1575531-2019-07-31 (1 Aug. 2019)
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.
Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has possibly inadvertently, started a debate that really needs to be honestly looked at: ARE BIG DAMS ATM MACHINES FOR POLITICIANS? He may have raised the issue only in the context of Polavaram Dam and Andhra Government, but the question is equally valid for all big dams across the country. Including for Sardar Sarovar Dam, as Andhra Water Resource Minister has possibly only rhetorically asked.
As analysis by SANDRP and others including by numerous CAG reports have shown, dams are not adding to Net National Irrigated area since over 25 years. They in fact worsen the groundwater recharge and sustainability situation, directly and indirectly. And groundwater remains our water lifeline since several decades and will remain so. And yet, thousands of crores get spent on big dam every year, while such resources are not available for sustenance of groundwater, India’s water lifeline. This election, we wont have that honest debate, since both the initiator and responder are not particularly serious about it. Nor the media seems to have the stomach for such a debate. WHEN WILL WE HAVE AN HONEST DEBATE THAT WILL ANSWER THIS QUESTION: ARE DAMS ATM MACHINES FOR POLITICIANS?
It’s not secret that water pollution is getting worse in India, including pollution of groundwater sources, thought we still donot know the full extent of the pollution of that source. But there is so little citizen action on such an important issue that affects so many so severely on daily basis. So it’s great to see four separate instances of such action this week, one each from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Kerala. In absence of any seriousness shown by governments at centre and states and any effective success from judicial intervention, this is welcome news. One only hopes this is no flash in the pan and rather beginning of citizens’ action to agitate against such rampant water pollution that goes on in India.
For last 22 years, 14 March is celebrated globally as International Day of Action for Rivers.
As per India Rivers Week Assessment 70 per cent of our rivers are facing existential threats. Over 60 per cent of sewage generated in India is dumped untreated in rivers and water bodies. As per latest official assessment the number of polluted river stretches in country has increased to 352 from 302 two years ago. Similarly the number of critically polluted stretches has gone up to 45 from 34 in two years. Our rivers are facing lack flow, pollution, encroachments, unsustainable mining and destruction of habitat. In mountains, streams are running dry for most of the time, while in urban areas they are over loaded with pollution.
Amid this gloomy scenario, many small initiatives are being taken to reverse the plight of our rivers. This compilation shows few of such recent and inspiring initiatives.
The big hydro push that the Union cabinet passed on the eve of the National elections announcement surely won’t help the destructive and unviable big hydro projects. Big Hydro is already highly subsidised, with no credible assessment of its massive social and environmental impacts. These costs are borne by local people and not by the project developers. The cost of destruction of rivers and fisheries are not even assessed. The increased disaster impact potential due to the project is again not even assessed.
On top of it, the hydro projects are known to increase the flood disaster risks as seen in Kerala in Aug 2018 among so many other instances. So there no case for big hydro projects getting more subsidies. If at all there is case of reducing subsidies. But even these unjustified additional subsidies are NOT going to help push the big hydro, even private sector has realised that big hydro is unviable. Govt should not continue to push big hydro with public money, we hope the people will realise the foolishness and reject them. In changing climate, putting more money on big hydro is certainly not unadvisable. The timing of the move though only strengthens the argument that big dams are essentially pushed for political economy reasons rather than their merit.
According to a report, 2018 saw massive 16% drop in tourist visits to Himachal Pradesh compared to previous year, largely due to water crisis and increasing incidents of landslides, both factors due to environmental degradation, in which hydropower madness has played big role. It is worth to mention, that the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh was first person to welcome Central government decision of incentivizing the hydro projects. Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 11 March 2019: New Subsidies won’t Help Unviable Big Hydro; Timing Shows Big Dams Pushed for Political Economy”