DRP News Bulletin 31 Aug. 2015: Drought hit Latur residents are not guarding gold or money but water

Water has become a closely guarded resource in Latur city which receives municipal supply only once every 15 days. The Dhanegaon dam which supplies water here has been at “dead storage level” for the last four years because of the meagre rains. But this year the water crisis is much worse: the arid Marathwada belt where Latur is located has reported the highest rain deficit in the entire country.

HYDROPOWER

JAMMU & KASHMIR: Eco concerns over Baglihar hydel project worry experts, locals The 900-MW Baglihar hydroelectric project continues to increase the worries of experts and inhabitants in the erstwhile Doda district comprising Kishtwar, Doda and Ramban districts as the region faces a major threat of severe climate change, courtesy successive regimes which have ignored all environmental concerns attached to the project. Torrential rain, cloudbursts and massive landslides are said to be new dangers confronting the people of the erstwhile Doda district which are mostly due to creation of the reservoir of between 30 km and 35 km in length. The region falls in Seismic Zone IV. In another interesting development referring to the All India Power Survey findings, the J&K government’s report—State Action Plan on Climate Change—states that climate change would have drastic impact on hydropower generation capacity in J&K in three possible ways. Firstly, the available discharge of a river may change since hydrology is usually related to local weather conditions, such as temperature and precipitation in the catchment area. Secondly, an unexpected increase in climate variability may trigger extreme climate events, i.e. floods and droughts, and thirdly, changing hydrology and possible extreme events may increase sediment risks. It further reveals that more sediment, along with other factors such as changed composition of water, raises the probability that a hydropower project suffers greater exposure to turbine erosion. Moreover, an unexpected amount of sediment will also lower turbine and generator efficiency, resulting in a decline in energy generated. Since the majority of power is generated from hydropower sources, there are high chances that Jammu and Kashmir may face power crisis if the projected impact of climate change happens. Higher demand of energy due to climatic variability and lower generation due to projected impact of climate change would widen the power supply-demand deficit in Jammu  and Kashmir.

ARUNACHAL PRADESH: Buddhist Monpas fight to save globally threatened black necked Cranes from 780 MW Nyamjang Chhu Hydro Power Project  For the past few years, the Monpas of Tawang district have been expressing fear that the black-necked crane, called Trung-Trung Karmo in local parlance and revered as the incarnation of the 6th Dalai Lama, will stop visiting once construction on the 780-MW Nyamjang Chhu hydroelectric project begins. The community awaits the annual arrival of these birds and considers them to be auspicious. Also see The Guardian reports on the issue Tibetan crane’s winter habitat under threat from Indian hydroelectric project. It rightly says that hydropower project in eastern Himalayas will destroy migration site of ‘vulnerable’ black-necked cranes.

HIMACHAL PRADESH Sudden discharge of water from 126 MW Larji Dam floods NH21 spreading panic in the area and suspending traffic for half an hour on the Chandigarh-Manali road. This does not fully explain why the Larji HEP tunnels suddenly leaked water, but need to highlight another mishap at Larji Dam. Last year, 25 students were swept away in the gushing waters of the Larji Dam.

SOUTH: Kadar tribesmen of Vazhachal forest in Kerala will sue experts who furnished “false information” on tribal settlements for clearing the Athirappilly power project. This is indeed great to see. The unaccountable experts pandering all kinds of false information needs to held responsible for their wrong doing. The fact that the tribal settlement was located hardly 400 metres from the proposed project site was distorted by the experts in their reports. The reports didn’t even acknowledge that the tribal settlement existed there

DAMS

Sudden discharge from Palar-Porundhalar dam Tamilnadu poses a grave threat to maintaining drinking water supply to Palani town. The Dam water is main drinking water source to major parts of the town. The sudden discharge would create an artificial water scarcity in the town. Public Work Department officials did not give a proper reason for the sudden discharge of water into the river.

INTER LINKING OF RIVERS  

Ken-Betwa river link project’s EIA inadequate and flawed, say environmentalists The news report is based on SANDRP letters demanding MoEF to carry a fresh EIA of controversial Ken-Betwa link.  One more news report carries that story as Environment activists pick holes in Ken-Betwa river linking plan. Meanwhile Manoj Misra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan points out basic flaws in the concept of Inter-linking of Rivers stating that nature has over the millennia truly linked a number of streams and rivers to form river basins in different parts of the world.

