DRP News Bulletin 15 Feb. 2016 (Govt plans National Water Commission)

Govt plans National Water Commission In one of the most significant reforms in the water sector in a long time, the govt is in the process of ordering a complete restructuring of the organisations responsible for regulating the use of water resources, with the objective of bringing in greater efficiency, better planning and increased emphasis on conservation of water. According to news report the Central Water Commission (CWC), which oversees irrigation projects, flood management and drinking water supply, and the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) are likely to be disbanded, and a National Water Commission is proposed to be set up in their place. A few other smaller organisations with specialised mandate like data gathering and analysis are also likely to be created.

A team under Mihir Shah, a former member of the then Planning Commission of India, is already preparing a blueprint for better management of water resources. The idea of institutional restructuring is said to have the backing of this panel. It is likely to submit its report in the next two months. In the new scheme of things, more emphasis is being given to judicious use, and conservation, of ground water. It is estimated that despite elaborate irrigation projects, about 60 per cent of irrigation during the non-rainy season is still done by pumping out ground water. The large irrigation projects, meanwhile, have given sub-optimal results.

A large number of sewage treatment plants, being built as part of the Clean Ganga initiative that will eventually spread to other rivers as well, will provide a new source of water that is fit not only for industrial use but also for irrigation and many other purposes. The river rejuvenation plans, not just of Ganga but others as well, will become an integral part of overall water resources management. Apart from reducing pollution in the rivers, and maintaining a minimum ecological flow, the rejuvenation plans would also ensure that the rivers are able to adequately recharge the aquifers in its basins.

Allocation of water resources to each state is also on the agenda. But this process is likely to take time as it would involve extensive consultations with the state governments. Once a consensus emerges, a central legislation on allocation of water resources is planned to be brought in. This is aimed at reducing inter-state water disputes.

HYDRO POWER 

National Electricity prices drop below Re 1 for off-peak demand periods Electricity prices at power trading exchanges have dropped below Rs 1 for off-peak demand periods in areas with excess power generation. In some areas, prices have dipped to 50 paise per unit while at others it is hovering at around 80 paise per unit. Rates are about 20% down from last year. This is due to the combined effect of less-than-anticipated demand growth, excess coal at thermal power plants and restrictions imposed by the National Load Despatch Centre on long-distance power transmission because of wintry conditions. The recent trend suggests that prices have dipped for power generation in west and east India where there’s surplus electricity. Prices in north India have dropped as well but have stayed at about Rs 1.9 per unit, the average level at the exchange. West is a power surplus zone and sells it to the north, where demand is always higher. However, a recent restriction on power transmission due to weather conditions have resulted in less power being pumped from west to north, leading to prices falling below Rs1. Electricity prices during off peak hours have dropped below Rs 1 per unit in East and West and to Rs 1.9 in North India this winter.

Hydro Deadlock: Govt set panel to revive stalled hydro projects The power ministry has set up a 10-member panel chaired by Ashwin B. Pandya, former chairman of the Central Water Commission, to advise on framing a new hydropower policy that will help turn around stalled projects and attract fresh investments into the sector. The committee has been asked to give its report by the first week of April. The committee has to suggest policy measures on technical, financial, environmental and commercial aspects of the hydropower sector. One of the efficient ways to streamline hydropower projects would be to have good, honest EIAs, participatory public hearing where all information is given to people, honest and comprehensive Cumulative Impact Assessment Studies, transparency from Ministry of Environment and Forests about all related studies and their conclusions, open and transparent Clearance Processes where objections are heard and resolved.This will enable bad projects rejected rapidly than being stuck for ever. In the absence of all this pushing large hydro projects is more of a problem than a solution. Also see, Hydropower sector is growing: Chairman NHPC In this interview NHPC CMD K M Singh makes some highly questionable claims that hydropower is clean source, provides peaking demand, enhances energy security, is a replenish-able natural source, facilitates water security, flood control and irrigation.

Centre Govt to auction mega hydropower projects Central Govt. is planning to offer new hydropower projects with all approvals and land-use rights in a bid to mitigate risks and attract investors. The plan is similar to the Ultra Mega Power Projects model that is in vogue for thermal power projects. The aim of Govt. is to make hydropower projects attractive as part of its commitment at the latest Paris climate conference to cut carbon emissions by 30-35% by 2030. The Govt. believes that it is essential to have a model that addresses the risks involved in large, capital intensive and resource-uncertain hydropower projects. At present, hydropower projects account for only 15% of the country’s 284 giga watt capacity, compared to fossil fuel-based capacity accounting for 70%. This shows lack of understanding why hydropower projects are not getting implemented. Several projects even with all these clearances in place are stuck because of attempts to cut corners in democratic decision making. Following the same path won’t help.

Industry For Jaiprakash Power bondholders, it’s February all over again Debt-ridden Jaiprakash Power Ventures on 09 Feb.16 reported that it may once again seek board approval for a standstill agreement with bondholders to extend the deadline to repay money it owes them. In September last year, Jaiprakash Power sold its Karcham Wangtoo and Himachal Baspa II hydropower units to JSW Energy for an enterprise value of Rs 9,700 cr. In September last year, Jaiprakash Power sold its Karcham Wangtoo and Himachal Baspa II hydropower units to JSW Energy for an enterprise value of Rs 9,700 cr. In addition, the company also signed MoU with JSW Energy to sell its 500 MW Bina thermal plant in Madhya Pradesh for which the due diligence is understood to be in process. Jaiprakash Power Ventures continue to remain in financial trouble even after selling two of its hydropower projects.

North-East Jindal Power, GMR ask NHPC to takeover hydro projects or form JV Jindal Power has approached NHPC (National Hydroelectric Power Corporation) asking it to either takeover its 5,397 MW hydro power projects worth about Rs 37,779 cr or form joint ventures. Jindal Power approached NHPC for its three projects in Arunachal Pradesh – 1,800 MW Kamala HEP (Hydro Electric Project) earlier known as Subansiri Middle project, 3097 MW Etalin HEP and 500 MW Attunli HEP. GMR which is developing a hydro power project in Himachal is also learnt to make similar offer before NHPC. Responding to the offer KM Singh Chairperson NHPC says “NHPC is ready to takeover but the question is cost. If the project’s cost as on date is viable then certainly NHPC is ready to takeover either on ownership basis or in joint venture with NHPC having the major stake holding. There seems to be some movement in this effort of NHPC taking over a number of hydropower projects from private developers in Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and North East India.

Kerala Thanks to CFR, Athirappilly hydro project unlikely to materialize The 163-MW hydel power project on Chalakudy River in the Athirappilly is unlikely to materialise in the near future due to the opposition from eight settlements of Kadar tribal people, who have obtained Community Forest Rights (CFR) over 40,000 hectares of jungles surrounding the project site. The CFR enables grama sabhas to reject any major project that may affect their livelihood. The community had boycotted the last Lok Sabha elections to highlight their opposition. S.P. Ravi of Chalakudy River Protection Forum stated that the Forest and Tribes Welfare Department had issued CFR titles to eight Kadar settlements and one Malayar settlement last year. They all are vehemently opposing the dam which would cripple their livelihood and damage the Chalakudy river ecosystem. As per government’s own admission, the project will displace 163 Kadar families at Vazhachal and 71 families in the Pokalappara settlements. Good news if this is indeed true. Also see, Protest against Athirappilly project intensifies

DAM  

SANDRP Blog Large dams in Konkan Western Ghats: Costs, Benefits & Impacts  Following the surge of dams in Maharashtra, several major and medium irrigation projects, drinking water supply and hydropower projects were proposed and developed in Konkan. A reconnaissance of the current situation is disturbing. It indicates that despite spending more than Rs 6,000Cr in building these dams for decades, not a single Major or Medium irrigation project has been completed in Konkan till date by Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation. Actual Irrigation Potential created is less than 25%, of which less than one percent is actually used by people for irrigation, for projects tested by CAG. Hydropower generation from projects is shockingly low. Rampant corruption surrounding dams in Konkan raises big questions about the rationale behind their planning in the first place. In such a scenario, large dams are being pushed through by ideological/policy bias, following a uniform development model which does not respect regional difference and strengths, disregarding the ecology and people of the region.

Maharashtra Money wasted, rules violated in Konkan water projects: SANDRP Report ( The Hindu report based above blog)  A fact-finding report prepared by SANDRP records that Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation, in charge of planning, building and operating irrigation dams in Konkan, does not have a single fully completed major or medium irrigation project to its credit till date. “Apart from the violations, one important thing is that, building large dams in a terrain like that of Konkan is not at all feasible. Konkan is a hilly terrain compared to Western Maharashtra. How can the canal network of these big dams turn out effective in such topography? This blind push for large dams has resulted in social, economic and ecological losses, without any substantial gains. We first need to acknowledge that we have committed mistakes in Konkan by planning large dams. Only then we can think of how to correct those mistakes,” says Parineeta Dandekar of SANDRP.

Water use for hydropower cut by 15 TMC at Koyna The state government has decided to cut down water usage for hydropower generation from Koyna dam by 15 thousand million cubic feet (TMC). The decision was taken in a recent meeting of secretary-level officers of water resources department and Mahagenco at Koynanagar. This is too little & too late. Even as downstream Karnataka has declared a Rabi failure and even as all cities downstream Koyana Dam: Satara, parts of Sangli and Kolhapur are facing water shortage, water is being diverted to the water-rich Konkan region by Koyana Dams for power generation. Same is the story of Tata Dams which have not released any water for the drought-stricken Bhima Basin. As the drought darkens, the responsibility and accountability of these agencies will be raised again and again. SANDRP have been writing about stopping the release of water from Koyna and Tata dams since Aug 2015. Question is, if 33 TMC is available and there is such a drought and scarcity, why limit only 15 TMC for these needy areas and why not full amount? Why not extend this to Tata dams?

