DRP News Bulletin 25 Jan. 2016 (Save & Grow: FAO supports SRI)

“Save & Grow” FAO supports SRI A new FAO book out on 18 Jan.16 takes a close look at how the world’s major cereals maize, rice and wheat can be grown in ways that respect and even leverage natural ecosystems.  FAO also underscores that “Save and Grow” farming systems are knowledge-intensive, and need to be built on local knowledge and needs, recognizing the important role of farmers as innovators. GREAT to see that this FAO publication (http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4009e.pdf ) contains a very detailed discussion and presentation on SRI, the first time that there has been such an endorsement of SRI (System Rice Intensification). With this publication, FAO joins the World Bank (http://info.worldbank.org/etools/docs/library/245848/) and IFAD (http://www.ifad.org/english/sri/  and http://www.ifad.org/english/sri/documents.html).

It says, for example “The System of Rice Intensification could help to overcome many of the challenges facing the rice sector”. (p 45) “The system could also dramatically reduce emissions of methane from irrigated systems. (p 46) “An important focus of SRI systems is improved soil health. Intermittent irrigation and the application of organic compost and mulch significantly increase the number of beneficial”. (p 46) It would have been good if the FAO publication had also mentioned about greater yields, profitability and reduced costs and carbon and water foot prints of SRI. It is hoped that this will provide greater impetus for the Government of India and various state governments, agricultural institutes and farmers organisations to take up SRI with greater seriousness and urgency.

HYDRO POWER

Cabinet approves amendments in Power Tariff Policy keep hydro exempted from competitive bidding till Aug. 2022 The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the proposal of the Ministry of Power for amendments in the Tariff Policy. For the first time a holistic view of the power sector has been taken and comprehensive amendments have been made in the Tariff policy 2006. The policy targets 8% of electricity consumption shall be from renewable sources excluding hydro power by March 2022. It also proposes promotion of Hydro projects through long term PPAs and exemption from competitive bidding till August 2022. For encouraging recycling of treated water the policy asks thermal plants within 50 km of sewage treatment facilities to use treated sewage water.

Arunachal New bird species found in India, first in a decade The Himalayan Forest Thrush, has been described from northeastern India and adjacent parts of China by a team of scientists from India, Sweden, China, the US and Russia. This discovery of the new musical entity is noteworthy, firstly because it is in Arunachal Pradesh. Secondly, the previous one, in 2006 was also from the same state, in fact this is only the fourth new species of bird discovered in India post 1947 and three are from Arunachal Pradesh. Only goes to show how little we know about the biodiversity here and why we need to go slow in destroying it by building mega dams and hydropower projects, backed by shoddy environmental and even shoddier cumulative impact assessments.

Tawang rallies against hydro projects, demands restoration of micro-mini hydel stations People in Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh are asking for micro and small hydropower projects, repair and maintenance of existing ones, and opposing large hydropower projects. Also see, Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh erupts in anti-dam protest Local people are right that govt. should maintain and operate already built mini and small hydro projects rather than pushing for construction of large hydro projects which will play havoc on regional environment and cultural centres. There are 13 large hydro projects planned in Tawang valley whereas already built mini projects which can meet the electricity demand of the area are left unused in want of maintenance.

Assam AASU urges Centre & NHPC to stop work on 2000mw Lower Subansiri HEP The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) has appealed to the Centre and National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) to stop construction of the 2000-MW Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric project after Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured the students’ body that opinion of experts in Assam would be respected while executing any future work on the controversial project. A few days ago, AASU activists blocked movement of trucks to the site and threatened to resume the anti-dam agitation after Magh Bihu. Gogoi added that the Centre and NHPC should stop all construction on the dam till experts assessed the downstream impact of the project. Also see, PM good actor, but lacks knowledge on Assam says CM Tarun Gogoi  Assam CM Gogoi ridiculed the Prime Minister Modi for saying Assam lacked power, despite having adequate water resources. “The PM does not know how power is produced from water. He does not know that most Assam rivers cannot be used for power generation”.

Himachal Mapping hydro schizophrenia and people’s resistance in the Indian Himalaya The new featured map in the Atlas of Environmental Justice contributes to show the pace of construction, the expansion of the hydropower frontier, directly linked to a development model based on unbridled exploitation of natural resources for economic growth representing a collective disappointment, but also of the resisting spirit of Himachalis. All information is being collected through official documents and reports, reports and articles by organizations and independent analysts like SANDRP and International Rivers, documentation obtained by Himdhara, a local environment action group, through the Right to Information Act and cross-checked with on-the-ground work and substantiated with interviews, newspapers articles and direct observations.

IIT-Kanpur alarms about chances of large magnitude earthquakes in Northwest Himalayas The latest research by IIT Kanpur experts on earthquakes has revealed that the potential of the occurrence of a large magnitude earthquake in foothill zone of Northwest Himalaya along the Himalayan Frontal Thrust cannot be ruled out. The research done will help towards proper evaluation of seismic hazards in Kangra as well as in Indo- Gangetic Plain. Experts have been warning against a long over-due earthquake in Himalayan region. The place and time is unpredictable. But according this report Central Himalaya (Uttarakhand, Himachal) are among top susceptible regions because no big quake has hit the area over past 700 years.

Uttarakhand NDA revives a 1916 pact for dams on the Ganga This detailed report by Nitin Sethi raises a large number of questions about the MoEF reliance on 1916 agreement for release of 1000 cusecs of water at Haridwar for religious bathing in Ganga there. When did this outdated stipulation become a norm for all places along Ganga for all seasons and on what basis? Why has the Supreme Court given up its own questions about impacts of hydropower project on the disasters, river, people, biodiversity and future? As it says in the end, let us hope the apex court is more consistent with its order of Aug 13, 2013 and puts the whole issue in perspective.

MoEF approves 5 hydro projects on Ganga ignoring Uma Bharati’s objections Despite written objections from Ganga rejuvenation minister Uma Bharati, the Union environment ministry has done a volte face and conditionally allowed five new dams on tributaries of the Ganga in the Uttarakhand hills. The five dams that have now got a conditional nod from the environment ministry through the U-turn in the affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court are 300 Mw Alaknanda project, 24.3-Mw Bhyunder Ganga project, 4-Mw Khirao Ganga project, 171-Mw Lata Tapovan project, and 195-Mw Kotlibhel 1A project. The government has recommended ‘considerable design modifications’ on the Alaknanda and Kotlibhel projects. This is very strange situation. Environment Ministry is pushing projects that MoWR is objecting to! Also see, Public wrangling between ministries sends out dispiriting signals for the river cleaning project (Op-Ed Indian Express) According the editorial the Union Environment Ministry is acting as lobby for large hydropower projects as their Supreme Court affidavit is against the clearly stated position of the water resources ministry and Uma Bharati. It will not only impede the government’s plans of rejuvenating the Ganga but reflects SO POORLY on the Prime Minister and his claims of “started making efforts for razing those walls” between bureaucracies. What the editorial misses is that it shows poor governance of our rivers and lack of any vision or clarity about the role of rivers in our society and future. Also read, Hydel projects run into opposition

Villagers launch stir against 252 MW Devsari dam on Pindar River Press Release from MATU Jan Sangathan.  Hundreds of villagers from different villages marked Makar Sankranti by assembling at the confluence of five rivers at Panchprayag and resolved to leapfrog to the next phase of the struggle against mega dams in the region. The immediate challenge is the struggle against the Devsari dam proposed on the Pindar river in the Chamoli. Vimal Bhai informed the gathering that till date the environment ministry has not granted clearance to the Dam. It is indeed notable that the struggle of the people of the Pindar valley has ensured that the Dam could not be built for the past 6 years. The sham official ‘public hearings’ to push the project could not go ahead since 2009, due to popular protests.

Crucial SC hearing on U’khand hydropower projects The hearing could not take place since Justice Deepak Misra was busy in some other case. So far, there is no information on when the case will be heard next. It is very sad that Govt. has no policy on hydro power projects even after two years of Kedarnath tragedy. One hopes the Supreme Court will indeed look into all the issues before deciding about hydropower projects in Uttarakhand, including what is stated in this report, quoting affected people.

Madhya Pradesh NHPC turns down PFC’s 400mw Maheshwar dam bailout proposal The Union government-controlled National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) has declined the offer by Power Finance Corporation (PFC) to take over the beleaguered 400 Mw Maheshwar hydro project citing viability issues. Maheshwar Hydropower project on Narmada River in Madhya Pradesh remains a milestone of failure of our big hydro policy. The cost of the project started 23 years ago has gone up several times, cost of power from the project has reached completely nonviable level of Rs 15-16 per unit, project has still not paid the affected people, the land acquisition is in doubt, additional Rs 2000 crores are required, but no one is ready to put that money, NHPC has refused to take over, the private developer wants to exit. It is a fit case to decommission before commissioning.

Chhattisgarh CSPGCL Planning 1000MW Hydro Projects in Dantewada District State-owned Chhattisgarh State Power Generation Company Ltd (CSPGCL) already has three major projects in the hydro power sector lined up for development in the financial year 2016-17. The proposed projects are 60mw Matnar Hydro Power Project (HPP) in Bastar district, 50mw Kanhar HPP and 96mw Rehgar HPP in Surguja district. Notably, the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has set a modest power generation target of 25 MW to be achieved from Small Hydro Power (SHP) projects in Chhattisgarh by 2022. Neighbouring Madhya Pradesh had also been given the target of 25 MW to be achieved from SHP projects by 2022. Interestingly, neighbouring Odisha State had not been assigned any SHP target during the period.

DAMS

National Poor Data Collection on Small Dams Worrying: Experts According to the latest statistics available with the Ministry of Water Resources, India is home to 5,100 large dams, but there is no data on the number of small dams or minor irrigation dams. Officials of the Central Water Commission (CWC) say the lack of training for ground-level staff and poor collection of data pertaining to dams are two of the reasons that concerns them about taking the right decisions about operations in times of an emergency. In addition, there is a lack of documentation on many of the older dams. Blueprints or drawings of individual dams and other information pertaining to the construction of the dam have either been lost or no data has been maintained. These issues were discussed during the two-day National Dam Safety Conference held in the Bengaluru recently.  

Maharashtra Don’t release dam water for Jain festival, Bombay HC tells govt Taking into account the scarcity of water in the state, Bombay high court on 18 Jan.16 directed the government not to release water from Gangapur dam in Nashik and nearby reservoirs during Mahavir Jain festival in Nashik for six days commencing February 11. The court also directed the State to declare its water policy and asked the principal secretary of the state’s irrigation department to file an affidavit setting out outer time period when the rules of Maharashtra Irrigation Act would be framed. Notably Maharashtra Irrigation Act had been passed by the State but the rules have not been framed so far. The next hearing will take place on February 29. In September last year also, the high court had directed the state not to release water from Gangapur dam for the ‘shahi snan’ during the Kumbh Mela even though many parts of the state are facing drought.

