Dams, Rivers & People News Bulletin 07 Dec. 2015 (Dams sap Earth’s water, release arsenic in groundwater & fuel Climate Change)

Two new studies show that dam not only significantly increase evapo-transpiration but also worsen arsenic problem in groundwater. In the first study done by Stockholm University in Sweden researchers found that dams and irrigation significantly increase evapotranspiration, an effect that increases the loss of freshwater to the atmosphere, thereby reducing the water available for humans, societies and ecosystems on land. The researchers have compiled and analyzed data from 1901 to 2008 for climate, hydrology and water use in one hundred large hydrological basins spread over the world. In the second study done by Stanford University in Cambodia, researchers concluded that hydrological development particularly dams are responsible for release of increased and unnatural amount of arsenic in Cambodia’s groundwater.

Steven Iddings team leader WHO Cambodia also confirmed that damming of the Mekong and tributaries, combined with climate change, will change the hydrology of Cambodia in a way that could impact the release of arsenic into the ground water. He further stated that arsenic release was just another “down-the-road impact” of damming and climate change. On the other hand during COP-21 experts in Paris raised their voices against dams and big hydropower projects. Activists say dams and hydropower devastates lives, destroys rivers, produces methane which contributes to global warming, and fuels corruption. In fact, the only thing green about it is the money it earns for the few.  One more appealing video The Wrong Climate for Damming Rivers shows that big dams spell disaster for the environment: They emit as much greenhouse gas as the entire global aviation industry, Stop Rivers from acting as carbon sinks, make countries more vulnerable to climate change and destroy critical ecosystems that climate policies are supposed to protect in the first place.

COP- 21 CLIMATE SUMMIT 

COP21: Climate Initiatives Must Not Include Large Hydropower Projects- NGOs Press Release and Statement from over 300 Civil Society Organizations from across the World. And full statement which includes: Ten Reasons Why Climate Initiatives Should Not Include Large Hydropower Projects. Also see the press release available in Hindi on SANDRP blog  जलवायु संकट समाधान के प्रयास हर हाल में करें बड़ी जलविद्युत परियोजनाओं से परहेज Please read on, share and sign on and HELP US DISSEMINATE THIS WIDELY.

10 Reasons Why Large Hydropower Is a False Solution to Climate Change Co-authored with Joan Carling (Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact), Astrid Puentes (Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense) and Himanshu Thakkar (South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People). Support from climate initiatives is one of the reasons why more than 3,700 hydropower dams are currently under construction and in the pipeline. Yet large hydropower projects are a false solution to climate change. They should be kept out from national and international climate initiatives for these 10 reasons.

Paris pact on water and climate change adaptation announced, India part of coalition A broad coalition of nations, river basin organisations, business and civil society from across the world on 02 Dec. announced the creation of the international Paris Pact on Water and Climate Change Adaptation to make water systems – the very foundation of sustainable human development – more resilient to climate impacts. India, which plays a key role in climate negotiations, is part of the coalition that aims to make river basins, lakes, aquifers and deltas more resilient to climate change and reduce human interference with oceans. And India, on its part, committed to build climate resilience through improved groundwater management in the country.  Why does this pact sound empty? Is there any reflection of this in the real action by any of these actors?

Government data reveal serious climate change threat to India According to statistics on climate change released by the ministry of statistics and programme implementation, the data on drought, collected every five years, showed that in the past 130 years, the percentage area affected by drought has shown a rising trend. The percentage was 46 per cent of the total area of the country in 2009. The report said regional variations in monsoon rains showed a 10-12 per cent increase along the west coast, northern Andhra Pradesh and north-western India during the past century. However, a decreasing trend of six to eight per cent was observed over eastern Madhya Pradesh, North-Eastern India and some parts of Gujarat and Kerala.

Millions of farmers don’t have safeguards against climate change impact The country’s farm sector is considered highly vulnerable to shifts in weather patterns as half of the cropland is dependent on rainfall, drawing around 60% of the farmers to the core of the climate-proofing debate. Also see, Farmer suicides, Naxal violence linked to climate change

India’s growth ‘addiction’ and climate change Burdened by over-extraction and pollution, India’s groundwater aquifers are on the brink of collapse. Nearly 80% of surface water is polluted, according to WaterAid. Drought afflicts 18 of 29 states of the country, even as many parts of the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh reel under floods. Also see, How global warming is singeing the region The situation in the region calls for an early correction of the distortion in the ecological front. Crop production and dairying activities will be adversely affected if there is no mitigation of the harmful effects of climate change.