Centre Ministry reviews progress made under Dam Rehabilitation programme On 10 Feb.16 Water Ministry held a review meeting of progress made under Dam Rehabilitation & Improvement Project (DRIP). Under the project involving 9 implementing agencies (IAs) across 7 States (Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, and Jharkhand) rehabilitation of about 225 dam projects is targeted and so far preparatory activities have been completed for 207 dams. The news source also stated that tender documents have been completed for 177 dams and notice inviting tenders have been issued for 173 dams whereas works have been awarded for 83 dams. The ministry observed that Tamil Nadu is holding down the overall DRIP progress & IAs of State need to improve their performance. The water ministry also mentioned that works on development of Dam Asset Management Tool titled “Dam Health and Rehabilitation Monitoring Application’ (DHARMA) is in progress and The IAs have agreed for development of Emergency Action Plan for all DRIP dams.

Uttarakhand Govt scraps Rs 530 cr Pancheswar Dam until submergence area identified The ongoing talks with Nepal on the construction of the Pancheswar Dam along the border in Champawat district has stalled the construction of a road from Tanakpur to Jauljibi along the Kali river proposed by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. The Union Home Ministry has scrapped the Rs 530 crore project until both nations identify the area that will submerge due to the construction of the dam. BC Pant, Executive Engineer with the PWD, Champawat said it was decided at a meeting of the departments concerned with Union Home Ministry officials at New Delhi on January 28 that the construction of the remaining 118 km portion of the Rupaligar to Jauljibi road would be taken up after the area likely to submerge due to the Pancheswar Dam was identified.

Tehri villagers demand access to dam passage Residents of more than 450 villages near Tehri dam are angry over the closure of the 200-meter-long concrete passage running over the dam’s top and demanded access to it. The passage is located at the last point of the lake from near Koti colony. The abrupt closure has forced villagers to drive over 9 km to reach the other side, which otherwise is just a five-minute drive. Earlier, the villagers had access to the passage till 6 pm. On 13 Feb16, it was shut down completely. Tehri Hydro Development Corporation officials were unavailable to explain the reason for the shutdown. Meanwhile, the district administration officials are unwilling to intervene in the matter. Since the dam figures in the list of vital installation, the passage has CRPF personnel deployment to check every movement of the traffic on the passage.

Gujarat Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Bonds: Investors’ plight and fight continues The sordid tale of how these investors were lured to support a controversial dam building project by putting their hard earned money as investment into bonds and thereby lend a helping hand to SSNNL to portray as if that controversial dam enjoyed popular support started unfolding in early 1990s. Thanks to an audit report by Comptroller and Auditor General for Gujarat (Commercial) for FY2001, citizens know that in the revised cost estimates of 1991-92 had remained unapproved. But oblivious of this, SSNNL was allowed to indulge in market borrowing in February 1993 and then again in November 1993. None of the cost-benefit estimates had identified this route of project financing and hence failed to calculate the debt liabilities arising from them.

Karnataka As Dam levels dip, water crisis looms The state is likely to face a shortage of drinking water this summer as levels have dipped at the reservoirs. Bengaluru needs 1.5TMC ft of water a month. This works out to 1,400 mld. The supply is drawn from KRS and TG Halli reservoirs. According to statistics, all 13 major reservoirs have lower levels than they did at the corresponding time last year and have come down drastically in Feb.16 even before the advent of summer. The Tungabhadra reservoir has a capacity of 100.86 TMC. On 12 Feb.16, it had only 9.55 TMC, as against 38.46 TMC last year. Almatti reservoir can hold 123.08 TMC. It now has 25.75 TMC as against last year’s 44.23 TMC. The situation is same at Linganamakki, with a capacity of 151.75 TMC. Its level is 62.7 TMC, as against 85.31 TMC last year. The Irrigation Department has alerted farmers to the forecast for them to plan rabi for crops.

Andhra Pradesh Pattiseema did more harm than good to CM image These are not the best of times for the chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu. The discomfiture isn’t only because of the challenges confronting him, but also because of their timing. The publicity blitzkrieg around the Pattiseema lift irrigation project by the state govt. & its pompous inauguration did more damage to its reputation than good due to defunct pump sets, their removal from Handri-Neeva project in Kurnool district and using them at Pattiseema & the very purpose of the project have all come under a cloud. Andhra CM Chandra Babu Naidu is facing criticism for many reasons including Pattiseema.  Also see Rs115cr released for Polavaram-affected persons: Irrigation minister

INTERLINKING OF RIVERS

SANDRP blog Ken-Betwa link is a tragedy:  Don’t burn lifeboats to stay warm on sinking titanic ship Even as the Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley and Hydropower Projects sits to decide about Environment Clearance to Ken Betwa River Link Proposal on Feb 8-9, 2016, a number of people have written to the committee against recommending clearance to the project. We are publishing here some of them. We will look forward to EAC applying its mind to the various issues we have raised and NWDA responses, on their merits and arriving at a judgement. We would be happy to come to EAC meeting to explain this further if necessary. Experts including Prerna Bindra Former National Board for Wildlife member, professor Brij Kishore  Coordinator of Centre for Inland Waters in South Asia & Bittu Sehgal environmentalist write to MoEF against Ken-Betwa link. Also see, Climate change issue being ignored in haste to clear Ken-Betwa link: Expert  A report based on SANDRP blog.

Centre Uma discuss river-interlinking progress Odisha, Maharashtra and Gujarat  The water minister informed that meeting that a team of officers from the centre and Odisha govt. will discuss all the issues about Mahanadi-Godavari link and will submit its report within six months as decided in meeting with Naveen Patnaik CM Odisha on 3rd Feb.16 . Giving an update about Ken-Betwa link project, the Minister informed that various clearances in respect of Ken-Betwa link project Phase-I are in the advanced stage of processing. The minister also stated that DPR of Par-Tapi-Narmada link project has been submitted to the Govt of Gujarat and Maharashtra in August, 2015 and their comments/views are awaited. The Minister also said that her ministry is examining all relevant issues in details and will help in bringing speedy consensus amongst the States on the link project.  Eighth Meeting of the special committee for Inter-Linking of Rivers.

Environment ministry plans to bar mining in wildlife corridors A new action plan for wildlife conservation in the country seeks to put all protected areas and wildlife corridors out of bounds for all mining activities and big irrigation projects. The action plan, prepared by a committee appointed by the Environment Ministry in 2014, also wants restrictions on number of tourists and vehicles entering a protected area. The action plan produced by the committee has been put in public domain for inviting comments and suggestions. Once approved, it would be in effect for the period 2017 to 2031. MoEF’s Draft Wildlife Action Plan for 2017-2031 clearly says “The Ministry of Water Resources should be convinced not to pursue big projects for irrigation in the (protected) areas and to opt for minor irrigation relying on check dams, ponds, wells and other appropriate water harvesting units” and that sand mining is “highly destructive activity in which many stake holders, including politicians are involved. By this token KEN BETWA LINK PROJECT CANNOT BE IMPLEMENTED as it is coming bang in the middle of PANNA TIGER RESERVE.

Maharashtra State to soon discuss Nar-Par-Tapi-Narmada river interlinking with Centre Maharashtra Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan on 10 Feb.16 stated that a high-level meeting will be held soon in the metropolis to discuss and resolve issues plaguing the Nar-Par-Tapi-Narmada river-linking project. Mahajan, who attended the eighth meeting of the Special Committee for interlinking of rivers in Delhi on 08 Feb.16 also said that in the meeting, he stressed that excess water from the Nar-Par-Tapi-Narmada basin must not be allowed to go to Gujarat. He added that though Maharashtra is possessive over its share of water, it is not possible to lift water from the basin at a height of 600 to 800 meter and divert it in some other part of the state. Meanwhile, the Tapi Irrigation Development Corporation of Maharashtra has come up with a detailed plan consisting of 22 dams to transfer all the surplus water from the four west-flowing basins into eastern Maharashtra, leaving no water for diversion onto Gujarat. SANDRP wrote about this long back. Maharashtra is clear that it has no water to spare from Nar, Par, Tapi, Narmada basins for Gujarat. Also see, Maharashtra-Gujarat dispute stalls river interlinking  project

Jharkhand River link DPR cost worries State Govt Jharkhand water resources minister Chandra Prakash Choudhary on 08 Feb.16 asked the Centre to bear the financial burden for preparing the detailed project report for intra-state linking of rivers. The minister, who was attending the eighth meeting of the special committee for inter-linking of rivers in Delhi, expressed concerns of the state in bearing the financial burden. Under the interlinking of rivers programme, five major rivers of Jharkhand are being interlinked. South Koel would be linked with Subarnarekha, Shankh with south Koel whereas Damodar and Barakar would be linked with Subarnarekha. According to rough estimates the interlining would enable irrigation on 50,000 hactare region and production of around 653 Mws of hydro electricity. Representatives of some states raised the issue of redefining the term “surplus water”. Responding to this, Union minister for water resources, river development & Ganga rejuvenation Uma Bharti said a subcommittee under the task force constituted by the National Water Development Agency will submit its report within two months.

INTERSTATE WATER DISPUTES

Telangana Govt. seeks Centre’s mediation in ‘illegal’ irrigation acts by AP, Karnataka The Telangana government has expressed concern over construction of barrages by Karnataka government across Krishna near Gurjapur village in Raichur district about 3 km upstream of Krishna-Bhima confluence point and also over Andhra Pradesh government’s proposal to construct Rajolibanda Right Canal scheme. Telangana principal secretary (irrigation) has wrote letters the commissioner of ministry of water resources requesting it to advice Karnataka government not to proceed with construction of Gurjapur barrage, without statutory clearances from the relevant authorities and especially when the inter-state disputes on river Krishna are sub-judice before the Tribunal and Supreme Court.

IRRIGATION     

Gujarat Govt deploys police force to prevent water lifting from Narmada canal Due to insufficient rain in last two monsoons, the core issue in many areas of Saurashtra and Kutch region of Gujarat will be availability of water. As Narmada water is only hope, the state government has deployed State Reserve Police force to guard the waters of Narmada in Halvad belt which is known for notorious activity of illegal water lifting from Narmada canal for farming activities. SRP is again patrolling Narmada Canals in Saurashtra so that Saurashtra farmers, in whose name the project was justified, do not “steal” water from the Narmada Canal, even as Sabarmati River, Ahmedabad Town, Baroda city and many other cities and industries continue to get all the Narmada water that they want.

Maharashtra Regional irrigation boards get more power Faced with a looming drought and the problem of cost escalations in its irrigation projects, the Maharashtra govt. on 09 Feb.16 increased the powers of the regional irrigation boards in clearing projects up to Rs 10,000cr from an earlier limit of Rs 2,000cr. The report also says that several small but vital irrigation projects in the regions of Vidarbha and Marathwada have been pending for years because the regional boards do not have the powers to approve high cost escalations. The boards, which were established in the year 2000, are mandated to approve projects of upto 250 hectare of irrigation potential, provided their cost does not exceed Rs 2,000cr. The boards have as many as 4,793 schemes pending of which 1,103 are complete, 1,377 are ongoing, and the remaining has been put on hold. According to an estimate, these schemes could take up to four years to complete.

Maharashtra Irrigation Scam Govt. to probe all 189 irrigation projects sanctioned by Ajit Pawar The present government’s decision to appoint an official to look into the irregularities in all 189 irrigation projects approved by Ajit Pawar follows High Court Bombay 2014 verdict on a PIL filed by Dr Pradeep Purandare which has directed the state to probe the projects. Out of the 189 projects, crores of rupees were spent on 48 projects even before they commenced. All projects were awarded between 2007 and 2013.

Telangana Palamur-Rangareddy lift irrigation projects in mired in corruption The land acquisition process for the Palamur- Rangareddy Lift Irrigation Scheme has brought disrepute to the govt due to rampant corruption. A report submitted by Mahbubnagar Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) Hanmantha Reddy, who investigated the allegations, confirmed that large-scale irregularities have taken place in the process of land acquisition in Bhootpur mandal. According to RDO’s report, Rs 1.25 crore was siphoned off by officials in the name of award of land compensation with four survey numbers in a village. The RDO said officials have manipulated the reports by colluding with some people including land owners to deliberately inflate the value of lands at Karvenapally in Bhootpur mandal, to claim higher compensation. Also see, Irrigation official caught taking Rs 1.35 lakh bribe

RIVERS

Maharashtra Corporates, NGOs keen to clean Pavana river Love and care for Pavana river brought scores of NGOs, professionals, civic officials as well as a handful of corporates together last week to formulate a strategy for its cleaning and making it sustainable upstream of Ravet. It was a unique initiative of the Jal Dindi Prathisthan, striving to minimise pollution in rivers, by way of generating funds and resources under Corporate Social Responsibility. NGOs, academic institutions, architects, chartered accountants and some corporates pledged to do their bit for cleaning the river stretch before Ravet. This portion of the river was chosen for action because the 25 km stretch of Pavana from Ravet is under PCMC, which has a cleaning plan in place. Hope this collective effort succeeds in creating an example.

Rivermarch encouraging local communities to save Mumbai’s rivers Mumbai has four rivers Mithi, Poisar, Dahisar and Oshiwara running through it. All four rivers have their source at Tulsi Lake, which is located beyond Kanheri caves in Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The journey they take is through the big city, which results in polluted water that eventually destroys aquatic life. It is for this reason that Borivali-based NGO, Rivermarch, recently conducted a programme to revive the city’s rivers which brought local communities together & appealed them to be stakeholders in restoring the city’s rivers. The event has taken Dahisar River as its pilot project, given that it’s the smallest river spanning 12 km. The idea is to make local communities stakeholders in restoring the river, which makes it a community-based project that will benefit locals. If this turns out to be a success, the group plans on looking at other rivers in the city.

PMC issues evacuation notices ro residents settled in Mula-Mutha Rivers About 450 residents on Mula-Mutha riverbed have been issued evacuation notices by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) to clear out constructions. Following this Rajendra Singh, water expert has urged the govt to rehabilitate the residents before displacing them. The meeting was arranged by activist Sarang Yadwadkar, who had demanded clearing of these constructions citing that these constructions were within the flood line. Residents are now planning to form a committee and decide next step as they feel injustice has been meted out to them. As per orders of the NGT, the PMC had to clear the debris and demolish the wall constructed to connect Vitthalwadi and National Highway by 12 Aug. 2015. Since the PMC failed to execute the given orders, residents of the area and activists wrote letters to the commissioner.

Kerala 30% of fish in Western Ghats endangered Thirty per cent of the fresh water fish species in the Western Ghats fall in the ‘endangered category’ and habitat protection holds the key to protecting them from extinction said B. Madhusoodana Kurup,Vice Chancellor of Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies here on 08 Feb.16. He was speaking at the inauguration of the two-day national workshop on native freshwater fishes, organised by the university. He said that protection of fish habitat should get priority in conservation efforts. Eighteen species of fishes are endemic to Western Ghats, particularly in Kerala. This is a very important message.  “Thirty per cent of the fresh water fish species in the Western Ghats fall in the ‘endangered category’ and habitat protection holds the key to protecting them from extinction”

Gujarat Dutch sociologist faults ‘Gujarat model’  Noted Dutch sociologist Jan Breman Tuesday highlighted the plight of slum-dwellers displaced from the Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad and said that integration has not been inclusive in Gujarat. Breman said that many now resided in two-room flats that were of inferior quality and faced water and sanitation issues. Speaking at the half-day workshop on “Globalisation and Marginalisation” held at the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar, Jan Breman, Professor Emeritus at the University of Amsterdam, said that while that the character of Ahmedabad was that of a middle-class city, all traces of the working class were hardly visible here. Jan Bremen rightly says that the people displaced by Sabarmati River Front Development Project are worse off.

GANGA NGT Court appoints panel to look into grossly polluting units The NGT has set up a committee to look into the grossly polluting industries located along the banks of Ganga and inform it about the quantum of sewage discharged by them in the river. NGT bench constituted the panel comprising member secretary of Central Pollution Control Board, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand Pollution Control Board, CEO of UP Jal Nigam, Director of Environment Ministry and a professor from IIT-Roorkee. The green panel also asked the UP pollution control board to inform it about the industrial units of tannery, paper and pulp, textile, located along the banks of Ganga, to submit their stand before it.

Centre Diversion of water must stop to curb Ganga’s pollution: Report Grappling with the mammoth task of cleaning the Ganga, the water resources ministry has flagged how “heavy abstraction” of water has become a key concern in its efforts to rejuvenate the river at a time when it has already moved to handle pollution through multiple measures. The ministry made a detailed presentation over the issue in the Prime Minister’s Office early this month, flagging how water is diverted from Ganga to meet demands of agricututre, industries, domestic consumption and power generation through 784 dams, 66 barrages, 92 weirs and 45 lift irrigation schemes on the country’s national river and its tributaries. In its 86-page presentation – Challenges and Required Interventions – the ministry also made a case for maintaining minimum flow of water in Ganga as the river has a self-cleansing ability, provided it has uninterrupted flow of water round the year. “You cannot clean the river only by setting up sewage treatment plants and asking industries to stop discharging untreated water. If you don’t deal with abstraction of water, the Rs 20,000 crore plan would go down the drain the way the Centre had lost nearly Rs 5,000 crore in the past,” an official said.

Govt plans to set up 30 water ports on Ganga: Nitin Gadkari  Govt plans to set up 2,000 water ports as well as “Ro-Ro” services at 5 select places including Haldia, Patna, Varanasi and Sahibganj with the World Bank assistance.to transport goods and vehicles, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said on Wednesday. Besides, there is a plan to develop 1,300 islands and 280 light houses as major attractions for tourists. He also informed that government is constructing waterways on a 1,620 kilometer stretch on the Ganga between Varanasi and Haldia and 30 water ports would be constructed there. The minister said government had initiated river traffic control system from Haldia to Farakka and the system will be introduced in next six months from Farakka to Patna and thereafter from Patna to Varanasi.

‘RO-BOAT’ to clean maili Ganga Polluted Ganga river may find its saviour in an unmanned water surface vehicle ‘Ro-Boat’ that is capable of detecting, collecting and eliminating all kind of trash including chemical effluents and floating waste from the surface of water. The device has been developed by Omnipresent Robot Tech Pvt Ltd. Each device costs Rs 15 lakh. The Union Science Ministry examined the prototype of the Ro-Boat and has now recommended it for the use. The proposal was examined by Department of Science & Technology. Now, the Small Industries Development Bank of India is studying the financial aspect for the project. Presently, trial runs are going on for the cleanliness of Yamuna river yielding good results. Solar panels battery and twin propeller engine will help it to navigate while consuming less power. The device has a unique ability to completely submerge in the river to pull out the pollutants settled on the riverbed. Last year, the Government had sanctioned Rs 20,000 crore for rejuvenating the Ganga under the ‘Namami Gange Project’. Under the project, an amount of Rs 1,700 crore will be released for Allahabad, Rs 1,000 crore for Kanpur and Rs 450 crore for Varanasi.

YAMUNA AoL destroying Yamuna NGT issues notices to Delhi govt, Art of Living Foundation NGT on 11 Feb.16 issued notices to the Delhi government, the DDA and the Art of Living (AOL) Foundation on Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan plea seeking to stop a three-day event to celebrate 35 years of AOL on the Yamuna floodplains in east Delhi. The NGT asked DDA to submit all the documents on the basis of which permission was granted for the event. The tribunal also asked the authority to inspect the site along with professor A.K. Gosain of the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, and submit a status report. The World Culture Festival 2016, 11-13 March, is being organized by AOL Foundation, headed by Sri Sri Ravishankar, to commemorate 35 years of the foundation. In 2010 and 2011, Art of Living (AOL) headed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar launched Meri Yamuna Meri Delhi campaign to protect Yamuna, it is surprising that the very organization is now resorting to activities which will irreparably damage the Yamuna.

Destruction of Yamuna Flood Plains by Art of Living This is a video footage of the Yamuna Flood Plains of Yamuna River to the north of DND Flyway, spread over more than one thousand acres, being destroyed to prepare Venue for the proposed World Culture Festival to be organised by Art of Living on 11-13th March 2016. This violates the Orders of Delhi High Court in 2005 for removal of all ‘structures’ from the Yamuna as also almost similar orders by NGT & of all Environment Protection Laws particularly the EIA Notification of 2006. This was taken on February 8-9, 2016. These Eco-systems have evolved over millions of years along with the Rivers and can never be regenerated once destroyed. To All fans of ART OF LIVING and everyone else: Pl watch this video and ask the organisers why do they need to destroy Yamuna flood plains and violate laws for the congregation planned next month. Also see, Art of Living cultural event puts Yamuna floodplains in danger Excellent piece. The only way AOL can help matters now is to shift the site of the program from the Yamuna flood plain and publicly apologise to the nation for the damage already done and pay to the government to undo the damage. Same applies to the government.

यमुना की जीवन कला भूला, आर्ट आफ लीविंग अरुण तिवारी संभवतः दिल्ली की पूर्ववर्ती और वर्तमान सरकारें यही सोचती हैं कि निर्माण ही खाली पङी जगह का एकमेव उपयोग है। जिस यमुना तट के मोटे स्पंजनुमा रेतीले एक्यूफर में आधी दिल्ली को पानी पिलाने की क्षमता लायक पानी संजोकर रखने की क्षमता है, उसे हमारी सरकारों ने कभी इस नजरिये से जैसे देखा ही नहीं। ऐसे ही एक नजरिये की नज़ीर बनने वाला है, आर्ट आफ लिविंग की 35वीं सालगिरह। एक वक्त था, जब यमुना ने आध्यात्मिक गुरु श्री रविशंकर जी को यमुना स्वच्छता जागृति के नाम पर दिल्ली के ऐतिहासिक पुराने किले के भीतर एक भव्य आयोजन करते देखा; आज वक्त है कि वही श्री श्री रविशंकर जी आगामी मार्च में यमुना की ज़मीन को रौंदने आ रहे हैं। यमुना जिये अभियान के हवाले से मिली खबर के अनुसार, आर्ट आफ लिविंग की 35 वीं सालगिरह मनाने के लिए, मयूर विहार फेज-एक (दिल्ली) के सामने यमुना की ज़मीन को चुना गया है।

जब सैंया भये कोतवाल, तो डर काहे का  आर्ट आफ लिविंग की तरफ से तय है कि इसमें भारत के महामहिम राष्ट्रपति श्री प्रणव मुखर्जी और माननीय प्रधानमंत्री श्री मोदी से लेकर देश-विदेश की बङी हस्तियां भी शामिल होंगी। 11 से 13 मार्च के बीच इसे विश्व सांस्कृतिक महोत्सव की तरह मनाये जाने की योजना है। 35 हजार कलाकार, 40 से ज्यादा वाद्य यंत्रों के लिए एक ऐसा विशाल मंच बनाया जाना है कि उसका नाम गिनीज बुक आफ रिकार्डस् में शामिल हो जाये। अपेक्षित 35 लाख आगुन्तकों के लिए शेष व्यवस्था को लेकर करीब एक हजार एकङ ज़मीन पर तैयारियां जोरो पर हैं। इस परिदृश्य के मद्देनजर मैं तो सिर्फ यहां यह लिखना चाहूंगा कि ठीक ही है कि जब सत्ता साथ हो, तो कोई क्यो परवाह करें ? जब सैंया भये कोतवाल तो डर काहे का। शायद यही है इस 21वीं सदी के दूसरे दशक में जीवन जीने की असली कला।  Also see, एनजीटी की अवहेलना: यमुना खादर में डाला जा रहा टनों मलबा

Delhi Kejri-Uma’s clean Yamuna plan going nowhere Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had last August announced joining hands with the Central govt to create a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to clean the river. A blueprint in this connection was supposed to have been prepared in the next 45 days by Oct. last year. Over the last many years, several action plans and other projects costing over Rs 900cr have failed and the SPV was touted as the one-stop solution to clean the river. The project’s main aim was to stop the “multiplicity of agencies” in charge of Yamuna and the SPV was to function on carrying out cleaning and riverfront development of the 22-km stretch of the Yamuna in Delhi single-handedly. Nothing has happened on Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) as promised by both Delhi-Centre govt. last year in August. Even the blueprint on SPV which was to be prepared within 45 days (by Oct.2015) is not ready.

You are frustrating Yamuna Cleaning & the Court: NGT to DJB The green panel took exception to the fact that despite its specific directions, which restrained DJB from spending without prior approval of the Tribunal, the board has incurred expenses on drain related works. The directions came as the green panel monitored the implementation of its ‘Maili se Nirmal Yamuna Revitalisation Project’. In November 2015, the Tribunal had restrained DJB from spending on river Yamuna without prior approval till the judgement is passed on the issue, after it was informed that over Rs 900cr has been spent for cleaning the river.

Haryana Huda sends notice to builder for discharging sewage into Yamuna A city developer has been served a show-cause notice by Huda for discharging sewage into the Yamuna through a storm water drainage line in direct violation of an NGT directive. The notice was issued by the engineering cell of Huda on February 4 under Section 43/44 of Water (prevention and control of pollution) Act. In a recent joint inspection by Huda, the pollution control board and the MCG, it was found that Ansal Buildwell Ltd, one of the developers of Sushant Lok-II had allegedly connected sewerage lines from sectors 56 and 57 to storm water drainage. Hope the appropriate actions are taken against the builder so that other developers may learn their lessons from this case and not to think of discharging untreated/treated sewarage in storm water drains while developing building plans.                                                                          

FLOOD

Bihar ICIMOD develops flood warning system for Kosi basin Bihar, where the Kosi merges with the Ganga, is India’s most flood-prone state, with 76 percent of residents in the northern regions vulnerable to recurring floods but little empirical data about it was available to anticipate potential disasters and maintain resilient livelihoods. Now a Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has set up Kosi Basin Information System (KBIS) an information system that integrates data on climate change, land use, sedimentation, and water-based livelihoods to help individuals understand the changes happening in the basin to tackle the threat. The platform also provides a 48-hour flood warning, using data collected from satellite technology and national weather agencies. KBIS aims to facilitate data and information-sharing and promote inter-disciplinary collaboration between different water stakeholders such as technical professionals, researchers and common people.

NDMA organised a two day workshop on Urban Flood Mitigation National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) organized a two day (12-13 Feb.16) workshop on “Urban Flood Mitigation–Lessons Learnt and Roadmap for Future”. NDMA Twitter Handle is reported to be launched during the inaugural ceremony. The overall objective of the workshop is to carve out a policy roadmap towards effective mitigation and management of urban floods in the country.  Urban flooding has acquired extraordinary dimensions in our times and poses a great challenge to urban planners the world over. To mitigate the threat of urban floods to our Growing Cities, the NDMA had formulated the National Guidelines on ‘Management of Urban Flooding’ in 2010 which details the various mitigative and preparatory actions that would enhance the risk resilience quotient of our Cities for such a disaster. 

SAND MINING    

SANRP Blog River Sand Mining in India in 2015–III–Judicial Actions Unsustainable riverbed mining can have huge social, environmental, geomorphic and disastrous impacts for rivers. In this three part reports; SANDRP is trying to provide a picture of what happened on this issue in 2015 in India. The first part covered the detail of illegal sand extraction across many Indian States in 2015. The second part presented an account of measures and actions taken by Central and State Governments. This third and final part provides information on significant judicial decisions issued by different Courts particularly NGT in 2015.

