DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 19 Apr 2021: Hydro lobby at work, but it won’t help forget the WCD guidelines

The Hydropower lobby continues to push unsustainable, unviable, destructive hydropower projects. They want everyone to forget about the World Commission on Dams report and guidelines and the lobby keeps bringing out its own guidelines which has zero credibility. They are looking for new voices to sing their song, and have appointed Ashok Khosla, as the Chair of the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Council but Ashok Khosla already stands discredited. He or his organisation is not known to be doing any credible work in the area of hydropower projects. He or his organisation Development Alternatives has never taken a stand on any public spirited campaign against destructive hydropower projects in India. So that voice is neither independent nor credible. So this new move by the hydro lobby is not going to help the cause of the lobby either in India or beyond. The write up below, as expected does not mention the WCD report or guidelines. Mr Khosla possibly does not even know about the existence of the WCD report or guidelines because he had no credible role to play there or in any hydropower related work in the past. The write up has loads of misleading and wrong statements too. But all these attempts are not going to help forget people about WCD guidelines as the only globally credible and accepted guidelines on dams and hydropower projects.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 12 Apr 2021: Meghalaya, Himachal, MP people oppose Dam & Hydro projects

(Feature image: Locals protest against the proposed mega dam project on the Umngot river. Shillong Times)

From the news this week we can see news reports of strong protests to dam and hydro projects from North East India (protests against the proposed 240 MW Umngot hydropower project), North India (protests against the Jangi Thopan power project in Himachal Pradesh) and Central India (protests against the Ken Betwa Link Project and Basania Dam on Narmada, both in Madhya Pradesh), among others. These protests underline not only the protests against the social and environmental destruction such projects bring, but also the abysmally poor environmental governance and decision making processes, the shoddy Environment Impact Assessments, the Public Hearings and over all undemocratic decision making process. One hopes the government realises the underlying issues and addresses them urgently rather than ignoring the messages and messengers.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 22 March 2021: PM presiding over proposal for destruction of 46 lakh trees, Bundelkhand & Panna Tiger Reserve on World Water Day?

There cannot possibly be any worse news on World Water Day for India than that the Prime Minister is presiding over the agreement between Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh Chief Ministers to destroy some 46 lakh trees, Panna Tiger Reserve, Ken River, Bundelkhand and also downstream Banda district. All to export water from Bundelkhand to Upper Betwa basin.  All this in the name of pushing the mindless project called Ken Betwa River Link Project. Why is the government pushing this destructive project, a Rs 38 000 Crore proposition? The answer to that question is in that question: it is a Rs 38 000 Cr proposition!

There is still some hope though for the people of Panna, Banda and Bundelkhand if there is any respect for the law of the land. This is because the project does not have final forest clearance and the conditions of the stage I forest clearances are not implementable. The Wild Clearance of the project is challenged by the Central Empowered Committee of the Supreme Court, following a petition. The Environment Clearance to the project has also been challenged before the National Green Tribunal. Let us hope there is sufficient respect for the law of the land, to ensure that the project does not go ahead even with the agreement signed. But a key propriety question arises is, should the prime minister endorse a project that does not have all the statutory clearances and legal challenge to whose clearances are before the judiciary?

But the prime minister’s advocacy for rainwater harvesting on the same also loses a lot of its credibility, seeing that he is presiding over this destruction that goes totally against the central message of harvesting rain where it falls, when it falls.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 15 March 2021: MoEFCC & NMCG join March 14 celebrations on the Day of Action for Rivers

The International Day of Action Against Dams and For Rivers, Water and Life,  or in short, “International Day of Action for Rivers” as used now, was adopted by the participants of some 20 countrties, at the first International Meeting of People Affected by Dams in March 1997 in Curitiba Brazil. Representatives from 20 countries including India, USA, Brazil & other countries from Asia, Americas, Europe, Africa decided that the International Day of Action would take place on March 14. Thus, the celebration started from 1997. The aim on this International Day of Action for Rivers is to raise voices against destructive water development projects, reclaim the health of our watersheds, and demand the equitable and sustainable management of our rivers.

This year, among many other events happening on this day in South Asia, we have reported in this weekly bulletin, besides the blog from SANDRP highlighting the resistence against destructive hydro and dam projects in India in last one year, the online discussion by the Endangered Himalayas on “Extinct Rivers or free flowing rivers: The future of Himalayan Rivers”, Official launch of Right of Rivers South Asia Alliance and Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum’s 14-days long campaign Rights of the River and personhood rights to Indus River and Indus delta.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 01 Feb 2021: Dissolving YMC is retrograde

In a shocking and disappointing move, the National Green Tribunal last week dissolved the Yamuna Monitoring Committee (YMC) in Delhi, UP and Haryana along with Justice Pritam Pal Committee and asked the state government to implement the various measures in earlier YMC and NGT reports and directions. This seems like a major set back for the future of Yamuna and other rivers. This seems to have been a direct fall out of the Supreme Court of India Suo Moto taking up the Yamuna pollution issue. This is not going to help solve the seemingly intraceable issue of tackling pollution of our rivers. If the states were interested and capable of implementing the necessary measures, we won’t have required YMC in the first place. YMC was taking a number of useful steps and as we wrote in the DRP lead story dated January 18, 2021, what is required is strengthening the hands of the YMC, but as if our worst fears were to come true, YMC has now been dissolved, even before it could make its mark in achieving cleaner rivers.