MONSOON

El Nino defeated, Monsoon highly uneven: IMD 12% deficient, precisely the extent of shortfall predicted by the Met department. Viewed on a rainfall map, the monsoon appears quite unevenly spread. Rainfall was normal in 51% area of the country, surplus in another 13%, while in the remaining 36% area, it was deficient. One more news analyses that India will close the year with a deficit much higher than what was initially forecast

DROUGHT 

Climate change and mismanagement of water resources fast turning Maharashtra into drought capital of country  Even most drought prone Indian States like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan reported far less areas under drought. Water management expert Parineete Dandekar stresses that the state needs a climate change action plan. According Dandekar the challenges call for a plan on utilising resources and putting to use Maharashtra’s huge irrigation infrastructure which lies incomplete. Also see How Maharashtra Politics Fosters A Sugarcane Crop Even During A Drought Experts point out the system too favors sugarcane farmers. With a sugar-hungry market and increasing number of sugar factories, the production of sugarcane has only been growing.  Parineeta Dandekar from South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People explains that this is about equality in water distribution. She questions that how can millions of farmers be allowed to suffer because of a few? She held politicians who have turned the sugarcane industry totally political not the farmers responsible for the current state of affairs. Meanwhile in a shocking news report it is disclosed that Dam water for kharif crop siphoned off for sugarcane exposing that not only sugarcane is being irrigated through canal water in this terrible drought that Maharashtra is facing, there is actually a bribe rate chart for siphoning off water from canals. Another news report explores the drought hit Parbhani, Latur and Osmanabad districts in Marathwada raising suspicions that 2015 could turn out worse than the worst-ever drought of 1972 for the region. In a recent interview three time chief minister Sharad Pawar in an interview criticizes Central govt. and is worried that there may not be water for cane crushing when fresh crushing season starts in Oct. He also stated that Latur city is getting water once in 15 days and talks of trains getting water to the city after September. Surprisingly Pawar clearly comes out in favour of GM crops, for cross breed animals and against organic farming. Meanwhile SANDRP attempting to look for some solutions to prevailing water crisis has urged Government of Maharashtra and the Maharashtra Water Resource Regulatory Authority to order releases from Bhama Askhed urgently to help Sholapur and Marathwada cope with worsening drought. There is one more news report based on SANDRP appeal getting the message going forward experts are advocating the release of water from Pune’s Bhama Askhed dam, 86 per cent of which presently contains idle water. Finally waking up to worsening water crisis amid severest drought Maha govt may disallow sugarcane cultivation in drought-affected regions. The water resource department has even suggested not to permit any new sugar mills in these regions. 

AGRICULTURE

Change in land use, poor irrigation facilities biggest reason behind one lakh families of farmers in the Maharashtra state opted out of agriculture as their sole profession, in the last five years, according to the latest agriculture Census figures. State agriculture and revenue minister Eknath Khadse said that land acquisition for industrialization, road widening and creation of new roads have eaten up the agricultural land. Sangeeta Shroff, associate professor at Pune-based Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics said that the biggest factor behind farmers being discouraged to leave agriculture is poor irrigation facilities. The irrigation cover in the state is not more than 18%, of which a huge area is used for sugarcane cultivation. A cash crop like cotton is largely rainfed putting pressure on the farmers for making irrigation arrangements. Also see Organic farming caught in ‘quality vs. quantity’ debate

IRRIGATION

Storage Status of 91 Important Reservoirs of the Country as on August 27, 2015 The Water storage available in 91 important reservoirs of the country as on August 27, 2015 was 91.84 BCM which is 58% of total storage capacity of these reservoirs. This storage is 87% of the storage of corresponding period of last year and 88% of storage of average of last ten years. The present storage position during current year is less than the storage position of last year and is also less than the storage of average of last ten years.

Rehabilitate irrigation project-affected on priority, Devendra Fadnavis asks officials CM has instructed officials to ensure no projects are stuck because of shoddy or incomplete rehabilitation. The state government will conduct an audit exercise to find out the status of rehabilitation of people affected by irrigation projects since the 1960s across Maharashtra. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has directed the irrigation ministry to rehabilitate families left out of the process on priority and provide basic amenities to villagers who relocated after their land was acquired for irrigation projects. On the other hand, Six Maharashtra government officials among 11 booked in Balganga river dam scam This is indeed important news, hope this is the beginning of the long series of steps. In a recent development the Enforcement Directorate (ED) may register a money laundering case in the Balganga dam scam. The ED has looked at the FIR of the anti-corruption bureau, in which six senior irrigation officials and five partners of a contract firm have been named. Let us see if the lens does come on the politicians, it seems doubtful as of now.

Environment Minister Karnataka openly support illegal Yettinahole diversion project  This is shocking statement for many reasons.. Firstly, Environmental Clearance has to be secured before ANY work on the project has commenced. Secondly, Yettinahole Project does not have a Forest Clearance so far for Phase I and II and no work can start, forget preliminary work or actually cutting trees, without it. Its really sad to see the political pressure to push this environmentally destructive and hugely unviable project forward. Good to see it is opposed also by Kanara Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

WATER

A fascinating report unfolds that Water MoUs aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on as India fails to act on water agreements. The report claims that several of the Memorandums of Understanding that India has signed with other countries to help tackle river clean-ups, floods and droughts are yet to be acted on by the government. The pacts, which also aim at better drainage and irrigation plans, have remained on paper for want of funds. In the last eight years, India signed 11 such deals with eight countries during state heads’ meetings both at home and abroad. There was one MoU each with Australia, Rwanda, Cambodia, Iraq, Iran, Fiji and Bahrain. China had four.  But except for the MoUs with Australia and China, there is no actual progress – apart from the formation of joint groups – for want of separate funds.

