Data published this week (see below) shows that disasters are going up almost five fold in the Himalayas (data from Uttarakhand, HP below, but this is not different in rest of Himalayas), nationally and even globally. The data from UN report this week shows that the disasters are up five fold in recent years. Damage is up even more. As the data of landslides due to Char Dham High way and hydropower projects show, the contribution from these projects to the disaster is clear. So much so that even the editorial in The Hindustan Times this week asked to stop these disastrous projects. While it is unlikely that the governments or politicians would wake up to this reality anytime soon, one expects the judiciary, media, civil society and academics to take up this issue on urgent basis.
The March 2, 2020 directions of Punjab and Haryana High Court for the sustained conservation of Sukhna wetland are welcome, though the directions are likely to be appealed against in the Supreme Court, considering the far reaching implications of the lake. One hopes the Supreme Court takes a view that helps sustain the Sukhna lake and the wetlands in a confidence inspiring way.
A large number of stories this week remind us that India urgently needs national urban water policy.
The water footprint of urban areas is gradually on the rise. The cities have several problems with management including destruction of water sources, groundwater exploitation, poor performance in treating and recycling the polluted water, pollution and encroachment on water bodies etc. To fulfil their growing demands new dams, barrages and check dams are being planned, proposed and built on the rivers in faraway places, which is in turn displacing and depriving the local people of equitable water share.
Even before onset of summer, the Army in Sagar district have started patrolling Chitora dam to prevent water thefts (denying farmers to take dam water for irrigation).
Wetlands are critical part of hydrological systems. They provide multiple ecological services to people living in proximal areas. The invisible contribution of wetlands in saturating aquifers and checking groundwater depletion is essential given the growing water scarcity. Additionally, wetlands are home to a variety of plants and animals species making them fully functional and self-sustaining eco-system. Sadly, despite the environmental significance and associated support services, wetlands have been subjected to degradation for past many decades.
In a mountain village in southwest China’s Sichuan province, authorities have demolished seven small dam projects this year along a river to clear illegal developments in a new nature reserve. The demolition is part of a nationwide programme to close hundreds of tiny and often ramshackle dams and turbines and bring order to China’s massive hydropower sector after years of unconstrained construction.
The dams sat on an unnamed tributary of the fierce and flood-prone Dadu river, which feeds into the Yangtze, Asia’s largest and longest river, where the government says the “irregular development” of thousands of small hydropower projects has wrecked the ecology. But green groups say the campaign will not necessarily save the environment because it will not affect big state hydropower stations, which they say have caused the most damage.
On the 48 km Zhougong, authorities have already demolished small projects built in nature reserves or encroaching upon new “ecological red lines” drawn up to shield a quarter of China’s territory from development.
The government says small dams have disrupted the habitats and breeding patterns of many rare species of fish, although green groups argue the damage wrought by bigger dams is more severe, with entire towns and ecosystems submerged in water, which they say increases the risk of earthquakes, landslides and even climate change.
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/
SC transfers PIL on cleaning Ganga to NGTIn a major development, after monitoring Ganga cleaning work for last 31 years and without achieving any cleaner river, the Supreme Court on January 24, 2017 wrapped up a PIL on cleaning of river Ganga and sent it to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for more effective adjudication. The apex court had been monitoring the issue for 31 years. A bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice N V Ramana said that since issues relating to municipal solid waste and industrial waste were already being heard by the NGT on a day-to-day basis, all other issues relating to sources of polluting the river should also be heard by the NGT.
The bench said that the tribunal will be required to submit an interim report to it every six months, only to give an idea about the progress made and difficulties, if any. It also granted liberty to the petitioner, environmentalist M C Mehta, to approach the court if he had any grievances in consonance with the law.
During last week hearing (January 17, 2017), the SC bench has directed the government to file a report on the construction and functioning of STPs alongside the river, which runs through five States.
It has been almost two years after the SC has voiced scepticism about the government’s self-proclaimed promise to clean up the Ganga River. Before this, in 2014, the apex court had voiced its reservations about the various efforts over the decades to return the Ganga to its pristine self, once even saying that it “does not expect Ganga to be cleaned up even after 200 years.”
To provide much-needed succour to those reeling under severe drought and facing acute drinking water shortage, as part of temporary drought-mitigation measures, the district administration has established helplines in all seven taluks.
A look at impacts of failing Northeast Monsoon on 4 South Indian States
South IndiaNortheast Monsoon Failing; Water Crisis To Become WorseAndhra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala & interior Karnataka generally receives good rains during the Northeast Monsoon period that commences from Oct until Dec. However, this year, rains have remained scantyover entire Southern India region. Northeast Monsoon has also set in quite late during Oct end. As of now excluding scattered rain events, Monsoon like heavy rains are still far from coming to the southern region of the country. This is a clear indication of possibility of drought-like conditions that might prevail over south peninsula during Northeast Monsoon. In a nutshell, the picture is not very encouraging for next few days and also any significant increase in rains are not foreseen over the southern regions of the country.
Book Review: Rage of the Rivers:Role of Uttarakhand hydro projects in Kedarnath disaster 2013by Hridayesh Joshi Rage of the River reads not unlike a gripping thriller. Thing is, it is not fiction. It is a true ‘story’ of a cataclysmic event, exacerbated by greed, and twisted notions of development manifested in blasting fragile hills, tunneling rivers, denuding forests, and encouraging illegal encroachments and mindless construction and tourism infrastructure. This is an important chronicle of one of the worst disasters of our times. Joshi has thoroughly analysed the role of endless, ill-planned hydel projects, but inexplicably fails to take into account the wreckage wrought by unrestrained tourism. Joshi points a finger at the unethical practices of construction companies, contractors and operators of hydel dam projects, even in the face of this monumental disaster. The officials of the Vishnuprayag project refused to listen to the pleas of the villagers to open the dam gates and allow the excess water to flow safely from under the barrage. The advice was ignored, either in ignorance of the gravity of the situation, or with an eye on the opportunity to generate more power. The rising waters broke the barrage flooding the valley and its villages.
Water conservation: Lessons from ancient IndiaAs drought-like conditions have gripped many parts of India this year, the pressure to drill borewells in search of increasingly scarce groundwater has escalated. Many regions are in the grip of a vicious cycle of drilling causing the water table to sink further. There is an urgent need to explore what benefits water conservation can bring, whether through modern or ancient water storage structures. This report explains, ecologically safe engineering marvels of water conservation have existed in India for nearly 1,500 years, including traditional systems of water harvesting, such as the bawari, jhalara, nadi, tanka, and khadin. Even today these systems remain viable and cost-effective alternatives to rejuvenate depleted groundwater aquifers, according to experts. With govt support, these structures could be upgraded and productively combined with modern rainwater-saving techniques such as anicuts, percolation tanks, injection wells and subsurface barriers. This may be a far more sustainable approach to alleviating the water scarcity crisis across India. Ultimately, water conservation has to be a key element of any strategy to bring an end to India’s perennial swings between drought and flood.