Plan to raise Kaas Dam will adversely impact biodiversity: NGT Expert Committee Notably, while EIAs may be disregarded when the project concerned is to facilitate drinking water, this case is different considering that Kaas is a UNESCO heritage site as well as an ecosensitive area. Kaas Conservation Committee was set up by NGT to explore whether the biodiversity-rich Kaas Plateau would be adversely affected by Satara civic body’s plan to raise height of Kass dam. The interim report of committee is out and it says that Satara civic body’s plans will impact unique vegetation at UNESCO heritage site. It further says that there are a total of 411 flowering plants on Kaas Plateau, out of which 48 are threatened and 98 are endemic to peninsular India and Maharashtra.

Telangana Govt drops objection to Pattiseema expecting Andhra’s support for its projects A meeting of the Godavari river management board, which took place here on 21 Jan.16 after a gap of more than a year, saw the Telangana government not pressing its stand that the Pattiseema project executed by Andhra Pradesh was a new project requiring the permission of Telangana and the Central Water Commission. The Telangana government strategically avoided claiming that Pattiseema project was not new because it would bring to the fore all new projects in Telangana and lead to delay in their implementation as they would have to be scrutinised by the board and referred to the CEW and Apex council under the AP Reorganisation Act. This kind of quid pro quo is clearly wrong and should be unacceptable, it is strange, what are CWC and MoWR doing? It is irrefutable fact that Pattiseema is not part of Polavaram project, and yet Telangana decides not to press for the issue that it raised earlier, so that AP does not raise questions about other Telanagana projects, both these stands are wrong.

Conduct EIA of barrage on Pranahita River: Activists  The barrage, which is part of the Rs. 38,500 crore mega Pranahita-Chevella lift irrigation scheme, will soon become a reality as the governments of Telangana and Maharashtra have reached an agreement after thrashing out certain irritants, including the height of the structure. Alarmed at the prospect of an upheaval of local ecology, conservationists are demanding a ‘sincere’ environmental impact assessment of the project before making a move forward. “Besides the changes, the eco-system from the lotic (in flow) to lentic (static as in reservoir), there will be a great change in hydrology downstream of the dam,” observes Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP. “Trapping of silt in the barrage starves the delta of sediment as in the case of the Krishna-Godavari delta, being called the delta-in-peril for the same reason,” she adds to underscore the negative impact that can result following damming of the Pranahita.

Madhya Pradesh Sardar Sarovar project: MP seeks justice Jha panel’s probe report  Justice SS Jha Commission was set up by the high court on August 21, 2008 to probe the allegations of over 3,000 fake land sale registries, corruption in rehabilitation sites, issuance of livelihood grants, allotment of plots for construction of houses related to oustees of the Sardar Sarovar Dam Project in Alirajpur, Dhar, Khargone and Barwani districts. The Commission submitted its final report in a sealed cover to the high court. MP Govt and NBA has sought copy of the Jha commission report that has been submitted in sealed cover to the Madhya Pradesh High Court, the commission inquired into the corruption in rehabilitation of Sardar Sarovar affected in Madhya Pradesh.

Gujarat Reservoirs level touches 10 years low, farm, industry sector to suffer most Levels of usable water in State’s 202 reservoirs are at a 10-year low, leaving little of this precious resource for anything but drinking. This means five months of rationed drinking water with not a drop to spare for agriculture or industry. Rains last year were 23% less than normal. Yet the government allowed the release of 79% of its reservoir capacity between August and December last year. Gujarat that faced floods in early part of monsoon and huge deficit later on, is now facing a major water crisis, a lot of it is mismanagement. One more news says that due to lack of water Rabi sowing is down 40% in Gujarat , particularly in Saurashtra, the area for whom Narmada project was made, but they are not getting water due to them for lack of canals, while the urban and industrial uses have seen no curtailment, nor the agricultural use in Central Gujarat.

Tamil Nadu AIDMK, DMK continue to fight in Assembly over Chennai floods Stoutly defending the government on the issue of discharge of excess water from Chembarambakkam dam, which reportedly inundated vast areas in heavy rains last year, AIADMK on 21 Jan.16 sought to turn the tables on DMK in the Assembly, charging them with inaction on incidents during their regime. It is worth mentioning that on December 13, government had termed as “malicious” reports that the Chennai floods were a result of “failure” in managing water release from dams and said the deluge was a “rarest of rare natural calamity” and people had been alerted about it.

Book Review The Dam Debate: The anti-Tehri dam movement and other voices from the Himalaya Hanna Werner’s book brings the discussion on large dams back to the mainstream when the media, academia, the public and policymakers have forgotten about it. Except for a period immediately after the Uttarakhand floods of June 2013, the country has stopped taking cognisance of dam-related conflicts. Even the proposed Polavaram dam in Andhra Pradesh, which would result in the inundation of 276 villages and affect more than 100,000 people, has not found much media and public attention. Coming at this juncture, Hanna Werner’s well-researched study sheds light on the debates that dam projects continue to generate in Uttarakhand. There are similar conflicts in many parts across the world. Thus, through its Himalayan window, the book also looks at other parts of the world. Review of an important book on Tehri and other Dams on Ganga.

