DRP News Bulletin 14 Dec. 2015 (Your City can be Next Chennai?)

Our cities with their high population density and poor civic standards are vulnerable to the domino effect that can be set off by freak weather it happened in Mumbai in 2005. Last year, it was Srinagar. Now it’s happening in Chennai. Could it happen to your city?

Judging by the burgeoning urban population, and the uncontrolled growth of urban centres that fail on every parameter including drainage and garbage disposal, most of our cities are disasters waiting to happen.

As per global standards cities across the world should prepare for a 100-year flood recurrence period. In other words, they have to be ready for a severe flood situation, even if it has one-in-100 chance of occurring. But our cities guardians overlook larger flood cycle as freak weather events.

That exactly is happening in IT corridor Hyderabad which is sitting on a plan that lacks a storm-water drainage system and ‪‎Navi Mumbai International Airport in Maharashtra which will be built on the flood plains of Ghadi and Ulwe rivers. Amaravati the state capital of Andhra Pradesh is also doing away its underground water channels which drain out flood waters during stresses.

TAMIL NADU FLOODS

Chennai floods were manmade disaster: Wrong operation of Chembarambakkam dam The flood that ravaged Chennai last week was not a natural disaster, but one caused by the state bureaucracy’s failure to regulate release of water from Chembarambakkam reservoir (lake) in the outskirts of the city. Those privy to developments in the state secretariat during the last week of November say that in the wake of international weather forecast agencies predicting 500mm of rain for Chennai on December 1 and 2, public works department (PWD) officials had advised the PWD secretary and other senior bureaucrats on November 26 to bring down the water level in the reservoir from 22ft to below 18ft so the lake could absorb heavy inflow four days later.

Do little, hide the evidence: the official neglect that caused these deadly floods  As Chennai faces deluge, thousands of kilometers apart Cumbria in UK too experienced 30 cms rain in 24 hours. The inimitable George Monbiot analyses the issues, from Climate Change to Political Will, to Upstream Protection to Rewilding and DECHANNELIZING Rivers. A must read. Nothing is learnt, crucial discussions are avoided or buried. We are drowning in ignorance; ignorance manufactured by an illiterate media and a hostile government. Every time disaster strikes we respond with bewilderment.

Delay in opening sluice gates caused flooding The flood that ravaged Chennai last week was not a natural disaster, but one caused by the state bureaucracy’s failure to regulate release of water from Chembarambakkam reservoir (lake) in the outskirts of the city. Those privy to developments in the state secretariat during the last week of November say that in the wake of international weather forecast agencies predicting 500mm of rain for Chennai on December 1 and 2, public works department (PWD) officials had advised the PWD secretary and other senior bureaucrats on November 26 to bring down the water level in the reservoir from 22ft to below 18ft so the lake could absorb heavy inflow four days later.

A wrong call that sank Chennai As the flood water recedes in Chennai, serious questions are being raised about reservoir management in the city. Much of the flooding and subsequent water logging was a consequence of the outflows from major reservoirs into swollen rivers and into the city following heavy rains. The release of waters from the Chembarambakkam reservoir in particular has received much attention. Experts raise the question as to why storage was set at such high levels.

Reservoir managers ignored warnings of heavy downpour In the aftermath of the Chennai floods, the release of waters from the Chembarambakkam reservoir in particular has received much attention, as the outflow from it into the already constricted Adyar river resulted in a severe deluge, whose after-effects persist to this day. Also see, How Official Negligence Turned a Natural Crisis into a Human-Made Catastrophe  

Tamil Nadu Opposition join forces, seek probe over water release The crux of the opposition charge and also in a section of media, is that in the last week of November when Chennai witnessed moderate showers, the discharge volume from Chembarambakkam reservoir was trammelled. It is seriously doubtful if there will be any credible inquiry, leave aside making the engineers accountable. 

Urban flood unit mooted by expert panel yet to be set up Five years after the 2005 Mumbai deluge, an expert panel of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) came up with the first ever detailed national guidelines on management of urban flooding. The document made a distinction between flooding and urban flooding, describing the latter as a separate phenomenon which needs to be dealt with by an urban flooding unit under the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD). However, the dedicated unit is yet to be set up. This despite the fact that the Ministry of Home Affairs had in July 2012 issued orders designating the MoUD as the nodal ministry for urban flooding. An MoUD spokesperson confirmed that no such unit exists in the ministry. Also see, Kashmir flood 2014: No report, no funds, no concrete plans

Runoff water management new mantra for planners The increasing frequency of intense rainfall as witnessed in Chennai is changing traditional approaches to drainage with “retention and detention” strategies that reduce peak flows and encourage local storage finding increasing favour with urban planners. Newer constructions are encouraged to harvest water for local use such as cleaning, gardening and air cooling. Storm water is channeled through parks that use natural media to filter water on its way to collection tanks and eventually reservoirs.

Chennai paid the price for loss of wetlands and open spaces: study Chennai’s resilience to the recent deluge has taken a severe beating as nearly a quarter of its wetlands, open space and flood plains have given way to concrete structures. The research, which is to be published in the Journal of the Indian Society of Remote Sensing, shows that since 1991, the city’s concrete structures have increased nearly 13 times. Correspondingly, flood plains and open areas have been reduced by a fourth. 

Your city can be the next Chennai  Our cities with their high population density and poor civic standards are vulnerable to the domino effect that can be set off by freak weather it happened in Mumbai in 2005. Last year, it was Srinagar. Now it’s happening in Chennai. Could it happen to your city? Judging by the burgeoning urban population, and the uncontrolled growth of urban centres that fail on every parameter including drainage and garbage disposal, most of our cities are disasters waiting to happen.

