(Feature Image: Workers remove the dead fish at the regulatory end of Sukhna Lake in Chandigarh on July 23, 2022. Express photo)
On the occasion of World Fisheries Day (WFD) 2022, we here highlight the mass fish death incidents India in inland water bodies including lakes and ponds over the last one year. The first part of this series on WFD 2022 covered the positive stories of rivers’ fish and fishermen; the second part tracked critical issues affecting rivers’ fish and fishermen. The fourth part would focus on worsening plight but ongoing struggle of coastal and inland fisherfolks. The fifth and last part on the series would highlight issues concerning aquatic bio-diversity in the country.
Recently, when the government of India certified that cities like Indore, Surat, Hyderabad, Vizag, etc are Water Plus, it raised a number of questions including the credibility of the claim, lack of credit worthy independent assessment, how sustainable are the claims, etc. The author of the following article rightly raises the question if the cities are at all Water Plus. They are clearly not. While recycling and reuse of 30% of treated sewage and full treatment of waste water is welcome in view of the current pathetic status of city water management in cities, this achievement, if it is real as assessed by credit worthy independent assessment & judged against a set of well-defined criteria of sustainability among others, is worth appreciating, but it certainly does not deserve Water Plus City label. To achieve that label, a lot more and a lot different kind of achievements will be required.
Jammu and Kashmir has many wetlands of national importance and international recognition. These water bodies are critical source of livelihood and job opportunities for a large number of population in form of fishing, farming, tourism etc. Moreover, most of the wetlands in the region fall under Central Asian Flyway Zone (CAF) and visited by lakhs of migratory and endangered birds during their annual migration march. These wetlands areas also provide safe refuge to native vegetation and wild animals. Their protection is crucial to combat the dual impact of climate change, water scarcity and flooding.
In its latest report, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has questioned implementation of sixteen National Irrigation Projects. Before this, the CAG has held mismanagement in dams’ operation responsible for Chennai floods in 2015. Both these reports are available on its website now.
The CAG report on National Irrigation Projects, tabled in Parliament on July 20, has revealed that sixteen major multi-purpose water projects, taken up on an expeditious basis about a decade ago, are nowhere near completion, with no work being undertaken in as many as 11 projects despite the incumbent govt’s much-wanted focus on improving irrigation facilities in the country.
The report also mentioned that out of the 16 projects, undertaken under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP) in Feb 2008, only five projects with estimated irrigation potential of 25.10 lakh hectares were under implementation and even these projects suffer from 8 to 99 per cent shortfall in physical progress, the CAG said. The remaining 11 projects with estimated irrigation potential of 10.48 lakh hectares are yet to commence and are at different stages of approval.
In a recent article Ashwin B Pandya, Former, Chairman Central Water Commission (CWC) refuses to acknowledge either the adverse impacts of dams or the better option of using groundwater aquifer for storing water. And thus making unscientific arguments against dam decommissioning and for dams. No one is talking of removal ALL dams as the author seems to postulate and then dismiss it as impossible and irresponsible.
This Sunday (October 08) has been a sad day for Narmada River and thousands of fisherfolk families who will further suffer due to the Rs 4350 Cr Bhadbhut dam of which PM Modi has laid the foundation Stone. The PM seems to love dams so much!
However, the project is facing opposition because it would adversely affect over 12000 fisherfolk families and their livelihoods. Neither they have been consulted, nor there have been any impact assessment, nor any question of compensation or rehabilitation.
The new dam is claimed to mitigate the impacts of upstream dams! It will actually store polluted water from urban and industrial areas and further destroy the estuarine ecosystems.
Raising these concerns, over 100 fishermen took out a boat protest with black flags against the PM laying foundation stone of the dam. They all were arrested and released only after PM left. Similarly, 250 women who were silently marching were arrested. They were denied permission to hold protest walk. Indeed, fishermen have amazing courage. But the national media unfortunately seems happy to ignore this.
