Wetlands can be defined as lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic eco-systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water.
But they are threatened by reclamation and degradation due to activities like drainage and landfill, pollution, hydrological alteration (water withdrawal and changes in inflow and outflow), over-exploitation resulting in loss of biodiversity and disruption in ecosystem services provided by them.
Similarly, despite country’s space agency ISRO had in 2011 mapped over two lakhs of wetlands across the country, the centre has, so far, notified only 115 wetlands and 63 lakes in 24 states and 2 UTs for conservation and management.
RajasthanLessons from a reborn river The district of Alwar in Rajasthan is water-stressed, receiving less than 650 mm of rainfall in a year, most of which falls during the Southwest monsoon. But Alwar exists in a stable equilibrium, where even if there is a drought, the Johad’s and the forests make it possible for water to be stored underground. Because of strong communal interdependencies, all villagers stuck to sensible crops for the region, and maintaines the Johads. The community, the Forests, the Johads, the choice of crops, all worked together and reinforces one another. Equilibriums are maintained by such reinforcing activities that fortify status quo. FASCINATING account of how Arvari community rejuvenated their rivers and what are the lessons.
Union Water Ministry has launched an extensive water conservation program for drought prone areas of Bundelkhand, Marathwada, Kalahandi, Bolangir and Koraput in Odisha on April 28, 2017 at Bandri, Sagar Madhya Pradesh. As per report, the Water Ministry has prepared a master plan for artificial recharge of ground water in Bundelkhand region.
In UP region of Bundelkhand, around 1100 percolation tanks, 14000 small check dams/Nala bunds and 7200 Recharge pits/shafts have been identified. In MP region of Bundelkhand, around 2000 percolation tanks, 55000 small check dams/Nala bunds and 17000 Recharge shafts have been identified. She said as a part of ground water exploration, 234 wells in UP are proposed to be constructed in five districts of Bundelkhand i.e., Banda, Hamirpur, Jalaun, Chitrakoot and Mahoba. As a part of ground water exploration, 259 wells in MP are proposed to be constructed in six districts of Bundelkhand.
When on March 20-21, 2017, on the eve of World Water Day, India and Pakistan’s Permanent Indus Commission met in Islamabad for its 113rd meeting, there was a lot at stake besides the immediate issue or even the Indus Treaty.
GUEST BLOG by Muhammad Ali Shah, Dr. Aly Ercelan & Roshan Bhatti
Sindh Peoples Caravan March 1-14, 2017 Protect Our Rivers and Delta
Across the world the greed of capitalism has created water crises. Asia in general and South Asia in particular is no exception. This region is marred with complex and multidimensional aspects of water crises. Not only the brute availability of water has declined, but also the health of water bodies has been badly affected. A deep probe into the issue reveals that water crisis has been created by weak and deliberate mal-governance. Both wrong incentives and lack of penalties have led to major ecological disasters. These include deforestation, destruction of wetlands, dumping of industrial waste into waterways, construction of dams, overexploitation of the major river systems, corporate control on water resources and unplanned urbanization due to increasing population pressure.
All these issues pose serious threats to life and health of people and water systems of South Asian River Systems, including Indus river system. Our analysis reveals that anti-human and anti-environment policies have been applied and imposed in South Asia with the same rapacity as colonial powers did to impose control over citizens. Post-independence, growth policies have become excuses for privatization and in favor of corporate monopolies rather than protection of the commons for public welfare. Among regions around the world, South Asia is the second number in the construction of large dams. Pursuing neo-colonial control over natural resources, the ecological consequences have become hazardous to life and livelihood.
When I talk with Manshi, a friend and co-traveler from Himdhara Collective about Bhagirathh Prayas Samman that the collective received during the India Rivers Week 2016, she is modest, even slightly hesitant. She simply says, “We love the mountains, we want to protect them and help mountain communities fight the unequal battle against unplanned hydropower. That is one motivation of our work. But the other is recognition of the fact that we are privileged… privileged to be able to speak English, to work on a computer, to understand the bureaucratic procedures that alienate a tribal or forest dweller from her land. That understanding also drives us.”
Citation of Bhagirath Prayas Samman given to Himdhara Collective states: “Himdhara’s strength is its engagement with communities, movements and organisations. It has created an effective discourse around issues of resource distribution and their ownership and the resultant impacts on ecological spaces of mountain communities, especially vulnerable groups like indigenous people, dalits and women. It is an honor to recognize and celebrate Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective’s extraordinary Bhagirath efforts in maintaining the integrity of rivers in Himachal Pradesh.”
In their own words, “Himdhara is an autnomous and informal non registered environment research and action collective, extending solidarity and support, in research and action, to people and organisations asserting their rights over their natural resources and agitating against corporatisation of these resources for destructive development in the state.”
It has been two years since the Union Minister for Shipping and Transport, Mr. Nitin Gadkari, announced the Government’s ambitious plan to revive the National Waterways-1 (Ganga Waterway) between Haldia and Allahabad, justifying it on the grounds that India’s waterway potential remains highly underutilized, although six times cheaper than road transport. In a letter dated 18th June, 2014 forwarded by Mr. Gadkari to the Finance Minister, Mr. Arun Jaitley, a proposal for financial assistance to four navigational barrages was also made.
Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority (MWRRA), formed under the MWRRA Act 2005 has been the first Regulatory Authority formed in India, on the explicit directions of the World Bank. While the focus of the World Bank was more on tradable Water Rights, Water use entitlements and generally pushing water as an economic good, the Authority found itself dealing with more substantial issues of equitable water distribution soon after it was formed. Even at the time of its constitution, several organizations had cautioned about its bureaucrat-heavy and exclusive constitution, looking at the vast challenges Maharashtra faces. In its past 10 years, the Authority has always been in the news and not always for the right reasons. Continue reading ” MWRRA Ordinance 2016: More vulnerable to WRD meddling?”→
जलवायु संकट समाधान के प्रयास हर हाल में करें बड़ी जलविद्युत परियोजना से परहेजः- सामाजिक संगठन
पेरिस में चल रही जलवायु परिवर्तन की शिखर वार्ता में आज अनेक सामाजिक संगठनों ने सरकारों से बड़ी जलविद्युत परियोजनाओं से परहेज करने के लिए एक घोषणा पत्र जारी किया।
53 देशों से आए 300 से अधिक सामाजिक संगठनों ने घोषणा पत्र का समर्थन करते हुए कहा कि सभी देशों की सरकारें एवं विश्व बैंक समेत सभी प्रमुख पूॅजी निवेशक संस्थाएॅ हर हाल में पर्यावरण के लिए खतरा बन चुकी भारी-भरकम जलविद्युत परियोजनाओं को जलवायु संकट समाधान के मसौदे से बाहर रखें।
प्रतिभागियों ने एकमत से यह भी कहा कि जलवायु परिवर्तन समाधान के नाम पर चलायी जा रही सरकारी एवं विश्वबैंक की योजनाओं जैसे हरित विकास प्रणाली, हरित विकास अनुबंध एवं हरित पूॅजीनिवेश धनराशि के तहत बड़ी जलविद्युत परियोजनाओं को कतई शामिल ना किया जाए।
A study done by the National University of Singapore (NUS) predicted that dam related activity in the Himalayas will submerge and destroy 17,000 ha of land. The Himalayas have a dam density which is 62 times greater than the current global average[i]. The trouble is that Professor Maharaj K Pandit, who led the NUS study, has deep entrenched interests in hydropower business, having led seriously problematic Environmental Impact Assessment and Cumulative Impact Assessment studies that have never said NO to any project, never raised the issues he is raising in NUS study in any of the EIA or CIA study he has led. Several of his EIAs have been found to be seriously inadequate, incomplete and supporting hydropower lobby.
In 2010, a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had stated that more than 40 hydro projects in the region was a serious threat to nature and bio-diversity of the region[ii]. The impact these dams have on the environment and people has been clearly seen in the light of the 2013 floods which wrecked havoc in the state. There are constant delays and faulty constructions due to lack of strict supervision which then endanger the lives and livelihoods of the local population. Despite this, the government pushes on for more and more projects.
American Met Society confirms role of Climate Change in Uttarakhand floods In an annual extreme-weather report of September 2014, the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society has[iii] listed the Uttarakhand disaster of June 2013 as among the 16 extreme weather events of 2013 where role of climate change is undeniable. Unfortunately, Indian government is neither clearly acknowledging this reality, nor identifying the victims and demanding justice for them. While Uttarakhand disaster was a clear warning in this regard, the Sept 2014 floods of Jammu and Kashmir is another one showing how vulnerable the Himalayas are to the climate change.
Post-flood scenario: In the 2013 floods, about 19 projects were completely washed away resulting in affecting 35 % of the state generation capacity[iv].
Estimated losses from damage to hydropower projects on the Ganga
Rs 30 crore (project completely submerged)
Rs 18-19 crore (power house and 4 houses washed away)
Rs 16 crore (power house and 4 houses washed away)
Following the orders of the Supreme Court on Aug 13, 2013[v] in the after math of the June 2013 flood disaster, an Expert Body (EB) was formed under Dr. Ravi Chopra to assess the role of dams in the flood disaster. In its report it was recommended that 23 projects be dropped altogether in the Bhagirathi-Alaknanda basin and studies be initiated in all other basins. The court had stayed work on 24 out of 39 projects last year after the floods[vi] and had also stayed clearance to any more projects in the state. (To know more about the recommendations of the EB read SANDRP’s blog: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/report-of-expert-committee-on-uttarakhand-flood-disaster-role-of-heps-welcome-recommendations/.)
Also, despite the stay on clearances, the 300 MW Lakhwar Project in the Upper Yamuna River Basin in Dehradun District has been given a green signal by the MoEF[ix].
Creation of eco-sensitive zones:
5 km stretch between Gomukh and Uttarkashi was declared as an eco-sensitive zone which has led to the shutting down of various projects in that stretch. The bigger projects which have been affected are the 600 MW Loharinag-Pala under the NTPC, which is still appealing to receive its reimbursement to the tune of Rs. 536.30 crore. Apart from this, the 480 MW Maneri project under UJVNL and the 380 MW Bhaironghati project have been scrapped[x].