In Chennai, a disaster foretold  It is a standard practice in cities across the world to prepare for a 100-year flood recurrence period. In other words, they are ready for a severe flood situation, even if it has one-in-100 chance of occurring. Some cities, such as the ones in Canada, are pushing their preparedness to once in a 500-year possibility. The point is cities think it is imperative to plan for floods even if there is a low probability of it occurring. In this light, the argument of the authorities in Chennai that the current rainfall was a freak occurrence that happened after 100 years, and they could not have prepared for it, is unacceptable.

Ad hoc, illegal, unplanned expansion What the city needs is a master plan that integrates topography and natural habitats such as water bodies and marshes on the one hand, and infrastructure such as roads, storm water drains and sewage lines on the other. An integrated and sustainable approach to design can use convert water bodies and natural reserves into valuable resources. Also read, How Old Chennai survived the fury of monsoon floods

Chennai floods: Water under the bridge In a tragic misjudgment, a usually parched city set about conserving its drinking water when instead it should have steadily released it in the days leading up to the deluge.  We destroyed the unique flood carrying systems: Experts Prof Janakarajan, who has made extensive studies about Chennai’s water bodies,  indicated that the flood plains and wetlands of the city have very crucial hydrological functions such as to hold flood water, to prevent seawater intrusion and also to serve as a huge bird sanctuary. But these are encroached and remain in a pathetic state today. “Most of the IT companies and other major constructions on the Old Mahabalipuram Road are on flood plains and wetlands,” he pointed out. Also see, Chennai wasn’t ready for rain because of mindless development

Floods should be a warning to those building a state capital from scratch The failure of Chennai’s master plan ought to teach Amaravati’s planners that institutions are crucial. A city can be smart enough to know that natural drains should not be built over, and yet lack the political will to protect them. Civic bodies should be smaller and removed from the exigencies of electoral politics. If such institutions were accountable to Amaravati’s future residents, the city would have a better chance of staying dry. 

‘Amaravati needs design elements to avert a Chennai-like deluge’ After the recent Chennai deluge due to high-intensity precipitation and freak floods, experts want the Andhra Pradesh government to be cautious and incorporate appropriate design elements while constructing Amaravati, to protect it from havoc caused by floods. The suggestion comes in the light of the latest report of the United Nations that south India, in particular, is prone to natural vagaries like frequent floods. Interestingly, in 2009, water did not come from high rainfall regions like Western Ghats but from drought-prone areas down below Alamatti and Tungabhadra dams. 

In ‘hi-tech’ Hyderabad, where are the drains? It’s the face of modern Hyderabad. Resplendent with rows of buildings flaunting architectural brilliance, in-house manicured lawns and state-of-the-art infrastructure, the city’s IT corridor, to an outsider, looks nothing short of perfect. But scratch the surface, the ugly reality comes to the fore. One that is unenviable and alarming. The entire belt encompassing ‘hi-tech’ Hyderabad is sitting on a plan that lacks a storm-water drainage system! Its repercussions: acute flooding and waterlogging even after mild showers.

Does Chennai foretell the future of Mumbai’s second airport? Why the flooding of ‪‎Chennai Airport should set the alarm bells ringing in Maharashtra where CIDCO is ‪‎Navi Mumbai International Airport, by diverting two rivers, flattening a hillock, chopping off mangroves and reclaiming land in CRZ.  The flooding of Chennai airport should be an eye-opener for the Maharashtra government, which is building an airport on a river in Navi Mumbai. Also see, CIDCO expects ministry nod for Navi Mumbai airport RFPs in a fortnight

COP-21

Paris: World Agrees to Increase Emissions The circus is over. The suits are leaving Paris. There have been millions of words written about the text. But one fact stands out. All the governments of the world have agreed to increase global greenhouse gas emissions every year between now and 2030. Clearest statement with Math showing how the world agreed to increase emissions in Paris.

Grand promises of Paris climate deal undermined by squalid retrenchments James Hansen, father of climate change awareness, has to say this about the Paris agreement. “It’s a fraud really, a fake. It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action”. Miraculous disaster or disastrous miracle, either way its not welcome.

Climate Deal: Differentiation of developed and developing stays, India happy The agreement from Paris does not have a single mention of ‘historical responsibility’ or to Annex-I and non-Annex countries, though it does emphasise the principle of CBDR at several places. THE COP 21 agreement in Paris has many problems, it is not going to help address any of the real issues of Climate Change with any effectiveness. As this Indian Express article says, there is no mention of historical responsibility or annex I and II countries.

COP21: Who will pay for climate change disasters? As climate change continues, floods and other environmental disasters are bound to reoccur, causing untold billions worth of damage. The effects of climate change can be mitigated – by fixing catchment and drainage systems in Chennai, for example – but who will pay the tab? Indeed a key question that Indian government is not asking with any sense of urgency, consistency or honesty.

Climate initiatives must not include large hydropower projects, according to 300 organisations A coalition of more than 300 civil society organizations from 53 countries have called on governments and financiers at the Paris climate talks to keep large hydropower projects out of climate initiatives such as the Clean Development Mechanism, the World Bank’s Climate Investment Funds, and green bonds. Himanshu Thakkar, the founder of the SANDRP, states,“Hydropower dams make water and energy systems more vulnerable to climate change. Dam building has exacerbated flood disasters in fragile mountain areas. At the same time more extreme droughts increase the economic risks of hydropower, and have greatly affected countries that depend on hydropower dams for most of their electricity.” 

HYDRO POWER

Execution delays overshadow strong quarter for NHPC NHPC did not add any capacity in the first half of the current fiscal. Large capacity additions are expected to be added only from 2017. According to analysts, the management expects to add 130 MW in the second half of the current fiscal. But going by its track record, many doubts if the projects will begin operations on time. While some projects will eventually get capitalized in the coming years, the future of one large project (Subansiri) remains uncertain. A committee was formed to evaluate the consequences of the project.