IRRIGATION

SANDRP Blog Maharashtra’s Water Sector in 2015: Did anything change with the government? Water and dams have been central behind the embarrassing loss of Congress-NCP government in the 2014 Loksabha elections. But could the ruling BJP government actually deliver such a “Paradigm Shift” as it likes to call it? Is there light at the end of the tunnel for the state that is facing not only management scams, but repeated droughts and extreme weather events? We try to review happenings around water, dams and rivers in Maharashtra for the past year 2015 and to look for a possible direction where the sector is heading, trying to fathom what it holds for the rivers and the people of the state. 

Maharashtra Irrigation department wants Rs 10,000 crore this year With incomplete dams and deficient rainfall this year, the irrigation department fears that less land has been irrigated and has demanded more funds for the next financial year 2016-17. The department has sent a proposal for Rs 10,000 crore to finance and requested the chief minister to raise an additional Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 crore by selling bonds. In 2015-16, the department has completed 39 small projects, creating an irrigation capacity of 71,411 ha.

Gujarat Past 14 years, just 21% Narmada command area completed, irrigation waters “diverted” to industry Khedut Samaj Gujarat (KSG), the farmers’ organization, has alleged “criminal conspiracy” of transferring Narmada waters to industry, instead of providing them to the state’s agricultural fields by developing Narmada canals. Claiming that this is forcing farmers to “distress sale of land” and “suicide”, a KSG meet, held in Ahmedabad on January 18, 2016, has decided to go in for a massive awareness campaign in the Narmada command area. Indeed, the strategy of Gujarat Government from the beginning has been to push Sardar Sarovar Dam in the name of drought prone area, but not develop the canals and take the water to urban and industrial consumers and also allow Central Gujarat farmers in initial command to use all the water they want to. This is exactly what NBA had warned about.

Tamil Nadu 100% grant for setting up micro irrigation systems in Tiruneveli districts  To encourage the farmers to go in for micro irrigation systems that save huge quantity of water while increasing the yield substantially, the State Government gives 100 cent subsidy for small and marginal farmers, having 2.50 acres of wetland or 5 acres of land with some irrigation facility while other farmers get 75 per cent grant. The district has received a grant of Rs. 8.72 crore to be given to farmers for nourishing horticultural and agricultural crops through micro irrigation systems on over 1,200 hectares. It’s a positive step taken by the State Govt. But according news report it asks farmers to avail many documents and certificates which may discourage or deprive them from the benefits of the scheme. Also see, Irrigation tank breach damages vast crop areas in Tiruvannamalai district

Karnataka Over Rs 20k cr spent on Irrigation Projects: Water Resources Minister M B Patil, Water Resource Minister said the state government has spent Rs 20,753 crore on irrigation projects and brought 4.28 lakh acres under irrigation in the last three years. In a press release on 20 Jan.16, Patil said CM Siddaramaiah had promised to spend Rs 50,000 crore on irrigation over five years. Accordingly, till December 2015, the government has spent Rs 20,753 crore. Patil’s statement came as a rebuttal to allegations by opposition party leaders B S Yeddyurappa and H D Kumaraswamy that the Congress government has been neglecting irrigation by not releasing funds as promised.

Rajasthan Opposition blames CM working with negative approach Leader of Opposition Rameshwar Dudi on 22 Jan.16 called CM Vasundhara Raje a person with negative approach. He alleged that besides the Barmer refinery and Dungarpur-Ratlam rail link, Vasudhara RAje has curtailed the Parwan river irrigation project in Hadauti, Kumbharam Lift canal in Jhunjhunu, Gurgaon canal in Bharatpur and Narmada canal in Jalore and Barmer districts simply because they were initiated by the previous Congress government. Its not clear how true this is, but if not refuted, this becomes noteworthy.

RIVERS

National Focus on Ganga, but pollution plagues 254 other stretches According to Central Pollution Control Board last year data as many as 532 towns/cities fall along the polluted stretches of different rivers across the country as against 118 in the Ganga river basin states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. It’s true that many polluted rivers in the country have so far not attracted similar attention as given to Ganga and its tributaries. Now the water resources ministry is said to have brainstorming meeting on these issues early next month following a proposal that the jurisdiction over National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) should be transferred from the environment ministry to the water resources ministry to ensure an integrated approach. At present, the water resoucres ministry takes care of Ganga and its tributaries whereas the management of 30 other big rivers comes under the environment ministry through its NRCP.

Maharashtra India signs 1000cr loan agreement with Japan to clean Pune’s Mula Mutha River The major components proposed under the project include construction of 11 new STPs, which will result in a creation of an additional treatment capacity of 396 million litre per day (MLD) over the existing treatment capacity of 477 MLD, laying of 113.6 kms of sewer lines and renovation/rehabilitation of 4 existing intermediate pumping stations. Once the project is completed by January 2022, the total STP capacity available in Pune will be 873 MLD, which will be sufficient to cater to sewage generation for the year 2027. Will this help clean up Mula Mutha rivers in Pune? JICA has been funding Ganga, Yamuna and other action plans, with almost no impact, the plan for Pune is same, more infrastructure without any attention to democratic governance.

Gujarat Diamond trader spends Rs 15cr to rejuvenate village river Jeram Thesia, a 65 year old diamond trader in Surat and native of Ingorala, is spending Rs 15 crore from his own pocket to deepen the 10km stretch of Thebi River and rejuvenate his birthplace that is crying for water. As per estimate, nearly 70,000 bigha land will be benefited once the entire 10km river stretch is deepened and widened.

Tamil Nadu Clean Palar Project enters second year Clean Palar Project is an effort of the VIT University’s Green Vellore, which had completed the cleaning work in Palar by removing weeds and ‘karuvelam’ plants for more than two kms last year. This year, the cleaning work in the river would cover four kilometers, within the Vellore Corporation limits.