Government gives itself a green tint The government has announced revised targets for RE capacity addition target to 175,000 MW by 2022. Of this, 100,000 Mw would be solar, 60,000 Mw through wind and the rest from small hydro and other green sources. Also see, High-powered team accompanies PM to Paris for climate talks

Rich countries must pay their debt on climate change: Prakash Javadekar This is said to be based on “polluter pays” principle since the developed countries had emitted large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in their search of growth, leading to the heating up of the planet. The minister also reiterated that all the agreements should be under the aegis of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. He also said that India was here to ensure that the seminal principle of ‘common but differentiated responsbilities (CBDR)’ was respected.

World’s richest 10% account for 50% of carbon emissions: Report The richest 10% of people produce half of Earth’s climate-harming fossil-fuel emissions, while the poorest half contributes a mere 10%, British charity Oxfam said in a study released on 02 Dec.15.

Good intentions aren’t enough as climate talks get underway To change the current carbon equation; the biggest global polluters would have to commit to cutting their emissions at unachievable rates.

Also see, Multiple closed-door meetings make smaller nations protest

TAMILNADU FLOODS 

CHENNAI FLOODS: Cities today, countryside tomorrow? Guest Blog on Chennai flood by Manoj Misra While climate change is going to bring high intensity rainfall more frequently to our shores, the damage we are doing within our cities and countryside to their natural resources is hugely increasing the proportions of climate change induced disasters. Sooner we understood this and put our environment governance on the right path, and may be begin with promulgating the RRZ notification better it will be for ourselves.

Death toll climbs to 269 from torrential rain and flooding in southern India  In a report on Chennai floods of Dec 3, 2015, Los Angeles Times have quoted SANDRP. “This not only deprives the city of having its own water resources, it instead creates disasters like the one in Chennai,” Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asian Network for Dams, Rivers, and People told catchnews.com. Chennai has destroyed its water bodies the same way Mumbai had. Now Mumbai’s disaster from a decade ago is repeating in Chennai,” he said, referring to the 2005 deluge in India’s booming financial capital, which left more than 1,000 people dead.”

Narendra Modi blames climate change for floods in Tamil Nadu “We are seeing the impact of climate change now. The unseasonal rains resulted in floods in Tamil Nadu. In India, we have witnessed heavy rains in non-monsoon weather. Huge losses have been reported and many people have lost their lives,” Modi said in his monthly radio address ‘Mann Ki Baat’. Experts said the PM’s message is aimed at setting the stage for linking climate change with extreme weather events in India.

Climate Change Brought the Rains, Our ‘Development’ Brought the Chaos Interesting article on recent Chennai floods by Nagraj Adve Given the dual and combined reality of urbanisation and peri-urban expansions, and more regular and intensified climate change impacts, three issues then follow. One, what needs to be done to ensure that natural hydrological flows are not hindered and that a repeat of Mumbai and Chennai does not happen? Two, given that much reckless infrastructural expansion has already occurred in city after city, what of it can we undo? Three, we need to go deeper and interrogate the mindset that promotes this kind of reckless urban expansion, that valorises unequal and unsustainable growth, that pursues super-profits at the cost of everything else.  Also see, Explained: Why is Chennai under water?

To save Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradresh holds its dam gates tight Andhra Pradesh on  came to the rescue of rain-battered Tamil Nadu by regulating the flood discharge from Pichatur and Krishnapuram dams, even while risking inundation of its own territory in Chittoor district. The dams across the river Arani at Pichatur and river Kusasthali in Krishnapuram are full to the brim following torrential rains in the Eastern Ghats in Chittoor district. AP government had opened the dam gates to discharge the flood water downstream to protect villages in Chittoor district from inundation. But the flood discharge from the two dams had further aggravated the flood situation in Tiruvallur district of Tamil Nadu.

Flood alert as Periyar dam level touches 140 ft  The first flood warning was issued to wayside villages in Kerala and Tamil Nadu on 03 Dec as water discharge from the Mullaperiyar dam may increase any time with the level touching 140 feet, thanks to incessant rain. If the rain continues for two more days, the storage would reach 142 feet, the level permitted by the Supreme Court. PWD officials alerted both Theni and Idukki district administrations in Tamil Nadu and Kerala respectively in this connection. Also see,  Papanasam dam almost full Papanasam dam was almost full with water level standing at 141.40 feet on 03 Dec. morning as against the maximum capacity of 143 feet.