URBAN WATER:  Water theft on the rise in drought stricken Lathur district of Maharashtra  Water has become a closely guarded resource in Latur city which receives municipal supply only once every 15 days. The Dhanegaon dam which supplies water here has been at “dead storage level” for the last four years because of the meagre rains. But this year the water crisis is much worse: the arid Marathwada belt where Latur is located has reported the highest rain deficit in the entire country.

WATER OPTION: Rainwater Harvesting Pioneer Wins International Water Prize Sweden’s King Carl Gustav presents the highly reputed Stockholm Water Prize to rainwater harvesting pioneer Rajendra Singh.

RIVERS

Latha Anantha: A Life Devoted to Rivers Celebrating its 30th anniversary, International Rivers is devoting a new series to the people who have shaped, and are still shaping, river movements around the world. This month, we profile Indian river expert Dr. Latha Anantha.

India’s Waterman bats for clean flowing rivers as a human right The winner of the Stockholm Water Prize says communities and traditional techniques are the solutions to drought, not corporations.

POLLUTION: Half of India’s interstate rivers plagued by pollution and poor water quality Report on India Water Portal about pollution in Interstate Rivers. Parineeta Dandekar from SANDRP raises serious questions regarding some of the report’s findings that indicate that rivers such as the Bhima, Krishna and Wardha have ‘good water quality at every location’. Indeed, evidence from Maharashtra shows that Bhima and Krishna are some of the most polluted rivers in the state. Also see Video link to a very interesting short film on River Krishna which links absence of flows and dams and the river to pollution, encroachment and exploitation. Also read pollution is killing the sacred Kshipra river in Madhya Pradesh as untreated waste from Ujjain, Dewas and Indore cities have not only affected the quality of the river water but has aggravated the water crisis in the region. One more news report finds   Gomati intercepting drains project useless.

FLOOD: Flood Situation Report -2015 upto 28 Aug. 2015 Extent of Damage (cumulative figures)

Population

affected

No. of human

lives lost

No. of districts

affected

No. of villages

affected

No. of cattle/

Live- stock lost

Cropped area

affected

(in ha)

No. of houses

damaged

Estimated value of

Total damage ( In lakh)

15427220 729 59 24018 85637 1364178.63 772245 including

fully &partially

house damaged

 

78,581.01

The flood situation continues to be grim in Arunachal Pradesh  as Namsai and Lohit districts with major rivers flowing above the danger mark following continuous rain. The water level of the Noa Dihing and its tributaries have risen causing a flood-like situation in the low-lying areas. Soil erosion has caused extensive damage in the river bank areas which need immediate protection. Also see Brahmaputra crosses red mark in Guwahati; 8.33 lakh affected across Assam The flood situation in Assam continued to remain grim with the Brahmaputra and several of its tributaries continuing to overflow in different districts, taking the total number of affected people to over 8.33 lakh, with the death toll rising to 13. The Brahmputra also crossed the danger mark in Guwahati. While the floods have affected 14 of the state’s 32 districts, Kokrajhar, Dhubri, Bongaigaon, Lakhimpur and Dhemaji remained the worst affected.  Around 1.60 lakh people have been lodged in 164 relief camps in different flood affected districts, the highest – over 73,000 –was in Dhubri district. Floods have also caused major damage to standing crops, cattle, other farm animals and poultry, while embankments, other flood-control infrastructure, roads and bridges have been also damaged in different districts. In Kokrajhar, floods have uprooted electricity poles, causing major disruption to power supply in the districts since Sunday.

