DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 1 Aug 2022: Dams reduce sediment load in rivers leading to higher coastal erosion

(Feature image: Delta Land Loss Mechanisms. Source Wikimedia Commons)

A new study this week has reminded us what has been known for long. Dams not only store water but also trap the sediment flowing in the river. Whatever smaller quantity of water flow from dams to downstream areas, has much lower or no silt. A lot of that silt was supposed to reach the coast, helping fight against the erosion of the coast due to sea tides and waves. With drastically lower sediment reaching the coasts, higher coastal erosion is the result. While climate change is definitely contributing to the increased coast erosion due to more frequent and higher intensity storms from the sea, the role of dams tend to work as force multiplier in increasing the coastal erosion due to less sediment reaching the coasts from river.

While a new study by a Pune University has highlighted this phenomena in case of Godavari river, peninsular India’s biggest river, this is also happening at most other rivers and where they meet the coasts. As in case of Farakka, closer the terminal dam is to the coast, greater is its effectiveness to trap the river sediment and higher is its contribution likely to be to the increase in coastal erosion.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 13 June 2022: Down in Dumps, MoEF becomes more opaque

(Feature image: Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav with PM Narendra Modi before taking oath on July 7, 2021 PTI/HT.)

While the news that India has achieved the worst ever ranking of 180, at the bottom of 180 country index in terms of Environment Performance Index was shocking, it should not surprise too many people considering the way environment is treated by the current central government, particularly the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). As expected, MoEF questioned the methodology of the assessment, and the criticism has been responded to and rejected by the authors of the EPI report.

Now with a dictate of the MoEF (dated Apr 8, 2022, preceding the EPI news) coming to light, the trajectory of the MoEF should leave no one in doubt. Through this dictate, the MoEF has asked the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), a supposedly autonomous institute of the Ministry, to seek the ministry’s approval before it publishes any document, that too with retrospective effect! WII in any case, was towing the ministry’s line in many of the cases as is evident from its performance in regulatory committees like the Forest Advisory Committee, National Board of Wild Life and Expert Appraisal Committee (on River Valley Projects, possibly among others). And yet the Ministry has come out with this dictate, without giving any reasons, possibly since some of WII reports have been problematic for the govt in judicial proceedings in some cases. But the MoEF move to stop WII from publishing (and hence doing) any credible studies only shows the paranoia of the ministry. Its performance index would not improve this way, it would only get worse.

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DRP NB 6 Dec 2021: NGT demands accountability for Ganga Cleaning

The NGT demanding that there is need for greater transparency in the Ganga Cleaning efforts by NMCG and others, leading to accountability for the expected results is no doubt welcome if it were to become a reality. It has been required for long, since the Ganga Cleaning Efforts started in 1980s when Ganga Action Plan started, and it is even more required with the promises coming from the Prime Minister, no less today. Unfortunately, there is no real improvement in the state of the river, as the NGT has said. One only hopes that this latest initiative will lead to some real change, even through the track record of judiciary (including NGT) in this regard is far from inspiring.  

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 1 Nov 2021: Why is Ganga not ENTHU about Ganga Utsav?

The Government of India, through the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) under the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti has announced the celebration of Ganga Utsav this year from Nov 1-3, 2021. The Ganga Utsav is supposed to mark the anniversary of announcement of River Ganga as the ‘National River’ i.e. 4th November, 2008. It is supposed to be celebrated not only in Ganga basin, but across the country as River Festival. There is little enthusiasm or even knowledge about this across the country or even in Ganga basin, though.

Ganga River itself continues to face the onslaughts all across the basin in the name of development, some noteworthy aspect of these include: pushing unviable hydropower project in the upstream; pushing disastrous projects like the Lakhwar Dam project and the Ken Betwa River Link project in the Ganga basin; construction of Char Dham and other highways without any assessment of impacts of the project on the river; construction of huge infrastructure along the river in the name of Ganga waterway, further impacting the river and its biodiversity, again without any impact assessment or participatory decision making; continuously increasing water extraction, diversion, use, pollution and dumping of solid wastes along the river; increasing and indiscriminate sand and boulder mining and quarrying from the river bed and floodplain, without any credible impact assessment; increasing encroachments into the river bed in the name of solid waste dumping, river front development, channelisation etc, in absence of any policy, rules or regulation about the space belonging to the river, to name a few. No wonder, the rivers in the Ganga basin has shown no enthusiasm for the Ganga Utsav!

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 25 Oct 2021: J&K HC concerned about Sindh River

(Feature image: Sindh river seen from Duderhama bridge. Source Wikipedia.)

In a noteworthy development this week, on Oct 21, 2021, the Jammu & Kashmir High Court bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Jutice Sanjay Dhar has sought reports about the Sindh River from Secretaty Revenue and Seccretary Irrigation & flood control by Nov 15, and both officers have been directed to be present in the court. The HC has been following up on this issue through earlier orders on Sept 18, Aug 12. The High Court has been asking for demarcation of Sindh River in Ganderbal district of J&K and removal of encroachments.