32 days, 1,333mm of rain in Chennai, hour by hour How the rains fell in Chennai and two other affected Tamil Nadu districts since 1 November by the hour. More than the amount of rain, it’s the concentration of this rainfall over a few hours on a few days that devastated Chennai and two other affected districts in Tamil Nadu, Cuddalore and Vilappuram—home to a combined 10.7 million people, or nearly 15% of the state’s population. An excellent graphic, decoding Chennai’s cataclysmic rain, hour by hour since 1st Nov 2015. Also see,  This northeast monsoon seems to be on its way to create new records for the State

Chennai floods: Decoding the city’s worst rains in 100 years While officials at the India Meteorological Department have said the exceptionally strong El Niño, along with a rare “coincidence of various factors”, has resulted in the heavy rain, there’s no denying that Chennai has failed in maintaining an effective storm water drainage system. In times when the city, and its suburbs, is being pounded with rainfall exceeding normal limits by over three times, a drainage system that isn’t functional, creeks and culverts that are blocked due to excessive dumping of garbage as well as the administration’s failure to ensure timely desilting. Also see, Nowhere to drain Chennai rain water: Shoreline under water 

Floods expose how Chennai killed its drains A report quoting a study from the National Institute of Disaster Management stated that about 650 water bodies, including big lakes, ponds and storage tanks, have been destroyed in Chennai and their current number stands at around 27. It added that the city has only 855 km of storm drains against 2,847 km of urban roads. The 400-kilometre long Buckingham Canal, built by the British for navigation, is another example of how a waterway turned into a drain. Experts say failure to de-silt it is another reason for the floods, adding that it is high time those drains were revived.

Also see, Chennai Airport Is Doomed to Suffer, Its Runway Is Built On Adyar River

RIVERS

Muthai River Walk: Exploring what was and what can be SANDRP Blog on India Rivers Day Celebration in Pune  “Because our bodies are 70% water and this water is from our rivers. We ARE our rivers.” We have heard of river walks along beautiful rivers in Chicago or the San Antonia River Walk, or the Singapore Riverfront walk. But Muthai River Walk, which tries to connect us with our heritage, is special.  Bringing us close to a Living River (dying at places) without any frills, it showed us what was and what could be. That such an urban initiative is taken up by enthusiastic citizens in our country is so very rare and hence, commendable. This was the perfect way for me to celebrate the India Rivers Day.

Lessons for Pune pour in from Chennai floods Interesting news report Pune’s Rivers. It mentions that unchecked urbanization is choking the six water streams flowing in and around the city which may strike back during heavy rains leading to Chennai like flooding.  Geographically, the city of Pune lies in a valley with many small and medium streams meandering down its area to empty at the Mula-Mutha basin. In their study, researchers Tushar Shitole, principal of Mamasaheb Mohol college, and Shrikant Gabale, a PhD scholar, have identified six major basins that are active in and around the city – Ramnadi, Ambil Odha, Nandusi, Bhairoba nala, Wadki nala and Wagholi nala.”

How Mumbai airport ate up Mithi river  While we can safely replace Chennai with any other Indian City right now, the similarities between Chennai and Mumbai are a bit too striking. Not only because they are mega cities, state capitals and important ports, but also because both have built their airports over rivers! Mumbai has been faithfully assaulting Mithi River for years. The July 2005 catastrophic floods saw a similar picture as Chennai.

‘Save Handri’ rally to focus on river pollution ‘Save Handri’ movement was launched on the International Volunteers Day on December 5, 2012 to create awareness among the people on river pollution. The rallyists took up symbolic cleaning of the river on Saturday morning and staged a candle light demonstration near Konda Reddy Fort in the night.  

GANGA A new initiative launched in UP to store Ganga floodwater The initiative, called Underground Taming of Floods for irrigation (UTFI), channels surplus surface water from flood‐prone rivers or their distributary canals during the wet season when there is a high flood risk to a modified village pond. Brick structures in the pond allow the water to flow swiftly down below ground, where they infiltrate the local aquifer. This water can then be pumped back up again during the dry season so that farmers can maintain or intensify their crop production.  Located in Jiwai Jadid village, 20 kilometers east of Rampur town, the project will be the first ever to adopt the new approach which is being developed by scientists at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

Ganga cleaning project ‘very ambitious’: CJI Urging involvement of the people in the execution of the project, Chief Justice Thakur, who was interacting with media persons after taking charge, said people have to be made aware of it and educated.