GANGA NGT Ganga as polluted as ever in Banaras The scheme to clean the River Ganga in Varanasi, which is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency, was on 18 Jan.16 described as a failure by the country’s top environmental court. Both the Centre and the state government of Uttar Pradesh were rebuked by the court, which said “your slogans are very contrary to your actions.” The National Green Tribunal has asked for an answer by January 27 on who should be held accountable for the increasing pollution in the river in Varanasi.  It rejected the state and Centre’s claim that local officials are to blame.

Central Govt. Government shuts 150 industrial units along Ganga to curb pollution Sending out a strong message, the Environment Ministry has ordered the closure of 150 industrial units, including sugar mills and tanneries, along the Ganga river after these failed to install 24X7 effluent monitoring systems. Among the units closed include nine paper and pulp units, 28 textile units, six slaughter houses, nine sugar units, four distilleries, 68 tanneries, 10 chemical units and 14 other units. There are reports that, Centre will hold ‘Ganga Swachata-Gramin Sahabhagita’ meet with heads of 1,657 villages During the day-long conference scheduled to be held on January 30, Union Water Resources Ministry will share different water management models with the village heads under its Ganga Gram programme.

Uttar Pradesh Heavy use of pesticides by encroachers on govt land along Ganga Despite district administration’s decision to teach farmers about organic farming, especially along the banks of the Ganga, ground reality in Bijnor is different where some land mafia groups have grabbed government land along the Ganga banks and have been growing wheat, watermelon and vegetables using insecticides and pesticides. Around 50,000 bighas of land are available for farming when the water level of the river drops after the monsoons. The information on use of chemicals on riverbed farming is true however the riverbed farmers are neither encroachers nor land mafia. They are either leased out land by farmers who own the land or by district administration in case the land remains unclaimed by villagers.

YAMUNA Delhi Govt. asks Haryana to reduce ammonia in Yamuna This is an annual affair impacting potable water supply in several parts of the Capital. Haryana and Delhi Govts exchange blames for few days before things falls back to the normalcy. Its Delhiites who suffer from both no water supply and supply of contaminated water. The new govts with huge public mandate in Delhi and Haryana, they need to look into the issue seriously and take effective steps to address the root causes the problem. SANDRP in its blog last year has mentioned the issue in detail highlighting from where and how the pollution is entering Delhi’s water supply.

1 Year Gone: NGT’s Yamuna clean-up plan fails to take off due to bureaucratic inefficiency The NGT in January 2015 ordered that its “Maili se Nirmal Yamuna Rejuvenation Project, prepared with months of hard work by some of India’s top experts, be completed by 2017. An important component is ensuring adequate fresh water flow in the river without which all clean-up plans are bound to fail the NGT panel had in July last year suggested Delhi should get its share of water from the river and not the parallel WYC. The proposal remains on paper. Nothing has moved. Also see, Huge waste is dumped daily in Yamuna that too for Just Rs 5 The NGT has levied a fine of Rs 5,000 for throwing waste or religious items into the river. People are aware of the fine but nobody cares. Evidently, there is no monitoring of the menace. The last fine was imposed during Chhath Puja. This shows how, a year after NGT orders of Jan 13, 2015, people continue to dump garbage into the river and the Delhi govt is least bothered.

Agra How much sewage flowing into Yamuna NGT asks UP Govt. Hearing a matter related to the illegal construction of buildings and the dumping of waste and effluents in the Yamuna flood plain zone in the city, NGT on 18 Jan.16 ordered the Jal Nigam and Municipal Corporation to file a compliance report with details of the total sewage discharge from the city and how much of it is treated, so it could also arrive at the total sewage that is allowed to flow into the river untreated. Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board submitted that it would file the joint inspection report on STPs along with an analysis report within one week. The next date of hearing of this matter was fixed for February 23. NGT has been consistently raising the issue of pollution of Yamuna River in Agra.

WETLANDS & WATER BODIES

Punjab Sechewal Model: State to treat and use ponds water for irrigation now The state government has chalked out a comprehensive plan to treat the contaminated water of all the ponds in the state and subsequently to use this water to irrigate the fields. Disclosing this, SK Sandhu, Principal Secretary said that Planning Department, Irrigation Department and Sewerage Board would jointly undertake this task. Sandhu okayed the irrigation system as proposed and implemented by Environmentalist Balbir Singh Sechewal in various villages. While the method saves water, it is also eco-friendly and practical as reiterated by the environmentalist various times.

WATER                                                                                      

An overview of water sector reforms in India  Over the past several years, community groups, social and non-governmental organisations have been discussing and organising activities, critiquing reform measures and privatisation of public water services in several places across the country. In the past there has been a determined effort that has gained momentum to bring the various groups of campaigners, activists, researchers, academics, community groups, labour collectives, people’s representatives and non-government organisations together for national campaigns and meetings to discuss further actions against privatisation and the alternatives to privatisation. A comprehensive review of water privatisation reforms in India in recent times, by Gaurav Dwivedi of Manthan Adhyayan Kendra.