UTTARAKHAND Govt takes in-principle decision to ban all construction on Ganga The decision was taken in principle last month at an Inter Ministerial Group (IMG) meeting to review an Expert Body report giving clearance to hydroelectric power (HEP) projects to be built on Alaknanda and Bhagirathi river basins in Uttarakhand. Sources said a formal ban on construction would be conveyed to the Supreme Court after an IMG-constituted committee submits its “comprehensive view” on all aspects of environment flow and longitudinal connectivity in the two rivers, along with authentic figures of water availability. According to sources, Uma Bharti has offered to compensate the six HEPs NTPC’s Lata Tapavan, NHPC’s Kotlibhel IA, GMR’s Alaknanda, Super Hydro’s Khirao Ganga and Bhyunder Ganga and THDC’s Jelam Tamak out of the Namami Gange funds.

Experts opposes govt move to compensate illegal hydro projects from Namami Gange fund There are 86 hydel projects on Alaknanda and Bhagirathi, all in Uttarakhand, with an installed capacity of 3,600 MW. Another 41 projects, with a combined capacity of about 2,378 MW, are under construction. While the terms of the ban haven’t yet been spelt out, none of these projects is likely to be affected. Immediately, the move will affect only six projects that are pending for want of clearances. Himanshu Thakkar SANDRP says that there should be no compensation as none of these projects was given any clearance to start construction. He further adds that instead, those who allowed the projects to be constructed should be held accountable. To use the money allocated for Namami Gange for this purpose will in no way ‘save the river’.

Arunachal, Uttarakhand loosing dense forest cover to Hydro projects North eastern states constitute only 7.9 percent of geographical area of the country but accounts for nearly one-fourth of the country’s forest cover, the report said. It is one of the 18 biodiversity hotspots of the world due to these rich forests.Incidentally states such as Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, that have both recorded loss of forest cover, are planning to build over a hundred hydro power projects each to harness major rivers. Several of these projects fall in dense to moderately dense forests and have faced opposition owing to the large forest cutting it will cause. The 2,880MW Dibang Multipurpose Project (DMP) in Lower Dibang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh will alone cut down 45.77 sq km of forest.

India needs to repair its rivers while retaining hydropower as a vital part of its energy mix While this EDIT PAGE article in TOI today has many problematic statements about virtues of Hydropower projects, it is interesting to see how the terms of debate have changed.

ARUNACHAL Subansiri course stirs sensation Members of TMPK, Lakhimpur District Committee and KMSS have demanded to stop an ongoing construction of a coffer dam installed over the Subansiri River. The coffer dam is being built to divert and dry up the main course of the river in Bhimpara query to extract materials from an island located near Chouldhuwa bridge of NH 52 over river Subansiri. The half built coffer dam has already changed the pattern of flow in the river causing erosion in Katari Chapori. The dam has also posed threat to the riverbank villages of Bhimpara Panchayat.  Indeed, impacts of Coffer dam can be significant and are never on the radar of EAC or MoEF in spite of repeated letters from SANDRP.

AdiSU appeals Assam orgs to pressurise Centre for re-assessment of Demwe HEP Adi Students’ Union (AdiSU) on 05 Dec. appealed to the various Assam based organisations, including All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), Takam Mising Porin Kebang (TMPK), Krisak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) to pressurise the central government for re-conduction of survey to assess the downstream impacts of 1750 MW Demwe Lower Hydroelectric Project on Lohit River. The appeal was made by AdiSU at the 14th general conference of Takam Mising Porin Kebang (TMPK) held in Dhakuakhana, Lakhimpur before AASU Adviser Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya, its president, representatives of powerful Krisak Mukti Sangram Samitee and various community based organizations of the state.

HIMACHAL Enormous landslide blocks Kiratpur-Manali highway The Kiratpur-Manali National Highway was on Monday blocked due to a massive landslide near Hanogi in Mandi district of Himachal, about 180 Km from here. The location where the landslide took place was only few meters away from the place where 24 engineering students were washed away in the flash flood last year. Abhishek Rai, an environmentalist in Kullu, stated that due to huge construction carried out in the Thalout region by hydel power projects, the entire strata had loosened and landslides had become a frequent affair in the region. He added that tampering with the fragile ecology of the hills would lead to such disasters.

PM Narendra Modi to dedicate hydropower projects in HP next year Prime Minister Narendra Modi would visit Himachal Pradesh in last week of January or first Week of February next year to dedicate the Kol Dam (800 MW), Parvati Stage-III (520 MW) and Rampur (412 MW) hydropower projects, commissioned during past two years, and also lay the foundation of some other important projects, Prem Kumar Dhumal said after his meeting with the Prime Minister.

Himalayan Communities warn global community of irreparable damage due to disturbed Himalayan ecosystems Himalayan Communities through a statement joined the call for equity and fair share in global climate action and warn the global community of the irreparable damage that will be caused if the Himalayan ecosystems are disturbed. They demanded to stop Destructive Development seeking complete abandon of further development of large hydropower and to keep Himalayas free from subsidy and incentive driven Mining and industrialisation. 

DAMS

Mini dam bund breaches, causes flash flood The earthen bund of Vellakulam mini dam in Punganur panchayat in Timiri block, Vellore Tamil Nadu, breached on Sunday morning. The mini dam received water following heavy rainfall during the month of November. The water level swelled, reaching the dam’s full capacity recently much to the delight of residents, especially farmers. However, the old structure gave in on Sunday morning. There was a flash flood along the surplus course. The water submerged crops raised on several agricultural fields in the panchayat. 

Water scarcity in Maharashtra leading to disputes over use of water in dams  Water experts, describe the reservoirs built over river Godavari in the state as “evaporation machines”, as they don’t have efficient canal networks. Maharashtra, with 1,800 big dams, has more dams than any other state second-ranked Madhya Pradesh has just half this number. “Dams are being used as political pawns in the game of water crisis and decisions are driven by entrenched interests rather than miseries of common man,” said Pareenita Dandekar, associate coordinator at the SANDRP. 

Polavaram: Centre to reimburse Rs 2,200 cr to AP The demand of Andhra Pradesh that Centre pay for the Pattiseema project is actually illegal, since the project was not part of the Polavaram project that got various clearances, nor does it have environmental clearance. The state claims to have spent Rs 7566.58 crores by Sept 2015 on Polavaram project, but why did the state spend money on a project that continued to be under litigation and why should the centre pay for such a project?

Hirakud dam cracks scanned underwater The Central Soil and Material Research Station, team under the Union Water Resources Ministry, will examine the present condition of the wide cracks and the development in the fine cracks. After analysing the visuals obtained using the ROV, the team will suggest ways to treat the cracks and ensure safety of the dam. The team is scheduled to submit its report to the Water Resource department and the Hirakud Dam Authority.

Also see, Fuzzy logic’ to optimise water use

Mullaperiyar: Kerala invokes ‘precautionary principle’ Kerala has invoked the “precautionary principle” in the light of extreme rainfall witnessed in certain parts of the country, including Chennai, to present its case for the construction of a new dam in place of the centuries-old Mullaperiyar dam, besides seeking a review of its hydrological safety by a panel of international and national experts. The new line, which has been prominently highlighted in Kerala’s memorandum submitted by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi, is expected help the State get a grip on the Mullaperiyar issue and pull it out of the impasse created by the Supreme Court verdict.

Kerala to move SC against T.N. over Mullaperiyar dam safety As heavy rain brought the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam closer to the permissible limit of 142 feet, the Kerala government told the Assembly on 08 Dec. that it was preparing to move the Supreme Court against Tamil Nadu for the failure to comply with dam safety regulations. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told the House that the issue would be taken up with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister for Water Resources Uma Bharti later this week. He was intervening during the discussion on the notice for an adjournment motion moved by E.S. Bijimol and others. Also see, New dam the only solution, says Kerala CM

Mullaperiyar Dam: downstream villagers protest sudden water release There was utter confusion in the downstream villages of Vallakadavu, Vandiperiyar, Chappathu, Upputhara, and Ayyappancoil on the night of 07 Dec. as the Idukki district administration failed to alert the people in time on the release of water from the Mullaperiyar dam. When the water level in the Periyar rose, people came out of their houses at midnight and shouted slogans against the authorities.

RIVERS

Piranhas in the Godavari: How invasive species are wreaking havoc The biological invasion of alien species is seen as the worst threat to biodiversity after habitat destruction. In India, it was first seen in Andhra Pradesh, one of the hot spots of the Indian aquaculture boom of the 1990s. It has since colonized major rivers and water bodies, destroying native fish stock. It has invaded wetlands; recent studies show the African catfish preying on small terrestrial birds, aquatic birds and turtles in Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur, and Periyar National Park on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border.

Also see, 302 dirty river stretches identified by central pollution body

YETTINAHOLE DIVERSION PROJECT Politics thicker than water Yettinahole Diversion Project: Cover Story by Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP in the inaugural Volume of Karnataka Today Right now, protest against 2,000 MW Subansiri Hydropower Project in Arunachal Pradesh and Yettinahole Project in Karnataka are two of the strongest environmental and social movements in the country today. Both these movements are being fought by the affected population: downstream Assam in the case of Subansiri and upstream Dakshina Kannada in the case of Yettinahole. They are protests against an opaque, non-transparent and high handed way in which administration has handled the projects. Also see, NGT extends stay order on Yettinahole project till Dec. 21

NARMADA नर्मदा के 5 लाख हेक्टेयर कैचमेंट को बचाने की जरूरत, वहां भी रेत खनन की दी मंजूरी  नर्मदाके 22 लाख हेक्टेयर कैचमेंट में से जिस 5 लाख हेक्टेयर क्षेत्र को संरक्षित करने की जरूरत है सरकार उसी में रेत खनन की मंजूरी दे रही है। नर्मदा बचाओ आंदोलन की संयोजक मेधा पाटकर ने अवैध रेत खनन की यह हकीकत 11 Dec. को नेशनल ग्रीन ट्रिब्यूनल को बतायी। इस दौरान उन्होंने एमपीसीसी, सिया, खनन विभाग, स्थानीय प्रशासन और पुलिस की भूमिका पर सवाल उठाए। पाटकर के आरोपों और दलीलों को गंभीरता से लेकर एनजीटी ने वरिष्ठ अधिवक्ता अजय गुप्ता की अध्यक्षता में जांच कमेटी गठित कर दी है। यह कमेटी अालीराजपुर, खरगोन, धार और बड़वानी में एनबीए द्वारा बताए गए सभी अवैध खनन के इलाकों की पड़ताल कर रिपोर्ट तैयार करेगी।

GANGA Ganga rejuvenation: NGT bans plastic from Gomukh to Haridwar In its 150 page long judgement, NGT has passed slew of directions to keep Ganga River clean from Gumukh to Haridwar stretch.  The Tribunal, which did not pass any order with regard to nine hydro-power projects in Uttarakhand as the matter is pending in the Supreme Court, said that all the projects would build their own sewage treatment plants (STPs) and make them operational within three months.

‘Save Ganga’ handed over to Corporate: Masterstroke or Disaster? Now, the Narendra Modi government plans to bring in private companies, such as Tata and L&T, to take up sewage treatment, according to reports. This is an unprecedented step. In the history of action against Ganga pollution, there has never been a plan to privatise sewage treatment. Privatisation also reduces the scope for participatory and transparent decision-making to manage Ganga’s pollution, according to Himanshu Thakkar of the SANDRP. “The private players have no experience in such activities, and besides, this business will not be their main priority,” he said.