Modi government asks public, NRIs to contribute to Clean Ganga Fund With surface cleaning of River Ganga’s mainstream set to begin next year, government has urged public and NRIs to contribute towards the Clean Ganga Fund (CGF). The Government has until now received approximately Rs 88 crore in the form of donations in CGF and will require more money as the cleaning activity gets underway most probably from January, 2016, according to Union Water Resources Ministry officials.  Also read, Inland waterways: Government setting up 30 water ports on the Ganga; Nitin Gadkari calls it game-changer  

Also see, Matri Sadan head continues fast against ‘illegal’ quarrying in Ganga

HYDROPOWER

Stalled hydropower mars Narendra Modi’s vision of a less-polluting India This shows how the lobby for hydropower projects works, and media becomes willing partner of this lobby, not bothering to understand either reality on ground or even the performance of the hydropower projects or even ascertaining what they are saying is true.

HIMACHAL Kinnaur in crisis; sheer Negligence in hydro projects claiming lives  Urgent press release from Himdhara, Manshi Asher Sumit Mahar and Prakash Bhandari on recent disaster caused by Shongthong Karchham and Sorang hydro power projects in Kinnaur district.

Also see, media reports based on the press release Himachal NGO demands strict safety norms in hydro projects The policy of promoting hydropower projects in Himachal Pradesh’s fragile and eco-sensitive zones will have geological and hydrological impacts and there is need for strict compliance with environmental and safety norms by project authorities, an environmental group said on Wednesday. Two days after two workers were killed in an accident in the state-run upcoming 450 MW Shongtong-Karcham project in Kinnaur district, the Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective said it was a sheer negligence by the project authorities that was claiming lives. This is the second accident in the hydropower project in the state in less than a fortnight. HP Govt. letting Kinnaur Hydro-Projects kill people and destroy villages knowingly: Himdhara

Himachal’s apple crop, power projects face threat: Study Increase in temperatures, erratic rain, decreased snowfall and overall warming on account of climate change could have serious repercussions for the ecologically fragile Himalayan region with apple production, power generation, agriculture, tourism to be hit adversely over the next few decades. These are the findings of a study on green growth and sustainable development in Himachal Pradesh undertaken by The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI). The study clearly indicates that climate change will have an impact on natural resources of the hill state. Extreme rain events are also likely to increase in future.

Also see, Climate shift hitting border dists most: Scientists  As per the report, Chamba, Lahaul-Spiti, Kinnaur, Kullu and some areas of Shimla and Sirmaur districts are highly sensitive towards climate change while Hamirpur, Mandi, Solan, Una and Kangra are moderately sensitive. The sensitivity is measured on the basis of agriculture, water resources, livelihood and forests. The report also indicates that low-lying river bed areas, including hydro power projects, are more sensitive to the effect of rising water level and flood-like situations.

DAMS                                                                

Villages close to Vaigai dam Tamil Nadu facing acute water crisis Even as Vaigai dam has comfortable storage and the Vaigai river has heavy flow, several villages that are situated less than 200 metres away from the Vaigai dam have been reeling under acute water crisis for more than three decades. Farm activities have come to a standstill and migration of farmers is on the increase, owing to accumulation of silt in supply channels and destruction of other channels connecting nearby tanks that have surplus water. The worst affected are Kovilpatti, Balasamudram, Marikundu, Rangasamudram and Thekkampatti panchayats in Andipatti block as major tanks in these panchayats are completely dry. Residents and farmers at several villages in these pancahayats have been struggling to get water for drinking and irrigation.

Nabarangpur farmers loosing water to Kalahandi poverty Nabarangpur’s farmers complain that the building of the Upper Indravati hydroelectric project damming the river’s waters has hit them badly. The project’s main reservoir is, interestingly, located at Khatiguda in Tentulikhunti block of Nabarangpur, even while the water goes to irrigate Kalahandi. “This is a unique case where the reservoir in the downstream and its water is taken upstream for power generation and irrigation in Kalahandi. Not only have our farmers not benefited, but Indravati is now virtually part of the Mahanadi basin and not Godavari, its natural basin,” alleges Jhadeswar Khadanga, a lawyer and president of Nabarangpur Krishak Mahasangha.

