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 5 Apr 2021: Maan Dam affected get hope for justice: Salutes to NBA

A Supreme Court appointed Appeal Forum, appointed as per the SC order in 2012 has directed the Madhya Pradesh (MP) Govt to provide minimum 2 ha land to every displaced family as per the policy. This has raised hopes for just rehabilitation for the thousands of people displaced by the Maan dam in Dhar district of MP by the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA). This is a major victory for the three decades long struggle of the affected people, led by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA). The Forum has asked the govt to provide land to the affected in three months. The dam has been constructed on Maan river, a tributary of Narmada. One hopes the displaced get the justice soon as per the orders of the SC appointed appeal forum. Salutes to NBA for this. One hope the Supreme Court will ensure this happens in a just and expeditious way.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 29 March 2021: Better options exist to resolve water scarcity

Even as a strong voice of dissent rises from Bundelkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere against the fresh push for destructive Ken Betwa Project, this week there is interesting news from across India that reinforces the message that real solutions to Bundelkhand water scarcity not only exist, but they are far less destructive, cheaper, faster and more sustainable even in climate change context. This includes the report from CSE about the success of MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Authority) scheme as “the world’s largest climate change adaptation scheme” particularly for water havesting and water conservation. Similar stories also come from Bundelkhand and elsewhere.

If only the eyes, ears and minds of the decision makers were open and they had any fear of being held accountable for such mindless decisions.

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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 8 March 2021: Will Madras HC action help save water bodies?

While on the face of it the Madras High Court order on March 2, 2021 that all district collectors of Tamil Nadu must upload by March 17, GPS/ satellite images of all the water bodies in their districts is not only welcome, it needs to be done in all the districts across India. This order is by the bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy.

The same bench had earlier in January 2021 said, in response to a PIL that the government officials must have zero tolerance towards encroachment of waterbodies and ensure that every inch of such encroachment gets removed at the earliest by following the due process of law. The PIL had sought for removal of encroachments from a two-acre swamp at Arehalla in Ithalar, a village in Nilgiri hills.

While these are welcome, we hope these orders get implemented and provisions be made by the HC to ensure accountability of the DMs to ensure that all information is put out on the district water bodies website in form and manner that people understand as also in english and should be archived so that the information can be used in future. The information from the past should also be put up on such websites and a transparent, participatory monitoring of the water bodies be instituted for each district.

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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 25 Jan. 2021: UN warns about aging Dams & Floods in changing climate

A new UN report released on January 21, 2021 UN has warned the major big dam owning counties about the aging population of fast silting up dams in changing climate and urgent need to start working on decommissioning of uneconomical large dams. Among the few countries that UN has warned includes India with its third largest number of big dams. The added problem in India is the ill maintained and ill operated large dams that UN report did not look into. Indian dams are sanctioned based on highly under estimated siltation rates, there is practically no transparency and accountability in operation of Indian dams and dam almost every year get away with creating avoidable flood disasters. This latest problem is not just related to old dams, but even the newest celebrated ones like the Sardar Sarovar Dam as happened in Gujarat in late August-early Sept 2020. No legal regime exists in India for dam safety, either structural safety or operational safety. And in changing climate, with increasing frequency of higher intensity rainfall events, such risks are already increasing multi-fold.

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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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