GANGA: Alleging flood threats to Haridwar U’khand seeks Centre’s permission for dredging in Ganga The state forest department has sent a proposal to the Centre seeking permission for dredging in around 1,300 hectares in the Ganga and its tributaries at various places in the Haridwar district so that the river can be properly channelized to avoid disasters. The forest department has alleged that the Ganges and its tributaries are turning toward the Haridwar city, owing to deposition of material in the middle of the rivers, resulting in the rise of the water toward the banks and danger to the human lives and property. The Uttarakhand high court has prohibited any dredging or removal of material for a stretch of three to four km around Chandipul (bridge), to avoid any tampering with the river in wake of Ardhkumbh approaching next year.  Also see उत्तराखंड में नदियों के खनन में अरबों का घोटाला उत्तराखंड में नदियों के खनन में बड़ी हेराफेरी कर सरकारी खजाने में अरबों की चपत लगाने का खुलासा हुआ है। उत्तराखंड में नदियों के किनारे की जमीन नदियों के रफ्तार बदलने की वजह से कभी जलमग्न हो जाती है तो कभी मैदान में बदल जाती है। इसी जमीन के खनन में अरबों की हेराफेरी हो रही है। In one more news report Ganga activists urge NGT to ensure polythene bag ban submitting documents, newspaper reports and photographs of the mass violation and non-implementation of the NGT directives by the civic body, the Ganga Sabha, local traders, people, pilgrims, tourists and the district administration. Another news report mentions that  Clean Ganga Fund has received donations to the tune of over Rs. 66 crore till August this year.

YAMUNA: In a inspiring report Shivani Singh rightly says that it’s our choice: Delhiites can revive Yamuna. If we stop throwing waste, the river will stop being a drain. If we stop cluttering the riverbed, it will have breathing space. If we don’t eye immediate real estate value, the floodplain will be our insurance for water and fresh air for all times to come. We have to make these choices ourselves. Even after all those encroachments in the form of unauthorized colonies, metro yards, train stations, bus depot, a temple, residential complexes, and power plants, a huge Yamuna floodplain is left unclaimed in Delhi. Not many urban centres in the world can boast of such vast expanses along their rivers. In another development National Green Tribunal Fines Agra Civic Body for Dumping Garbage in Yamuna. On the other hand in a sorrow tale Homeless lose shelter to Metro work at Yamuna Pushta in Delhi.

SOUTH ASIA

Pakistan plans to reformulate national water policy in the climate change context Regarding trans-boundary water sharing, the draft says provisions in the Indus Water Treaty for unlimited hydropower development in the upper catchments has the potential of threatening water availability in the lower catchments during low-flow periods. The draft adds that the treaty did not provide for minimum environmental downstream flows to international boundaries for the eastern rivers, which has exposed downstream populations to serious environment hazards. At the same time, upstream developments on the Kabul River are being planned with no formal agreement on sharing water from the river. On the contrary to this a informative news report reveals that Pakistan’s commercial capital Karachi faces the threat of floods each time it rains, due to rampant construction, pollution and encroachments blocking its natural ravines and storm-water drains.

Dams ‘destroying Mekong fish stock Fishermen in delta and Northeast Thailand say dams in China and Laos have hit breeding and yields, forcing many to quit. Mekong River fishermen have already suffered dramatically from dams and irrigation works, which have decimated fish stocks and undermined livelihoods that supported families for generations.

CHINA

China is having a hard time stopping pollution of its scarce water resources China faces a “formidable task” to clean up its rivers and lakes and needs a fundamental change in attitudes to prioritize the environment over economic development at all cost, vice premier Wang Yang said. China published a water pollution prevention action plan in April, promising to improve water supplies in the world’s most populous country and second largest economy after years of heavy pollution caused by industrial development. One-third of major Chinese river basins and 60 percent of its underground water is contaminated.

WORLD

Flood of new dam projects threatens world’s last wild rivers Hundreds of proposals to stem the flow of the planet’s last untouched waterways with hydroelectric plants are going ahead – with seemingly little thought for the environment, wildlife or people who live by them.

The World Bank, after messing up water sector all over the world including in India, is now saying at Stockholm Water Summit that Water management is crucial to achieving sustainable development goals. It is interesting to note that How majestically the World Bank has failed in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Gujarat (Narmada), Uttarakhand (hydropower), Himachal Pradesh (Hydropower) and water pollution scene in general everywhere, and wants to do it in North East India now.

Alpine dam disaster remembered 50 years on More than 1,000 people gathered at the Mattmark hydro dam in the canton of Valais Alps on Sunday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a natural disaster that killed 88 workers, including 56 Italians. On August 30th 1965 part of the Allalin glacier above a cliff gave way, covering the dam construction worksite at an altitude of 2,200 metres with two million cubic metres of rock and ice.

CLIMATE CHANGE

NASA warns of global sea level rise In the last century, the oceans have risen between four and eight inches, but new research from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) indicates that the rate of sea level rise has increased and could be as much as three feet over the next century.

ENVIRONMENT

List of 98 Cities selected under Smart Cities Mission Minister of Urban development Shri M Venkaiah Naidu announced the list of cities and towns selected under smart cities mission. The link to State/UT wise list is given here.

In an interesting development, Rajasthan Electricity Regulatory Commission has passed an order to reduce electricity transmission charges by half for companies that sell solar power outside the state. Many believe that such a move will help Rajasthan, which is well-suited for solar energy generation, attract investment in the sector. While this sounds interesting, why there are no incentives for roof top solar. 

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