SANDRP

Many colors of groundwater in a tiny Western Ghats village

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“Konkan” is the narrow strip of land encompassing coastlines, estuaries, lateritic plateaus, foothills of Western Ghats and dense forests, which runs from Maharashtra to Goa. It is bound by the Arabian Sea to its west and the mighty Sahyadri ranges (Western Ghats) to its east. The isolated region has a distinct and rich culture of folklore, performing arts, music, literature, culinary art, with subtle changes from north to south. The region receives heavy rainfall of about 2500-3500 mm in summer monsoons, with the lofty Sahyadri ranges blocking the moisture-laden clouds. 

The rivers in the region are as spectacular: gushing and gurgling over steep hilly paths and meeting the Arabian Sea in just about 100-150 kilometers from their origin in the Western Ghats. The steep and hilly terrain makes it difficult to build large dams, (though we keep trying unsuccessfully as can be seen here: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2016/02/09/large-dams-in-konkan-western-ghats-costs-benefits-and-impacts/) and water resource managers never fail to point out that of the total yield of rivers in Maharashtra, 45% is from of the West-flowing rives of Konkan!

Having said that, the tempestuous nature of rives, rocky terrain and steep slopes mean that rives dry up as fast as they swell. The lifeline here is not surface water, but groundwater…Groundwater that emerges from springs as the predominant porous laterite rock meets a layer of clay..or dug wells…or unique water harvesting structures crafted by local communities. 

Here is a glimpse of some such structures…to appreciate not only the utility and appropriateness, but beauty of small, local structures and traditional wisdom. Also important to note is the diversity and independence of water management in Konkan: as in India..where communities own, maintain and manage their own water. There is a special kind of power and magic in this independence. Read More

Committee to look into River Widening-Deepening welcome: But too many gaps

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26.07.16

To,

The Chief Minister, Maharashtra State

And The Chairman, State Water Council

Mantralaya, Mumbai

Subject: GR Dated 4th July 2016 on constituting a Committee to look into River Rejuvenation Proposals (नदी पुनर्जीवन कार्यक्रमा अतर्गत प्रस्ताव मंजुरी देण्यासाठी समिती गठीत करणे बाबत)

Hon. Shri. Devendra Fadnavisji,

It is good to see that through a Government Resolution dated 4th July 2016[i], the Government is seeking to regulate uncontrolled and unregulated River Widening, straightening and Deepening Works being undertaken under Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyaan (JSA) and outside JSA. The GR states that a committee under the Chairpersonship of Minister of Water Conservation is formed to give permission to “River Rejuvenation Projects”.(नदी पुनर्जीवन) Read More

DRP News Bulletin 25 July 2016 (Tawang residents protest against unfulfilled promises)

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Arunachal Tawang residents protest against unfulfilled promises Hundreds of residents on July 22 marched through the streets of Tawang, the home district of newly elected CM Pema Khandu, in protest against non-fulfillment of their demand for jobs to kith and kins of two anti-dam activists killed in police firing on May 2. During the protest march they also led a signature campaign against large dams planned in Tawang, where the predominantly Buddhist Monpa tribe feared that many of the proposed hydro-power projects would damage sacred Buddhist sites in the district. At least 13 large hydro-power projects have been planned in the district, which shares border with China’s Tibet region. On June 21 the Lamas-led Save Mon Region Federation had issued six-point charter of demand to the state government for fulfillment in 30 days. Arunachal comprises a fragile, rich parcel of wildlife and ecosystem, among the richest ecosystems in India. But planning & building of hydro projects has been and will cause irreversible environmental damage. Perhaps it’s time for an aggressive freeze on all the un-built projects and an evaluation of other models of energy. Mr Prema Khandu must consider why Arunachal should become India’s mitochondria-the country’s energy provider, while losing its own enormous wealth. But contrary to this new while addressing a press conference, the new CM, on July 18 said that the govt would find ways to tap the petroleum resources & harness the hydropower potential which could be a money spinner for the state. On the 2000Mw Lower Subanisiri HEP at Gerukamukh, Mr Khandu has emphatically said he would discuss the issue with the Assam govt as well as the Centre for a solution. He said that in all the hydropower projects the affected people should be taken into confidence by both the executing agencies as well as the state govt. The new CM elected from Tawang, seeing the hydropower projects as money spinner does not sound very encouraging. Let us see how far he actually goes to take people into confidence as promised by him. 

