MoEF Expert Committee on Dams continues to ignore democratic norms The minutes of the 90th meeting of the Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley and Hydropower projects held on Dec 22-23, 2015, made available today (January 18, 2016, see: http://environmentclearance.nic.in/writereaddata/Form-1A/Minutes/0_0_11118122212121Minutes-90EAC.pdf), shows how the committee continues to ignore basic democratic norms. Here are some key issues about the minutes of this latest meeting:
- SANDRP had written to committee on Dec 21, 2015 that documents of at least four (Rampur HEP, Suntaley Tar HEP, Nabha HEP and Lohit basin study) of the ten items on agenda were not available on the MoEF website, requesting EAC not to discuss these projects, but the committee went ahead and discussed these projects, ignoring the stipulations of Central Information Commission and basic established norms of informed decision making.
- In Case of 460 MW Nakthan HEP in Himachal Pradesh, SANDRP wrote that the EAC had earlier ignored the detailed submission on the project from Himdhara from Himachal Pradesh and EAC should consider it when the project is being considered now, but EAC again completely ignored the substantive issues raised by Himdhara.
- Regarding Nandawadagi Lift Irrigation Scheme in Karnataka, SANDRP had written to the EAC on Nov 21, 2015 highlighting a number of issues, but EAC has not taken note of this submission.
- On Karcham Wangtoo HEP, even the key issue of increased installed capacity without EAC clearance has been ignored by EAC. The EAC had cleared the project for 1000 MW, but the developer has reportedly installed a capacity of 1200 MW and sold the project as a 1091 MW project.
- In case of both Singatalur and Shigaon LIS (Lift Irrigation Schemes) in Karnataka, SANDRP had repeatedly written to the EAC about the work done on these projects before the Environment clearance. Such clearances are illegal, National Green Tribunal had decided on July 7, 2015. The stay granted by the Supreme Court against that NGT decision was possibly wrong, the SC bench headed by current Chief Justice has observed on January 15, 2016, as reported in this issue of DRP news update. We hope the apex court decides about this soon. In any case, the EAC should hold its recommendation for clearance to both these projects till the apex court decides.
- The minutes show that the EAC recommends extension to the TOR clearance even upto five years, which are valid only for two years to begin with! And the EAC has no hesitation in giving post facto extension, even months after the clearance has expired, the EAC has no powers to provide such clearances.
Central Govt. mulling to bring large hydropower units under renewable energy ambit The government is mulling to bring big hydropower plants under the ambit of renewable energy, giving the capital-intensive projects access to international funds and benefits available to green power, besides raising carbon-free generation of electricity as committed by India in UN climate talks. Power industry experts see this as a shot in the arm for hydropower projects, which will not only get more capital but also find it easier to sell power as state power distribution companies are obliged to purchase some power from renewable sources. The move, however, may face resistance from environmentalists who argue that though hydropower plants do not pollute the air, they impact fisheries by altering the natural course of rivers, cause flooding and emit green house gases due to submersion of plants. This will clearly be wrong, suicidal for rivers, biodiversity and people.
J&K Cancel Public Hearings for Sawalkote HEP for violations: Experts A group of eminent people from across India have written of their concerns regarding the deeply flawed environmental impact assessment report for a new hydropower project in Jammu and Kashmir. Full text of the letter is available at SANDRP Blog.
Experts sound alarm bells on 1856MW Sawalkote Project Experts and earth scientists have sounded alarm bells on the proposed Sawalkote project and urged the authorities of J&K State Pollution Control Board to cancel the public hearing scheduled to be held from Jan 18th to 28th in several villages located around river Chenab in Udhampur, Ramban and Reasi districts where the proposed 1856 MW mega hydro electric project is going to be established. The experts say that Executive Summary about the proposed project hoisted on SPBC is flawed and incomplete in many aspects. This is based on letter to J&K SPCB by a number of people including from SANDRP.
Environmental assessment for Jammu and Kashmir dam breaks all rules A group of eminent people from across India have written of their concerns regarding the deeply flawed environmental impact assessment report for a new hydropower project in Jammu and Kashmir. In this report, which is based on a letter to J&KSPCB by SANDRP and others, the chairman of J&KSPCB says the public hearing will not be cancelled. Strangely, the regulator says he is not a referee and his job is only to conduct the meeting! This shows that the Chairman of J&KSPCB does not understand the role of the regulator.
Arunachal Buddhist Monpas welcomes arrival black-necked cranes arrives For Buddhist lamas who are opposing the proposed 780 MW Nyamjang Chhu hydro-electric project, the arrival of black-necked crane this season is an “incontrovertible” evidence that the site where the dam has been planned is a wintering habitat for the birds. A short 3-km stretch of the Nyamjang Chhu river between Brokenthang and Zemithang is one of the two wintering sites of the black-necked crane in India. The Buddhist lamas under Save Mon Region Federation banner had filed a case in 2012 before the NGT against the environmental clearance given to the project. Great to see the sighting and photographing of black neck cranes in Tawang, proving the EIA of 780 MW Nyamjung Chu HEP, the EAC, MoEF and CIFRI wrong.
Also see, Rare cranes arrive in Tawang, stake claim to hydro project site This is such a positive news! The Black Necked Cranes: Messengers of Good Fortune for Buddhist Monpas of Tawang in Arunachal, have arrived! Monpas cherish and protect these rare birds as the embodiment of the 6th Dalai Lama. Zemithang Valley of Tawang is one of the few few wintering and nesting sites for these birds. This very site is threatened by 780 MW Nyamjangchu HEP of Bhilwara Group.
Uttarakhand JD(U) Slams NDA Govt for Approving Hydro Projects on Ganga River Party President Sharad Yadav wrote a letter to the Prime Minister warning tampering with the river in the valley of her origin will have very serious consequences which can pose serious threat to the country’s food and water security. He wondered if an origin of the river was destroyed then how the Government was promising to protect the Ganga river. Yadav noted that though the inter-ministerial group is empowered to take a final decision in this regard, the approval given by the Government is “not valid and illegal”. He felt that the government arriving any such decision without discussing this matter in the NGRBA will not be in consonance with the Constitution of India.
Maharashtra MWRRA orders release of less than 3 TMC water for Ujani Dam: Too Little, Too Late SANDRP Blog. Maharashtra Water Resource Regulatory Authority’s (MWRRA) judgement is indeed ad hoc and problematic. It is not based on principles of equity like deficit sharing and has a potential of setting a precedent. It seems like a tall order in the land of dams. Let us see what happens next with the MWRRA order of 6th January 2016. Unfortunately in this drought year, we seem to have more litigations and conflicts on our hands than efficient and innovative water use and sharing. Due to a number of drivers, water sharing is becoming a strongly contested issue in the country. However, as we have pointed out earlier, these conflicts are perhaps more serious and consistent in Maharashtra. Regions within the state have gone to the Supreme Court on more occasions than one for resolving dam-centric water conflicts.
Haryana CPS questions viability of Rs 75-crore Ghaggar Dam project Dera Bassi MLA and Chief Parliamentary Secretary NK Sharma is vehemently opposing the project in the current form and questioning the quantum of water discharge in the river being claimed by the department to construct the dam. Citing a report by the a Mohali-based independent laboratory prepared after analysing discharge at hourly basis, Sharma claimed that the average discharge in the river was only 114 cusecs as compared to 400 cusecs claimed by the department. The project has brought the department and residents of around 86 villages located downstream at loggerheads.
Gujrat Act allowing premature redemption of SSNNL bonds illegal: HC In a setback to the Gujarat government, the high court on 15 Jan.16 ruled that an act passed by the state assembly in 2008 to empower Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL) to redeem its bonds before maturity was illegal. A bench of acting Chief Justice Jayant Patel and Justice N V Anjaria termed the SSNNL (Conferment of Power to Redeem Bonds) Act, passed in March 2008, as “ultra-virus” and “void”. However, the court also said that its order would come into effect after two months. The court further directed the petitioners as well as investors, who have already redeemed their bonds, to approach the civil court to collect the amount of loss they have incurred due to the Act. This should have happened long back.
Also see, High Court order on “costly” Narmada bonds may force Gujarat government to shell out Rs 7,500 crore The Gujarat government’s controversial, indeed costly, Deep Discount Bonds, floated way back in 1993 in order to raise money for building the Narmada dam after the World Bank put stringent environmental conditions for providing loan, are back in news. Fingers are crossed on how it would manage whopping around Rs 7,500 crore it was to pay to lakhs of bond holders, who were to be paid by January 2014 on the bond’s 20 year maturity. In all, 6.69 lakh bonds were issued.
Karnataka States knocks World Bank’s door to reinforce its old dams With several dams, including the famous Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) dam in Mysuru, having crossed 25 years and questions on their safety being raised, Karnataka government is knocking on the doors of the World Bank (WB) and Central Water Commission (CWC) seeking enhancement of allocation under the ‘Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project’ (DRIP). While Rs 276.75 crore had been allocated in September 2014 under DRIP to take up dam-safety works (which include rejuvenation works) in 27 dams across the state, Karnataka’s water resources minister MB Patil on Tuesday urged the WB and CWC to revisit the approved cost and enhance it to Rs 483 crore. Also read, New dam at Thumbe, Mangaluru will take three months to get completed
Telangana Water level continue to plunge in Lower Manair Dam The resurfacing of the old road in the Manair dam shows the severity of the prevailing drought in the district. One of the biggest major irrigation project across the Manair constructed from 1974 to 1985, which has a storage capacity of 24 tmcs of water, has now come down to 3.383 tmcs of water. The depletion of water table at the reservoir is ringing alarm bells among the authorities concerned over the supply of drinking water for the ensuing summer season. The reservoir provides drinking water to Karimnagar, Warangal, Siddipet, Sircilla, Vemulawada, and other villages located on the shores of the reservoir.
Jharkhand 800 rescued tortoises released in Massanjore dam die Very sad to see this. Reasons are still unknown. More are dying out of 4000 seized by Dumka police from smugglers.
INTER STATE WATER DISPUTES
Maharashtra seeks Centre intervention in 6000cr Tapi River Recharge Irrigation Project The project which involves the three states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat and is to be undertaken by the Tapi Irrigation Development Corporation. It is touted Asia’s biggest water recharge project and being pursued as a suitable alternative to big dams that would require displacement of villages which is more complicated. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis recently held a meeting with Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti. The Centre has in principle given its consent for the project. However, a meeting between representatives of the three states and the Ministry of Water Resources is expected at the end of this month.
Central Govt. Irrigation, rural job schemes to be linked The agriculture ministry plans to dovetail its ambitious programme of providing irrigation to each field with the rural employment guarantee scheme to ensure smooth availability of labour. Officials said discussions have started between the agriculture ministry, which the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchaee Yojana oversees, and the rural development ministry, which looks after the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS). This also provides break of PMSKY expenses for 2015-16: Of Rs 5300 Cr, 2000 to go for AIBP, Rs 1800 Cr Dept of Agri for On farm water management and 1500 Cr for Rural Dev ministry for rainwater harvesting, small check dams, watershed dev etc. On linking MNREGS and PMSKY, discussions have started.
Govt. of India and World Bank sign a loan agreement for Neeranchal National Watershed Project The Government of India on 14 Jan.16 signed a loan agreement with World Bank for the Neeranchal National Watershed Project. The project to be implemented by the Ministry of Rural Development over a six-year period (2016-21) will support the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayi Yojana in hydrology and water management, agricultural production systems, capacity building and monitoring and evaluation. The Neeranchal project was approved by the cabinet in October last year with a total budget outlay of Rs.2142 crore with the Government share of Rs.1071 crore and the rest 50% by the World Bank. Union Minister for Rural Development Shri Birender Singh who presided over the loan signing agreement later told the media that the all 28 states which implement the watershed projects will benefit from it. Also see, Govt signs loan agreement with World Bank for watershed project
Gujarat Double whammy for wild ass sanctuary cleared The State Board for Wildlife has approved a 23-km Narmada Canal branch from Suvai to Chobari in Kutch district, and also given its go ahead for a 289.32-km long 765 KV high tension line between Bhuj and Deesa. A 10-km stretch of the high-tension power line, to be installed by Power Grid Corporation of India Limited, will pass through the sanctuary areas in Kutch and Dasada. Gujarat State Wildlife Board ignores the recommendations of IUCN and possibility of underground options to sanction canal and power line through sanctuary. This is another instance that shows how these regulatory institutes are used as rubber stamps in absence of independent members and lack of accountability.
Jharkhand Kutch model to bring Ganga water to Santhal Pargana A team from Gujrat is scheduled to soon visit Dumkla shortly to explore the feasibility of supplying water for irrigation through pipelines from the Ganga at Sahebganj to feed all the six districts of Santhal Pargana. The erstwhile Planning Commission had given a go ahead to the twin project of construction of a bridge between Sahebganj and Manihari (Katihar, Bihar) and construction of the port in Sahebganj in 2013.
Maharashtra Irrigation Scam Whistleblower alleges BJP govt shielding Pawars, contractors Maharashtra’s irrigation scam whistle blower Vijay Pandhare on 14 Jan.16 alleged that the BJP government had shielded contractors and politicians involved in the multi-crore irrigation scam. Maharashtra government is not taking the required against powerful political persons.
Keep Religion Out of River Movements: Activist Vimal Bhai Vimal Bhai is the Convener of Matu Jan Sangathan, a collective that has been advocating for rights of communities impacted by large hydropower projects and dams in India’s Himalayan state of Uttarakhand. He sat down with Bharat Lal Seth to talk about the historical injustices ten years after the commissioning of the Tehri Dam, and the Indian government’s apathy in spite of all the big talk of protecting rivers, particularly the Ganga.
Gujarat Greens oppose Vishwamitri riverfront project in Vadodara A group of leading citizens have raised objection to the Gujarat governments suo motu action of starting work on the construction of riverfront along the Vishwamitri river, which winds its way through Vadodara city without obtaining environment clearance from the Centre. The group pointed out that the Union Environment Secretary had informed the group that the riverfront project would not commence before obtaining environment clearance, which would be preceded by environmental impact assessment, social impact assessment (SIA) and a public hearing. Yet, the group alleged, the state government had begun work on the riverfront project. It is very legitimate protest against river front project in Vadodara, Gujarat, without impact assessment and clearances.
Madhya Pradesh NBA organized farmers rally against Pench River diversion plan A farmers’ rally against Adani Group’s thermal power plant and Pench river diversion project was planned by Medha Patkar at Chhindwara district in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh on 11 Jan.16. The rally was expected to have Patkar and other activists like Dr Sunilam, former MLA from Betul, and Sanjay Parikh, a Supreme Court lawyer in land acquisition cases and Yogendra Yadav, former AAP leader. The major demand of the activists is return of the land acquired for both the projects to farmers.
Maharashtra Minister orders survey of Vena River for pollution District guardian minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule has asked the Hingna tehsildar to conduct a survey of Vena River for discharge of untreated industrial effluents and sewage in it and submit a report within seven days. Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has been asked to lodge police complaints against polluters on the basis of this report. The river rises near Vena dam (off Amravati Road) and then flows towards Wardha River through Hingna taluka and near Butibori. When MPCB officials could not provide any information about polluters and gave confusing answers about the agency’s powers to lodge police complaints, Bawankule ordered the survey.
Also see, Reminiscence by the riverside The Muthai River Walk hopes to reconnect people to the forgotten river and understand her importance for their own existence. The river Mutha, lovingly called ‘Muthai’–meaning ‘mother Mutha’ in Marathi–is dying a slow death thanks to rapidly urbanising Pune which is depositing huge amounts of untreated sewage and dirt in its waters. However, the situation was different earlier. The river was revered and was a part of the everyday lives of the people in the city.
GANGA: Centre Govt. Centre plans Central Authority on Ganga rejuvenation Last month, water resources minister Uma Bharti had said in a written reply to a Parliament that the Centre was considering a comprehensive law on Ganga rejuvenation. Shashi Shekhar Secretary, Water Resources said it would allow the setting up a Central Authority on Ganga Rejuvenation, lay down the extent of water that state governments can divert from the river and impose penalties on illegal sand mining and the like. The Ganga being a national river, the Centre is within its rights to enact such a law. “But, you need consent of all states before enacting such a legislation, as this would mean the entire control of the Ganga Basin passes on to a central authority and unless all the 11 riparian states agree to this, the law would be a non-starter,” says Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP coordinator.
Also see, Company to be set up for rollout of river cleaning projects Company to be set up for rollout of river cleaning projects With the Union cabinet last week deciding to establish a Special Purpose Vehicle to speed up the ongoing clean Ganga mission, the Centre will soon set up a company for implementation of river cleaning projects under the Public Private Partnership mode. Principal secretaries of all riparian states and municipal commissioners of big civic bodies will be on the company’s board. There is a possibility that the existing National Mission for Clean Ganga will itself be converted into a company under the Indian Companies Act 2013. The new company will have different verticals to look after different issues like sewage treatment, industrial discharge, river front development and surface cleaning among others.
Finance Ministry proposes to bring all 42 NRCP rivers under MoWR All 42 rivers covered under the National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) should come under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) the finance ministry has proposed seeking comments from both Water and Forest Ministry. The management of the 42 NCRP rivers were given to separate ministries after the Narendra Modi government came to power in anticipation of smoother operation. Sources, however, said the move has led to an increase in mismanagement since funds for river development go to MoWR while the NRCP staff work under MoEF.
Also see, Aims and hurdles of cleaning the Ganga New developments information about Ganga that this article mentions are machines called trash skimmers have been ordered from abroad to clean the river surface near major towns ,cleaning expected to begin by March, plan to build at least 100 crematoriums this year, 1650 village lie directly on the banks of Ganga, the river provides direct livelihood to 13 million people.
NGT Identify industries ‘seriously polluting’ Ganga The bench has directed the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand governments to identify “seriously polluting” industries located on the banks of the Ganga and apprise it about “quantity and quality” of discharge generated by them in the river within two weeks. Earlier, the NGT had directed the Centre not to release funds for cleaning the river from Gomukh to Kanpur without its nod, chiding the two states for failing to identify the serious polluting locations. Also see, No Clean Ganga fund for Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh
YAMUNA Manohar Parrikar likes plan of reviving 22 dams in Ramgarh, Rajasthan by drawing Yamuna water On 17 Jan.16, a local farmer in his sixties made a presentation before Union minister Manohar Parrikar that promised not only to return Ramgarh’s pristine glory when it hosted 1982 Asian Games’ water sports but also to raise the groundwater levels in four adjoining districts-Jaipur, Alwar, Sikar and Tonk. The minister was on a day long tour of the Jaipur rural Lok Sabha constituency for a pre-budget feedback from the people. The farmer Chhoga Lal Saini from village Manyawas in Sanganer tehsil said that there are 22 dams built by the British rulers in this part of the state that can be revived if the government brings Yamuna water from Narnaul canal in Haryana a distance of mere 65 kms from this side and release it in the natural waterways around Ajeetgarh near Shahpura,. The farmer held a plain white paper on which he had drawn the courses of natural waterways and local dams he was talking about. The idea gelled well with the Modi-government’s thrust on the interlinking of rivers. The defence minister seemed quite impressed with the idea and has invited the famer to meet him in Delhi for a detailed discussion over the subject. Interestingly it is well known that River Yamuna has turned seasonal and hardly has any flowing water during lean period. Thus the plan is misconceived and could not be realised. It is far better if the govt. focuses more on promotion of rain water harvesting in that area.
WETLANDS & WATER BODIES
Study Lakes warming faster than oceans and India’s Chilika is no exception Lakes worldwide, including the Chilika Lake in India, are heating up quickly due to climate change, infers a recent study. The research, published in Geophysical Research Letters, is the largest global study on temperature changes of water surfaces in lakes in summer. The water temperature of the Chilika Lake is rising at 0.39 degree Celsius per decade, as compared to average oceanic rise of 0.12 degree. Chilika, the brackish marine lagoon in Odisha, is the only lake from India to be included in this global study. It is the largest lagoon in India and the second largest in the world. With global warming, lake temperatures are rising faster than air or sea temperature as per a global 25 yr long study of 235 lakes across six continents.
Delhi Villagers raise pitch to save Asola pond fearing Chennai-like floods The call to save wetlands may only have gained strength after the Chennai floods but ponds and wetlands in Delhi continue to get eaten up each day. The latest in the list of dwindling water bodies is a centuries-old pond in Asola village. According to villagers, the construction of an electricity grid around the ponds is killing it and must be stopped immediately. A petition filed by the Yuva Shakti Sangathan in the NGT has alleged that the construction of the grid is detrimental to environment and managed to secure a stay on any further construction. The tribunal has asked the applicants to make a representation to the Delhi government for identification and classification of the land as a wet land within a week and directed the government to initiate action under the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010, and take decision whether the land is a wetland or not and communicate the decision within a month.
Karnataka Workshop on saving waterbodies The growing realisation of the havoc created by neglecting water bodies has brought to fore the importance of their conservation and experts will formulate strategies to prevent the decay of waterbodies at a workshop in the city. The international workshop, combined with technical talks on ‘Water Resources – Perspectives and Management in Karnataka’, will be held at the National Institute of Engineering (NIE) here on January 18 and 19. There will also be a three-day technical session on research opportunities in the field of hydrology from January 20 to 22.
National India’s Ice Man bets on locals’ efforts to save water Chewang Norphel has built more than 12 artificial glaciers. Going by his experience, the future of Himalayan and especially Ladakhi glaciers is in deep trouble. Norphel also had some advice for Maharashtra, which has been reeling under a water crisis for the past few years. “Building huge dams and spending crores will not necessarily land the desirable results. Everyone has to be involved in saving water and recharging the groundwater table. Local check dams are more important than large dams. Most importantly, local people in an area must be involved in such projects. A sense of duty and responsibility is instilled in people,” he said.
India largest recipient of World Bank loans over 70 years India’s loans from the World Bank stand at $104 billion as on December 31, 2015. Of this, the World Bank has disbursed $73 billion, with India repaying $37 billion. Water, sanitation and flood projects in India received the most World Bank funding (27%), followed by finance (19%), transportation (18%), education (11%), public administration and law (10%), agriculture (8%), health and social service (4%), information and communication (2%), and energy and mining (1%). India also received 9% ($2.1 billion) of IBRD commitments, the largest to any country in 2015 and, after Bangladesh, the second-largest ($1.7 billion) in terms of IDA assistance ($1.9 billion).
Environment Ministry notifies revised standards for Common Effluent Treatment Plants (Cetps) Across industrial clusters A provision of soil and groundwater quality monitoring twice a year (pre- and post-monsoon) has been introduced in the standards to study the impact of disposal of treated effluent on land, in case of mode of disposal as ‘on land for irrigation’. This monitoring will be carried out by the respective CETP management. The draft standards had been uploaded on the website, seeking views/comments of stakeholders including general public. The standards were also studied by an Expert Committee, consisting of representatives of the Ministries concerned, environment experts and social scientists.
Also see, Centre notifies revised standards for CETPs to minimise water pollution The primary aim of the revised standards is to minimise water pollution. These standards were finalised after extensive consultations with industries and other stakeholders and detailed deliberations with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The revised standards were notified on January 1, 2016.
Punjab Pollution Control Board to conduct dirty water audit For the first time, the Punjab Pollution Control Board will carry out an audit of dirty water in Punjab. The audit will begin with the leather complex area in Jalandhar and be implemented across the state gradually. The move comes after the repeated warnings by the PPCB have had no impact on violators who release polluted water into natural water sources instead of treatment plant. PPCB officials who visited the leather complex recently found that by-pass pipes had been laid by several units in the leather complex through which polluted water from the units was being released into the Kala Sanghia drain from which the water is used for irrigation.
Nagaland Coal mining operations a source of water pollution: Pollution Board The Nagaland Pollution Control Board (NPCB) in a report has expressed concern at coal mining operations in Nagaland being a major source of water pollution. The NPCB particularly pointed to the carry-over of the suspended solids in the drainage system of the mines. The report said that excavated soil and coal residue in this terrain are left exposed and during rain, leaching takes place and the water containing SO2 gets into the streams thereby making the water acidic, affecting aquatic life and making the water unhealthy for consumption. This toxic water leaks out of abandoned mines contaminating groundwater, streams, soil, plants, animals and humans. The NCPB warned that these heavy metals are linked to serious health problems including an increase in birth defects.
Himachal Clamour for action against sewage treatment plant contractor rises Deputy Mayor Tikender Panwar on 15 Jan.16 have asked the government to take action against contractor of the sewage treatment plant, Malyana, who is responsible for the outbreak of jaundice here. A team from the National Centre for Disease Control is of the view that the mixing of sewage in the water source can be the prime reason though its final findings are awaited. More than 4,000 have suffered from various ailments while over 640 people have tested positive for jaundice. The jaundice outbreak took place during winter months, not during the monsoon because the rains diluted the concentration of faecal matter into Ashwani Khud, but in winter the sewage discharge was concentrated and water discharge in the khud was less and hence it contaminated water, he asserted.
Madhya Pradesh Coke to set up plant in MP industrial area Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages has said it will invest Rs 750 crore in phases as the Madhya Pradesh government develops its first industrial area in public private partnership on 679 hectares in Babai village of Hoshangabad district, 72 km south of Bhopal. The Babai-Mohasa industrial area has been carved out of a government-owned agriculture farm, to which the previous Congress government also tried to attract investment. The farm came into existence in the 1970s to teach farmers advanced techniques. Spread across 3,251 acres, the farm incurred heavy losses, except in the initial years. In 2012, the Madhya Pradesh Cabinet decided to hand over 1,600 acres of the farm to the department of industry.
Maharashtra NMMC not to allow any new water connections till next monsoon The NMMC water department is not accepting applications till the next monsoon for new supply connections to tide over the current water crisis. While the department claimed to have done enough to ensure minimum wastage, residents disagree and feel that the preventive measure, among others, have come in too late. However, the findings on distribution losses, gleaned from Environment Status Report (2013-14, 2014-15) seem to buttress the opinion of the residents. The distribution losses accounted for about 19% (82 MLD) of the daily 435 MLD supply to NMMC area.
Telangana How water from Godavari will reach Hyderabad? Hyderabad is going to draw drinking, potable water from Yellampally barrage connected to the river Godavari. It is an ambitious project for Telangana government in bringing approximately 180 million gallons per day (MGD) of water to the city of Hyderabad. Topography plays an important role in determining a river’s course. Godavari flows toward Eastern Ghats before draining into the Bay of Bengal and Hyderabad is located to the opposite side of the very same river. Disturbing the flow of river can lead to floods and land sliding.
Also read, Water: one molecule, many formulations Of all known liquids, water is probably the most studied and least understood. Water has invented humans, and indeed sustains all other life forms on the earth. Paradoxically, however, a liquid that is part of life is also one of fear and death. Some of the most dreaded creatures live under water, carrying on eternal war amidst them by preying on each other. There is nothing softer and weaker than water, and yet nothing as hard and strong too. Jha journeys through the hydrosphere, biosphere, and cryosphere to capture the nature and properties of the second most abundant molecule in the universe.
SANDRP Blog Beautiful but Dry: Wells of Marathwada Wells in Marathwada, like the region itself, are beautiful and poignant. Marathwada’s dry wells are also a reminder of the mistakes we’ve committed, of how we’ve plundered with what we have or had. While continuing water scarcity and droughts have played a role in teh demise of these appropriate structures, it is also true that they have been criminally neglected. They found no place either in the increasing deep bore well explorations; neither do they find a specific place in programs like Jal Yukta Shivar. We hope that old and historical wells of Marathwada are specifically restored and rejuvenated through new programs like Jalyukta Shivar. Let us also hope that wise water management, groundwater recharge, saner cropping patterns and a resoundingly good monsoon will make Marathwada’s historical wells full of water and positive energy again. Marathwada’s wells are a rich legacy of Maharashtra.
Himachal NGT bans mining along Neugal river The tribunal passed the order on the petition filed by Baljeet Singh Bhateria in Delhi. The petitioner had brought to the notice of the NGT that illegal mining was on along the river despite the government imposing a ban on all such activities. He had stated that the state was losing revenue worth crores of rupees because of the illegality. His advocate Hamender Chandel argued before the NGT that the state government was aware of the situation, still no action was taken.
India to follow France’s high-tech flood warning systems; Experts raise doubt India has plans to set up a centralised water data facility as part of its high-tech flood forecasting systems to check massive and recurring losses of life, property and infrastructure in states. This is after a 10-member delegation of senior officials recently visited the Netherlands and France to understand early warning systems and how they can be replicated in India. Water expert Manoj Misra, however, cautioned against any flat replication as water in India’s context revolves around the three-four critical months of monsoon, a situation much different from any European nation.
Also read, Be Warned, Urban Floods are Here to Stay Chennai is only the latest example of demographic and environmental changes leading to urban flooding. Without a focus on more equitable planning, such disasters are bound to recur. The article once again underlines the role and importance of preserved natural water bodies, encroachment free riverbed, desilted storm water drains as best ways to deal with urban flooding.
UP & MP Bundelkhand drought turning into famine: Yogendra Yadav Renowned civil activist Yogendra Yadav led a four-day ‘Samvedna Yatra’ to the drought-struck region of Bundelkhand. Yadav, along with the volunteers of his outfit Swaraj Abhiyan, prepared a report measuring the impact of drought in the region. The survey made shocking revelations from ground, which not only exposed the lack of governance in the region, but schemes sanctioned by the Centre, including MNREGA failed to benefit the dwellers. According to Yogendra Yadav, the entire region of Bundelkhand, divided on the border of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, the issue of malnutrition, water-scarcity, mass exodus, crop-failure and successive droughts is outright visible.
Also see, Bundelkhand’s drought-ravaged land leading to farmer suicides Poor implementation of various projects planned under the Bundelkhand package, in addition to rampant red-tape and corruption, has added to the farmers’ misery. Corruption has been the final nail in the farmers’ coffin, with several dams built with poor-quality materials, a Congress leader in the MP assembly reporting that bikes, scooties were used for transportation of sand stone and soil and rampant irregularities in bills and documents. For example, the Bhitri Mutmuru dam in Panna was built with around R85 crore on the river Galko but developed a breach and one of its walls was swept away in June 2013. An inquiry found the incident took place due to sub standard quality. Two other dams Gugarwara and Sakaria built at a cost of Rs 37 crore also developed cracks.
Maharashtra saw 3,228 farmer suicides in 2015 Suicides by farmers touched a grim high in 2015. Of the 3,228 suicides, the state has found only 1,841 eligible for government aid, while 903 were found ineligible. While 484 cases are pending for inquiries, ex-gratia aid has been extended to 1,818. With 610 deaths in just two months, State records highest ever suicides by farmers. The year that had recorded 2,590 suicides until October the higher ever since 2001 went on to register 610 more deaths in just the last two months. The death toll on December 31, 2015 stood at 3,228, indicating that the slew of measures the government undertook through the year failed to arrest the disturbing trend.
Cabinet approves New Crop Insurance Scheme The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on 13 Jan.16 has approved the ‘Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana’ – a breaking scheme for farmers’ welfare. The new Crop Insurance Scheme is stated to be in line with One Nation One Scheme theme. It also claims to incorporate the best features of all previous schemes and removal of all previous shortcomings/weaknesses.
Sikkim becomes India’s first organic state Sikkim has become India’s first fully organic state by implementing organic practices on around 75,000 hectares of agricultural land. It was 12 years ago in 2003 when the Pawan Chamling-led government decided to make Sikkim an organic farming state through a declaration in the legislative assembly. Later the entry of chemical inputs for farmland was restricted and their sale banned. Farmers therefore had no option but to go organic. Organic cultivation is free of chemical pesticides and chemical fertilisers as it tries to strike a harmonious balance with a complex series of ecosystems. In the long term, organic farming leads in subsistence of agriculture, bio-diversity conservation and environmental protection, agriculture secretary Khorlo Bhutia said. PM to formally declare Sikkim as Organic state. Also see, Country could learn lots from Sikkim: Agriculture Minister
Odisha Tribals humour changing skies with mixed platters A report on farming practices in tribal Odisha by India Water Portal At Kondhavguda village, around 20 houses belonging to one extended family. Here every field hosts around 30 varieties of crops in a single year. Mixed cropping furthers this thought as there’s always something to be harvested, and something to be sown. Multiple crops also help deal with pests and diseases, which are increasing with the changing weather. They regularly used manure, ploughed, irrigated, removed weeds and mulched. The cost of farming has also come down as there is no expenditure on chemicals, seeds, labour or machines. But what keeps the tribals connected to their roots is the diversity their fields possess despite inroads made by commercial and chemical agriculture in the last 15 years. Tribals believe that more you visit the farm, better the crops because the bond between man, land and plant strengthens.
Andhra Pradesh aims to train 1.5 lakh farmers in organic farming The Andhra Pradesh government aims to train 1.5 lakh farmers in organic farming in the next three years, a senior agriculture department official said on 14 Jan.16. The trained cultivators will be given a certificate declaring them as organic farmer which would enable them sell their produces at higher prices. According officials the purpose of this project is to eliminate consumption of chemical fertilisers and pesticides and also to promote natural manures like cow dung in farming. The prime concept of this project is to reduce expenditure in agriculture and to raise the income for the farmers.
Karnataka Driven by organic farming ideas, Sudhakar Nayak is a role model to farmers B Sudhakar Nayak (62) owns in five and half acres of land given to him in Japti, Kundapur as share in the family land, laying stress on organic farming. Nayak, who joined a farm at Kokkarna after finishing SSLC because of his interest in agriculture, conducted studies and research in agriculture out of his own interest to learn more and more. He does not buy fertilizers for his farm from outside and personally feeds earthworm manure and compost manure to respective crops as per requirement. He has not limited himself to just being an organic farmer, but has been distributing knowledge freely to other farmers by working as resource person. He also has got several awards and honours for this initiative. He is open to share information he has among farmer visitors. If you have time, plan a visit to Nayak’s farm once. Sudhakar Nayak and his family are always prepared to extend a warm welcome to visitors.
Also Tamil Nadu Innovative farming techniques brought down agricultural expenses Organic farmer Mayazhagan’s minimal use of off-farm inputs has helped him to reap rich dividends as yield from his farm is on the rise now. He also follows System Rice Intensification.
Also see, Crop diversity way to make farming sustainable Article on Agriculture by Radha Gopalan Wire Industrial agriculture has been a big driver of climate change – it’s time we took efforts to replace it with a more ecologically peaceful and culturally aware form of food production and consumption. India is challenged by malnutrition (under- and over-nutrition), deep agrarian distress, increasing inequity and vulnerability of marginalised communities to climate change. A lot of this can be attributed to the way we have treated soil over the last 30-40 years. India also has the solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and they solutions lie in its vibrant and diverse food cultures, diverse agro-climatic zones, resilient and hardy varieties of plants and animals, a history of community-based conservation and the experiential knowledge of communities that have lived close to the land.
Solar Power Capacity Crosses Milestone of 5,000 MW in India On the auspicious occasion of Makar Sankranti/Pongal, the installed capacity of solar power in India crossed the milestone of 5,000 MW. The cumulative installed capacity has reached to 5,130 MW with installed capacity of 1385 MW in current FY. The state of Rajasthan stands 1st in the country with 1264 MW, followed by Gujarat (1024MW), Madhya Pradesh (679 MW), Tamil Nadu (419 MW), Maharashtra (379 MW) and Andhra Pradesh (357 MW). The Government has set the ambitious target of generating 100 GW of solar power by the year 2021-22 under the National Solar Mission. Also see, Spot electricity prices at record lows Spot electricity prices in India Energy Exchange averaged 2.82 per unit during 2015, lowest in over six years and the downward trend continues, prices in Oct, Nov and Dec 2015 were Rs 3.03, 2.67, 2.56.
Bangladesh plans Ganga dam, India remains undecided China jumps in with building promises and funding support Bangladesh has already completed a feasibility study and the design for the proposed 2.1 kilometre-long dam, due to be constructed at Pangsha in Rajbar district, about 100 km downstream from the Farakka Barrage in India’s West Bengal state. New Delhi asked Dhaka to send the full feasibility study, including scientific modelling, so it could be sure there would be no increase in water levels on Indian territory. However, experts say it will be difficult to push forward with the project in the absence of support from India. The two countries are currently locked in a range of political squabbles over water, including over how to share the waters of the Teesta, another cross-boundary river. A Chinese firm, Hydrochina Corporation, has expressed interest in building the dam, and has already held several meetings with Bangladesh’s Water Resources Ministry to discuss financing for the project.
Nepal Norwegian company pulls out of $ 1.5 bln from Tamakoshi hydro project A top Norweigan renewable energy developer has decided to pull out from a 650 MW Tamakoshi hydro power plant project in Nepal citing the fragile political situation in the country and the lack of power sector reforms. Statkraft decided withdraw from Nepal after conducting a thorough assessment of all aspects of the project, including commercial, technical and regulatory factors, the company said in a statement. This seems likely to be due to the damaging earthquake and lower electricity prices in India.
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Mekong River Donors slash funding for Mekong River Commission As disputes multiply over the use of the Mekong, including over planned upriver dams in Laos contested by Cambodia and Vietnam, and a newly unveiled Thai plan to divert water to its drought-ravaged farms, the body tasked with mediating among the four nations is losing more than half of its resources. The Mekong River Commission will see its development partner funding of about $115 million for the past five-year period slashed to just $53 million for 2016-2020, according to Truong Hong Tien, officer in charge of the MRC secretariat. The body will “decentralise”, shedding roughly half its staff of 150 over the next six months and delegating functions like water-level monitoring to member states.
Damming the Mekong – the myth of ‘sustainable hydropower’ Dam builders have a new mantra, writes Tom Fawthrop: ‘sustainable hydropower’. Repeated at every opportunity, it is based on the unproven idea that large dams can be made ‘sustainable’ by promising future ‘mitigation’. Many evidences conclusively prove that large dams in a vast majority of cases are not economically viable. Instead of obtaining hoped-for riches, emerging economies risk drowning their fragile economies in debt owing to ill-advised construction of large dams. 2016 will be a decisive year of no return for the unique biodiversity and the swirling currents of a free-flowing Mekong. The evidence is clear: there is nothing sustainable about large dams.
Hydro dam boom, a fish killer One third of the world’s freshwater fish are at risk if dozens of large hydroelectric dams are built in the Amazon, Congo and Mekong basins, aquatic ecologists have warned. They dismiss many of the arguments put forward by dam builders that better designed fish passages incorporated into major dams allow species to move freely up rivers. One more news report on recent scientific study conducted on Amazon, Congo and Mekong Rivers. In the context of Indian Rivers SANDRP has also prepared a study report titled Headwater Extinction on impact of hydro projects over fisheries. http://sandrp.in/Headwater_extinctions221114.pdf Also click the link to access full paper Balancing hydropower and biodiversity in the Amazon, Congo, and Mekong
Scientists Question Dam Building in the Amazon, Congo and Mekong Blog by Peter Bosshard, Interim Executive Director of International Rivers The paper in Science magazine adds to the mounting scientific evidence questioning the benefits of dam building. Recent studies found that dams drastically reduce biodiversity in tropical forests, and cause more than a million additional malaria cases every year in Africa alone. Scientists also found that with average cost overruns of 96%, most hydropower dams don’t make economic sense, and that 85% of them will have to cut power generation due to climate change. Taken together, the scientific evidence shows that dams are not the clean, green or cheap source of electric power they are often made out to be. When will the governments and financiers that promote these projects take note? Also see, Aquatic wonder world under threat from plans for dams
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World Rivers Hydro power project big threat on rivers across globe One problem with some freshwater fish, such as salmon in the Rhine, and many species in the Congo and Yangtse, is very large hydropower dams. That is down to the huge influence of business interest over true assessment of species needs. Almost every riverine African and Asian country, along with South America, must face the same consequences as the more citified continents. We all need more energy from renewable resources, but if the price for hydropower is similar to many other renewables, the environmental assessments must be clear, accurate and unbiased.
Brazil court suspends Amazon hydro dam licence on native demands Indigenous protesters hold hands near an entrance way to the Rio20 conference in protest over the Belo Monte dam construction. Rio de Janeiro: A Brazilian court has suspended the operating licence for the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, one of the world’s largest, just weeks before its owner, Norte Energia, planned to start electricity generation, prosecutors said. Belo Monte – known worldwide thanks to the awareness raised by British singer Sting and Brazilian Indian chief Raoni – has been the subject of multiple protests by Brazilian Indigenous people.
Forest loss increased annually for 25 years at oldest Amazon mega-dam A new study finds that from 1988-2008, an 80,000 square kilometer study area around Brazil’s Tucuruí dam lost an average of 591-660 square kilometers of forest annually, a figure that dropped from 2008-2013 to 325 square kilometers per year. Although many studies have investigated the direct impact of dams on forests, communities, and climate, few have looked at the potential impacts of dams on forest cover beyond the limits of their reservoirs over both space and time. Researchers examining changes in forest cover encircling the Amazon’s oldest mega-dam have found that hundreds of square kilometers of forest have been lost each year of the dam’s 25-year history.
Ethiopia rejects Egypt’s proposal to redesign Nile Dam Egypt has sought an increase on the number of outlets at the massive dam under-construction to allow water flow to downstream countries (Egypt and Sudan). Egypt fears the construction of what would be Africa’s largest power plant would severely curb its historical water share. During the recently held tripartite meeting between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan Cairo has proposed an increase of water outlets at the dam from two to four to allow a much more water flow and thereby to prevent significant reduce on water flow to lower riparian nations. Ethiopia, however, rejected the proposal saying enough impact studies had already been conducted.
Kenya Hydropower vs. Malaria Malaria already accounts for 30-50% of all outpatient attendance and 20% of admissions to health facilities in Kenya. Episodes of warm and wet weather (due to climate change) are leading mosquitoes to Kenya’s historically cooler highlands, where residents are not prepared, thus causing severe malaria outbreaks. Furthermore feeding on famine weed – a toxic invasive plant that has spread throughout East Africa — can extend the life of malaria-carrying mosquitoes even in the absence of a blood meal. As if that’s not bad enough, one other challenge is that approximately 40% of malaria drugs sold in Kenya are counterfeit.
Iraq Obama calls Iraq PM over Mosul Dam’s safety Built in 1984 Mosul, Iraq’s biggest dam has long been a maintenance nightmare, with serious structural flaws. Rising water levels in spring, when the Tigris is swollen by rain and melting snow, could lead to the breach. In a call to Iraq’s PM Haider al-Abadi, US president Barack Obama highlighted the need to make emergency repairs to avoid the tragedy. US State Department officials have warned that up to 500,000 people could be killed and more than a million left homeless should Iraq’s Mosul Dam the country’s biggest collapse due to insufficient maintenance.
US Concrete Revolution: Large dams, cold war geopolitics & the US Bureau of reclamation Book Review by Matthew Evenden, University of British Columbia author of “Allied Power. Mobilizing Hydro-Electricity During Canada’s Second World War”. Fresh and insightful. More than any other work I know, Concrete Revolution establishes the contours of the US Bureau of Reclamation’s international program and suggests why this agency’s activities were not only important in their own right, but also laid the groundwork for a much wider realm of dam development activity. As with the Bureau at the core of the book, Sneddon ranges across space and time to consider different dam development projects. It seems like this is a great new publication about US Bureau of Reclamation, the US Dam building agency. You may also watch video of Dam Nation – Official Film Trailer
Solar energy surges past Wind, Hydro in California Data compiled from daily reports by the state’s major grid manager indicate that in 2015, solar became the No. 1 source of renewable energy in California. Not only did solar beat wind power for the first time, but it also topped drought-depleted hydropower, the long-standing leader in California electricity generation outside fossil fuels and nuclear. The reports in sum show that in 2015, utility-scale solar power plants produced 15,591,964 megawatt-hours of electricity for CAISO. That’s 6.7 percent of the system’s total of 231,965,326 MWh. Wind came in at 5.3 percent. Hydro contributed 5.9 percent, with the portion that the state considers renewable, “small hydro,” at 0.6 percent of generation.
Study Freshwater vulnerability threatens developing nations’ stability The study finds that institutional issues are the most common factors generating water supply vulnerability, affecting nearly 40 percent of the 119 low-income nations studied. The most prevalent issue was corruption, which can paralyze water development projects and regulation. Patterns of vulnerability are often similar in countries that would otherwise seem to have little in common. By the study’s measures, the world’s most water-vulnerable countries are Jordan, Yemen and Djibouti.
Africa Shallow groundwater poses pollution problem for Africa The groundwater in many of Africa’s most crowded regions lies close to the surface, making it vulnerable to pollution, a study shows. The study, to be published in next month’s issue of the journal Science of the Total Environment, shows that the Sahara Desert, where water reserves are deep underground and human activities are low, is the region least vulnerable to groundwater pollution on the continent.