National Environment Ministry notifies stricter standards for sugar industry The Government has notified stricter environment standards for sugar industries operating in various states in the country. The primary aim of these standards is to minimise water pollution. The Environment Ministry has notified the standards on January 14, 2016, in Gazette of India. Specific wastewater discharge standards have been made stricter, by limiting the same to ‘200 litre per tonne of cane crushed’, as against the earlier limit of ‘400 litre per tonne cane crushed’. Only single outlet point from unit has been allowed to encourage operational efficiency and treated effluent recycling practices. Further, only one outlet/ discharge point will be allowed, which will be covered as per the ‘24×7 online monitoring’ protocol. Also see, Centre draws up stricter ‘water use’ norms for sugar industry

Maharashtra Piyush Goyal urged for time bound programme on reusing Municipal Waste Water The Union Power Minister has directed for a time bound program to be developed between Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) Nagpur and NTPC Mouda for reuse of the sewage treated water of NMC by NTPC’s Thermal Power Plant at Mouda. The scheme would also help in providing more water for irrigation to the farmers as well as drinking water for Nagpur. NTPC’s Solapur plant would be taken up next for use of sewage treated water. Other Thermal Power Plants on the banks of river Ganga may also be take up similar schemes.

Himachal Shimla jaundice outbreak: Sewage treatment plant found out of order for months The Shimla police have found that effluents are being discharged into the Ashwani Khad as the sewage treatment plant at Malyana has been non-functional for months. The rivulet is a source of drinking water for the state capital, which has been reeling under a jaundice outbreak for the past month. The jaundice outbreak, with over 1,000 reported cases so far, has affected all sections of society from doctors and bureaucrats to students and tourists. There have been seven deaths with IAS officer Priytu Mandal among those in a critical condition. He has been shifted to PGI in Chandigarh. When STPs don’t work more serious consequences of otherwise daily affair.

Delhi DJB earned Rs 178 cr more despite providing free water: CM Hitting out at critics of the Delhi governments free water scheme, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on 23 Jan.16 said the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) has earned Rs 178 crore more than last financial year despite providing 20,000 litres of water for free to Delhiites every month.

GROUND WATER

Maharashtra PGWM can offset recurring droughts in State Participatory Groundwater Management (PGWM) involves trying to understand groundwater availability by gaining an understanding of the aquifer characteristics and its regional spread, and understanding, analysing and managing demand with community participation by taking into consideration the economic and social aspects and planning supply augmentation. Recently Groundwater Survey and Development Agency and Arghyam organised a meeting to discuss and understand earlier learnings from PGWM efforts and to explore the possibility of these being incorporated in the long term planning of initiatives such as the Jalayukt Shivar Yojana that aims to handle the groundwater crisis in Maharashtra.

DROUGHT

Maharashtra Drought equals worst in 100 yrs, Govt. water plan struggles Experts and farmers say that Jalyukt Shivar uses a piecemeal approach that does not account for the geological underpinnings of traditional watershed systems. It creates two problems: it spreads itself thin by benefiting only a few farms, and, instead of long-term measure to make an area drought-free, it offers only temporary relief. It doesn’t help that the rainfall is now lower than the lowest that anyone remembers. But this is no longer news to swathes of Maharashtra. For the last four years, drought-like conditions have prevailed in the central Maharashtra district of Beed in the Marathwada region. This article contends that Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan of Maharashtra is not giving results as it is spreading too thin and since rainfall is too low. Also see Govt. departments give different figures for farmers death in the State Two days after Maharashtra government informed the high court that 1,000 farmers committed suicide in the state in 2015, figures provided by its relief and rehabilitation department have now revealed that the total number of farmers, who ended their lives last year stands at 3,228.

FLOODS

Bihar India, World Bank signs agreement for Kosi Basin Development Project The Financing Agreement for World Bank assistance of US$ 250 million for Bihar Kosi Basin Development Project was signed between Govt. of India and World Bank on January 20, 2016 at New Delhi. The objective of the project is to enhance resilience to floods and increase agricultural production and productivity in the targeted districts in the Kosi River Basin and to enhance Bihar capacity to respond promptly and effectively to an eligible crisis or emergency. It is a loan for an implementation period of 5 years. Government of Bihar is the implementing agency. World Bank to support Kosi Basin Dev Project in Bihar, including flood management and agriculture development.

Jammu & Kashmir $250 million World Bank loan for flood hit areas A financing agreement for a World Bank assistance of $250 million for the Jhelum and Tawi Flood Recovery Project in J&K was signed on 22 Jan.16. The objective of the project is to support recovery and increase disaster resilience in the project areas and increase the capacity of the project-implementing entity to respond promptly and effectively to an emergency. This comes about 1.5 years after the floods, will it help remove the causes that led to the disaster? That is doubtful, considering the World Bank track record.

Maharashtra BMC works out plans to ensure South Mumbai is deluge-free this monsoon South Mumbai is flood prone and has faced many deluge in recent past. Its good that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is drawing out plans in advance to make the region deluge-free during 2016 monsoon. The report also mentions that on 19 Jan.16 the Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta had called a special meeting involving all the concerned agencies and departments to draft a flood mitigation plan. Disaster Management Cell with 50 new officers in its team has been instructed to work on ward-level for better and quick response which will be the primary force for monsoon 2016. Hope the planning gets executed into actions also.

Karnataka Bengaluru is building model drains to curb flooding during monsoons After identifying 147 vulnerable, flood-prone drains across the city, the BBMP is building model drains to curb flooding during monsoons. Two separate pipelines will be laid on either side of the storm water drains which ensure that sewage does not enter the drains. The BBMP will develop 14 model drains in Bommanahalli zone and 19 drains in Rajarajeshwari Nagar. Stopping sewage from falling into natural drains is good but cementing of them may lead to other problems.