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 MWRRA Ordinance 2016: More vulnerable to WRD meddling?

MWRRA

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.
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DRP News Bulletin 18 July 2016 (Remove inefficient Farakka Barrage: Bihar CM)

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Bihar CM  demands removal of Farakka barrage CM Nitish Kumar on July 16 demanded removal of Farakka barrage on river Ganga, saying “the disadvantages of the barrage appear to be higher than its benefits”. Raising the issue of Bihar’s share in Ganges waters at the 11th Inter State Council meeting in New Delhi, Nitish also sought the Centre’s intervention to ensure uninterrupted flow of water from the states of upper co-basin so that the entire length of Ganga has continuous supply of water even during lean season. The meeting was chaired by PM Narendra Modi and attended by CMs of different states and union ministers. The CM also told the meeting that responsibility to ensure the required water availability at Farakka barrage has been put solely on Bihar. Presenting Bihar’s views Nitish further added that about 16% of the catchment area of river Ganga is in Bihar, but in the lean season 3/4th of the total water flowing in Ganga comes from rivers of Bihar. Estimated 400 cusecs of water flow is received at the Uttar Pradesh border of Bihar in river Ganga. However, at Farakka barrage, 1500 cusecs of water flow is to be ensured, which is achieved mainly through the water contributed by the rivers of Bihar. Indeed, during lean season, not even 400 cusecs of water flow is available at the border of Bihar. In this regard, Centre’s intervention is required to ensure uninterrupted flow of water from the states of upper co-basin, so that the entire length of Ganga river in Bihar has continuous supply of water even during lean season. Nitish also demanded formulation of an effective National Silt Management Policy, saying such a body at the national level is essential for silt management as well as for ensuring uninterrupted flow of water not only in Ganga, but all the other rivers.

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DRP News Bulletin 11 July 2016 (Namami Gange proving mere an extension of Ganga Action Plan)

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Ganga Manthan to Ganga Act: No progress made Chairing the 6th meeting of the National Ganga River Basin Authority on July 04  Water Minister Uma Bharti has said that a new act will be formulated for speedy implementation of Namami Gange programme. On July 06, giving a major boost to Namami Gange Programme Ms Uma Bharti has also announced that 231 projects will be inaugurated at various locations in Uttrakhand, UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Haryana and Delhi on July 07. Incidentally, on July 07, 2014 NDA Govt. launched the Namami Gange programme to rejuvenate the river to be executed over five years. The project has a budget outlay of Rs 20K crore which is 10 times more than what was allocated in previous Ganga Action Plan (GAP) phase I and II. But more money and the PM minister’s zeal, notwithstanding, Namami Gange seems a carryover from its predecessor in one crucial respect.  The overwhelming emphasis on pollution abatement that had led to the GAP’s failure bedevils Namami Gange as well. In certain respects, Namami Gange is an improvement on the GAP. It seems that the govt has not learnt lessons from the GAP’s failure. The lag between sewage generation and treatment has remained between 55% & 60% even as new STPs were built under the GAP. This is because a lot of the waste is generated outside the sewerage network and is not conveyed to the STPs. A large section of the country’s urban population lives outside this network. Moreover, the STPs can only do so much. The official statistics show that the STPs are currently running at a deficiency of 55%. The problem of STPs is three-fold: underestimation, shortage and underutilization due to lack of a well-connected underground sewage system.

The problems associated with river Ganga, however, do not end or begin in its middle course dotted by factories. The upstream of the river, where Bhagirathi and Alaknanda join to form the Ganga, is part of a very fragile Himalayan ecosystem. Caution is needed in implementing the Namame Gange projects along this stretch. The Kedarnath flood of Uttarakhand is an example of what a combination of melting glaciers and mindless construction can do to a sensitive geological zone. With more than 40 dams, barrages and weirs  and many more planned aviral Ganga seems nothing more than an empty catchphrase. Ganga is the sum total of the contribution of some 12 major tributaries. Without a rejuvenation strategy for each of Ganga’s tributaries, there can be no Ganga rejuvenation.