The River originates in the Machoi Glacier at an elevation of 4800m east of the Amarnath temple and south of the Zoji La and passes through the alpine hill station Sonmarg. The river is facing the worst kind of pollution through constructions- hotels, tourist hut, resorts etc – being undertaken at various places on the river beds and floodplains. The River is the natural habitat of trout, and other fish, the most famous among them are: brown trout, rainbow trout, snow trout, Shuddgurn and Anyour. The River also suffers from mechanised mining and pollution.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 27 Sep 2021: TN HC: Protest against environment violations fundamental duty

(Feature image: Protesters hold placards during a demonstration against the killings of 13 protesters in Tuticorin. Photograph: Arun Sankar/AFP/Getty, Source The Guardian report. )

In a remarkable refreshing order, the Madurai bench of Tamil Nadu High Court has held that protest against environmental violations like that of Sterlite factory is a fundamental duty of citizens. The Madurai bench has reasoned that the duties of the state in protecting the environment are basically the rights of the people. The bench relied on Article 51-A (g) of Part IV-A (Fundamental Duties), which deals with the duty to protect and improve the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures. A liberal interpretation of Article 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) of the constitution enabled the bench to hold that right to environment, free of danger of disease and infection is inherent in it.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 23 Aug 2021: World Water Week: 30 years long enough for stock taking?

This week (23-28 Aug 2021) it is Stockholm World Water Week (SWWW) with a 30 year history. The organisers say: “World Water Week 2021 is unlike any other week in our 30-year-old history.” But provide no clear reasons why they are saying that. Their possible explanation: “In 2021 people across the world are really beginning to understand the gravity of the situation we are facing – within a decade we must halve carbon emissions, restore the degraded natural world, and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. This will require massive transformations of all sectors of society. World Water Week 2021 is entirely focused on the role of water for these transformations and on developing real solutions.” https://www.worldwaterweek.org/news/join-the-most-important-world-water-week-ever 

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DRP NB 26 July 2021: “Unprecedented rainfall” used to escape responsibility?

(Feature image source: India TV https://www.indiatvnews.com/news/india/monsoon-mayhem-maharashtra-floods-landslides-death-toll-latest-news-721924)

As Maharashtra faced the worst flood disaster of SW Monsoon 2021 in India, we see the phrases like “unprecedented rainfall”, “record breaking rainfall”, “frequent landslides” etc. with increasing frequency along with phrases like climate change floating around. While these are not entirely incorrect claims, these should not be used to escape the responsibility and accountability for failing to either accurately forecast the rainfall or to manage the proportions of disasters, including operation of dams, encroachments into water bodies and water path, not accurately marking locations vulnerable to landslides in landslide prone areas or taking up inappropriate “development” projects in vulnerable areas. All of these factors can be seen at play in disasters this monsoon in Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh among others.

Using such phrases, there is an attempt to escape the accountability or responsibility. This is a culture increasing being propagated by Central Water Commission as they did in Kerala in 2018 and Krishna basin floods in Maharashtra in 2019 as in numerous other occasions. It is known now to everyone that climate change is going to lead to more instances of heavy rainfall that can frequently fall in unprecedented category, but that only means we need to take measures to reduce the damage in such instances, predict them accurately and manage them effectively. That is what the Action Plans for Climate Change and Disaster Management apparatus needs to work on, but we have clearly failed there so far.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 24 May 2021: Campaign to protect Pune Rivers

An active campaign has been going on for several months now to save the Pune Rivers from the so called “River Front Development” Project as can be seen the following stories of just last one month. The RFC supporters are also out to push multi crore project, as can be seen from the numerous stories being planted in the media on regular intervals. There is no doubt that the Pune Rivers will be destroyed and the city will face increasing flood disasters if the project goes ahead. One hopes the Civil Society campaign continues and judiciary steps in to stop this destruction at the earliest.

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DRP NB 11 Jan. 2021: Big question marks over viability of Ganga waterway

[Feature image: A cargo stuck in Ganga in Balia, image source Dainik Jagran, June 2018. https://www.jagran.com/uttar-pradesh/ballia-stuck-cargo-ship-in-the-ganges-for-a-month-18139816.html]

This latest episode described below once again raises big question marks over the viability, feasibility and desirability of pushing Ganga as the National waterways. Its economic viability has been questioned many times earlier and this episode only reinforces it. The ecological viability is dependent on refusal to conduct any environmental impact assessment in any credible, transparent or participatory way, while the massive adverse impacts on the river, its biodiversity including the National Aquatic animal Dolphin as also on the livelihood of millions of fisher people and boats people are all known, but being ignored by the Ministry of Inland waterways headed by and pushed by Mr Nitin Gadkari rather blindly. The only way to resolve the issue is if there is an independent, informed assessment, which can happen only if the judiciary were to step in. Will they?

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