SAND MINING

National MoEF introduces decentralized green clearance for sustainable sand mining The Government has announced that the process of granting Environmental Clearance for sustainable sand mining and mining of minor minerals has been decentralized. The Environment Ministry has created District Environment Impact Assessment Authority for proper monitoring of sand mining.  In consultation with the State governments, the Ministry has also prepared guidelines for sustainable sand mining.

AGRICULTURE

National Declare MSP, buy entire dal yield to push output: Panel The government must announce minimum support price (MSP) for pulses in advance, create assured market for farmers and procure the entire produce as it is done in the case of paddy and wheat, a parliamentary panel has recommended Govt. in order to push the production of pulses in the country. In its last meeting, members of the consultative committee on food and consumer affairs also suggested that government should reduce import of pulses and rather spend the saved amount to provide aid to growers in the form of providing seeds and fertiliser at cheaper rate. In fact, the import of pulses in recent years has increased from 3 million tonne to 5 million tonne. This is likely to go up as the sown area under pulses has so far been 136.4 lakh hectares in comparison to 140 lakh hectares.

ENERGY OPTIONS

Cabinet approves setting up of over 5,000 MW of Grid-connected Solar PV Power Projects The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has given its approval for setting up over 5,000 MW of Grid-Connected Solar PV Power Projects on build, own and operate basis.  The work will be implemented by Solar Power Developers with Viability Gap Funding under Batch-lV of Phase-ll of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission. The total investment expected under this scheme is about Rs 30,000 crore. This would help in creating additional 5000 MW capacity of Grid-connected solar PV power generation projects in four trenches of each 1,250 MW capacity during four financial years viz. 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.

National India needs 3 crore energy efficient irrigation pump-sets: Piyush Goyal In his interaction with the Agricultural Pumps manufacturers and other stakeholders at the Ist National workshop on Agriculture Demand Side Management (AgDSM), the Minister urged them to scale up production capacity with special focus on quality maintenance and competitive pricing. Goyal stated that India will require 3 Crore energy efficient pumps in the next 3 and half years and so Agriculture Demand Side Management projects can be helpful in providing start-ups and employment opportunities to the people of the country. The workshop aims to promote the implementation of AgDSM projects in the country for better energy efficiency. Govt to invest in scheme to check power wastage in farm sector Power minister Piyush Goyal on 18 Jan.16 said that the government would invest in an ambitious energy-efficient irrigation scheme, which entails procuring 30 million sophisticated pump sets for farmers, the cost of which would be recovered through savings in the electricity consumed. The central government will initially fund the scheme so that farmers do not have to pay, except for a very small amount. Officials privy to the plan said the scheme would cost about Rs.75,000 crore over the next three to four years. Hope this gets done in clean, transparent way, sounds too ambitious at the scale. Also see, Cutting power subsidies by giving new pumps free This article provides detailed figures why is it profitable for discoms to give free star rated energy efficient new pump (costing Rs 35000) to farmer and also maintain it for free for five years. It brings down the power consumed current by a 5 HP pump from 5 units per hour to 3.73 units per hour. Assuming six hrs per day, 300 days per year use, power consumed would come down from 9000 to 6715 units, at the rate of Rs 5 per unit, saving in a year is Rs 11430. For a farmer, the advantage is no head of expenses on burnt motors and no stoppages. In fact it is advocated that even giving free solar pump costing Rs 4.5 lakh may be be cheaper. Some surprising figures, Highest insurance cover cropped land in India is in Rajasthan, at 122.67 lakh ha, which is, % wise is also highest in India, 50.06 % of gross cropped land of the state. The second state in terms of insured cropped land is MP, with 54.77 l ha cropped land covered, less than half the figure of Rajasthan. In terms of %, second set of states after Rajasthan are also surpises: Karnataka, Bihar, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, all having 31-33% gross cropped area covered.

Rajasthan solar bids touch a new low of Rs 4.34 per unit In the bidding for solar projects totalling 420 megawatt (Mw) in Rajasthan, under the National Solar Mission, the winning bid touched a new low of Rs 4.34 per unit. The bid was by Finnish solar power company Fortum Energy for a 70-Mw project. However, lowering of benchmark tariff by the Centre did not go too well in Maharashtra, which saw subdued interest from the companies participating in bidding for 500 Mw in the state. The last bidding for the 500-Mw solar power park in Andhra Pradesh witnessed the lowest bid of Rs 4.63 a unit by US solar firm Sun Edison. Piyush Goyal, Union Power Minister congratulated Rajasthan CM Vasundhra Raje for the success.

SOUTH ASIA

BBIN agrees to form expert group for basin management Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal [BBIN] have agreed to form a joint expert group for river basin management. This is the first time four countries agreed to take a concrete step for managing river basin jointly. The decision was taken at the third BBIN joint working group meeting held in Dhaka Jan 19, 2016. 17 officials from India, Nepal and Bhutan came to Dhaka to attend the meeting. The official said the joint working group will evaluate the best river basin management practices in the world and put forward its recommendations. If this process becomes successful, a river basin organisation or commission will be formed to look after the basin management. An important development, though calling Mekong as a successful example of IRBM is clearly WRONG.  

Afghanistan Kajaki Dam still incomplete despite costing more than $300 million A Senate subcommittee is looking at waste by a Pentagon task force. It would do well to review the reasons why a major hydroelectric power plant sits unfinished. Trumpeted as a symbol of America’s visionary support for Afghanistan, the dam has become instead a monument for all that has gone wrong. Project planners were overly ambitious, oblivious to conditions on the ground and unable to meet key deadlines or keep costs from ballooning. For the Afghans, it meant that promises were broken. For American taxpayers, upwards of $300 million could end up wasted.