Redeem your promise on Ganga, Matri Sadan to Harish Rawat Matri Sadan seer Swami Shivanand asked CM Harish Rawat to stick to his pledge taken during his Haridwar visit on 07 Dec. to stop Ganga from being plundered of her natural resources. Notably, CM said that he would not grudge loss of revenue to prevent the Mother Ganga from being robbed of her natural resources. Referring to CM’s statement that he favours scientific mining,  the seer said that  the highest level committee of Uttarakhand comprising disaster management officials and scientists had stated in clear terms that  the boulders do not come down to Ganga from upstream. 

Government to Rope in CPSUs in Namami Gange Programme With the aim of expediting the progress of works under the flagship scheme of Namami Gange, Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation is initiating a number of entry level activities during Jan-March 2016 which will lead to visible results in a short time frame. To take up these activities immediately, the Ministry has roped in the leading Central Public Sector Undertakings (CPSUs). These CPSUs include Engineers India Ltd. (EIL), National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC), WAPCOS Ltd., National Projects Construction Corporation Ltd. (NPCC), and Engineering Projects India Ltd.

Also see, Pollution Control Board’s new draft plan proposes segment-wise approach for cleaning up river Ganga  

YAMUNA Reconsider building hospital on Yamuna floodplain: activist The Parmanand Blind Relief Hospital is coming up on the Yamuna floodplain near Nigambodh ghat.  Environmental activist Manoj Misra has written to Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal requesting them to reconsider the construction of a blind relief hospital on the Yamuna floodplains in Nigambodh ghat area of Yamuna Bazaar. Citing example of the recent floods in Chennai, where many patients died due to logistical complications from flooding, Mr. Misra wrote that Delhi must ensure that no public utility, especially a hospital, is constructed in an area prone to flooding.

Also see, Govt. Confirms that antibiotics are found in Yamuna water samples

IRRIGATION

Dulhera minor canal breach inundated 300 acres at Ismaila village in Rohtak While farmers said the breach had been caused due to the release of excessive water in the canal, the field officials of the Irrigation Department said it had occurred due to a hole in the sidewall of the canal. The farmers said the wheat and mustard crops they had sown recently would get damaged due to stagnant water. The breach occurred on 10 Dec. 15. In one more similar incident of canal breach in same districts on 13 Nov. 2015, 400 acres of cropland was submerged. The incident reportedly took place due to erosion in the embankment of the Kaahnaur disributary canal. The farmers said they would now not be able to grow wheat crop this season as moisture in the soil would take time to dry it up even after the removal of accumulated water. Though the irrigation officials are making all possible efforts to drain out the accumulated water from the fields, hundreds of acres are still submerged under knee-deep water.

Punjab CM seeks clearance of irrigation projects worth Rs 5236 crore Parkash Singh Badal has sought early clearance of various irrigation projects worth Rs 5,236.7 crore pending with Water Resources Ministry at different stages. In his meeting with Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti, Badal urged her to clear the pending projects that include the re-lining of Rajasthan and Sirhind feeders at a cost of Rs 2,125.69 crore. He also sought special funds to the tune of Rs 918 crore for the project of renovation and modernization of canals being fed from River Satluj costing Rs 918.25 crore as this project had already been sanctioned by the MoWR in November 13, 2015.

Also see, Chhattisgarh CM seeks early green nod for irrigation, power projects  

INTERSTATE WATER DISPUTES

Haryana farmers cry foul as Rajasthan plugs canal The Rajasthan government’s drive to crack down on water theft and stop tubewell-based supply for irrigation in the bordering districts of Haryana is set to deepen the problem of irrigation in Hisar and Sirsa villages. SDM, Bhadra, Narendra Singh Kulhari told that while large tracts of Rajasthan remained parched, farmers in the neighbouring villages of Haryana have been stealing water from the canal to irrigate their fields. Haryana farmers however have disputed the charge.

लोकसभा में उठा राजस्थान से जल एवं ऊर्जा बंटवारे में भेदभाव का मुद्दा लोकसभा में 04 Dec. राजस्थान और पडौसी राज्यों में पानी के बंटवारे को लेकर मुद्दा जोरशोर से उठाया गया। पाली सांसद पीपी चौधरी ने मसला उठाते हुए कहा कि प्रदेश के हितों की पड़ोसी राज्यों की लगातार अनदेखी की जा रही है। चौधरी ने कहा कि राज्यों के बीच जल बटवारे को लेकर हुए समझौतों के अनुसार राज्यों मे जल का वितरण नहीं हो रहा है। पंजाब एवं हरियाणा राज्य प्रायः राजस्थान को उसके हिस्से का पानी उपलब्ध नहीं कराते है। विशेषकर बुवाई के समय राजस्थान को कम मात्रा में पानी दिया जाता है, जिससे किसानों के हितों पर विपरीत असर पड़ रहा है।  

GROUND WATER

In Narnaul, fluoride in water 22 times higher than limit A report on groundwater has sounded the alarm bells for people of the district, as fluoride content in water has been found 22 times higher than the permissible limit in Narnaul, the district headquarters. Alarmed, officials of the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Fluorosis (NPPCF) have swung into action and launched a special awareness drive to motivate the people not to consume groundwater, as it may prove hazardous for their health. 

Groundwater Pollution: NGT orders closure of Bhushan Steel and Strips Ltd for 4 weeks The order came on an application filed by environment activist Shailesh Singh before NGT alleging that the ground water in Ghaziabad particularly in the Link Road area of Sahibabad is highly contaminated and several industrial units of the area mainly Bhushan Steels Limited is responsible for contamination and extracting high quantity of ground water without permission from the CGWA for their industrial use. 

