Finally, after five days gridlock, the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway (NH-1A) has been opened to traffic, on Feb 17, 2018, but only for one side. The all weather road was closed since February 12, 2018 following landslides at multiple locations along Bichleri (Bichiari) stream (a tributary of Chenab River) between Banihal and Ramban area. The highway was briefly re-opened for traffic on February 14 only to be closed again on February 15, due to recurring landslides.
We have narrated below some details of the landslides along Jammu Srinagar Highway in Feb 2018 as well as earlier since 2011.
Above: Sindhu by Anoop Patnaik, Outlook Traveller
“To choose safe waters
is the route of imposters:
Those who love
take on the mighty river.” (Seeking the Beloved, translations of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai’s Poems)
In the inky, starless night, beautiful Sohni plunged into the flooded River Chenab to meet her beloved Mehwal, knowing well that she will never make it to the other side. Sohni is one of the seven heroines brought to life by Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, a remarkable 18th Century Sufi poet, mystic and reformist living on the banks of Indus. Sohni was the wife of a potter, in love with Mahiwal, a cattle herder from the banks of the Chenab. Like all poignant love stories, Sohni-Mahiwal’s tale was short-lived, but 300 years later, the legend of Sohni flows through the Chenab and lives on in the songs of peasants. In Punjab, the land of five rivers, they sing of Sohni, of the roaring, helpless river and of mad, wilful love. The narrative is so unwrinkled and dewy that till this day, silent figures sweep the modest tombs of Sohni and Mahiwal, hoping that their love will meet a better fate. Like Sur Sohni (Sohni’s poem) from Shah jo Risalo (Poetry of the Shah) prophecised:
“Hundreds were by the river drowned,
But the river was drowned by this maiden.” Read More
Supreme Court of India passed the much awaited 465-page Judgment on Cauvery Water Dispute on Feb 16, 2018[i]. After the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal declared its award on Feb 5, 2007, a number of Appeals were filed in the SC, challenging the Tribunal Award, including those by Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. By this Judgment, the SC has partially allowed the Karnataka Appeal (Civil Appeal 2453 of 2007) and disposed off all the appeals. The Award was published in gazette only in 2013, following an earlier SC order. The SC Judgment provides additional 14.75 TMC (Thousand Million Cubic Feet) of water to Karnataka and thus reduces Tamil Nadu’s share to that extent.
This week there are exemplary and encouraging wetlands revival stories from three metro cities of Chennai, Hyderabad and Delhi. In the first example from Hyderabad, meticulously chosen plant species such as tulsi, aswagandha, citronella and hibiscus have been used to create an artificial island to clean Neknampur Lake. The treatment islands are composed of four layers of which the bamboo base keeps the entire structure afloat. Based on soil-less hydroponics, these floating treatment wetlands absorb excess nitrates, thereby reducing the chemical content of the lake water. Microorganisms present in the wetland break down organic matter while the root systems filter out pollutants and sediments. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/3500-saplings-floating-islands-help-rejuvenate-hyd-neknampur-lake-75819 (The News Minute, 3 Feb. 2018)
Similarly, Chennai-based Care Earth Trust along with the public works department (PWD) and the civic body has managed to restore three urban lakes. While many of the smaller wetlands have vanished over time, many mid-sized wetlands seem to have shrunk by almost 65 percent. Thanks to their joint effort, invasive hyacinth was removed from the Narayanapuram Lake in Pallikaranai, while sewer lines, which emptied into the Perungalathur Lake, have now been plugged. A detailed restoration proposal has been forwarded to the PWD regarding the Korattur-Madhavaram-Ambattur lakes. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/hyacinth-out-sewer-line-plugged-three-water-bodies-restored/articleshow/62748110.cms (The Times of India, 2 Feb. 2018)
Meanwhile, Delhi Jal Board (DJB) has taken up interesting new project of creating an artificial lake in Dwarka. The project will supply water in sub-city and improve ground water level too. DJB has approved Rs. 56 crore for the project which will be completed in next seven months. This would the first model project wherein a lake will be used to augment water supply. The special lake is being created next to the Dwarka water treatment plant (WTP) will have a sand bed to allow maximum percolation of water into the ground. It will have a capacity of 10 million gallons (MGD). The project is expected to add supply of 5-6 million gallons water to Dwarka every day.
I was standing in a waste dump, with pigs, garbage and dumped clothes all around me when Mr. Shailendra Patel told me to take off my shoes.
Just a few steps ahead of me was a miracle.
In the midst of the dump, Mr. Patel went down to a sparkling spring of clear water and kneeled down. This was a living stream in the heart of Pune city, with “development” all around, with a sewage carrying nallah flowing right next to it. Crystal clear water gushed out of rock crevices, there was a small sandy pool with tiny fish, water skaters and a desolate looking statue of a jaldevata on a stone ledge.