Uttar Pradesh Illegal mining rampant in Yamuna under administration eyes As one enters the area of Hathini Kund Barrage in Saharanpur, it’s easy to see the plunder of the earth. Across some 50 villages, there is incessant digging and transporting of materials. Pits as deep as 150 feet are visible everywhere and local residents told a TOI team that close to 4,000 trucks and 8,000 tractor trolleys laden with sand and stones move daily on the roads. That’s business, by some estimate, of about Rs 6-7 crore every day. The district magistrate of Saharanpur, Pawan Kumar, says mining in the swathe of land is illegal. SSP of the district RPS Yadav, on the other hand, insists he hasn’t as yet got any complaints to act upon. But on the ground, the irony of these statements is staggering. All this happening despite a June 26, 2015 Allahabad High Court order that put a halt to all mining activity in the region after a PIL was filed against it.

Himachal Crackdown fails to deter illegal miners in Baddi Even as the police have intensified their crackdown on the illegal mining activity in the industrial belt, there seems a little effect on ground. The vulnerable spots, chiefly comprising the Sarsa riverbed and Dasomajra areas, have become the hotspot where illegal miners operate with impunity. Tractor and utility vehicles owners and stone crushers are indulging in the illegal activity. The high-handedness of the mining mafia can be gauged from the fact that they had managed to flee with quarry material-laden vehicles, despite the police presence after brandishing weapons in the Nalagarh area in the recent past. SDMs sand SPs, too, have faced attacks from these illegal operators in the past for being stopped from transporting such material. Despite the state’s government’s resolve to check the proliferating activity from the industrial belt, a little success has been achieved in curbing it successfully.

Haryana Ecology to take a hit as trees face the axe in 25 villages It is feared lakhs of trees in Nangal Choudhary will be cut following a government’s move to lease out sites spread over 25 villages around Krishnawati and Dohan rivers for gravel mining. The mining authorities say there are a few pockets having trees in the mining zone, hence any need to cut trees will not cause a major affect on the environment. The Forest Department claims gravel mining could not be undertaken without cutting all trees at the river bed and around. Nearly 500 hectares of mining area has been leased out by the government to two private firms around the Krishnawati and Dohan rivers for gravel mining. One of the firms has started functioning around the Krishnawati river and is contemplating axing trees that cause hurdle in the mining. Nearly 3 lakh saplings were planted on panchayat land here during 2002-13.

Rajasthan खनन माफिया ने पुलिस की जीप को खाई में गिराया सवाई माधोपुर में बजरीखनन माफिया के हौसले बढ़ गए हैं। 08 Feb. 16 को अवैध रूप से बजरी भरकर ले जा रहे एक ट्रैक्टर ट्रॉली चालक ने पुलिस जीप को टक्कर मारकर खाई में गिरा दिया। पुलिसकर्मियों ने जीप से कूदकर जान बचाई। वारदात सवाई माधोपुर के मलारना डूंगर की है। यहां अवैध रूप से बजरी ले जाने की सूचना मिलने पर पुलिस टीम बिलोली रोड़ पहुंची थी। पुलिस ने एक ट्रैक्टर ट्रॉली को तो पकड़ लिया, दूसरा ट्रैक्टर ट्रॉली चालक भागने लगा तो पुलिस टीम ने जीप वाहन के आगे लगा दी। इस पर ट्रैक्टर चालक ने पुलिस जीप को टक्कर मार दी। जीप 50 फीट गहरी खाई में जा गिरी। एसआई नरेश पोसवाल सहित अन्य पुलिसकर्मियों ने जीप से कूदकर जान बचाई। वारदात के बाद ट्रैक्टर ट्रॉली छोड़कर भाग रहे चालक कृष्णा गुर्जर को पुलिसकर्मियों ने पकड़ लिया। चालक के खिलाफ हत्या के प्रयास, सरकारी सम्पति को नुकसान पहुंचाने, बजरी की चोरी करने सहित विभिन्न धाराओं में मामला दर्ज कराया है।

WETLANDS & WATER BODIES

Centre States to get greater role in wetland management The Union government has begun revising the existing regulatory framework on wetlands across the country in a bid to enable a greater role and ownership by State governments in their management. In a statement on the eve of World Wetlands Day, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on 01 Feb.16 said that the Environment Ministry will continue to accord high priority to conservation and wise use of wetlands, and as water and land are State subjects, greater role and ownership by State governments in the management of wetlands will be ensured. He also said that the National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystems provides the policy framework and support to the States.

Kerala Conservation of Malabar wetlands remains a far cry In spite of the frequent alerts by various experts & results of field studies conducted by approved govt agencies on the threat being faced by the major wetlands in north Kerala, the situation remains the same with no concrete measures on the part of the local bodies or the govt to address the concerns that mainly include the illegal land reclamation activities and dumping of solid and non-degradable waste in the wetland area. As per a previous field study conducted by the scientists of the Centre for Water Resources Development and Management, the existence of over 100 small and big wetlands in the north Kerala region faced threat with rampant human encroachment and land conversion attempts. Unscientific channelising of water flow too has been found to be destroying the rich and luxuriant mangrove forests.

Odisha Water pollution in 36 water bodies in Berhampur reached alarming levels Silk City Berhampur has a total of 39 water bodies, but as shocking as it may sound, water pollution levels in as many as 36 water bodies have reached an alarming level. According to Pollution Control Board’s data, the three ponds Khodasingh Dhoba Pond, Balunkeswar temple pond and Kamapalli tank are the most polluted ponds in the city. A case has also been filed in NGT by an advocate regarding the deteriorating condition of the ponds in Berhampur following that Regional Pollution Control Board has given the verification report.

Goa State Water Policy give a miss to Wetlands Goa is rich in natural water-harvesting and conservation assets, but there are few studies conducted to gauge the problems plaguing water bodies. The draft of state water policy, put in the public domain for suggestions, fails to mention the important ecosystems that sustain fish, aquatic flora and fauna and recharge groundwater. While Water Resource Department had drawn up a list of water bodies, it appears no follow-up has been done to consider measures to prevent pollution or encroachments. In a 2009 initiative MoEF also had included Carambolim lake, Chorao island, Anjunem and Salaulim reservoirs in the atlas of important wetlands of Goa.  No fresh exercise has been carried out since to list more water bodies for protection. Also see, Concretizing banks of water bodies a bad move: Experts Indeed, concretising the banks would disconnect the rivers from the floodplains.

WATER  

Centre World Bank expert made sanitation ministry secretary Govt on 10 Feb.16 appointed World Bank water and sanitation expert and a former IAS officer Parameswaran Iyer as the secretary of drinking water and sanitation ministry for two years. This appointment, which took large sections of bureaucrats by surprise, has come as a strong indication of how the govt may take this route and appoint experts from outside for the success of its flagship schemes. The 1981 batch UP cadre IAS officer Iyer had taken voluntary retirement in 2009 and has an experience of nearly 20 years in the water supply and sanitation sector. His appointment as the head of drinking water and sanitation department comes at a time when govt targets to push activities under Swachh Bharat mission to achieve 100% sanitation. He was working as lead water and sanitation specialist in the Hanoi office of the World Bank since June 2012.

Study Implications of new regulations for water consumption in thermal power plants  Given the large magnitude of coal based generation in India and the massive proposed capacity additions, implications for water resources and competing uses of water are enormous. On 8th Dec 2015, the Environment Ministry notified new regulations concerning emissions and water use of thermal power plants in India. Manthan has analysed some implications of these new regulations with respect to the water consumption limits of coal based power plants. The study looks not just at how much water is used for coal based power generation, but the larger impacts of the entire coal chain on water resources, starting with mining, washing, transport, burning to ash and other waste disposal. The analysis is available on Manthan website.

Maharashtra State has no equitable distribution of water: HC The Bombay High Court on 08 Feb.16 rapped the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority (MWRRA) and observed that while people are fighting for water in Maharashtra, the authority has failed to ensure equitable distribution of water in the State. The Court was hearing a petition filed by Devdatta Nikam stating that the Ghod reservoir is situated on the Ghod River and Kukadi complex and that it provides water for drinking and irrigation to Pune, Kolhapur and Solapur. The petition adds that the words ‘distress’ and ‘percentage of utilisable water’ is not defined in the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Act which causes problems, and urged the court to frame the rules of the Act to ensure equitable distribution. Hope HC directs Maharashtra to re-instate the River Regulation Policy. Also see, ‘Smart’ Pune stares at acute water shortage Much before the summer, Pune has started facing heat of water scarcity as the level of reservoirs has fallen to 10.59 TMC which is about 36 % of the total water storage. More than 600 private tankers filled by civic bodies are supplying potable water in the city. But activists allege that these tankers are selling the water outside Pune at higher prices. No monitoring system in place to track down the tankers. The metering plan is also reported too lagging far behind. “It is high time Pune gets metered water supply. Those who use excess water must pay for the same as water is a scarce resource and must be used cautiously” says Parineeta Dandekar of SANDRP.

EAC halts Mumbai’s biggest sewage plant plan The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) in its recent meeting has denied permission for a proposed waste water treatment plant the biggest of its kind in Mumbai on the ground that a sewage treatment plant is not permissible under the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification (MCZMA), 2011. The EAC has also objected to MCZMA’s “strong recommendation” for approval. The MCZMA has surprisingly recommended the project while noting that the project site falls in Coastal Regulation Zone area. The panel tossed the matter into the Union minister’s court. “The Ministry may examine the permissibility of the project,” it has remarked in the meeting’s minutes. While there is attempt to paint MoEF committee in bad light here, the question is, does Mumbai have to put up a HUGE, CENTRALISED STP at one location, rather than setting up several smaller STPs where there are no mangroves?

Tamil Nadu Study presents grim picture of water management in Salem city According to a study by Zero Social Welfare Trust drinking water ranging between 2.73cr litres and 3.64cr litres (which 30-40% of water supplied) is going waste due to leakages in distribution system in Salem city every day. The report titled ‘Every Drop Counts’ prepared by special teams of the Trust surveyed about 75 tanks, of the 2,077 tanks, across the four zones of the Corporation and identified various types of water leakages. Of the 110 taps that were surveyed, 91 were either leaky or broken. The surveyors have also recorded that a majority of the taps installed under the ‘mini pump scheme’ were either leaky or broken; several tanks installed under this scheme were not functional and a few of them have also become dumping spots. The report suggested a detailed scientific study to be carried out by the government to monitor the leak and take steps to reduce it.

Himachal Jaundice Outbreak Two more engineers arrested The Special Investigation Team of Himachal Pradesh police, probing the lapses leading to release of sewage into drinking water in Shimla, arrested two more engineers of Irrigation and Public Health department on 05 Feb.16. The two engineers were looking after the water lifting section of the department at Ashwani Khad from where drinking water is being supplied to the town. While the focus of investigation was primarily on the role of officials of Irrigation and Public Health department, besides erring contractor Akshay Doegar, now the officials of Shimla Municipal Corporation and Pollution Control Board are also under scanner. With the latest arrests, the total number of those held in the case has reached seven. The release of contaminated water into the main source of drinking water had resulted in a jaundice outbreak with seven deaths and over 1,100 cases. Also see, Jaundice fury unabated in Solan

Gujarat Govt. accuses centre of not releasing enough found for water management Vijay Rupani, minister of water supply in Gujarat, has accused the Modi government of not releasing enough funds for the state to enable proper water management. Gujarat has got brilliant results using cost-saving techniques such as e-tender, water audit and energy audit, but the central government is not releasing enough funds for the state, he alleged. Ironically, Modi, as chief minister of Gujarat, had accused the then United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre of step-motherly treatment on various issues including releasing funds for the state. It is strange that minister in Gujaat BJP govt complains of step-motherly treatment by Modi govt.

Goa MBA demands ban on privatisation of water supply from public sources  Demanding that the State govt prioritise water allocation for various sectors in its ‘Integrated State Water Policy’, the Mhadei Bachao Abhiyan (MBA) has opined that all hydrographic units – from river basins to micro watersheds – which define water scarcity of Goa, should be considered while finalising the policy.  In a memorandum submitted to the Minister for Water Resources Dayanand Mandrekar, MBA has demanded a complete ban on privatisation of water supply from public sources and a detailed study on the impact of salinisation of groundwater due to sand mining thereby stopping such activities.

Tamil Nadu Villagers here swipe a card to get drinking water Packaged drinking water and long queues are things of the past in Orakkadu village, located 30 km from Chennai. People here get drinking water at the swipe of a smart card. Until six months ago, villagers  used to buy packaged drinking water or walk to the neighbouring Nerkundram village to fetch water. Now they get drinking water round the clock with smart card on a recharge of 100 per month. Many families have stopped buying packaged water and don’t have to plan their day around the water supply time anymore. The reverse osmosis plant and the card are perhaps the first such facility in the State. Though the Kosasthalaiyar river is just two km away, the village grappled with poor quality groundwater for a decade.

Delhi All quiet in Vikaspuri: Story of water wars in Delhi The story involves the Psychic Plumber and Delhi’s water wars; it sounds more dystopian than it actually is. Girish the plumber, displaced from his job by the privatization of a public sector industrial unit, ends up in Delhi, where he is hired for a mission to dig underground in search of the mythical Saraswati and thus solve Delhi’s perennial water shortage. Along the way he encounters a former water-tanker mafioso, a retired army man, a corrupt municipal clerk, and an expatriate spouse. He finds the water but also finds that the water shortage is artificial, and that the water wars are actually a scam to drive up realty prices. It is interesting to see a novel with Delhi’s water shortage and water mafia in the background.

Water scheme failed to encourage illegal users to switch to paid connections  The AAP Govt. had made it a goal to get residents of unauthorised colonies to get legal connections after being added to the piped network. The scheme of reduced water and sewer development charges has recently been extended for another six months, but so far only 1.4 lakh consumers have benefitted from it. This shows that reducing the charges for new water and sewer connections has not done much to encourage illegal users to switch to paid connections, DJB officials have admitted. In fact, an AAP MLA admitted that most people were still unwilling to switch over to metered connections. The total number of new water connections has gone up over the past year, with a 9.19% increase from March 1, 2015 to February 1, 2016. Of the 1,639 unauthorised colonies in Delhi, 1,105 colonies have been extended piped water as of now, with 205 of them being added in the past one year. Review of Delhi Govt. water related works in first year. Also see, AAP govt’s free water promise: Well begun but only half done

GROUND WATER

Centre Govt. reviewed progress of National Aquifer Mapping & Management programme Water Ministry on 10 Feb.16 held a review meeting of NAQUIM which was attended by  top officials from Central Ground Water Board and Water Ministry. According to press release the programme out of 23 lakh sq. km mappable area the ministry has mapped an area of 1.04 lakh sq.km till Dec. 2015 against 8.89 Lakh Sq.km proposed in 12th Plan and management plans have been prepared for approximately 82,000 sq.kms. For next 5 year period 2017-2022 the govt. proposes to undertake an area of 14 lakh sq.km.  The States selected inter-alia in the first phase include Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Telengana where the ground water situation has reached a critical level. Mapping in Haryana would be completed by May, 2016. The Ministry also plans to conduct regional meetings to involve State Govts and other stakeholders in this & other programmes. The final objective of the programme is to prepare Management Plans to identify the recharge and other measures to replenish the declining trend of groundwater.

National Declining Demand: Coke stops manufacturing at three plants  Just before the start of summer, soft drink giant Coca-Cola’s has stopped manufacturing operations in three of its plants located in Jaipur, Vishakhapatnam and Meghalaya. While company officials said the move was temporary but industry insiders claim that it was a result of excess capacity and slowing down of sales. Last year, early rains in April and June ruined the peak season where 60% of soft drinks sales take place. Cola makers ramped up production at their plants and showed growth on paper. But, actual sales on the ground didn’t happen. The company operates around 54 plants in India -25 are company-owned, 24 are franchisee plants and five are co-packers.  Also see, Rajasthan Falling water table; Coca-Cola shut down Jaipur plant The Coca-Cola company has stopped production at its disputed bottling plant in Kala Dera in Jaipur, and has no plans to resume operations. In 1998, the area’s groundwater was declared as overexploited – the worst category of groundwater in India, yet Coca-Cola built a new bottling plant in 2000. Groundwater levels have plummeted ever since Coca-Cola began operations, and the increased difficulty in accessing groundwater from the depleted aquifer is one of the main reasons given by company officials for the plant’s closure.

Kerala President returned Coca Cola Victims Relief Bill without any reason It was a day of disappointment for over 900 tribal and Dalit families here and in surrounding villages at Perumatti and Pattanchery after the Union Home Ministry confirmed on 04 Feb.16 that the President had sent back the Plachimada Coca Cola Victims Relief and Compensation Claims Special Tribunal Bill, which was passed unanimously by the Kerala Assembly in 2011. The Bill was passed to ensure that villagers are recompensed for the severe exploitation of groundwater resources and destruction of livelihood by Coca Cola. Apart from making available Rs. 216cr compensation from Coca Cola for crippling life at Perumatty, the Bill had provisions for initiating action against the company for draining groundwater. It had provisions to prosecute the company’s top executives under the law on prevention of atrocities against Dalits and tribal people. This is very disappointing indeed.

WATER OPTIONS   

National Changing India’s grey water into blue A very informative article on equally important issue of waste water treatment by Romit Sen & Kamal Vatta. The large amount of wastewater generated in the country provides a tremendous opportunity to reclaim and reuse it for various industrial and non-industrial purposes. Some facts India generates 38,254MLD waste water per day & developed treatment capacity for only 11,787MLD, which is about 31% of the wastewater generation. It means every day we pour more than 25,000 MLD untreated wastewater into our rivers and contaminate the freshwater sources threatening aquatic life and risking a large section of population that depends on surface water sources for their domestic water needs. By 2051 Indian cities wastewater generation is projected to cross 120,000MLD apart from 50,000MLD from rural India. According CPCB, there are total 269 STPs & only 231 are operational with treatment capacity varying from 2.5 to 89 % of the sewage generated.

Jharkhand Simon Oraon gets Padma Shri for fighting drought Simon Oraon 83 better known as Jharkhand’s waterman has been waging a war against drought since the day he dropped out of school. Back then, the Bedo block was facing a period of great scarcity. This made him dedicate his life to the conservation of water and forests and launched a massive tree plantation drive, built check-dam, dug wells as well as ponds to ensure that rainwater doesn’t drain away. In the years that followed, he taught the art of environment conservation to the residents of 51 villages. Oraon’s hard work started bearing fruit eventually Bedo’s water level increased magically. The waste lands turned cultivable, and there was sufficient water to grow more than one crop a year.

Punjab Moga village funds sewage plant’s construction In an initiative to curb water pollution, residents of Daroli Bhai village, Moga district, have funded the construction of a sewage treatment plant from their own resources. The plant costing Rs 2.5 crore has three units. The construction of the plant began in January 2014. Recently, one of the three units constructed on 1.5 acre has started functioning. The work on the other two units (on 5 acre each) is in progress. Harwinder Singh, president of the village committee said they would hand over the plant to the panchayat on completion. The panchayat will sell “treated and clean” water to farmers for irrigation by charging a nominal fee that will further be used to maintain and run the units, they said. Very interesting a Punjab village has put together a sewage treatment plant from their own resources.

Uttar Pradesh BHU to have its own water policy The Banaras Hindu University (BHU), which is celebrating its 100 years of journey, is all set to frame its own water policy for judicious use of water on the campus. The working group for the Malaviya Research Centre for Ganga, River Development and Water Resource Management of BHU at its meeting on 04 Feb.16 decided to chalk out the policy focusing zero wastage of water. Great to know that BHU will possibly be the first institute in India to have its own water policy, whose main feature will include minimization of water consumption, recycling of waste water, proper check on water wastage, and encouraging rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge.

Haryana Temples show the way for water conservation Aiming at conserving water poured on ‘Shivlings’, two temples of the city have shown the way how a religious practice can be turned into a scientific method to maintain the water table. The managements of Lord Shiva temple in NDRI and Sri Ram Mandir in Sector 8 have adopted this unique method to save water in 2009 and 2012, respectively. Earlier, the water used to virtually go down the drain. The managements of both the temples have drilled a bore of more than 100 feet just near the ‘Shivling’ and the water offered by the devotees goes down into the bore. Due to this practice, not only does the temple remain clean, but also the vicinity is also not muddied. Experts working in the field of water conservation claimed it to be a unique step.

Maharashtra Parbhani varsity develops well technology to preserve groundwater Parbhani-based Vasantrao Naik Marathwada Agricultural University has developed an economically viable and adoptable bore-well and open-well recharge technology for the parched region. The technology, which ensures that runoff water from the cultivated areas is diverted towards well-recharge units through field trenches, is being implemented by the varsity on 39 locations on its own research farms as well as on fields of 10 farmers. Authorities said farmers and others can install the recharging technologies by a one-time instalment of around Rs 12,000 and Rs 6,000 for open-well and bore-well, respectively. We need more stories and efforts like this one.

Telangana Desilting ponds in India benefit farmers, environment In a year-long study in India’s south eastern state of Telangana, the students are using silt dug up from ponds during the dry season as fertilizer for farm fields. The students from the University of Michigan are developing a low-cost way to increase crop yield and reduce the use of fertilizers for Indian farmers. The results are stunning: The silt reduced the use of fertilizers by 36 percent and increased the crop yield by nearly 50 percent. While the govt has not acknowledged if the results from students led to Mission Kakatiya, they have supported the research by the students. Last year, the Telangana govt introduced Mission Kakatiya—a large-scale program to desilt 46,000 ponds over the next five years. The impact will be felt across 11,000 villages and will affect 21 million villagers. Great to see mushrooming of such local initiatives with drought. If only we have a good monsoon in 2016, all this will earn very rich dividends!

MONSOON

National IMD to issue block-level forecasts soon The India Meteorological Department (IMD) will begin to issue weather forecasts at the block level later this year as per Laxman Rathore, Director General, IMD. Through this farmers could be warned, three to five days ahead, of potentially anomalous weather in their localities that could threaten their crops. The IMD currently issues such short-term forecasts in 100 districts across States and so-called agro-climatic zones. On an average, 8-10 blocks make up each of India’s 688 districts but often the weather can vary quite significantly within a district, to the extent, that farmers need different types of forecast even if say 40 km apart. The IMD generally relied on a bank of statistical data, collected over two centuries, to prepare its weather forecast. However with complaints and concerns over its accuracy — such as in predicting droughts — it has started to rely on so-called numerical weather models. Also see, In a first, IMD to bring out summer forecast

DROUGHT 

Karnataka First state to record failure of winter crop Karnataka has become the first state to witness a disastrous winter harvest this year, requesting central assistance of Rs.1,417 crore after rabi crop worth Rs.7,209 crore was damaged. The south Indian state has lost rabi crop in more than 70% of the sown area. This comes at a time when an unusually dry and warm winter has not only affected planting across India, but also raised fears of another failed crop, especially in parched states such as Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. This could sharpen the rural distress and push many farmers into a condition of grave indebtedness or, in some cases, even take extreme steps. According to the state’s farm ministry, over a thousand farmers have killed themselves in Karnataka in the last year, a record. Karnataka was also the first Indian state to announce drought in as many as 27 out of its 37 districts in August last year. It is sad news Karnataka declares Rabi Crop Failure, first state to declare that.

Centre Rs.5,000cr sought to tackle drought: Govt to SC The rural development ministry has sought for an additional Rs5,000cr from the finance ministry for NREGA implementation, especially in drought-hit states, the Centre told the Supreme Court on 11 Feb.16. The drought-hit states are Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar and Chhattisgarh. The court had earlier asked the NDA government to inform it what it had done to tackle a rural distress following back-toback droughts. The Centre, in its response said, the fresh amount had been sought in view of the government’s decision to provide additional 50 days’ employment NREGA. The court is hearing a petition by the Yogendra Yadav-led Swaraj Abhiyan, which alleged that large sections of the rural population were still in pitiable conditions due to the impact of last summer’s drought.

National Drought blamed for negative farm growth India’s agriculture growth, measured in terms of gross value added at constant prices, slipped into negative territory in the Oct-Dec quarter (first time in FY16) because of a low kharif harvest. However, on full-year basis, the govt estimates gross value added in agriculture and allied activities would rise 1.1 per cent, from negative 0.2 per cent in 2014-15, on account of good performance of livestock, horticulture, fisheries and dairy sector. But experts question projection of recovery in agriculture and allied activities based on livestock and horticulture.  This is second consecutive year of drought. The southwest monsoon in 2015 was almost 14% less than normal, registering its worst performance since 2009. Due to poor monsoon, this is the first back-to-back drought year for India in three decades, and only the fourth in more than a century.

AGRICULTURE

SRI: Responses to Frequently Asked Questions When the author Norman Uphoff first learned about System Rice Intensification (SRI) in Madagascar in 1993, this production system which offered higher yields with reduced inputs seemed implausible to him. But the professor put aside his skepticism after seeing farmers who had been getting rice yields of just two tons per hectare produce four times more rice—for three years in a row—on their very poor soils, not changing their varieties or relying on agrochemical inputs, and using less water. Now, he’s helping to disseminate this dramatically effective methodology with this accessible, easy-to-use sourcebook. It offers explanations, research references, vivid pictures, and concrete examples of the award-winning SRI methodology to anyone interested in the development of practicable sustainable food systems. This should be a useful publication.

National Horticulture survived 2014-15 consecutive droughts For farmers, the weather woes came on top of a drop in prices of key crops like rice, wheat, cotton and sugar. But one sector that escaped the weather shocks–if not the price drops–is horticulture. Food grain production dropped in drought years 2002, 2004, 2009, 2014, while horticulture production was either unaffected or stayed on its upward growth trajectory. India’s horticulture production outstripped food grains production for the third year in a row in 2014-15, this time by over 31 m tons. mostly grown by small holders, close to 90% of the land under these crops is irrigated though it constitutes just 5% of gross cropped area as per Agri Ministry report, though data is doubtful, experts say.

NAPM PR Farmers from Narmada Valley occupied District Collector office Hundreds of farmers on 09 Feb.16 from tens of villages of Narmada Valley, Badwani and Dhar Districts, occupied the office of District Collector, Badwani and compelled him to stand upright in front of the agitating Adivasis and other farmers, farm labourers and fishers. The issues raised included the farmers’ right to optimum prices for the farm produce, the loot through the corporatized, crop insurance scheme, compensation for the crop affected by natural calamities and no forcible acquisition; diverting agricultural lands to the corporates. They also protested against the move by the Collector to transfer the incomplete and inadequately established resettlement sites to the Village Panchayats without the latter having the legal mandate.

Maharashtra Subhash Palekar proponent of ‘zero-budget spiritual farming’ gets Padma Shri Subhash Palekar got to know that he was selected for the Padma Shri, while watching TV. The 66-year-old agriculturalist from Belora village of Amravati district in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region is a pioneer of ‘zero-budget spiritual farming’, a technique that he claims has over 40 lakh adherents, three-fourths of them in South India. While a staunch critic of chemical agriculture, Palekar interestingly isn’t supportive of the much-hyped ‘organic farming’. His method largely draws from ancient Indian farming techniques, at the heart of which is a formulation called ‘Jiwamrita’. Palekar’s writings have made him popular enough to attract hordes of visitors to his 31-acre farm at Belora, apart from receiving lecture invitations from across the country and even abroad. Today, he spends 25 days of the month on tour to give ‘free’ training sessions to those willing to experiment with his technique.

Sikkim Govt approves setting up national organic farming institute The agriculture ministry on 10 Feb.16 approved setting up an exclusive research institution National Organic Farming Research Institute for extending technological support to organic farming in the country at Gangtok, Sikkim. The institute will undertake basic, strategic and adaptive research on efficient, economically viable and environmentally sustainable organic farming systems for improving productivity, resource use efficiencies and quality of produce. Setting up the organic institute in Sikkim assumes significance as it is the only state in the country which has adopted organic farming on a universal basis. The state has a legislation to back adoption of organic farming as the only farm practice. It also has a law that prohibits use of agro-chemicals in the state. The institute will also impart vocational and advanced training to stakeholders for promotion of organic farming in the country.