SARDAR SAROVAR DAMMedha Patkar asks a lot of uncomfortable questions In an Indian Express Op-Ed she writes that in fact, there are several clues that can help us decide exactly what was dedicated to the nation — the project or the dam wall. For a project to be dedicated to the nation, shouldn’t it be completed in the first place? When the project in question pertains to a dam, is it enough to raise a wall to its envisaged height or should canals be constructed as well? Only 33 per cent of the canals in Gujarat have been constructed. Can the one dedicating the project and the one receiving the project — the nation — be satisfied if the enormous impacts of the 138.68 metre-high wall on communities upstream and the downstream, about 10 lakh people, and the ecosystem are not taken into account? The nation may not be aware of what has been gifted to it, but will soon realise the betrayal. http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/drowned-by-the-dam-sardar-sarovar-narmada-narendra-modi-4878153/
Meanwhile, it looks like Andhra CM is trying to hoodwink the central leaders by showcasing Pattiseema project as the major part of the Polavaram project works to seek more funds. Even during the visit of Parliamentary Committee, too, he had played the same trick and the team members were all praise for him for completing the Pattiseema project, ignoring the actual Polavaram project. This is interesting to see that this club of Naidu and Gadkari, one trying to hoodwink and the other acting to be hoodwinked will be able to hoodwink everyone else how long. http://www.greatandhra.com/politics/gossip/naidu-hoodwinks-gadkari-with-pattiseema-84723.html
Amidst reports of reconciliation between UP and MP, concerned and to be affected in Panna have started protesting. It may become an election issue in Panna during the assembly polls in the state. Opposing the project for “undermining the interests of the backward district of Bundelkhand”, the ‘rajmata’ of Panna has decided to take up cudgels against it. Indeed people of Panna needs to rise up united and unequivocally against the project in collaboration with other Ken Basin district and also downstream Banda in UP. There is still hope to stop this nonsense.https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/rajmata-of-panna-against-ken-betwa-linking-project/articleshow/60931188.cms
In one more significant related development National Tiger Conservation Authority reports of death of 17 tigers in MP state during past one year. Indeed, with Panna Tiger Reserve slated to lose huge chunk of over 200 sq km to the Ken Betwa link, I have been told that the management of PTR is totally incompetent. NTCA itself is to be blamed for meekly allowing such decisions. Destruction of Panna will give a signal that there is no hope for tigers in India.http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/national/mp-loses-17-tigers-in-2017-ntca/article9890231.ece
Foundation for NW-4 laid In the presence of Nitin Gadkari and Andhra CM the Vice President Venkaiah Naidu has laid foundation stone for the development of Muktyala to Vijayawada stretch of Krishna River (National Waterways – 4) in Vijayawada. National Waterway No.4 was declared in November, 2008 for a total length of 1078 km. This length was extended to 2890 km by NW Act-2016. The following stretches are included in this :
a) River Godavari (Bhadrachalam to Rajahmundry) = 171 km
b) River Krishna (Wazirabad to Vijayawada) = 157 km
c) Kakinada Canal (Kakinada to Rajahmundry) = 50 km
d) Eluru Canal (Rajahmundry to Vijayawada) = 139 Km
e) Commamur Canal (Vijayawada to Pedaganjam) = 113 km
f) North Buckingham Canal (Pedaganjam to Chennai) = 316 km
g) South Buckingham Canal (Chennai to Merkanam) = 110 km
h) Kaluvelly Tank (Markanam to Puducherry) = 22 km
River Krishna from Wazirabad to Galagali (628 Km)
River Godavari from Bhadrachalam to Nasik (1184Km)
A proposal for Phase-II has been recommended by IWAI board for PIB/Cabinet. Also, a proposal for formation of Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for implementation of the project is under consideration for the approval of Cabinet. The SPV is expected to be formed by November 2017. http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=171321
Study Negative rainfall in 8 out of 14 normal monsoons in 18 years Data from the IMD revealed majority of monsoons over the past 18 years had been below average like 2017, which ended on a below average note at -5% departure. From 2000, the country has seen as many as 12 monsoons with less rain than the long period average, more so from 2014 to 2017— a period marked by consecutive monsoons ending on a negative note.