Pakistan 1st phase of 242mw NeelumJhelum Hydro Project to complete on June 2017 According to the declaration issued by Zafar Mahmood, Chairman of Water and Power Development Authority the other units of same capacity will be completed in the following year of the completion of first phase.

CHINA

China’s dam building spree can give rise to water conflicts in Asia The Chinese have been on an intensive program of dam-building on the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra, the Irrawaddy, the Meman Chao Phya and the Mekong, which would give them the ability to control these arteries of commerce, as well as irrigation of rice and other crops, for vast areas downstream. Some glaring errors (e.g. calling Calcutta being a port on Brahmaputra and in China) notwithstanding, this edit in Washington Times raises this issue correctly: “Government and the business interests worry that China’s apparent intention to dam every major river flowing out of Tibet will lead to environmental imbalance, natural disasters, degrade fragile ecologies, and most of all, divert vital water supplies.” That incidentally is true, whoever does that.

China top court fines company record penalty of $37m for water pollution It was the biggest environmental penalty imposed in China arising from a public interest case concerning polluters. It was also the first time that the Supreme People’s Court had heard such litigation. The applicant, the Jinhui company in Taizhou, Jiangsu province, appealed the initial ruling that ordered the company and five others to pay more than 160 million yuan (US$26 million) in compensation for discharging waste acids into two rivers.  The discharge resulted in serious environmental pollution.

THE REST OF ASIA

Kyrgyzstan Parliament cancels five hydropower plant deal with Russia The decision, announced on 21 Jan.16 after months of speculation regarding Russia’s ability to meet its financial commitments to the central Asian country, negates deals worth more than US$3 billion. Russia’s ability to deliver on the agreements had been in question for some time before this week’s announcement, with Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambaev saying the country should find a new partner as recently as last month. Reports now say China might have an interest in developing the projects, though tensions between Kyrgyzstan and its downstream neighbor, Uzbekistan, over water usage could ultimately stymie those discussions.

Iraq Mosul Dam at risk of bursting as erosion takes its toll Budget shortfalls due to the slump in oil prices and political rivalry between the central government in Baghdad and the regional government of the semi-autonomous Iraq Kurdistan have hampered urgently needed repairs of Mosul dam. There is also a desperate shortage of workers. Half the workforce has left the dam for other jobs on account of not being paid for up to five months. Outdated machinery is still being used to try to stabilise the dam’s foundations. The Iraqi government has been struggling for more than two years to strike a deal with an international company to undertake the much-needed repair works. Insecurity is scaring away bidders and the economic crisis has forced the oil-rich country to seek help from the World Bank and key allies like the United States.

THE REST OF WORLD

US Residents, officials in Kingston debate pros and cons of Elm Street Dam removal Residents opposed to removing the dam like the river the way it is and want to keep the pond above the dam intact and even worry about the swans that swim there moving on. Then there are residents who want the dam removed for environmental reasons and due to the condition of the dam and the cost of repairs. The state Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration has offered its assistance to the town as officials and residents continue to debate the dam’s removal. It is pretty unheard of. Town residents and officials patiently debate the pros and cons of removing a dam.

REST OF THE WORLD

UK Glastonbury festival admits human waste polluted nearby river The incident happened after a steel tank used to store sewage from festivalgoers sprung a leak during the event in June 2014. A “large quantity” of sewage filtered into the river Whitelake, causing harm to fish and water quality. Sensors in the stream alerted the Environment Agency to increased ammonia levels, which prompted it to launch a prosecution against the festival company.

Africa Expansion of farming is impacting rainfall pattern: Study Quite apart from issues of climate change, a new study led by the University of British Columbia shows a problem for farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. This study highlights how changing one part of the ecosystem could have an unforeseen effect on other parts. It raises questions about how our ecosystems should be managed for future generations and for the native plant and animal species as well. As the research indicates, the simple fact of converting the land to agriculture from its natural state can dramatically reduce vital rainfall conditions by a substantial 10 to 30 percent. This could mean that the success of agricultural plans may be seriously compromised. In a dry year, this might mean the complete failure of crops.

ENVIRONMENT

NGT cancels permits to 300 industries operating without green clearances In a historic judgment NGT struck down the law allowing industries to obtain environmental clearances (ECS) even after proceeding with construction and operationalization. The judgement was pronounced on a public interest litigation introduced by the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti on 8 January before the NGT Western Zone bench Pune. The PIL pleaded that instead of waiting for EC and then for forest clearances, industries start construction work parallel defeating the very purpose of the system. This is very important decision, thanks to Rohit Prajapati of Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti. One only hopes that the Supreme Court does not stay this NGT order, as they did with the earlier NGT order quashing another such order of MoEF.

Mandatory green nod for builders in offing The environment ministry is likely to issue fresh norms to make it mandatory for real estate companies to pay a heavy fine if they start construction without getting environment clearances. The ministry made this submission before the Supreme Court on 22 Jan.16. The new notification to reglate the construction industry will ensure that the ‘polluters-pay principle’, laid by the top court through its earlier judgments, is strictly implemented. The proposed norms are particularly significant for the NCR region that has witnessed a housing boom over the past years and where home-buyers are often at loggerheads with builders over delayed projects.

Bhim Singh Rawat, SANDRP, we4earth@gmail.com

You may also like to explore DRP News Bulletin 18 Jan.16 & DRP News Bulletin 11 Jan. 2016

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