The Srinagar Hydro Electric Project on the Alaknanda River has increased installed capacity from 200 to 330 MW which was already a cause for concern for the people of the area and other experts who say that the land is too unstable to hold such a big project. Previously, the project faced problems due to damage to its coffer dam. The GVK company owned project was also the centre of controversy due to the Dhari Devi temple which was ultimately relocated in undue hurry just before the Uttarakhand floods.
In July 2014, it faced another disruption due to the collapse of the 19 metre high and 100 metre long wall of its de-silting basin during a test run of the project[xi]. The heavy rainfall and raging waters in the Alaknanda led to the breaking of the walls which caused flooding and inundation of land and houses. The earlier complaints of the residents of nearby villages regarding the leakage from the power channel canal of the project were not taken seriously by the authorities[xii].
The 171 MW Lata Tapovan project was overrun by floodwaters that damaged concrete work and forced at least a year-long delay in its commissioning. The delay could grow longer because of the badly damaged highway which makes transportation unsafe.
Another affected project is the 520 MW Tapovan Vishnugad HEP in the Chamoli district. The project was already under scrutiny because of the unfavourable geographical characteristics of the area it is in. The added damage was done during the floods which led to damages in the power channel and the approach road to chormi adit. This could lead to a 12 month delay. Its diversion dyke was also washed away and in June 2014, BHEL refused to start work. Even the head race tunnel (HRT) contractors L&T and Alpine Mayreder Bau Gmbh (AM) have terminated their contract leaving NTPC searching for new contractors[xiii].
The 400 MW Vishnuprayag HEP in the Chamoli district was also affected in the floods as muck and debris filled its reservoir, causing electricity generation to stop. It was also under controversy for being responsible for causing floods downstream as it did not open one of its gates to let the water out, resulting in water finally being left under great pressure causing flooding and destruction of downstream area, people and properties.
Apart from this, the project authorities are also engaging in the disposal of muck and debris on the Alaknanda river bed and not in a safe site. The Jaypee group has been asked to to file a comprehensive affidavit on disposal of river bed material lying in the Vishnupryag HEP on Alakhnanda River, Joshimath by a bench of five judges of the National Green Tribunal. After the floods in 2013, a huge amount of muck and debris were deposited in the reservoir. To clean this and restart electricity generation, the company removed it from the reservoir but dumped it in the Alaknanda river bed, hoping that in the next monsoon it would open its gates enough to let the debris flow downstream. But this is highly dangerous for the downstream areas and population as pointed out by Vimal bhai, founder of the Matu Jansangathan, an NGO[xiv]. The NGT, however, has not taken necessary punitive measures against the company.
Contract for construction of the Koteshwar dam was awarded to PCL Intertech Lenhydro Consortium JV in 2002 for a contract value of Rs 334.52 crore. The scheduled completion was specified for May 2006, but project was delayed due to non handling of project and quarry land by the owner to the contractor. Only Rs 99 crore worth work was done upto March 2007[xv].
Another case for delay is the Tehri Pumped Storage Plant (PSP) under the Tehri Hydro Development Corporation (THDC). The contract was given to Alstom-HCC Consortium which had only completed 10% work even after 25 months had elapsed since its commencement and until October 2013[xvi]. Even till April 2014, only 16% of the work was done while only 37 months are left to complete the rest[xvii]. Various problems pointed out by the THDC were that the consortium did not employ sufficient people or deploy enough machinery on site.
The 444 MW Vishnugad-Pipalkoti project under the THDC also faced delays in obtaining the clearances from the forest department to divert 80.507 ha of forest land for the project. The delay was caused in obtaining the stage II forest clearance which was in the hands of the State Wildlife Board, which finally gave its clearance in March 2013. But the surprise is that the World Bank approved the project even before it got its clearances but claimed that work would begin only after all clearances are obtained. But like a lot of other projects, work had already begun for the power house near Harsari village, affecting the villagers. Unfortunately, the inspection panel of the World Bank that was looking into the complaints against the project have completely failed to understand or show the courage to point out the failures of the project and the Bank right from impact assessment to consultations to violations in clearance procedures. The joint statement of the Inspection panel and the World Bank Management on Oct 2, 2014 exposes both the parties. The World Bank, while funding destruction of Alaknanda River, one of the two major head sources of the Ganga, is claiming to fund river rejuvenation efforts in the downstream!
Even one year after the floods, there is no comprehensive report about the disaster that would give a blow by blow account and fix accountability. The villagers are still awaiting resettlement[xviii].
Residents of 29 villages in Tehri district who already faced danger from landslides are now in a worse situation as the landslide occurrence has increased since the 2013 floods. But the villagers say that the state has made no efforts into their relocation and they live in fear of their life. The government had claimed that these villages would be relocated for their safety but due to the laxity of the authorities, work has not started on that yet.[xix]
To know more about the situation of hydropower dams in Uttarakhand in the context of June 2013 disaster, read SANDRP’s blogs: