DRP News Bulletin 01 Feb. 2016 (Experts suggest ways to revive Madurai’s dying rivers)

Tamil Nadu Experts suggest six ways to revive dying Madurai’s rivers According to a paper entitled Future Proofing Indian Cities: Towards an approach to spatial and social analysis for sustainable development of Madurai by Jayaraj Sundaresan Development Planning Unit, University College London J. Kanagavalli DHAN Foundation, Madurai their documentation has revealed the significant role of Kruthumal River in the historic, cultural, ecological and economic growth of Madurai. Centuries ago, Madurai city developed as a small urban settlement on the banks between the rivers Kruthumal and Vaigai. Appearing in epics and sacred texts such as Srimad Bhagavatham and Narayaneeyam, Kruthumal has significant presence in the written history of Madurai. It was also known as Narayana Cauvery. It supplied water to the Ahazhi (moat) around the Tirumalai Nayakkar palace in Madurai. The paper gave six methods to look after Vaigai and Kruthumal Rivers in Madurai.  Looking at the condition of the rivers one feels it is hopeless, but there is hope if together with the government, something is done to control the destruction of the river, by law. And with organizations like DHAN Madurai can hope for a clean Vaigai in the future.

HYDRO POWER 

SANDRP Blog Bhutan Hydropower Developments in 2015 A review of Hydropower developments in Bhutan in 2015 based on media reports throughout the year and other information in public domain. Bhutan is the only country in the world that measures its development in terms of Gross National Happiness, which includes environmental conservation and preservation of culture. However, Bhutan’s hydropower construction spree in the recent years has increased debt burden on the country. Concerns are emerging over Bhutan’s profligate spending on a single sector without bringing commensurate benefit to its citizens.

National PMO asks NITI Aayog for report on stalled hydro power projects The Prime Minister’s Office has asked NITI Aayog to prepare a report on stalled hydroelectric power projects which have held up large-scale investment as the government aims to provide 24×7 electricity across the country. It has also been asked to include the reasons for the projects are getting delayed and submit the report within 3 months. Will this be helpful? It depends on how genuine and transparent is the exercise, from the looks of it, does not inspire confidence since it seems to focus on fundamentalist focus on pushing hydropower projects.

North-East Firms want NHPC to run Rs 1-lakh-cr hydro projects Around 17,000 Mw of hydropower projects with a cumulative cost of Rs 1,63,000 crore have applied to the NHPC to either take them over or form joint operational ventures. The majority of projects being offered to the NHPC were awarded between 2008 and 2010 in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. The NHPC had said it would not take over any project but “could contemplate taking over operations on chargeable basis, that too in some cases. Arunachal Pradesh had offered close to 60,000 MW of projects to the private sector but the majority of them did not commence construction. Constant delays have led to cost overruns and the final power tariff increasing. Most of the projects are presumed to be unviable. This report says that most of these large hydropower projects are unviable. Even without including the costs of environmental damage. And yet the private companies want NHPC to take over or enter into joint venture! So what is the objective? Push hydropower projects even when they are unviable?? At government’s expense???

Nagaland Villagers body warns against construction of dam on Doyang River Downstream Affected People’s Organization (DAPO) has banned construction of any proposed dam in NAPA or Pyotchu area, under its jurisdiction, either by private company or government agency till further notice. DAPO consists of 10 villages (Menshangpen to Pyotchu) on the right bank below the Doyang river dam. DAPO said that any proposal/agreement for construction of reservoir dams in its areas without its prior consent and knowledge would be doing at their own risk. It also stated that No Objection Certificates issued to any company/agency for construction of reservoir/dams by the responsible villages should be considered as withdrawn or deemed null and void.

Uttarakhand Damming the Ganga: No lessons learnt even after three decades The renaming of the Ganga Action Plan does not reflect a new or more acute understanding of the problem. The stand-off between the Environment and Water Ministry over the future of six hydroelectric dams on Ganga River exemplifies the muddled thinking in this government. The essential lesson that a river live or die as a result of multiple interventions at different levels, does not appear to have been learned. Environmental problems, such as river pollution, cannot be dealt with piecemeal. Cleaning the Ganga without addressing the fragility of the environment in its upper reaches is like pouring crores of rupees into a bottomless pit; it will neither save the river nor the millions of people dependent on it. It is a very comprehensive EPW editorial underlining basic flaws in Govt. plans and the likely fate of Ganga River.

Minimum E-Flow needed to rejuvenate Ganga: Water Ministry Union Water Resources Ministry appears to make a strong pitch to ensure minimum ecological flow in Ganga. On 29 Jan.16 while replying to a query in connection with a Supreme Court matter pertaining to dam construction on Ganga Shashi Shekhar secretary for Water Resources Ministry quoted that without ensuring unfettered flow from dams & barrages it would be difficult to rejuvenate the river. The Ministry has been of the view that it will not allow dam construction on any river if its ecological flow is found to be less than 1,000 cusecs. The report also mentions that the ministry is planning to organise a market conference to discuss the Clean Ganga project with banks and private players next month. During the convention Ganga Vichar Manch, a portal created with the aim of initiating interactive dialogues among various stakeholders of the revered river, will also be launched.

Glass half full: A review report on state of accountability in development finance This review includes the case of complaint of violations before Inspection Panel of the World Bank for the Bank funded Vishnugad Pipalkodi hydropower project in Uttarakhand. As Bharat Jhunjhunwala is quoted here, the whole process was most disappointing and reflects poorly not only on the World Bank, Inspection Panel and also the project developer THDC.

DAM

Telangana Srisailam reservoir lost a third of its capacity to siltation The report reveals that storage level of the dam has fallen from 308 tmc of water to 216 tmc mainly due to accumulation of silt. In 1995-96 Andhra Pradesh Engineers India Limited had also estimated a decline of 45 tmc in reservoir capacity due to siltation. The the Andhra Pradesh Engineering Research Laboratory in 2009 reported that the level of dam had fallen further to 215.807 tmc of water, an additional loss of 48 tmc. Experts opined that removal of silt from the dam is a costly affair stating that one tmc of water costs nearly Rs 500 crore. They also warn that if dam’s storage level is not increased, there is a danger of the structure facing a grave threat to its very existence. This seems like a major revelation; Srisailam reservoir has lost about 100 tmc or a third of its capacity to siltation.

Odisha CSMRS to resume second phase of Hirakud Dam scanning early in March 2016 According to this report Central Soil and Material Research Station (CSMRS) team has yet to submit report of first phase of underwater scanning of cracks in Hirakud Dam. It is still unclear whether the same team, which had undertaken scanning in the first phase, will resume work in the second phase or a new team of scientists will join in.

Tamil Nadu With no rain, Vaigai dam level falls below 50 feet The report mentions that dependent farmers will not suffer in Vadipatti block as farm ponds and water conservation through watershed development projects had facilitated recharging of ground water table. However it the falling level may affect drinking water supply.

IRRIGATION       

National Under revamped MGNREGS Govt. targets 1 million farm ponds in 2 years The central Govt. is setting an ambitious asset creation targets for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Generation Scheme (MGNREGS). Creation of farm ponds and dug wells is part of the government plan to make MGNREGS a green scheme, with greater thrust on agriculture and irrigation-related activities. Making the rural jobs programme outcome-oriented is a major part of its revamp. The rural development ministry is confident of adding 1 million farm ponds and wells and another million vermi composting farms under the programme. The govt. also wants to achieve breakthroughs in assured irrigation for rain-fed areas and improve ground water recharge. The govt. plans to achieve in the next 2 years what the MGNREGS could accomplish in the last 10 under UPA regime.

Maharashtra Mistakes in irrigation planning reason behind drought: CM While speaking on a public seminar Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavison stated that the drought in the state was man-made and due to mistakes made in irrigation planning and implementation during past years. The CM also counted the benefit of his Govt. schemes such as ‘Jalshivar’ claiming that it has increased the water carrying capacity of farm lands. CM rightly says mistakes made in irrigation planning and implementation. But it is too early to conclude that Jalshivar scheme is successful. Also see, Maharashtra water plan fails 10 million farmers  In this second part of the article, the author contends that Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan helps, but only large farmers, not small ones. While his arguments that the scheme may be benefiting larger farmers sound convincing but this need to be tested on ground. The author also seems more of an ideological critique of this than on merits, since he does not even make one critical comment about the dams, which were much worse in every respect.

Maharashtra Irrigation Scam: Citing inaction, NGO moves HC again for CBI probe  Peeved at the slow progress of investigation into massive 70,000 crore irrigation scam in Maharashtra, NGO Jan Manch has once again knocked the judiciary’s doors demanding CBI probe. Expressing deep anguish over entire state of affairs, a division bench comprising Justice Bhushan Gavai and Justice Pradeep Deshmukh issued notices to the respondents, including Maharashtra government, directing them to file a reply in three weeks. The scam was first exposed by TOI in November and December 2010. Home department’s additional secretary, water resources department (WRD) secretary, Anti-Corruption Bureau’s (ACB) director general and superintendent, and Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) are other respondents in the PIL (No. 12/2016). Good to see this fresh petition and HC issuing notices to govt, let us hope this petition leads to more decisive results.

Telangana Redesigned irrigation projects rely heavily on Godavari tributaries According this news report the dependency on tributaries has become inevitable with the hopes of getting ample water from the main river course into Telangana getting dwindled year after year. The report further mentions that redesigning of Kaleshwaram lift component with three barrages at Medigadda, Annaram and Sundilla has already been completed as part of Pranahitha-Chevella project. Telangana continues to plan massive projects on Pranhita (Pranhita Chevella) and on Indravati rivers, both tributaries of Godavari, including submergence of over 1200 Ha in Maharashtra. These will not only be very costly from economic, social and environmental costs perspective, but also not likely to be sustainable.               

RIVERS

नदियों के मातृत्व को संवैधानिक बाना पहनाये भारत नदियों को मां का संवैधानिक दर्जा प्राप्त होते ही नदी जीवन समृद्धि के सारे अधिकार स्वतः प्राप्त हो जायेंगे। नदियों से लेने-देने की सीमा स्वतः परिभाषित हो जायेगी। हम कह सकेंगे कि नदी मां से किसी भी संतान को उतना और तब तक ही लेने का हक है, जितना कि एक शिशु को अपनी मां से दूध। दुनिया के किसी भी संविधान की निगाह में मां बिक्री की वस्तु नहीं हैं। अतः यह नदियां को बेचना संविधान का उल्लंघन होगा। अतः नदी भूमि-जल आदि की बिक्री पर कानूनी रोक स्वतः लागू हो जायेगी। मां की कीमत पर कमाई पर रोक होगी। इसके विरोध में रोज-रोज आंदोलन नहीं करने पङेंगे। नदी मां को विष पिलाने वाले उसकी हत्या की कोशिश के दोषी होंगे। उन पर दीवानी नहीं, फौजदारी कानूनों के तहत् हत्या का मुकदमा चलेगा। Pani Post by Arun Tiwari on Republic day

Yettinahole Project CM leaves midway as water protests turn too hot Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on 30 Jan.16 was forced to cut short his interaction with a group of people who had been agitating for a comprehensive solution to Chikkaballapur’s water problem. Very strange statement from the Chief Minister “The Yettinahole project would in no way solve the problem, they argued. Siddaramaiah kept arguing that even if they did not want the project, the government would implement it”. While supplying treated effluent of Bangaluru for irrigation is good idea, pushing Yettinhole even if it is not solution is strange indeed.

NARMADA Statue of unity: NGT junks plea for stay on project Its disturbing that NGT is rejecting second petition challenging the massive construction affecting Narmada River in Gujarat, even without any impact assessment or clearance, just on the grounds that the petition was filed “too late”! Earlier it rejected the petition challenging the Garudeshwar Dam work. So the authorities now only need to establish that they started the work more than six months before ANY petition and hence no such projects can be challenged in NGT. What happens to the merit of the case? When a court specifically set up for environmental issues rejects such cases without considering the merits, what chance is it that other courts will accept such challenges when the track record of judicial pronouncements on such projects inspire so little confidence?

GANGA National Govt. asks HRD ministry to set a River Science University The Water Resources Ministry has told Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry to develop a suitable course framework for the a national level institution or university that offers courses on applied river sciences. Existing institutions or universities that have bilateral exchange or networking programmes with foreign institutions are also being encouraged to develop courses or generate data related to river rejuvenation and pollution abatement through their international tie-ups. Other than the HRD, Govt. is seeking assistance from Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Rural Development, Tourism, Shipping, AYUSH and Youth Affairs and Sports Ministries in the implementation of Namami Gange Programme. Last month, the Railway Ministry has offered to buy treated water from some of the sewage treatment plants being set up in towns along river Ganga.

Soon Ganga to be in top 10 clean rivers: Uma Bharati Addressing a national-level consultation on Ganga, ‘Swachh Ganga-Gramin Sahbhagita’, Bharati said Ganga will be among the top 10 cleanest rivers in the world after the completion of the Rs 20,000 crore ‘Namami Gange’ project of the NDA government. Heads of over 1600 villages, water experts, environmentalists and senior officials of different ministries took part in the consultation. Successful models of waste water treatment like the the Seechewal model of Punjab and Auroville model of Tamil Nadu were discussed by the participants during the day-long meeting with a view to replicate some of these in villages located along the Ganga. Speaking about different plans, the minister said the government is planning to initiate organic farming along the river’s stretch and working out list of ponds situated along the river. Water from the ponds will be released in Ganga during the lean period.

Uttarakhand NGT lashes out at govt for no report on eco-sensitive zone The NGT came down heavily on Uttarakhand Govt. for not submitting a zonal master plan on the eco-sensitive zone around Bhagirathi river in Uttarkashi. NGT also asked the government why its monitoring committee had failed to hold meetings to complete the master plan.  On December 18, 2012, the Union Environment Ministry had notified the 4179.59 km area from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi as an eco-sensitive zone asking State Govt. to prepare its zonal master plan specifying the prohibited activities in the area. Following this a state monitoring committee, headed by then chief secretary, was formed, The committee was empowered to decide on allowing any prohibited activity from 2012-2014 in the area.. This is following a petition by some civil society members who were part of the monitoring committee for Bhagirathi eco sensitive zone in Uttarakhand formed in 2012, headed by the state Chief Secretary.

Beach camps on Ganges and its tributaries are against NGT directions The counsel of Social Action for Forest and Environment visited areas adjoining Ganges to verify the state government’s affidavit filed before NGT on 15 Jan.16. The affidavit states that no permission for any beach camp was granted by the forest department nor has any company installed any rafting camp. The counsel, however, stated that the area has several camps and semi-permanent structures in large number on Ganga and its tributary river Havel. The GPS locations along with photographs have also been furnished with the affidavit. The NGT appointed committee has submitted a report that is totally opposite of the Uttarakhand govt stand in NGT.

Chasing the Ganga from Rudraprayag to Gangasagar It is difficult to be optimistic about the future of this great river. According him, one of his most abiding memories of the great river is its “disgusting smell, almost like sewage” says Akshay Mahajan report a Photographer travelling from Rudraprayag to Ganga Sagar, Chasing the river, in a trip spanning a month that included boat journey part of the way (e.g. Allahabad to Varanasi). The photos in the news report are quite good.

YAMUNA Delhi Ammonia in Yamuna five times higher than normal According to the news report  Haryana & Delhi governments have signed a memorandum of understanding in 1994 that a minimum 10 cumecs  amount of water should flow throughout the river at all times to sustain underwater and estuarine ecosystems and human livelihoods. This shows failure of Central as States Governments as all have been promising a clean Yamuna within next few years. It is true that Yamuna needs e-flows but 10 cumecs will hardly make any difference. Experts are rights that industries located in Yamuna Nagar, Panipat and Sonipat are regularly discharging untreated effluents in the River.

Why govt has not shifted Millennium bus depot: SC The Supreme Court on 27 Jan.16 criticised the Delhi government on its stand about the shifting of the Millennium Bus Depot on the banks of Yamuna here, saying the Chief Minister has been “on record” that the site would be vacated. “As per the minutes of the meeting, held on January 15, 2014, your Chief Minister says that the site would be vacated. This is your Secretariat. Are you arguing against your Chief Minister?” a Bench led by Chief Justice T.S. Thakur. The court made the observations while reserving its verdict on two appeals filed by the city government and the DTC, respectively, against the Delhi High Court decision. The High Court, on October 20 last year, had shot down the plea of Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) on the issue saying it was an abuse of court process to seek extension of time after undertaking to shift it.

Mathura Hundreds protest seeking clean Yamuna Hundreds of people led by Jai Krishan Das of the Yamuna Rakshak Dal handed over a memorandum to City Magistrate Vijay Kumar calling for action to stop discharge of waste water and sewage from scores of big and small drains into the Yamuna. It is good that religious bodies have demanded action against local drains polluting Yamuna in Mathura.

SAND MINING     

SANDRP Blog River Sand Mining in India in 2015 Unsustainable sand mining from riverbeds can have huge social, environmental, geomorphic and disastrous impacts for rivers. In this three part report, SANDRP is trying to provide a picture of what happened on this issue in 2015 in India. This first part looks into 2015 putting together instances of illegal sand mining that occurred throughout the year in different Indian States. The successive blogs would make an attempt to cover all governmental measures and judicial interventions taken in 2015 to reign in uncontrolled extraction of this possibly most consumed natural resource after air and water.

Kerala Confusion over Centre’s and State’s sand-mining norms sparks concern As per the news report there is confusion of a notification issued by environment ministry  prescribing regulations on river sand mining as State legislation Kerala state has already formed similar norms. The notification issued on January 15 mandates the creation of a District Environment Impact Assessment Authority empowered to issue environmental clearance for sand mining below five hectares. It prescribes guidelines for the preparation of a district survey report to identify river sand resources, protection of the riverine ecology and steps to check illegal mining. Latha Anantha, Director, River Research Centre said that the uncertainty over which would prevail, the State Act or the Central notification, would create a situation for illegal mining to flourish in the State.

Rajasthan State in a tight spot over new norms on environmental nod, illegal mining After Kerala, Rajasthan has also been learnt facing difficulty in complying with the Environment Ministry’s sustainable sand mining guidelines. As per the guidelines States have to constitute a district level committee for Environmental Clearance and set up IT-enabled monitoring system for sustainable sand extraction. According to this report majority of mining areas in Rajasthan are greater than 5 hectares. The States also lack human resource and budget for setting up district committee and procurement of I-T equipments.  It seems the MoEF has come out with these guidelines even without state governments ready with the institutions, manpower and finances to implement them.

Maharashtra Crackdown on illegal sand mining near Ujani dam The Pune district administration has confiscated machinery such as suction pipes, electric motors, earth movers and 40 fibre boats being used for illegal sand mining activities on the bank of Ujani dam. The administration conducted surprise checks during early morning hours last week to ensure that maximum material was seized. For the first time, the administration destroyed fibre boats and other seized material worth over Rs 1 crore on the spot to ensure that it is not used again. In the last eight months, over 2,000 cases have been reported. Most cases have been detected around Ujani dam and in river beds.

WETLANDS & WATER BODIES

National Five flood prone Indian cities and their lost water bodies A study finds out that India has lost almost 50 per cent of the open water surface and wetlands to other land use between 1911 and 2014. The loss is more in urban areas which is growing fast in an unplanned manner. Our rivers, water bodies, natural flood water discharging streams and other water ways have been dying a forced death due to the visionless growth of concrete structures, roads, market complexes. On the other side shrinking surface water bodies such as lakes, ponds, marshlands and flood plains have caused the maximum damage due to the excessive rainfall induced floods in urban areas in the recent past. This is a very readable composition by Ranjan Panda an Odisha-based water activist.

Karnataka IISc’s study finds only 4 of 105 lakes in Bangalore good state The report titled Wetlands: Treasures of Bangalore (Abused, Polluted, Encroached and Vanishing) was released by Indian Institute of Science (IISc), on 26 Jan16. It points that Bengaluru’s lakes have been abused with encroachments by mafia and polluted by sustained inflow of untreated sewage and industrial effluents, dumping of solid wastes and building debris. It highlights the lack of sense of belonging among stakeholders, sincerity among bureaucracy and decision makers and implementation of regulatory norms (weak governance). The water quality test report of these lakes too shows that none of them was fit for drinking according to standards set by the Central Pollution Control Board. This is the second such report after Legislative Assembly Committee report on encroachment of lakes that portrays the pathetic status of the fragile and productive ecosystems in the city.  

A lake goes missing every month in govt records in Banglore The fact came into light at a progress review meeting held on 26 Jan.16 to look at the progress made by tahsildars of various taluks in Bengaluru Urban and Rural districts in issuing notices to thousands of lake encroachers identified by Legislative Assembly Committee on encroachment of lakes report. Submissions by the tahsildars revealed that the number of encroached lakes as per the Committee report was at variance with that in the revenue officials’ records. The committee report put the number of lakes under threat in the Bengaluru East taluk at 118. But taluk tahsildar Harish Nayak cited records to say that only 110 encroached lakes lay in his jurisdiction. In some cases, the number of encroached lakes had gone up. The committee found similar discrepancies in other taluks as well.

Maharashtra Experts from Gujarat to meet Maharashtra Pollution Control Board officials Expert Upendra Patel and Nirmal Shah from Gujarat-based Maharaja Sayajirao University and visited Rankala lake Maharashtra to inspect the work done to protect the lake from getting polluted. The Pune bench of green tribunal had ordered the experts to undertake cost analysis of Rs 8 crore funds spent by the Kolhapur Municipal Corporation (KMC) five years ago and scrutinise the works proposed in the Rs 125-crore plan submitted to State Govt. and the Centre. The tribunal directions came after a city-based activist claimed that the KMC had failed to curb pollution of the lake despite spending funds sanctioned by the Centre. The experts will meet Maharashtra Pollution Control Board officials on 25 Jan.16. to discuss the possible ways to address the pollution concerns and submit a report to NGT through KMC next month.  NGT appointed two experts from MS University, Baroda to inspect the pollution related work done at Kolhapur lake to ascertain what has been done so far, this seems like a new way of independent scrutiny, let us see if it works.

Uttar Pradesh CPCB confirms Coke Hapur plant discharging waste water in water body In its latest inspection report Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) reconfirms that one of the two effluent treatment plants (ETPs) at Coke’s Hapur facility has long been defunct. The CPCB on 14 Jan.16 has submitted the report before the NGT calling it’s a ‘matter of serious concern’. On 19 Nov.15, last year, the board had given a similar inspection report stating that the two STPs and one of the two ETPs of the plant were defunct and the polluted water discharged in water bodies was making surrounding fields infertile. The plant officials however had objected to the report claiming that it had only one and functioning ETP. Following this the court had asked CPCB to conduct on more inspection of the plant. The CPCB including this report has stood by all its earlier findings. Now the Coke plant has to come clean on the entire issue by 19 Feb.16 before the green tribunal.

Save Sarus Cranes habitat from real estate As we approach WORLD WETLANDS day on Feb 2, this letter to UTTAR PRADESH CM by BAHAR DUTT, pleading him to declare the two newly discovered wetlands area near Greater NOIDA as WETLANDS, as per NGT orders is noteworthy.

WATER    

Shimla Jaundice Outbreak Treatment plant contractor held The Special investigation team (SIT) on 30 Jan.16 arrested Akshay Deogar, Irrigation and Public Health (IPH) contractor of the Malyana and four other sewerage treatment plants, under Section 326 of the IPC after the High Court today rejected his bail application. According to Deputy Mayor Tikender Panwar Shimla had seen four jaundice outbreaks since 2007after the city began receiving water from the Ashwani Khud. State programme officer Dr Rakesh Bhardwaj also reported that the city hospitals received 24 fresh cases of jaundice. In all, 1,148 cases have been reported since December 25 last. DW Negi, Shimla SP, said the SIT had already arrested and interrogated a junior engineer with the IPH Department. The resident of Himachal capital were battling jaundice after water of Ashwani Khud had been contaminated with sewage released by the Malyana and Dhalli treatment plants.

WATER OPTIONS            

Rajasthan Govt. launched water conservation mission to revival traditional water sources  Stressing on revival of conventional water conservation techniques and local water bodies to address the water requirements through sustained and self-dependable solutions, the govt. of Rajasthan has been launched the water conservation mission on 26 Jan.16. In the first phase of mission water conservation activities will be taken up in 3000 villages which are facing acute water problems. Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje is reported to have issued specific directions for completion of these works before start of monsoon season so that small ponds & rivers streams are filled up with water. 6000 more villages will be covered under the mission in second phase. Notably Rajasthan has been demanding a special status for a long time now due to acute water crisis its faces. According to this report more than 4,700 villages in 12 districts fall in the dark zone.                                            

AGRICULTURE

SRI Cultivates well-being for women It is said that ‘rice is grown on women’s backs’. Globally, around a billion people cultivate rice, of which 50 to 90 percent are women. With conventional practices, they perform backbreaking tasks like seedling removal, transplanting and weeding in bent posture and under wet conditions for more than 1000 hours per hectare. In addition, they are exposed to chemicals. But the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) enables farmers to work under healthier conditions while creating various other physical and social benefits. The consequences are significant, as we learn from women in India, Malaysia and Cambodia. The article inserted in global edition of Farming Matters, edition Dec. 2015.

India self-sufficient in food grain production Op-Ed in Indian Express by Ajay Vir Jakhar, Chairman of Bharitiya Krishak Samaj The conversation on the farm sector needs to radically shift from focusing on fears of insufficient production to issues of nutrition and safety. The ghosts of decades of food shortages continue to haunt us. Technology input companies and commodity firms are scaremongering us into a narrow tunnel of fear. But for long, India has moved on to greener pastures. Outdated fears are being reinforced by allegedly insurmountable new challenges posed by population growth, changing dietary patterns and climate change inhibiting food production. Even after taking into account these underlying anxieties, we farmers, on the contrary, feel India has entered an era of marketable surpluses but there are no buyers for our produce. The challenges India faces are price spikes and production fluctuations, not insufficient production. Onions and pulses, etc, augment the anxiety, but these are the consequences of lopsided farm support programmes and detached policy making.

Kerala Organic farming & right prices helping farmers win over farm adversaries Over 4,500 farmers of Wayanand district have formed an alternative farming collective called the Fair Trade Alliance Kerala (FTAK). These largely small & medium land holders including 10% women farmers do sustainable, organic farming that rejects mono-cropping for biodiversity, preserves and shares local seeds, and embraces the market. They largely export cash crop to the growing group of ethical consumers in the West & food crops to the local markets. While the national farm income in India is an average Rs 77,000 a year, FTAK members make at least Rs 1.5 lakh a year. In the tense environment of climate change, large scale agribusiness and a complex mix of state dependency and apathy that threatens the future of agriculture, these small farmers are making profits. It is very interesting and inspiring news report.

ENERGY OPTIONS

France committed 2200cr for solar energy in India During his recent visit to India French President Francois Hollande has committed 2,200cr to India. The amount will be issued over the next five years through French Development Agency. The report also mentions that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has initiated International Solar Alliance at the COP 21 Summit in Paris in order to bring 122 countries together for solar energy promotion.

SOUTH ASIA

South Asia’s air pollutants going global weakening the monsoon According this report data from 1948 to 2014 shows a decreasing trend in the East and South Asian monsoon and monsoon-induced rainfall anomalies in the pre-monsoon and monsoon season. It also mentions that studies link increase in black carbon & other aerosols with changing monsoon as a result of which rainfall is decreasing in the lower plains but increasing in mountains. Referring to other scientists the report says that the light-absorbing aerosols over the Indo-Gangetic Plains and Himalayan foothills act as an elevated “heat pump” that draw in heat from the sea surface in summer, which advances the onset of the monsoon. The article concludes that more studies are needed for a better understanding of this crucial phenomenon, the monsoon.

Pakistan Government Prepares National Water Policy The draft says that a mechanism shall be worked out for sharing of transboundary aquifers and joint watershed management. This will include sharing real time flow information. A study shall also be conducted to evaluate the impact of developments in the upper catchment of western rivers on the environment, agriculture and hydropower projects in the lower catchment. Some interesting elements include Assessing the impact of climate change on receding glaciers and increased siltation of dams and reservoirs, observation of the flow of water to maintain the ecology and morphology of rivers as well as deltas, coastal ecosystems and fisheries and acknowledgement of changing precipitation patterns.

Bangladesh Dhaka lost 60% wetlands in 30 years encroachments In 1968, there were 130 acres of wetlands in Dhaka and now according to Bangladesh Space Research and Remote Sensing Organisation study the city has lost more than 60% in the last 30 years. Mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation said that most of the wetlands have been grabbed by the very powerful over the years. Wetlands have been acted as natural retainers of storm water but experts worry that with continual losing its wetlands Dhaka would turn into an island surrounded by wall all around. The article summarises that under such situation it is of utmost urgency to preserve city’s remaining wetlands. Also see, Pictorial report on effect of climate change in Bangladesh by Probal Rashid

REST OF THE WORLD 

US Hitler Rojas a Peruvian farmer killed for opposing Chadin-2 dam on Maranon River  Hitler Rojas Gonzales was a farmer, environment lover and most out spoken defender of Maranon River. He was also the vice-president of Yagén Defence Front in Peru which is fighting the proposed construction of a 600 MW hydro power project, Chadin 2, which would dam the River Maranon and flood 32.5 square kilometres under numerous villages apart from causing extensive damage to croplands and biodiversity. Chadin 2 is one of the two most advanced of more than 20 proposed dams for the River Maranon the main source of the River Amazon. The dams are slated to be ultimately intended to provide power for numerous mining projects, such as the proposed Conga mine which has generated one of Peru’s fiercest social conflicts in recent years.

Brazil court revokes injunction blocking Belo Monte dam operation On 27 Jan.16, a Brazilian federal court has revoked a lower court’s injunction that had suspended the operating license for the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, one of the world’s largest hydro power plants. Just 10 days back a local court in Altamira has suspended the operating license for the controversial Belo Monte hydroelectric dam on the Xingu River in the Amazon until the government and the company comply with a previous condition requiring the reorganization of the regional operations of Funai a national agency established in 1967 to protect the rights of indigenous Brazilians.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Study Greenhouse gas emissions from Brazil’s Amazonian hydroelectric dams The Study by de Faria et al (2015) confirms high emissions from tropical hydropower, showing that they can often exceed the global warming impact of generation from fossil fuels. Key Conclusion of this scientific paper: Calculations are made for 18 dams that are planned or under construction in Brazilian Amazonia and show that emissions from storage hydroelectric dams would exceed those from electricity generation based on fossil fuels, Tropical dams are often falsely portrayed as ‘clean’ emissions-free energy sources. Because dam-building is rapidly shifting to humid tropical areas, where emissions are higher than in other climatic zones, the impact of these emissions needs to be given proper weight in energy-policy decisions. Also see, Climate change threatens world’s hydropower dreams The report wrongly presents hydro dams as clean energy source. In fact it is now scientifically proven that large hydro projects directly fuel the climate change. World over there are 24000 hydro power plants. It is also true that the risks of financial disaster, human suffering and even water wars are significant in the areas where dams are built.

Research “Intact nature a best defence against climate change” The paper published in Nature Climate Change, concludes that a functioning and intact, forests, grasslands, wetlands and coral reefs represent our greatest protection against floods and storms. The paper states that intact native forests have been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of floods. The research also warns that many climate adaptation strategies such as sea wall construction and new agricultural practices do more harm than good.

ENVIRONMENT

Maharashtra Activists decry Konkan mega projects In its rush to present a business-friendly face, the State government is now betting on the ecologically-rich Konkan coastline, where three proposed projects a port which will also include a thermal power plant among other industries, the contentious 9,900-MW Jaitapur nuclear power plant and one of the biggest oil refineries in the world are almost adjacent to each other, within a 50-km radius. With the government firm on going ahead with the projects, environmentalists have pressed the alarm button, warning the government that the cluster of industries will do more harm than good. However, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis felt there was no reason for concern. The multi-purpose port, India’s biggest refinery and the Jaitapur nuclear plant threaten the coast’s ecology.

Study  High altitude precipitation highly underestimated in the Himalayas The research conducted in Upper Indus basin and published in Hydrology and Earth System Sciences claims that large glaciers in Upper Indus basin can be sustained only if snow accumulation is much higher than currently calculated amount which is based on satellite produced data or extrapolation of data obtained by direct observation at valley stations. According to the researchers huge amount of precipitation is being missed currently as the stations in high altitude are highly inadequate. Scientists say that the magnitude and distribution of high-altitude precipitation is said to be least known in high altitude areas of the Himalayas and in depth research is largely inadequate.  This paper says that the snowfall and precipitation rates are likely to be several times more than we have thought in upper Indus basin.

You may also like to explore  DRP News Bulletin 25 Jan. 2016 & DRP News Bulletin 18 Jan. 2016

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