It should be noted that our judiciary does not have very remarkable track record in achieving cleaner rivers. In fact the same Supreme Court took up Yamuna case Suo moto in 1994 and not having been able to achieve any better state of Yamuna, after dealing with it for 23 long years, handed over the case to NGT in 2017. Supreme Court had been dealing with Ganga case even longer, and again not achieving better state of the river, handed over the case to NGT in 2017. It seemed like NGT had done something right in setting up YMC, but that also has been dissolved. Its clear that unless the citizens and society does not rise up, there is no hope for our rivers.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 4 Jan 2021: Bangladesh declares Halda River as Fisheries Heritage

Bangladesh has declared the whole 81 km long Halda River, a tributary of Karnaphuli River in Chittagong in South East Bangladesh. The Halda river is also famous for breeding pure Indian carp. This is the only pure Indian carp breeding field of Bangladesh, perhaps in South Asia. This is a remarkable river conservation decision that has a lot of lessons for much bigger India where no river has been protected as fisheries heritage. This is great way to begin the first weekly DRP Bulletin of 2021 and we hope the Indian government, civil society and judiciary will take due note of this.

Controversy is never far away from any such river conservation efforts as is evident from the news about proposal for a Halda River based water supply project for industrial estate that has been opposed by the Fisheries ministry, water resources ministry, the River Conservation Commission, the Department of Environment and independent researchers.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 28 Dec. 2020: Five Positives of outgoing Corona year

The outgoing year 2020 is likely to be remembered as Corona year as Covid 19 pandemic has been the most influential aspect of the year. However, there have been many positives of the outgoing year. We identify five biggest positives as we see them.

Firstly, the complete lockdown that we experienced during March-April 2020, to slow down the spread of the Covid 19 infection showed, among many other things that it is indeed possible to clean up our rivers and also indicated the way forward: tackle industrial pollution. Unfortunately, those clear lessons have not been learnt by the government, its been busy in ease of doing business, not even understanding that in changing climate, clean rivers are going to be a major resource that will help people adapt.

The second notable positive was the major across the country protests, particularly from the younger generation against the government’s attempt to bulldoze the completely anti- environment amendment to the EIA notification. The protests along with the judicial orders have so far stopped the amendment from getting implementation. The government will do well to abandon any attempt to push them.

Similar to the protests against amendments to EIA notification were the protests against trying to bulldoze the massive Etalin Hydropower project in Dibang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh, at the cost of lakhs of trees and biodiversity rich forest and river and against the wishes of the people of Arunachal Pradesh and North East India. Here again it was good to see that the campaign has so far been successful.

India Rivers Week 2020 organised Zonal and National dialogues on river sand mining in India, in which large number of groups and stakeholders from across the country participated and has created a new wave of awareness and energy on this very important but so far largely ignored issue. We are hopeful that this energy will lead to change in governance of river sand mining in India.

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Floods · Urban Rivers

Missing roadmap to solve Urban Floods Puzzle

There can be no dispute over the fact that the frequency, intensity and spread (new cities getting affected) of urban floods is increasing in India. The reasons are mostly known: increasing and mostly unplanned urbanisation, rural-urban migration, encroachments of water bodies, concretization of flood plains and other lands, decreasing capacity to hold, store, recharge and drain the rainwater, increasing rainfall intensities with changing climate, wrong operation of big dams and deteriorating governance.

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Maharashtra · Photoblog · River Pollution · Urban Rivers

Photo Story:Worm Collectors of a Polluted River

For the past few years, I walk along the bridges and riverbanks of Pune, taking pictures of the unique happenings here. I have made several silent friends who sit at the riverbanks grazing their cattle, or recline on the bridges, looking at the river. As a photographer, their body language and stories have fascinated me, as has the river.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 15 June 2020: Athirapally, Bodhghat, Cauvery, Dibang, Etalin: New growth alphabets from the PMO?

A for Athirapally, B for Bodhghat, C for Cauvery, D for Dibang, E for Etalin, seems to be the new growth alphabets from the Prime Minister’s Office. With the economic growth in negative territory, depression in the corner, the old and trusted Big Dams as major infrastructure to push up expenditure and hope for the growth was a formula used even in 1930s by US president Franklin D Roosevelt to bring the US economy out of the Great depression of 1929. It started with the Tennessee Valley Authority Act of May 1933, which then was pushed as growth model to other countries. In India it came in the form of Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) Act of 1948.

However that 20th century model was a failure even then, as the first CEO of the DVC, Sudhir Sen wrote. That model is no longer relevant in 21st century except possibly as an easy route to corruption and kickbacks. These dams and hydropower projects are no longer even economically viable and better options are now available for irrigation and power. In the changing climate scene they are even less relevant places of worship (temples). Dams and hydropower projects are seeing slow down across the globe, not just in India.

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