– “There have been 268 reported flooding events in India over 1950-2015 affecting about 825 million people, leaving 17 million homeless and killing 69,000 people (according to the International Disaster Data Base),” the study said. According to lead author Roxy Mathew Koll, a scientist with the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, a premium research body under the Ministry of Earth Science (MoES), extreme rainfall is defined as more than 15 cm of rain in a day and “spread over a large region, enough to cause floods”. “These widespread extremes were two per year in central India during 1950s. Now, it’s six per year,” Koll told PTI.
– “As the atmosphere and the oceans are getting warmer due to increasing carbon dioxide, a result of human activities, atmosphere holds more moisture. This results in two factors. The first is that warm moist air is lighter than cold dry air and hence makes the atmosphere unstable as it rises up,” Koll explained.
– The second factor, Koll added, is that since the atmosphere holds more moisture, it dumps it all together – a heavy rainfall event. But why is central India the focal point of erratic and extreme rain events? “The low pressure areas (circulation) that brings rains move around this region. Cloud formation also forms around this area,” Rajeevan told PTI.
– The fact that this intensification is against the background of a declining monsoon rainfall, which has been observed in previous studies, makes it catastrophic, as it puts several millions of lives, property and agriculture at risk, experts say. According to the paper, floods alone lead to losses amounting to $3 billion in India, 10 per cent of global economic losses.
Report India fails to manage flood As per the report 14 percent of India’s landmass is vulnerable to flooding and more than 15 percent of this area gets flooded every year. Since 1953, almost 1,600 lives have been lost every year on an average due to floods.Yet, the central govt has not released 61 percent of the funds promised for flood management between April 2007 and March 2016, and 43 percent of the 517 projects approved have not been completed, a recent report by the CAG revealed. Indeed, India’s flood management has failed due to the failure of institutions like CWC, CAG and media needs to focus on that. https://www.thequint.com/news/india/flood-related-deaths-in-india
Urban FloodHighest Oct day rainfall in Hyderabad since 1903 The rainfall in Hyderabad on Oct 2, 2017 seems to have broken the highest one day rainfall of Oct since 1903. The 13.2 cm of rain at Mir Alam was the highest Hyderabad is believed to have witnessed in October ever. According to data with the India Meteorological Department, Hyderabad received 11.7 cm of rain on October 6, 1903, recorded at Begumpet. That number paled in comparison with the rainfall recorded near Mir Alam on Monday. In fact, two other areas, Rajendra Nagar and Amberpet, recorded more than the all-time record in about four hours.” http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/record-set-for-rainfall/article19787029.ece
Indeed, haphazard construction blocking the natural course of water, slow drainage due to choked storm water drains, and insufficiency of the existing drains were apparently the reasons behind the heavy inundation at the Biodiverstiy Junction, Gachibowli.
Jammu & KashmirIncreased siltation raises flood threat Kashmir’s deforested hills have been the prime cause of the heavy siltation of its water bodies. This is now being aggravated by changes in land use due to water scarcity in the catchments of the Jhelum – caused partially by climate change – adding to the siltation load in the river that feeds the Wular Lake, Kashmir’s largest flood basin.
Interesting: “silt load of nearly one million cubic meters stands removed at a cost of INR 600 million… An estimated 20 million cubic meters of slit load, Wani said, is yet to be dredged out of the lake. He added that WUCMA will soon start work to de-silt the remaining amount with the help of a INR 4 billion (USD 60 million) project… In Jhelum River, a project for de-silting an estimated 1.6 million cubic meters of sediment is going on. Close to one million cubic meters of silt has been dredged out so far.”
Where is the silt going? How far it is taken and how it is disposed off?