FLOOD

One Hundered More Flood Forecasting Stations to be Setup Central Water Commission (CWC) under Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation will set up 40 flood forecasting stations for the first time in the States of Arunachal Pradesh (3), Himachal Pradesh (1), Kerala (2), Rajasthan (12), Sikkim (8) and Tamil Nadu (14) during the current five year plan. In addition to this 60 more flood forecasting stations will be set up in other States already having flood forecasting stations to cover their uncovered areas.

DROUGHT

Drought affected 19 mn hectares in 7 states, govt tells Parliament  According to the farm minister’s reply, crop area of 18.93 million hectares has been affected in seven states. A total of 180 districts have been declared hit by drought in these seven states and Andhra Pradesh put together. Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand have declared a drought but are yet to submit memoranda seeking assistance to the centre. States such as Bihar, Gujarat and Haryana have not notified a drought despite recording deficit rains of 28%, 14% and 38%, respectively. In all, 18 states have recorded deficit rainfall this year. This year, 302 of the 640 districts in India experienced deficit rains, or at least a 20% shortfall compared with the average.

Marathwada: 27 farmer suicides in a week, takes annual toll over 1,000 In barely a week, as many as 27 farmers have committed suicide in Maharashtra’s drought-hit Marathwada region, taking the suicide toll in the area beyond 1000 this year. Officials pegged the total number of suicides in Marathwada at 1,024  in the evening of 08 Dec., up by 27 since December 1, when the toll for the year stood at 997 suicides. Out of the eight districts in Marathwada, Beed district has seen the highest number of farmer suicides 286. While Nanded stood second in the list with 177 deaths, Osmanabad was placed third with 154 deaths. Ironically, the Maharashtra government had recently picked Osmanabad for its “zero suicide” plan.

It’s pouring in Chennai, but severe drought stalks north Karnataka Southern Karnataka has been pounded by rain over the past few weeks, but it’s a stark contrast in the north. For the first time since its completion in 2005, the water catchment at Almatti dam in Vijayapura is not even half full. While its capacity is 32.23 tmcft, the dam has only 15.61 tmcft water. It has set alarm bells ringing. The northern districts have registered 70% deficiency in rainfall and are reeling under the worst drought in years. The water resources department blames it on “ill fate“ but experts with Karnataka State Disaster Management Cell blame politics over water resources and mismanagement.

Monsoon 2015: a tale of two extremes Rainfall in November has turned out to be 34 % above LPA for India. But this average surplus figure masks the deficient to scanty precipitation in as many as 25 subdivisions, even with much of southern India Tamil Nadu, Kerala, southern Karnataka, Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra Pradesh receiving excess rains. Indeed, virtually the whole of India northwards from Davangere and Bellary in Karnataka and Telangana is now reeling under drought. This has impacted the condition of the rabi crop — from wheat and mustard to chickpea, lentil and field-pea even where sowings have taken place. In contrast, it’s been raining cats and dogs southwards of Telangana and northern Karnataka not to speak of Chennai!

Also see, When drought and floods criss-crossed Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh

WETLANDS AND WATERBODIES

Once a pond, today a dumping ground for waste Less than two kilometres from east Delhi’s Shastri Park Metro station is a pit dumped with muck and debris. What is now as a barren, stinking piece of land was once a small pond, say residents and old-timers of the area. The pond in Dharampura is full of debris now. Rag-pickers concede they use the pit as a dumping ground. Although there is a collection point nearby, the pit itself has become one  full of all sorts of things. Other locals in the area claimed that the pond used to be much bigger than the pit it is today.

AGRICULTURE

Zero-tillage wheat and direct seeded rice technologies are gradually gaining ground in Punjab A few enterprising farmers in Punjab, seeing the writing on the wall, have adopted technologies zero-tillage and direct seeded rice (DSR) that not only enable sowing of wheat without any burning of crop residue, but also save water by doing away with transplanting operations in paddy. Also see, Widespread crop burning began over a dozen years ago Satellite images reveal that the problem had already reached alarming proportions as early as 13 years ago.

End GM mustard trials: farmers’ group Representatives of the ‘Sarson Satyagraha’ a broad alliance of farmers, scientists and civil society have urged the Centre not to go ahead with any open release and commercialisation of GM crops, especially mustard. Farmer groups say productivity of the mustard crop is not a problem if right policies are put in place.

MAHARASHTRA Drought-hit Maharashtra’s pulses output halved Even as the state reels under a shortage of pulses, estimates for the drought-hit kharif season which just ended show that the crisis could worsen. They show a steep 52% drop in the production of kharif pulses and a 30% fall in the production of kharif cereals for 2015-16 compared to a normal year. The overall production of kharif foodgrains is set to decline by an estimated 34%. Also see, Maharashtra has more sugarcane than reported by the agriculture department: BJP

Also see, गन्ने की खेती रोकें वरना रेगिस्तान बन जाएगा मराठवाड़ा : हाईकोर्ट  

ENERGY OPTIONS

Solar power’s moment of reckoning arrives Falling equipment prices and better funding could make solar power 10 per cent cheaper than thermal by 2020. Ever since Sun Edison of the United States bagged the 500 Mw Ghani Solar Park project in Andhra Pradesh by quoting a tariff of Rs 4.63 a unit last month, it is widely believed that solar energy is ready to take off in India.