Mr. Patel talked with ladies with their washing loads who came to the spring, with school children running past, late for the school, with construction workers brushing their teeth nonchalantly next to the spring. The problem was he could not talk with the people who stayed in huge apartment complexes right next to the spring. They find the place too filthy, despite the fact that the tankers that supply water to complexes fill up from springs like these.
One more problem was that the Pune city does not recognise existence of such springs and the City Development Plan has not marked this as a spring or stream. It is up for grabs. A building complex will be built over this at any time.
This led me thinking, how does a city recognise & protect living streams and springs? How can we make the city development plan leave them out of development activities? Are there examples where this happened somewhere? Read More
In a remarkable development, Jammu & Kashmir Govt is reviewing its Hydro policy to assess whether the Hydro Electric Power Projects (HEPs) are still viable. As per sources, this is for the first time that the Govt is discussing the viability of generating hydro power.
An empowered committee led by the Chief Secretary has started this discussion by calling for an “approach paper” that will give an overall picture of the hydropower industry in India. Top sources in the State Power Development Corporation (SPDC), a government-owned company, told Kashmir Reader that the empowered committee wants to lay a roadmap for power generation in the state. “It will reflect the vision of the government. It will give the picture of hydropower generation in India, its rates, market, demand and supply. It will also lay down a roadmap for large power projects,”
The approach paper will be part of a new hydropower policy which will be submitted before the same committee, and then before the cabinet for approval. The SPDC had submitted a hydro policy draft in April last year, which was returned to it in December. Sources said the approach paper has to be submitted in two months’ time.
At present, India has a surplus generation of hydropower, which has plummeted its rate. This has led to losses for SPDC as it invested in projects whose generation costs were high. The blunt example is that of the 450-MW Baglihar II. SPDC has failed to lure any buyer for more than a year as its selling cost of per unit of energy, Rs 4.4, is nearly Rs 2 higher than the market rate. The SPDC has finally managed to sell the power at about Rs 4 per unit to the Uttar Pradesh government but for one year only. The SPDC may have to struggle again next year if the state of UP does not continue the contract.
Another example is that of Nimuno Bezgo, and Chutak hydropower projects, which sell energy at Rs 13 per unit. The SPDC also buys power from Dulhasti project at Rs 7, when the available rates for power in the market is around Rs 2 and Rs 4. https://kashmirreader.com/2018/02/02/cs-led-panel-to-lay-roadmap-for-power-generation-in-jk/ (Kashmir Reader. 2 Feb. 2018)
As per another report, facing a growing demand for electricity and unable to tap its vast potential for generating hydroelectric power, the state government is looking to boost solar power generation. Given the long gestation period of hydel projects, it is unlikely the generation of hydroelectric power will expand significantly in the near future, said. Hence, the focus on solar power. Indeed, when solar power potential exists, with lower installation and operation costs and impacts, why States continue after destructive, expensive hydro projects? https://scroll.in/article/866058/kashmir-can-generate-a-lot-more-hydel-electricity-than-it-requires-why-is-it-eyeing-solar-power (Scroll.In, 30 Jan. 2018)
There is one more interesting hydro power development in which the state cabinet of Bihar has approved closing 3 and cancelling the development of 2 others in addition to handing over of 8 hydropower projects to neighboring Jharkhand.
KERALA WETLANDS REVIEW 2017
State wetlands face multiple threats In March 2017, a book titled “Biodiversity Richness of Kerala” revealed that riverine ecosystem of Kerala were subjected to human pressures in form of deforestation, land use change, construction of dams, roads, encroachments and mining affecting water holding capacity of the catchments and leading to drying up the rivers and wetlands. Kerala constituted only 1.18 per cent of India’s geographical area but it accommodated 25.69 per cent of the flowering plants in the country. In 2004, Kerala had around 328,402 hectare of wetlands which over the years had fallen to 160,590 hectare dramatic 49 per cent decrease. http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/kerala-wetlands-face-multiple-threats-says-book-117030200590_1.html (Business Standard, 2 March 2017)
Mining posing threat to mangrove forests In Feb. 2017, the district environment committee of the Kerala Sastra Sahithya Parishad alleged that the mineral sand-mining activity carried out by the public-sector Indian Rare Earths along Vellanathurutu in Alapad panchayat was causing widespread damage to the naturally growing mangrove forests in the area. Calling for immediate ban on mining activity the committee complained that a destructive mechanical process was being applied in the area instead of applying the more eco-friendly beach washing method of mining. According to committee the activity had already destroyed over 2 ha of mangrove forests at estuary where the Pallikkal River met the sea. At least 12 mangrove species, some of them threatened or endangered, were growing in the region. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-kerala/Mineral-sand-mining-posing-threat-to-mangrove-forests/article17281729.ece (The Hindu, 10 Feb. 2017)