England’s waters to remain illegally polluted beyond 2021 Most rivers, lakes and coastal and ground waters in England will still not meet legally binding EU water pollution targets by 2021 – six years after the initial deadline. The main pressures affecting water bodies are: physical modification, which changes flow and creates fine sediment; chemical and nitrate pollution from agriculture; and phosphate pollution from the water sector.
Secret maps kept secret for 40 yrs reveal large swathes of Scotland are at risk from catastrophic dam burst The alarming charts have been produced by the environment watchdog Sepa, with the information being made public for the first time ever. Under the Reservoirs Act 1975, dam owners were obliged to produce maps showing which areas would be flooded in the event of a breach. However, they were only available on a need-to-know basis for the emergency services and disaster planners. Now, following new legislation at Holryood, Sepa is to take over from councils as the body in charge of reservoir safety.
December deluge led to ‘record-breaking rainfall and river flows in England The damage caused by heavy rainfall over December is estimated to be more than one billion pounds. Further evidence of the extraordinary weather conditions last month has been revealed, with some areas seeing record-breaking river flows, rainfall and groundwater levels. Three rivers had the largest flow ever recorded for rivers in England after Storm Desmond, one of a series of storms that brought heavy rainfall and flooding last month, according to the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH). The Eden and Lune in north-west England and the Tyne in the North East all recorded flows of around 1,700 cubic metres per second, many times the average rate of 53 cubic metres per second for the Eden, 45 for the Tyne and 36 for Lune. Also see, Britain’s renewable energy industry is about to ‘fall off a cliff’, says new research
Global The deadly effects of water pollution Here is an eye-opening look into the shocking realities, the health risks as well as how human activities threaten our environment and the future of our planet. Water pollution is a serious global threat to our fresh water supplies and healthy oceans. The planet has become one large dumping ground where our rubbish and pollutants are killing countless animals, marine life and spreading disease. It is estimated that around 5 million people die every year from drinking contaminated water which spreads sickness and waterborne diseases such as typhoid and cholera.
Research Paper Evolution of Institutional evolution a must for effective Climate Policy in India The growing focus on climate policy in India is not matched by an equivalent level of attention to institutions. Effective institutions are also needed for the design, coordination and implementation of policy. This paper examines the functioning of institutions, organised around three periods: pre-2007; 2007 to 2009 and 2010 to mid-2014.
Canada First Nations fisheries threatened by climate change First Nations communities that have fished along Canada’s Pacific coast for thousands of years could have their catches nearly cut in half by 2050, according to a new study conducted at the University of British Columbia. As climate change continues to heat up ocean temperatures, researchers predict that fish living in Canadian waters could respond by moving north to chillier habitats. Researchers say increased sea surface temperatures are likely to affect 98 fish and shellfish species that First Nations groups rely on for food and jobs. The price tag for such a loss is estimated to be between $6.7 and $12 million per year by 2050, according to the study.
Climate change scepticism is ‘political suicide’, David Attenborough argues In an interview with the Sunday Times magazine this weekend, environmental scientist Sir David said much progress had already been made in bringing public opinion round to confronting the problems. He has previously spoken out extensively about the issues of climate change, conservation and population growth, last year attending a global summit in Paris.
Delhi Housing projects without green nod illegal: SC In RARE instance, the Supreme Court acknowledges its mistake in staying NGT order that cancelled the MoEF notifications of 2012 and 2013 that attempted to regularise work done without statutory environmental clearances. SC has observed (not yet directed, it seems from the news reports). The NGT appears to have passed the correct order. We prima facie feel it was a mistake to grant stay. There should be some respect for law. The court can have no sympathy for those who violate law and pollute the environment. Least that should be done is to vacate the stay. These are huge projects creating huge environmental problem.” The next hearing in the SC will be on Jan 22, 2016. The earlier NGT order of July 7 2015 was stayed by an order from SC bench headed by former CJI H L Dattu. For details of NGT order, see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2015/07/08/5276/.
National Activists criticize dilution of Forest Rights Act A national daily last week reported that the Union tribal affairs ministry has re-interpreted the Forests Rights Act (FRA) that would pave the way for forest department of many states to gain substantial control over their forests in their states. If the tribal affairs minister follows through the decision to re-interpet the act, state forest departments would have authority over the gram sabhas who under the original FRA act had the authority to protect and manage forests. Various lawyers who deal with forest rights have states that FRA is on the top of the list of the laws that hinder ‘development projects. Activists termed the new developments and the ministry’s move a setback for millions who reside in forests across the country.
Gujarat NGT slaps Rs. 25-crore penalty on Adani group In a setback to the Gujarat-based Adani group, the National Green Tribunal has quashed the environmental clearance (EC) given for its ambitious port project in Hazira, south Gujarat, and imposed a heavy penalty of Rs. 25 crore for restoration of the environment that has been damaged and degraded. The tribunal passed its order on a petition filed by the Hazira Fishermen Committee that challenged the multi-crore infrastructure project on the ground that besides damaging the ecology, the project had also displaced more than 300 poor fishermen families, who cannot do fishing in the area as their access had been blocked. In its order dated January 8, the NGT’s western zone bench in Pune held that the environmental clearance granted to the port project in 2013 by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, was “illegal and must be set aside.”
Uttarakhand Battle to save Doon valley’s tea gardens goes online The petition historian Ram Chandra Guha and bollywood singer Jubin Nautiyal shared has been started online by a Doon lover, Digvijay Ankoti by the tagline- “Petitioning chief minister,Uttarakhand Harish Rawat and Union urban development minister Venkiah Naidu-Save the beautiful tea gardens in Dehradun from turning into a concrete jungle!” and has been supported by over 350 signatures of the city lovers. Also see, The importance of women in natural resources management A study among the hill women in Uttarakhand found that they showed a high inclination to participate in water and forest management programmes through Informal communities.
Haryana Forest land not defined but MCG builds Jharsa dam wall Despite repeated complaints from local residents, illegal encroachment on forest land on both sides of the 150-year-old Jharsa dam to build a wall continues unabated. The MCG has ordered an immediate halt to construction of the wall and wait for forest land to be demarcated. Locals say the construction of the wall is going on at the behest of some influential people who want to use the forest land as parking space and kitchen garden, leaving a big chunk of land vulnerable to encroachment. During the tenure of the previous MCG commissioner, the MCG had started the beautification of Jharsa dam in Sector 15 (I) in coordination with the forest department.