UP plans solar-powered mini grids to end power woes Energy deficient Uttar Pradesh has drafted a solar mini-grid policy to provide electricity to rural areas while reducing burden on the main grid. UP Electricity Regulatory Commission (UPERC) has also initiated deliberations on electrification of remote villages through solar-powered mini grids  

SOUTH ASIA

Bangladesh, India reach accord to boost Hilsa output Bangladesh and India have agreed to work together on locating Hilsa breeding and nursery grounds, and study its migratory routes to boost its production and creating awareness in both the countries. The decision was taken at the second meeting of the joint working group between India and Bangladesh on co-operation in the field of fisheries held in Goa, India recently.  While its a good thing that India and Bangladesh are discussing Hilsa management together, why is it that the Elephant in the Room: Farakka Barrage, with its dysfunctional Fish Passage and indifference of authorities not being raised by Bangladesh?

Nepal’s endangered river dolphins return Good News is always welcome. Especially if it has to do with Dolphins! The first study in two decades of the Ganges river dolphins in Nepal estimates that the numbers of the endangered species have increased to about 50 individuals. The study recorded dolphin sightings during low-river flow before and after the monsoon season in three major tributaries of the Ganges Karnali, Sapta Koshi and the Narayani.  The study also mentions that drying rivers, barrages and dams constructed along the river as well as the presence of fishing boats and stone quarries represent some of the major threats faced by dolphins in Nepal. Also see, At India-Nepal border, a pile-up of angst, anxiety and ‘betrayal’

Fate of 4 problem-ridden Nepal’s hydro projects in limbo The fate of four hydropower projects with a combined capacity of 560 MW is in limbo due to fuel shortages, lack of coordination with contractors and indecision among stakeholders. Among the four projects with an uncertain future are national pride project Upper Tamakoshi Hydrop-ower Project with a capacity of 456 MW. The others are the 60MW Upper Trishuli 3A, 30MW Cham-eliya and 14MW Kulekhani III. Hydropower projects in Nepal stalled due to fuel shortage, thanks to the blockade on India Nepal Border.

Balochistan: Karezes Irrigation System Included in UNESCO World Heritage List  A Karez one of oldest gravity irrigation is a masterwork of hydraulic engineering and cultural unity. This system was a major means of irrigation in Balochistan until ’80s, however, the Karez irrigated area is continuously shrinking from 200,000 hectare in 1971 to around 27,000 hectare in 2012. Karez system is vanishing principally due to subsidized electric and diesel pumping of groundwater, due to which the water table is declining at 3 m/year in many parts of Balochistan. The rehabilitation of these systems were too difficult rather impossible due to continuous land use changes, urbanization and associated infrastructure developments.

Sea level rise, lack of freshwater flow leading the Indus River delta to death Over the years, due to sea rise, several settlements along the Indus Delta have come under water. As a result, thousands of fishermen have migrated to distant areas. Scarcity of freshwater is highly attributed to the construction of barrages along the River Indus, which lessens the supply of water to the downstream Kotri Barrage, where river meets the Arabian Sea. Hence, less water is available to the communities residing near the delta.

Bridges Over Water Book Review A key observation of this book review: “The book focuses on trade-offs between irrigation and hydroelectricity generation, and ignores the impairment of ecosystem services and environmental flows, which influence the success or failure of the negotiation, now or in the foreseeable future. Water treaties often overlook trans-boundary ecosystem services.

Also see, Glaciers in Everest have shrunk by 28% in 40 years

REST OF THE ASIA

Scientists highlight risks of hydropower dams in the Mekong Delta for COP21 delegates A series of 11 hydropower dams are planned for the main stream of the Mekong River, while hundreds more could be built on the Mekong’s main tributaries. Hydropower dams are being promoted as sustainable development around the world, especially in tropical river basins, despite numerous warnings from scientists that the dams come with grave impacts for ecosystems, biodiversity, the rights of local communities and the global climate. Hydropower is known to be responsible for at least 20 percent of all methane emissions from human activity, and recent studies have led scientists to believe that that number could actually be much higher. Methane is estimated to be 35-times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide. And yet, hydropower is being promoted at COP21 as a clean, green source of energy.

REST OF THE WORLD

Removing a Dam Can Be a Net Win for the Planet  Once trumpeted as river-taming, energy-producing feats of engineering, America’s dams have become the subject of introspection and, in a growing number of cases, demolition. For dams that produce little power compared with newer technologies, updating their aging infrastructure would cost more than removing it. Seventy-two dams were demolished last year to open up more than 700 miles of streams, according to American Rivers, which advocates for the removal of certain dams to restore natural flows.

The Dam Called Trouble The Army Corps of Engineers will need millions of dollars to repair the Lewisville Lake Dam, North Texas one of the nation’s most dangerous. A breach could put 431,000 people in harm’s way.

Dams affect global Phosphorous cycle Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for life. Humans have massively altered the global phosphorus cycle by increasing loading to river systems through fertilizer use, soil erosion, and wastewater discharges. River damming interacts with anthropogenic phosphorus enrichment by trapping a fraction of the phosphorus in reservoir sediments. Also see, Dams may cause huge losses of freshwater: Study

Water Storage a Critical Question for Climate Adaptation Interesting article on water storage options, big dams are not the only option. One issue more than any other is likely to dominate the water adaption discussion in the coming decades: storage. Dams are not the only option and need not be the behemoth structures that flourished in the last century and continue to be built today. Worldwide, big dams radically altered watershed ecology, drove millions from their homes, and became flashpoints for environmental and social justice movements.

Slovenia’s planned hydropower dams generate opposition Activists are protesting planned dams and questioning whether laws are being broken. Kayaker and biologist Rozman thinks the country will be losing far more than it gains. He cites the wild rivers and fish biodiversity as attracting tourists from all over the world to his tiny mountainous country. Also see, Chile plans hydropower plant—in desert

Mexico’s Santiago River, among the dirtiest in Latin America, is making people sick People can no longer take the stench from the river, which causes headaches, nausea and eye irritation. While locals no longer swim or fish in the river, they are still exposed to it because the ground water has been contaminated and people use wells in their homes for their kitchens and bathrooms. The environmentalist group tested the river in 2012 and 2013 and found neurotoxins, as well as hormone-disrupting acids. 