MeghalayaFlash floods destroy fisheries Due to incessant rains in the Meghalaya hills for the past few days, a devastating flash flood occurred in the entire Kalapani area under Mankachar revenue circle of South Salmara-Mankachar district and caused huge damages to agricultural fields and fisheries. The rush of flood water, while it came down from the hills, was so fast that within a few minutes three wooden bridges on Kalo river located at Boisabari, Tokpara and Lakhishari were washed away causing total disruption of road communication in greater Kalapani areas. http://www.assamtribune.com/scripts/detailsnew.asp?id=oct0317/state050
– Farmers participated in the river water parliament, constituted to find amicable solutions to water disputes, which met for the first time in Trichy on Oct 6.
– Rainwater should be harvested and river water should be utilised judiciously only when there is no other option
– the river water parliament was proposed for five rivers including Cauvery, Vaigai, Palaru, Thamirabarani, and Thenpennai by Retrieval of Tamil Nadu Rivers and Water Resources in July 2017. It attempts to emulate the success of efficient water management mechanism of Arvari river parliament in Alwar district of Rajasthan.
– Leading farmers in the state like Mahadhanapuram V Rajaram, C Nallasamy, and Puliyur A Nagarajan were appointed president, general secretary and secretary respectively of Cauvery river parliament on Friday. Further, the farmers have planned to sensitise those in their respective blocks and villages about the functions of water parliament. The second meeting of the river parliament to be attended by farmers from all southern states has been scheduled at Chennai on December 10
As per another report Civic Agencies and Civil Societies in Pune to great extent have achieved success in making citizens aware of pollution by idol immersion and positive results have started appearing.
Jammu & KashmirJhelum faces water pollution in Baramulla townAs per report, the absence of a solid waste plant in Baramulla town is directly impacting the health of the Jhelum here with tons of garbage and waste including human excreta daily finding its way into it. Notably, the drinking water for the town comprising over 80,000 souls is being supplied from the Jhelum. According to locals, the local administration had been in the process of identifying land for solid waste plant for last more than a decade. Surprisingly, the garbage dumping site at Jetty is in violation of the rules as the pollution control department Baramulla has served several notices to the municipal council authorities directing them to stop the use of land for dumping of garbage as the area “is close to the banks of river Jhelum”. http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/kashmir/jhelum-faces-water-pollution-in-baramulla-town/262193.html
Tamil NaduAdyar desilting to stop airport floodAhead of the northeast monsoon, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has started work to prevent a repeat of the 2015 floods which inundated the runway , taxiways and aircraft parking stands at the city airport. A series of checks are being conducted as the airport is located in an area through which rainwater from southern and eastern neighbour hoods flows into the Adyar river via drains crisscrossing the airport. It was these drains along with the river that caused the flooding. The AAI would also be clearing garbage and plastic that had choked the river 500 metres upstream and downstream from the runway bridge. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/adyar-desilting-to-stop-airport-flood/articleshow/60999272.cms
LG Anil Baijal reviewed DDA’s Yamuna rejuvenation and restoration plan on Oct 07 and directed it to finish the first phase by April 2018. DDA has identified 4,885 acres (four land parcels) of land on the Yamuna riverbed which will be taken up for redevelopment. In the first phase, 500 acres of area on western bank of the river — from old railway bridge to ITO barrage — will be taken up. What that DDA is so far doing is beautification of Yamuna banks which has nothing to do with restoration. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/finish-ph-i-revival-of-yamuna-by-april-lg/articleshow/60988706.cms
National80000 water bodies in country unusable for irrigation Shocking, but could be worse? “Pollution, encroachments and urbanization are eating into waterbodies meant for irrigation, even as rain-dependent farmers continue to commit suicide. According to information accessed from the ministry of water resources, 80,128 (15.29%) of the 5.23 lakh waterbodies dedicated for minor irrigation in rural areas have become unusable due to these factors.”