Goa farmers worried over leaks in Anjunem dam channels  Farmers in Keri and Morlem areas of Sattari are apprehensive over leakages to the canal as well as to the distributary channels of Anjunem dam. Water stored in the reservoir of the dam is released through the left and right bank main canals and also through the distributary channels. Due to cracks developed to some of the distributary channels, there are leakages and water is being wasted since last week, complained farmers affected in Keri and the vicinity.

Bombay HC sets aside order on release of water to Ujani The decision by the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority (MWRRA) to release 10 TMC water from Pune’s dams to Ujani in Solapur district has been set aside till December 14. In a hearing on 03 Dec. , the Bombay High Court set aside the MWRRA order of October 26 and is all set to hear both parties on December 14.

Also see, ‘Periyar Dam Strong, May Increase Level to 152 Feet’: CWC  

INTER STATE WATER DISPUTES 

SC pulls up Centre over Krishna water plea The Supreme Court on 02 Dec. asked the Centre to make a categorical stand on Telangana’s plea for fresh determination of the Krishna river water after the Union government’s cousel dithered while initially claiming the minister concerned has taken a decision to refer the matter to the tribunal. The bench noted that it had failed to file its response to the plea made by newly-carved Telangana state. Maharashtra and Karnataka had claimed that Telangana’s interest were earlier represented by the undivided Andhra Pradesh. They also claimed that there cannot be any new proceedings for fresh allocation of the water.

RIVERS AS NATIONAL WATER WAYS

State wise list of 106 waterways For declaration of 101 more inland waterways as National Waterways, a Bill was introduced in the Budget Session of the Parliament in 2015. The Bill was referred to the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism & Culture for examination. Based on the recommendations of the Committee, a draft Cabinet Note for moving the “Official Amendments to the National Waterways Bill, 2015” for declaration of 106  new waterways  as National Waterways  has been submitted to the Cabinet Secretariat on 16.11.2015 for consideration.

IRRIGATION         

Farm distress: Centre wants states to properly implement its irrigation schemes With back to back drought years putting farmers under tremendous stress, the Centre believes it’s effort to bolster irrigation infrastructure and disburse relief to farmers after extreme weather events are falling short thanks to some states dragging their feet. Union agriculture ministry in its periodic review of these schemes found many states not up to the mark with minister Radha Mohan Singh asking them to pull up their socks while emphasizing that central funds will not be a constraint as long as states do their bit to improve the situation.

Andhra Pradesh govt releases white paper on irrigation  Releasing the white paper titled ‘Water and Growth’ chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu,  said the state would be made drought-free through river-linking, rainwater harvesting and drip irrigation system so as to achieve 20 per cent agricultural growth.

WATER          

Govt issues draft of new standards on water quality The environment ministry, with the aim of making water bodies fit for bathing, has decided to tighten water quality norms. In the draft standards, the ministry has presented 14 points to determine the quality of water in a river or water body. Experts remain unsure of whether the standards will have any effect.

Govt mulls Europe-style water law to save resource Concerned by the future projections of water availability in India, the government is mulling the legislation route to save the scarce resource from depleting any further. It plans to come out with a new draft National Water Framework Bill – on the lines of the one in effect in Europe – and improvising on the existing draft law of 2013. Since water is a state subject, the National Water Framework Bill, if enacted, will serve as a model for subsequent legislations at state-level.

India signs MoU with Israel for management and development of water resources The bilateral cooperation will benefit both the countries in strengthening the techniques in efficient use of water, micro-irrigation, recycling/re-use of waste water, desalination, aquifer recharge and in-situ water conservation techniques. A Joint Working Group shall be formed to monitor the activities to be carried out in fulfilment of the MoU. India has already entered into agreements with Australia, Rwanda, Cambodia, Iran, Iraq, Fiji, China and Bahrain in the field of water resources management and development cooperation.

GROUND WATER

Amaravati grondwater highly polluted: Report A joint research study by Andhra University, Indian Institute of Remote Sensing and KL University has revealed that the groundwater in the villages that fall under the capital city contain pollution indicators like total dissolved solids (TDS), nitrates and fluorides beyond the maximum limit prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards. The researchers also found high concentration of alkalinity, which ranged between 200 mg per litre to 400 mg per litre.

Arsenic contamination on the rise: 1 lakh dead, 3 lakh suffering Arsenic contamination is spreading fast in 12 states and beyond, with around one lakh people already dead and the chemical entering the food chain through farm products in the region, a committee of secretaries in a report to the government has said. The committee has also estimated that 7.04 crore people have been affected, with around three lakh people having arsenic-related diseases in the country. More damning is the research done by the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), showing that 90% of arsenic-laden water in affected areas was used for irrigation, with the study finding its traces in vegetables covering farm-rich states like Haryana and Punjab.