Microplastics: Rhine One of the Most Polluted Rivers Worldwide While seas and oceans have been the focus of much research into microplastic pollution, little is known about rivers and other waterways.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Massive El Niño sweeping globe is now the biggest ever recorded The current extreme El Niño is now the strongest ever recorded, smashing the previous record from 1997-8. Already wreaking havoc on weather around the world, the new figures mean those effects will probably get worse. The 1997-8 El Niño killed 20,000 people and caused almost $97 billion of damage as floods, droughts, fires, cyclones and mudslides ravaged the world. Now the current El Niño has surpassed the 1997-8 El Niño on a key measure, according to the latest figures released by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency. While the biggest ever recorded El Nino has not finished its impacts, a BIG La Nina will be following it.

India to have 8 new observatories to study climate change India on 07 Dec announced a programme to open eight more long-term ecological observatories to study the effects of climate change. The new facilities under the Indian Long Term Ecological Observatories (I-LTEO) would assess the health of eight different biomes (types of habitat) and come up with long-term research findings on the changes there that were happening due to climate change. It will cover the Western Himalayas to Western Ghats, Eastern Himalayas to Andaman and Nicobar islands, central India to the Sundarbans, and from Jammu and Kashmir to Rajasthan and Gujarat.

The Price of Climate-Change Related Disasters on Agriculture is Astronomical  A new study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) finds that the average number of global natural disasters, including those related to climate change, have doubled since the 1980s. Additionally, the report determined that in a single decade (2003 to 2013), the economic damage from these events came at an estimated cost of $1.5 trillion—with $80 billion in losses due to decreased crop and livestock production in the developing world. 

When All the Springs are Dry: How Families in Rural India Are Surviving Climate Change Water has become increasingly scarce in northwest India. Southern Sikkim have suffered drought in recent years. Many nearby regions, such as Bhutan and Nepal, share the same water-related challenges as Sikkim. New hydropower projects, intended to generate power for industrial centres, have displaced both people and water. Compounding the problem, climate change has brought intense rains over shorter periods of time.

Deadly Smog, Toxic Water lnked to Climate Change  A recent report in The Lancet medical journal has warned that 50 years of global health improvements could be thrown into reverse by climate change and that the future for human health depends on the survival of the environment.

ENVIRONMENT

Simply put: Surplus, shortages go together in Power paradox Speaking at the World Economic Forum on November 4, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley pointed out that India now generates more power than it needs and has, for the first time in its history, surplus power. And yet, the practical experience of Indians is that scheduled and unscheduled power cuts are the norm in cities, and the situation in most rural areas is worse. The discoms suffer massive transmission and distribution losses. Almost 25 per cent of the power is lost, and never gets billed for double the global average of about 12 per cent. Worse, the remaining 75 per cent is sold at prices that are much lower than the discoms’ procurement costs.

Behind net gain, a loss of 2,500 sq km of best forests in two years, says report Behind these happy figures, the report recorded a loss of 2,511 sq km of very dense and mid-dense forests that have been completely wiped out, and become non-forest areas since 2013. Even accounting for the non-forest areas now recorded as dense and mid-dense forests, the net loss of forests in these prime categories works out to be 1,376 sq km — more than twice the area of Mumbai in two years. The states of J&K, Uttarakhand, Meghalaya, Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and Manipur, and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands took major hits.

Karnataka govt mulls highway through forest Putting at stake hundreds of acres of untouched evergreen forest, several endangered species of flora and fauna, the government has, in principle, agreed to connect Byrapura (Chikkamagalur) with Shishila (Dakshina Kannada) with a new 24-km-long road as an alternative to the overwhelmed highways through the Shiradi and Charmadi portions of the Western Ghats.

Rio Tinto’s Madhya Pradesh diamond mining project runs into forest hurdle Global mining giant Rio Tinto’s Rs 2,200 crore project to mine diamonds in MP’s Chhatarpur district has hit a green roadblock though it has the support of the state government. The project that involves diversion of near 1000 hectares of dense forests to yield possibly a diamond deposit of 34.2 million carat value was red flagged by the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), the apex body in the environment ministry, which has to approve projects in forest areas.

Also see, Delhi govt’s forest dept under severe staff crunch

A year of extreme weather conditions for India The year that is drawing to a close was dotted by extreme weather events beginning from unseasonal rains and crop damage in several states (Feb.-March), followed by deficit rainfall and drought in nine states (June-Oct), topped off by a deluge in Chennai at the end of 2015. This year is also the hottest on record since 1880, and the El Nino this year is the strongest in at least 50 years. Also see, Home Ministry Data: Tamil Nadu, West Bengal among worst-hit by natural disasters

The grass is not green here Op-Ed in Business Standard by Surinder Sud Policies for the livestock sector have focused on fodder cultivation. Little attention has been paid to protection of pastures on which most animals subsist. The 23rd International Grassland Congress held in New Delhi last month discussed the plight of grazing lands along with other critical issues concerning grasslands. One of the major reasons for the poor condition of the pastures is that they do not belong to any particular agency or government department for their maintenance. This apart, although India has a national policy for almost every conceivable sector, none exists for the grasslands.

Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan failed to achieve its desired targets: CAG It suggested that unless implementation is based on realistic planning and backed by large-scale IEC (information, education and communication) campaigns to bring about behavioural change in the target population, and unless overall governance at the grass-root level improves, more deployment of resources may not have a significant impact.

Also see, Adani Group wants Australia to restrict green groups opposing coal mine

One Comment on “DRP News Bulletin 14 Dec. 2015 (Your City can be Next Chennai?)

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