– Among the worst-affected states are Andhra Pradesh-Telangana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, whose farmers’ woes have made national headlines. The three states account for 61% of the 80,128 waterbodies, followed by Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. Of the 72,000 waterbodies dedicated for minor irrigation in Andhra Pradesh-Telangana, 22,877 are unusable.The numbers stand at 29,481 and 14,918 for Karnataka, and 37,174 and 11,039 for Tamil Nadu.
– Karnataka fares the worst among the three states, with 50.6% of its waterbodies having become unusable compared to 31.6% in Andhra Pradesh-Telangana and 29.6% in Tamil Nadu.
– “It is a major crime.” said former environment secretary, Karnataka, A N Yellappa Reddy.
ReportDifference between 2010 & 2017 Wetland rules The report pins down some significant difference between Wetland conservation & Management Rules 2010 & 2017. The 2010 Rules specifically included in the definition of wetlands “all inland waters such as lakes, reservoir, tanks, backwaters, lagoon, creeks, estuaries and man-made wetland and the zone of direct influence on wetlands”. These have not been spelt out in the 2017 Rules. Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority (CWRA) under the 2010 Rules has been replaced by the National Wetland Committee, which has a merely advisory role.
The differences between the old and new Rules are also apparent in their applicability. The 2010 Rules listed six points describing protected wetlands; the new Rules have done away with them, and instead state that wetlands are limited to and do not include wetlands under forest and coastal regulation zones. Under ‘Restrictions of activities in wetlands’, the new Rules say conservation and management would be “in accordance with the principle of ‘wise use’ as determined by the Wetlands Authority”. Environmentalists had criticised this principle when the draft Rules were circulated for comments and suggestions. http://indianexpress.com/article/explained/central-control-out-subjective-aspects-in-why-new-wetlands-rules-are-different-4876406/
India Water PortalStory of degradation of another wetland Ousteri lake is the largest water body in the Puducherry region. Every year, the lake provides irrigation and tourism benefits worth Rs 11.5 million and Rs 5.72 million respectively and plays a crucial role in recharging groundwater aquifers. The lake is also a resting ground for many migratory birds and provides livelihood to thousands of people. It has been recognised as one of the important wetlands of Asia by IUCN. It is the largest freshwater lake in the Puducherry region. The lake, which is 390 hectares in area, supports a variety of fauna and flora. But, in the last one decade, 2800 acres of land around the lake has been converted into commercial non-agricultural purposes. The lake has suffered pressure from land-use changes in the catchment area, encroachment, siltation, pollution from the industry and agriculture.” http://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/ousteri-lake-needs-help
HaryanaGroundwater levels sinking in Gurugram Gurgaon ground water level fell 16 metres in 10 years due to Illegal extraction and private water tanker mafia thrives. With an estimate that its current population is 20 lakh, the city requires around 150 MGD (million gallons per day) water but Huda supplies only 75-80 MGD. The rest is met by groundwater extraction through illegal borewells which are more than 20000. The sad part is that the enforcement authorities have sealed not more a dozen such borewells in the past one-and-a-half years, despite a NGT ban on such illegal extraction in Delhi-NCR. Even though a 2012 Punjab and Haryana high court order prohibited extraction of groundwater through borewells, the practice is rampant in the city. There are around 40 water tanker services in the city. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/gurgaon/groundwater-levels-sinking-but-city-does-nothing-to-stop-extraction/articleshow/60931034.cms
India gets Lowest Wind Tariff of Rs. 2.64 per kWh The wind tariff in India touched lowest level of Rs.2.64 per kWh in the second wind auction conducted by the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) on behalf of Ministry of New & Renewable Energy, Government of India yesterday. The tariff discovered is much lower than first wind auction concluded at Rs. 3.46 per kWh in February this year. With improving technology and reducing tariffs Ministry is not only confident of achieving the target of 175 GW by 2022 but exceeding it. http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=171394
WESTERN GHATSDestruction of India’s green gold Origin of some 58 years, habitat of 50 million people, about 4000 species of flowering plants, 645 species of evergreen trees, about 120 species of mammals, 500 species of birds and many reptiles, butterflies and fishes.