Punjab, Haryana groundwater has arsenic beyond limit, says report A research report recently prepared by the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) is set to cause alarm in Punjab and Haryana. The report submitted last week establishes that Punjab and Haryana feature among the 12 states in the country where groundwater contains arsenic beyond the permissible limit. The report further points to the fact that a large quantity of this contaminated water is used for agriculture, thus entering the food chain. The report further suggests that vegetables and other crops grown in the contaminated belt in the two states have high level of arsenic.

The tragedy of the groundwater commons This report highlights the limitations of new GW notification from CGWA. Groundwater accounts for over 50% irrigated area in India, but the new guidelines by the Central Groundwater Authority only crack down on water-intensive industries such as soft drinks and leather.

WATER OPTIONS

Recharge, recycle, reuse, go with the flow for a water-smart Delhi Manoj Misra explains why Delhi does not need any more additional water from external sources beyond what Delhi is currently getting. It does not need Renuka dam or Sharada Yamuna river link.

LAKES AND WATER BODIES

HC: Save wetlands, avoid Chennai-like flooding in Mumbai  Bombay HC says if Mumbai does not save Mangroves, it may face Chennai like situation. The Bombay high court on 03 Dec. expressed concern about the destruction of mangroves and warned that the flooding that happened in Chennai can happen in Mumbai too. The Justice V M Kanade and Justice Revati Mohite-Dere made these recommendations while hearing a PIL by NGO Vanshakti for saving wetlands. 

In India’s dry regions, crowd-funding comes to a lake’s rescue VERY encouraging and interesting story of how residents of Yavatmal in Vidarbha (Maharashtra) came together to desilt the tank that was city’s water supply source.

DROUGHT    

Cabinet approves extension of NRLM subsidy to 250 districts The move comes amid worsening rural distress in the second successive year of weak monsoon rains. The cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 02 Dec. approved the extension of interest subsidy under the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) to 250 districts from the existing 150 for a focussed and targeted intervention in poverty reduction.

Rural Distress: Back-to-back drought adds to the woes The well-irrigated states of Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka, western Uttar Pradesh and coastal states such as Odisha are, for the first time, feeling the effects of a poor monsoon. Across India, the problem of falling groundwater is well on its way to becoming one of the 21st century’s defining crises. It has also added to the woes of farmers in Bihar, where agriculture continues to be the primary source of income.

Bundelkhand starves as rains give it a miss Household survey by the Yogendra Yadav-led Swaraj Abhiyan in Uttar Pradesh’s Bundelkhand region has found that over a third of households had not been able to consume any dal over the previous month, half had eaten no vegetables for over 10 days. Nearly one in five had been forced to eat rotis made of grass, the survey found. India faced only its second consecutive drought this year, with Uttar Pradesh experiencing the highest rainfall deficit. Bundelkhand, the impoverished district, is experiencing its third consecutive drought, and the rabi crop was also damaged by a hailstorm. Also see, UP’s Bundelkhand staring at a famine-like situation: survey

Double whammy for debt-hit U.P. farmers After two successive crop failures, the rabi crop this year looked promising, but hailstorm spells dashed all hopes. The news report presents worrying account of farmers in UP particularly in Bundelkhand region. After successive drought session, recent hail strom spell dashed not only the rabi crops but the remaining hope of farmers to ground. Recurring crop failure is has forcing farmers to choose between two situations either migrate to city or commit suicide.

No ordinary drought: Water levels are so low, this Madhya Pradesh district has banned irrigation With restrictions on drawing water from public reservoirs, only 10% of the farmland used for growing the winter crop has been sown.

