Sand and gravels forming riverbed materials hold immense ecological value for living and healthy rivers systems. The inbuilt water filtration capacity and absorbing characteristic of the minor minerals plays critical functions in groundwater recharge and in ensuring lean season flow in the rivers. However for over two decades the brazen illegal and mechanized mining activities across the country have been irreversibly affecting the rivers and riverbank communities. The state of Punjab is among leading states where state government has failed[I] to ensure sustainable sand mining practices. The 2019 overview the state shows strong clout of political parties over the illegal sand mining operations without sharing a thought for the rivers and public.
The residents of villages abutting the sanctuary see sand mining as an important livelihood option because agriculture in the arid region is neither productive nor dependable. (HT Photo )
Madhya Pradesh is at the forefront of illegal sand mining activities. There have been violent attacks on government officials, reporters and villagers in recent years. The year 2019 saw change in state government and concerned people were hopeful that things will turn better now. However this overview shows not much have changed for rivers and people while attacks and fatalities continued in 2019.
With the beginning of New Year, there have been several media reports highlighting the river revival works and floodplain protection efforts going on in different parts of country. While the community driven efforts with active support from administration and experts to revive Kasal Odha in Solapur and bring back Old Lakhandei river in Sithamarhi have been bearing fruits. The civil societies, judiciary and administration have also taken steps to protect the floodplains of Ramnadi, Indrayani, Hindon rivers.
The artificial pond efforts by NGT panel and Delhi government have also shown positive results in preventing the pollution from idol immersion pollution reaching the Yamuna river. Similarly the CPCB has raised the issue of Mahi river pollution by industries in Central Gujarat. The Karnataka High Court questioning the authority and fund collection mechanism by Isha Foundation for Cauvery Calling initiative is particularly significant. While revival of rivers is imperative task, the accountability and transparency cannot be set aside.
In shocking instance, the Govt of India has provided just 17 days for commenting (Submission of Comments of NPSSFW _Inland_ on the Draft NFDB Bill 2019_ with rejoinder) on Draft National Policy for Inland Fisheries (Draft_NFDB_Bill_2019). As can be seen from the comments by National Platform for Small Scale Fish Workers (Inland) on the draft policy, the draft policy has major lacunae. The most glaring one is the complete lack of any role for the Inland fisher people in the decision making about rivers and other water bodies in India. Every dam and hydropower project has adverse impact on the fishes and fisher people, but the impact assessment reports rarely if ever even mention such impacts, leave aside question of any rehabilitation for them or even compensating them for the losses.
This is in complete contrast to the situation in US and a number of other countries where fish and fisher people have a much bigger role. Even as millions of people depend on Inland fisheries in India, we do not have even reliable census of the people who depend on Inland fisheries. One had hoped that in new year, the situation would improve, but going by the Draft Policy, there is not too much hope on that front. The least the govt can do is to immediately accept the suggestions of the National Platform and circulate the draft in all major languages and provide three months for comment period and institute a confidence inspiring process of including such comments.
All through the year 2019 illegal sand mining was rampant in Goa rivers despite judicial interventions. The Mandovi, Tiracal and Chapora rivers were particularly seen bearing adverse impact of unsustainable excavation. Amid worsening scenario the riverbank communities and civil societies have been making remarkable efforts to protect the rivers in the state. The work of Rainbow Warriors NGO and civil society groups who have formed the Goa River Sand Protectors network to monitor the illegal sand mining activities have truly raised hopes and shown way forward to all concerned fighting old battle against growing riverbed mining menace.
(Feature Image:In Sindhudurg, the pollution is already shrinking mangrove cover, taking away a source of shelter and food, shrinking hunting grounds and forcing marine species further outside their territories in search of fish, Sindhudurg coastline had the potential to become an International tourism destination. Pratik Chorge/HT PHOTO)
The beaches, creeks, rivers, mangroves in the state of Maharashtra all are bearing the brunt of unsustainable mining, amid several attempts by government, judiciary and civil societies to keep a tab on illegal sand mining activities. As the detailed compilation by SANDRP highlights that mining menace warrants immediate actions from government before the threats turns into a disaster.
Most of the Indian states have been facing multiple environmental issues on account of unsustainable riverbed mining activities. Mechanized excavation, nexus between politicians-administration-mafia, violent attacks on people have become common features of the illegal sand trade across the country. The rampant mining of natural resource is also severely impacting rivers, wildlife and groundwater table. And the state of Gujarat is no exception to all this as shows the year end overview.
A new study has shown how powerful the monsoons and their abnormalities are: It’s these abnormalities that ended reigns of multiple dynasties in medieval India, not wars. But the society does not seem to understand this basic reality today, and we are not only doing everything in our power to make the monsoon abnormal through human induced climate and natural world changes, but not even valuing the rainwater in our water policies, programs and practices. The changes we are bringing in natural world is making even the smaller monsoon abnormalities bring catastrophic impacts as the capacities of the people and societies to cope with the changes is decreasing. These studies are another wake up call, if only we were interested one.
The Prime Minister finally found time to have the first ever meeting on National Ganga Council, over three years after the Ganga Notification of Oct 7, 2016. The meeting happened at Kanpur, where the NGT recently fined the state government for continuing to release untreated effluents into the Ganga. In fact NGT in recent weeks have taken several decisions that also shows how abysmally the govt has failed on Ganga front. And now after the first NGC meeting, the Prime Minister, in an effort to divert attention from Namami Gange failure, is proposing the new slogan of Arth Ganga, which basically seems to suggest focus on Money, which is Exactly what is not going to help the cause of Ganga. The Ganga is still on the lookout for the Ganga putra that promised a clean Ganga in May 2014.
The Hindustan Times editorial on Nov 27, 2019 has rightly said the following about “a recently-released Rejuvenating-Ganga River – A Citizen-Report, by the India Rivers Week, a consortium of seven NGOs”.
“A key reason for the failure of the river cleaning projects (Ganga and Yamuna action plans), says a recently-released citizen’s report, Rejuvenating Ganga,by the India Rivers Week, a consortium of seven NGOs, was their single-point focus on the main stem of the river, while the Ganga basin actually has eight major rivers (Yamuna, Son, Ramganga, Gomti, Ghaghra, Gandak, Kosi and Damodar). The majority of the funds were spent on pollution-abatement measures on the main stem of the Ganga and on the upper Yamuna basin, which constitute just 20% of the Ganga basin.”