Meanwhile, increased fishing activity and vessel traffic are proving to be the disturbing element downstream. Deploying more scientific methods for fishing and limiting it to levels enough for species’ sustenance might help without significantly affecting livelihoods. The direct consequences of climate change are also felt in the lower belts, around the Ganga Sagar region. Land is disappearing but no comprehensive plans have emerged as yet to provide for the rehabilitation of the region’s inhabitants.

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ILR fundamentalism: Union Minister threatens regulators, media and civil society

A fabulous view of Ken river. Nesting sites of Long-billed vultures are to the right. All will go under water if Ken-Betwa linkup is carried out,AJT Johnsingh

Above: A fabulous view of Ken river. Nesting sites of Long-billed vultures are to the right. All will go under water if Ken-Betwa linkup is carried out, PHOTO by: AJT Johnsingh

It’s a curious case of Dam fundamentalism: now manifest as ILR fundamentalism. On June 7, 2016, (as widely reported by media[i]) Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti “threatened to go on hunger strike if the Ken-Betwa river linking project is further delayed and termed the attempt to delay the project by environmentalists as a “national crime”” as reported by Business Standard. The threat was directed against all those raising questions about Ken Betwa River Link proposal of her ministry. Read More

Transparency in Environment Governance? Expert Meeting on River Projects does not have documents in open domain

Protest against big dams – KMSS (Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti) members protesting in Pandu Ghat in Guwahati  against the ship carrying the turbines for the Lower Subansiri project.  
Source: http://peakwater.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Lower-Subansiri-turbines-protest.preview.jpg

Above: Protest against Lower Subansiri Project in Assam. Basin Study of Lower Subansiri is also a part of intense debate in Assam. Now these studies are under wraps by the MoEF and CC

Non-transparent Environment Governance does not help anyone, neither is it legal. In the upcoming Expert Meeting of the MoEF and CC on River Valley Projects (read dams), documents pertaining to 6 of the 8 projects being considered are not available!

We have appealed to the new Minister to take swift action against this non-transparent and non-democratic governance in the MoEF and CC. Please feel free to send similar letters to the email addresses mentioned below. Read More

The New License Raj: License to Violate Environmental Laws through Environmental Supplemental Plan

Sonthi Barrage in Karnataka

Above: Sonthi Barrage in Karnataka standing without Environmental Clearance

The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has issued a Draft Notification which aims to “regularise” projects which have violated the basic tenet of Environment Law and Governance in the country: starting work without securing Environmental Clearance. While any such violation should be punishable to deter any contempt of the much-abused environment laws, the Ministry is seeking to do just the opposite: Regularize the violations by constituting a wishy-washy Environmental Supplemental Plan, as outlined in the Draft Notification.

This seems like one of Mr Prakash Javdekar’s last acts as Environment Minister (before he got transferred to HRD with promotion to cabinet rank) that, typically similar to his other acts during his seriously problematic two year tenure, was totally against what he was expected to do: Protection of environment. We hope the new incumbent at MoEF&CC will cancel this notification immediately.  Read More

Groundwater of Pune: An Over-exploited and ungoverned lifeline

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While more than allocated and more than enough water supply from Khadakwasla Project Complex steals the water supply show in Pune, water below the ground remains pretty much out of sight and out of mind for Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and everyone else. Roughly estimated use close to one thousand million cubic feet (TMC) remains not just ungoverned but completely unacknowledged. Though groundwater use forms an important component of non-potable water use in the city total quantity of the groundwater extracted remains unassessed. Drilling of borewells has been going on unregulated and groundwater level has been falling at the rate of quarter of a meter per annum. Neither PMC nor any other State agencies like Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority (MWRRA functioning as State Groundwater Authority) or Groundwater Survey and Development Agency (GSDA) is governing the resource and have taken any concrete steps for its conservation. Read More

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