Also see, ‘Warming Indian Ocean reduces monsoon rains’

AGRICULTURE

Rural distress: Farmers has been let down by monsoon Farmers across India are faced with a multitude of problems, posing a serious challenge to the country’s development narrative. Cotton and basmati rice growers in Punjab, sugarcane farmers in west Uttar Pradesh are all under stress due to the non-payment of insurance and state compensation. Growers in Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra are also hit by consecutive monsoon failures. Drought has hit almost half the 600 districts in the country and as many as 18 states are in its grip. Monsoon 2015 marks a period when India suffered back-to-back droughts, a phenomenon which had happened only four times in the past 100 years. The severity and spread of the drought has forced many experts to point at climate change as one cause for warmer temperatures for many months that allowed, say, the whitefly to flourish. Also see, Green revolution needs urgent mending Critics say indiscriminate use of fertiliser, excessive exploitation of groundwater, driven by cheap power, and difficulty in

Drought & prices make Maharashtra farmers desert cane According to the state government, only 9.83 lakh hectares have come under cultivation of cane for crushing this season, as against the 10.53 lakh hectares in 2014-15. The total cane available for crushing is likely to fall to 887 lakh tonnes (lt), from the 930 lt of 2014-15, with a corresponding decline in sugar production, too, from the record 105 lt of last year to 85 lt this season. Millers, however, expect an even sharper drop. Interestingly, crushing data for this season so far shows production to be higher than last year.  The want of water, in combination with non-payment by mills, has also led to farmers in many places using their cane as fodder for cattle, rather than sending to factories for crushing. It is estimated that around 25 per cent of this year’s cultivated cane in Maharashtra will be diverted for fodder.

Dry State: A better pulse rate  Vidarbha’s farmers have escaped the worst of drought this year and hope to gain from high arhar prices. Arhar is grown in about 5 lakh hectares in Vidarbha. That includes 3.5 lakh hectares in the Amravati division (Amravati, Akola, Buldhana, Washim and Yavatmal districts) and 1.5 lakh hectares in Nagpur division (Wardha, Nagpur, Chandrapur, Bhandara, Gondia and Gadchiroli). Roughly 85 per cent of the crop in Vidarbha, which accounts for half of Maharashtra’s arhar area — is rain-fed.

Diversification boost: Punjab is nation’s horticulture leader Breaking away from the vicious paddy-wheat cycle has yielded 74 per cent increase in production, 48 per cent increase in area and 18 per cent more productivity of horticultural crops for the food bowl of the country. Occupying only 1.53 per cent of the total geographical area of the country, Punjab accounts for about 25 per cent of India’s total cropped area under horticulture. Of the 241.98 lakh hectares (12.39 per cent of total cropped area) of horticulture cropped area in the country, Punjab accounts for 3.11 lakh hectares (3.95 per cent) under horticulture. The switch has helped save almost 30 per cent groundwater as horticultural crops consume much less water than the wheat-paddy rotation. 

Also see, Kerala scientists develop saltwater-tolerant paddy

SANDMINING

Punjab govt puts 83 quarries on the block With the Akali-BJP government constantly under fire over the high rates of sand and gravel caused by the alleged collusion of politicians and the sand mafia, the government has decided to follow reverse bidding to auction new mines that have received all necessary environmental clearances from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. Other than the 33 quarries that are to be auctioned next week, the government has also decided to allow the Irrigation Department to mine sand midstream from riverbeds of the Sutlej and Beas by dredging at over 45 places, as the midstream level of the riverbed has become higher. With the minor minerals from the sides of the rivers being extracted for mining, there are reports of flooding from these rivers at various places.

ENERGY OPTIONS

LED bulbs may get cheaper by Rs 20 with government ordering 5 crore bulbs in 10 days India’s lighting industry is undergoing another shakeup as prices of energy-efficient light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs have dipped to the level of compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) and are likely to fall further with the biggest ever LED lamp purchase tender expected from the government in 10 days.

MoU between India and Germany for Solar Energy The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which has been signed in October, 2015, between Indian and Germany, to expand bilateral development cooperation in the field of Solar Energy by increasing use of solar energy in India through technical as well as financial cooperation.  The MoU will help in strengthening bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

SOUTH ASIA

Hydropower must remain a public entity: Bhutan Council  More concerns about Bhutan hydropower development from Bhutan Council. The House supports the committee’s proposal to amend the electricity Act and hydropower related policies. Hydropower: To ensure that hydropower projects in future do not become concentrated in the hands of few business entities, the Bhutan Electricity Act 2001 and related policies that paved way for private investments will be amended. With the National Assembly expected to amend the Act, the National Council agreed to its ad-hoc committee’s recommendation to look into amending the Bhutan Sustainable Hydropower Development Policy (BSHDP) 2008 or the Act. This is one of the eight recommendations the committee proposed after a yearlong review of the country’s hydropower development policies and programmes.