– The results of their findings by a team of IISc and IIT (Mumbai) were astounding. Just one square km of forest in Uttara Kannada provides close to Rs 7.38 million worth of timber, about Rs 1.1 million worth of fuelwood and Rs 3.2 million worth of medicinal plants and fruits. Add to that, the recreational benefits from Dandeli and Anshi protected areas which are part of a tiger reserve are worth about Rs 11.37 billion. If all these benefits come from just ONE SQ KM of forest, then one can imagine the value of over 1,29,000 sq km of the Western Ghats!
Similarly, farmers and fishermen who sued an arm of the World Bank – for funding an Indian power plant they say hurts their livelihoods – have vowed to appeal a U.S. court ruling that the institution has “absolute immunity”. The Indian communities, represented by advocacy Earth Rights International (ERI), had sued the International Finance Corporation over its $450-million loan for a coal-fired plant operated by a Tata Power unit near Mundra, in Gujarat state. http://www.eco-business.com/news/indian-fishermen-vow-to-keep-fighting-devastating-world-bank-project/
As the President of India is in Patna today (April 17, 2017) to remember the centenary of Gandhiji’s Champaran Satyagraha, we need to remember that the Central message of Gandhi’s Satyagraha was to fight injustice, atrocities and abuse, irrespective of the source of the atrocities.
During the international workshop on INCESSANT GANGA in Patna on Feb 25-26, 2017, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar mentioned that this is the centenary year of Gandhiji’s famous Champaran Satyagraha in Bihar. He also mentioned how Bihar has suffered the increasing intensity, duration and destructive floods due to Farakka Dam.
In the picture-Drying Wular lake in J&K; Mass dish death due to pollution in Ulsoor Lake, Karnataka; Filling up of Wetlands in Maharashtra and Waste dumping on Deepor Beel in Assam
Wetlands are vital for human survival. They are among the world’s most productive eco systems. Wetlands are crucial for the survival of variety of plants and animals. They are indispensable for the countless services ranging from freshwater supply, food, sustainable livelihood options and groundwater recharge. They also host a huge variety of life, protect our coastlines, provide natural sponges against river flooding and store carbon to regulate climate change.
Here is an account on status of India’s wetland in 2016 underlining their ecological importance and urgent need of conservation of Wetlands across the country.
Patoda: How a village in drought hit State turned water self-reliantAt a time when almost every village in drought-hit Marathwada is facing acute water scarcity tiny Patoda, on the fringes of water-starved Aurangabad city, is offering valuable lesson in water management conservation and harvesting. Though it is surrounded by arid villages but Patoda’s residents regard water as more precious than money. They follow strict rules about usage and strictly carry the water audits. Water meters are installed in every households and entire village recycles each drop of waste water it generates. Today no rain water flows out of the village. Percolation has recharged the aquifers and the water table has risen. So effective is its water conservation model that Patoda has now become a model for the rest of Marathwada and has won 22 state & national awards. But it did not happened over nights. In fact it is a result of over 10 years joint efforts done by villagers.
Municipal water supply systems in India are struggling to meet the demands of the burgeoning population in cities. Rapid urbanisation is increasing the freshwater demand for different purposes. Ground water being used to meet water shortages has fallen to dangerously low levels. The solution to the urban water crisis lies in harvesting rainwater and reviving local water bodies and wetlands which can store the water and help replenish ground water. It is also imperative that water is used judiciously and leakages in the distribution system are plugged.
Scarcity in water supply: Municipal agencies are struggling to supply water as water levels in reservoirs are plummeting because of the deficit rainfall in 2015. For instance, as of Jan 2016, the Navi MumbaiMunicipal Corporation (NMMC) has suspended accepting applications for new supply connections until the onset of monsoon. To tide over the water shortage, the NMMC has disconnected many illegal connections, many in slum areas. It is also taking measures to prevent theft and plug leakages to bring down distribution losses which are currently 19% of the water supplied.