Better Indo-Bangla ties fail to push Teesta pact India and Bangladesh share 54 rivers, and a water-sharing pact exists only for the Ganges, which was signed in 1996. The Centre has told Dhaka that it is in talks with the West Bengal government on the issue. Water is a state subject in India and negotiations on Teesta have been going on for 18 years. Bangladesh has given enough indication of Teesta agreement being seen as a demonstrable pact to show New Delhi is reciprocating its ‘unprecedented’ security cooperation. But sources said West Bengal government has not given any favourable response on the issue.

Also see, India must treat water as strategic resource, fight China’s throttlehold

REST OF THE WORLD 

If Shasta Dam, California is raised, tribe would lose sacred places and culture The growing demand for water in Southern California is putting my Winnemem Wintu culture and spirituality at risk for a second time. Seventy-five years ago, our land was taken for the construction of Shasta Dam, without the promised compensation. The resulting reservoir submerged sacred sites and ancient villages where we lived along the McCloud River.

Argentina leader leaves controversial legacy with Patagonia dam project Although the environmental impact study for the $5.7bn scheme has yet to be announced and approved, preparatory work is already well under way beside the Santa Cruz river valley once explored by Charles Darwin. The greatest concern is the likely impact on wildlife and scenery. Santiago Imberti, a local conservationist, said the dam would flood the breeding and wintering sites of tens of thousands of birds, including the highly endangered hooded grebe – a native species of which there are only 800 left. Conservation groups launched a legal challenge against the project in October.

Israel-Jordan Water Pipeline Plan Shelved A local planning and building committee has voted down a proposal to build a pipeline for sending water from Israel to Jordan, arguing that the pipeline is liable to undermine efforts to rehabilitate the Jordan River. However, an appeals committee will probably review the decision and may overturn it. The pipeline proposal was submitted to the Jordan Valley Planning and Building Committee by the Mekorot water company. But it was fiercely opposed by local residents and environmental groups.

Hydrologist leads global call for action on groundwater management According to this latest UNESCO report on groundwater in the context of climate change, one of the crisis areas is INDIA. It says that there has to be a commitment from political leaders to create adequate, sustainable governance of our groundwater resources, but it’s not a top-down approach. We need stakeholders at the local level, because groundwater is best managed locally. That’s really the new framework we’re seeing in California.

Also see, 10 Cities Win Sustainable Development Award  

Brazil Mining Dam Accident Vale warned by Fitch on rating after dam disaster High quality global journalism requires investment. Fitch Ratings has placed Vale, the world’s largest iron ore producer, on a negative outlook over a mining accident last month at one of the company’s Brazilian investments. The incident at Samarco Mineração, a standalone iron ore miner under the equal joint ownership of Vale and Anglo Australian group BHP Billiton, has polluted one of Brazil’s largest river basins and been described by the government as the country’s largest environmental disaster.

Unacceptable levels of arsenic and mercury found in river days after Brazil dam burst Illegal levels of arsenic and mercury polluted the Rio Doce river in the days after a dam burst at an iron ore mine in early November in Brazil’s worst ever environmental disaster, according to tests by a state water agency. Also see NASA satellites image of contaminated water flowing into Atlantic and explore a pictorial report  & watch a video link  showing impact of one of the worst dam disaster in the world.   

ENVIRONMENT

House Panel J & K constitutes committee to dig out truth within 15 days Taking serious note of continuous soil erosion in many parts of the Kishtwar district despite plantation of whopping 16 lakh trees, Committee on Environment of J&K Legislative Assembly has constituted a panel headed by Deputy Commissioner to dig out the truth and submit report within a period of 15 days. The House Committee has also decided to seek details from the Chief Conservator of Forests so as to ascertain what results the compulsory afforestation has actually yielded in the district.  While this report raises the questions about lack of proper catchment area treatment and fictional plantations, it also shows that the members of the assembly committee do not seem particularly interested in such a crucial subject.

Maharashtra won’t declare Aarey Colony a forest The battle over cutting 2,298 trees in Aarey Colony for Metro depot has reached a new level. Environmentalists and nature lovers want the colony to be categorised as forest to save it from destruction because of commercial activities.

Also see, Off loading Bhopal’s Carbide curse Local villagers in Dhar districts, Madhaya Pradesh are protesting against an incineration plant which will burn toxic waste abondoned post Bhopal gas disaster.

One Comment on “Dams, Rivers & People News Bulletin 07 Dec. 2015 (Dams sap Earth’s water, release arsenic in groundwater & fuel Climate Change)

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