Tamil Nadu Sugar mills body wants cane policy overhaul Indian Sugar Mills Association wants State Govt. to review & re-formulate its policies on sugarcane & sugar, including the by-products and rationalise taxes to ensure the mills are profitable. The body alleges that the current policy puts the burden solely on the mills which is both “unreasonable and unaffordable” and leads to mounting cane arrears. With over three lakh hectare under sugarcane cultivation, Tamil Nadu is the fourth largest sugar producing state in the country. accounts for 7 to 9 % of the country’s total sugar production of 260 lakh tonne. For the 12-month period ended September 2015, it produced nearly 12 lakh tonne against its production capacity of 30 lakh tonne sugar. The area under sugarcane cultivation had reduced to 50-60 per cent of what it was a few years ago.

Haryana Water scarcity: Gurgaon admn tests new wheat, barley seeds The district administration is experimenting with herbal hydrogel seeds to solve the problems of water scarcity and lack of irrigation infrastructure. The hydrogel seeds of wheat and barley, which require around 60 per cent less water than usual ones, have been sown on a pilot basis in Dabodi, Tripadi, Machana and Jatola villages. In south Haryana, especially in our area, water scarcity plagues agriculture. The majority of farmers feel the irrigation infrastructure in insufficient to meet their needs. The ever-depleting water table is making installation of tubewells and submersible pumps a failed and costly affair. 

Nine districts hit by soil salinity, water logging The twin problem of soil salinity and water logging is reaching an alarming proportion in Haryana, as around 10 per cent of the state’s land has water table less than 3-meter deep. As per Central Soil Salinity Research Institute nine districts are hit by the problem. As per Working Group (Natural Resource Management) Report of the Haryana Kisan Aayog (2013), out of 44.21 lakh hectares of area in Haryana, more than 50,000 hectares is having shallow water table of less than 1.5-meter deep, turning it into a waste land. What is even worrisome is that the problem is being aggravated by the use of sub-soil water, which is either saline or alkaline in most parts of the state. As per data compiled from Groundwater Yearbook (2010-2011) of the Central Groundwater Board, groundwater is severally affected by salinity and or alkalinity in districts hit by soil salinity and water logging. Also see, Soil salinity, water logging leaves Fatehabad farmers in debt

GM Mustard Trial Voices of dissent against GM mustard increase Many political parties have opposed Centre’s possible assent to commercial planting of GM mustard. Some farmer associations also joined the debate, demanding the govt not give its nod and instead make bio-safety test results public. Environmentalists also expressed concern over the secretive processes adopted by the regulators and not releasing bio-safety data in the public domain. Also read, Govt to decide on commercial planting of GM mustard Keeping its agenda, records of discussions and results of safety trials under wraps, the environment ministry’s Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee is set to decide next week whether it is safe to commercially grow genetically modified mustard. The committee was scheduled to meet on February 5 and could make a final recommendation on what could be India’s first commercially-grown genetically modified food crop. Also see, SC asks govt. to explain move on GM mustard introduction The Supreme Court has sought an explanation from the central govt on its proposed move to introduce herbicide resistant mustard, cotton and corn in the face of a court-imposed ban on their introduction.

ENERGY OPTIONS

Centre Govt takes e-tail route to push LED drive Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL), a special purpose vehicle formed by state-run companies under the power ministry, has tied up with Snapdeal, one of the major online marketplaces in the country, for selling these energy-efficient bulbs. A tie-up with Snapdeal would help the govt expand its marketing and distribution reach over 5,000 cities and towns to push use of LED bulbs. EESL has so far distributed nearly 5.6cr bulbs. This has resulted in saving daily peak demand of 1,735 mw – or nearly a third of Delhi’s consumption – amounting to daily cost saving of over Rs 7,000 cr and reducing greenhouse emissions equivalent to 16,092 tonnes of CO2. The govt wants to replace all 77cr incandescent bulbs sold in India with LED bulbs. This would result in reduction of 20,000 mw load, energy savings of 105 billion units and reduce greenhouse gas emission equivalent to 80 million tonnes of CO2 every year. The annual saving in electricity bills is estimated at Rs 40,000cr, considering an average tariff of Rs 4 per unit.

Kolkata Rent your rooftop and get solar power at a cheaper rate Solar companies in Kolkata are targeting industrial establishments, commercial buildings, malls and large gated communities to set up solar rooftops for free and sell you power at rates that are cheaper than the local utilities. The report also mentions few reasons that are holding back success of the large scale rooftop solar installations e.g. there are no model lease agreements and there is no way of making these agreements between the solar company and the roof owner a binding agreement. Cost of generating power differs in different places due to difference in the intensity of sun’s rays.  There is a feeling that the rooftop belongs to the families staying on the top floor, hence they feel that they are entitled to the power being generated from rooftop.

SOUTH ASIA

India-China Flows & Flaws: Diverting the debate on water with China China’s growing water thirst lends an urgency to understand China’s resource choices, the possible conditions under which it is likely to exercise these choices and the ripple effects these are likely to have across the borders. China is witnessing a virtual dam-building boom and much of this expansion is based on augmenting capacity in its western region, which is being projected as the energy powerhouse of the country. As the Zangmu hydroelectric dam, China’s largest hydroelectric dam on the Brahmaputra recently became fully operational, it brought in its wake a virtual paranoia over its likely downstream impact.  This policy brief from CPR rightly says that while over interpretation and hysteria has tended to take the place of informed scholarship and media, India’s official narrative has largely tended to downplay many of these concerns”. However, it calls Mekong River Commission as a “successful case”, which is questionable.

Pakistan China built Khwar hydro project defunct for 6 months: WAPDA Water And Power Development Agency (WAPDA) officials blamed Dungfang Electric Corporation a China company for using substandard equipments while setting up the plant that has now resulted in non-functioning of the project. The officials also asked the Chinese company to replace the existing machinery what the company has refused stating that it had handed over the project to WAPDA. According report the purchase of new equipment would cost Rs100 million and dislodging of old & installation of new machinery would take three months process. WAPDA officials feared that any further delay in the repair of the fault would cause irreparable loss to the machinery and equipment at the unit.

Nepal World Bank signs US$22.5 million hydropower project loan agreement The World Bank has been active in helping Nepal cultivate its hydroelectric power sector, with the organization inviting expressions of interest in rehabilitating the 144-MW Kali Gandaki A plant earlier this month. According the report the World Bank’s financing will help pay for environmental and social impact assessments on the 335-MW Upper Arun and 30-MW Ikhuwa Khola hydropower plants, alongside design and bidding documents. The funding will also help Nepal’s Energy Ministry and Electricity Authority develop plans for integrating hydropower into water resource planning and management plans, while also improving regulatory frameworks for resource management. Nepal’s Ministry of Finance said the loan carries a 40-year repayment term. This is a significant development. Also see, Nepal hydro power model inefficient: Experts This article is suggesting what SANDRP too suggested about use of pump storage hydro to function as battery for access solar power generation during day time.

Bhutan Hydro projects increased debt on the country An overview of hydropower developments in Bhutan by the Bhutanese newspaper highlights mixed signals. The news that Bhutan’s hydropower construction spree in the recent years has increased debt burden on the country is still raising concerns. Concerns are emerging over Bhutan’s profligate spending on a single sector, severe risk of climate change effects and huge social and ecological cost involved. However the government, both the former and the current, has stressed that hydropower debts are self-liquidating. Legislators are sheep and wool in going ahead with harnessing more hydropower. They bleat that the debt is sustainable because projects will eventually generate significant revenue, boost exports and fuel economic growth. The year also witnessed debate among the environmentalists and government sprouting in the social media on the Chamkharchu project. As we stride into fire Male Monkey Year, the nation can expect many interesting developments in the hydropower sector and its consequences, both good and bad.

REST OF THE WORLD 

Global Post-Dam future has started On February 5 the power utility of California’s capital Sacramento decided to cancel the $1.5 billion Iowa Hill Dam, a pumped storage project in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The decision may not be remarkable by itself, but marks a watershed moment and signals the early beginnings of an exciting development away from large dams. Last year, Deutsche Bank predicted that batteries will become cheap enough for mass deployment within five years. Australia’s Climate Council has also predicted that all Australian households will adopt solar systems with battery storage within ten years. It seems that affordable battery storage will change the way the power sector works. The cancellation of the Iowa Hill Project shows that the first power utility has seen the signs on the times. The days of large hydro is beginning to end and such projects do not have future, predicts Peter Bosshard of International Rivers, it seems quite accurate. Also see, River Romance Rhapsody We love rivers but we often don’t treat them well. We have dammed them and polluted them, straightened them out and diverted them. Movie star or not, you wouldn’t want to swim in the Tiber, the Arno or Ganga anymore these days. Rivers are struggling to provide us with the clean water, the fisheries and the nutrients that they have delivered for many generations. A wonderful article celebrating rivers and love by Peter Bosshard.

Dam bigger reason behind deforestation around world It is very apt article by Bill Laurance, Distinguished Research Professor, James Cook University. The article indicates that DAMS and associated infra projects power lines, approach roads are bigger reason behind deforestation over planet earth. From 2000 to 2012, an area of forest two and half times the size of Texas was destroyed, while a tenth of all core forests vanished. Core forests are disappearing because a tsunami of new roads, dams, power lines, pipelines and other infrastructure is rapidly slicing into the world’s last wild places. When one begins to look in detail at the proposed projects, an intriguing pattern appears. Many are either poorly justified or will have far greater costs than benefits. If we’re going to have any wild places left for our children and grandchildren, we simply can’t say “yes” to every proposed development project. For those that will have serious environmental and social consequences, we need to start saying “no” a lot more often.

Nigeria World Bank’s Kandadji dam leaves Niger communities high and dry The future of World Bank funded Kandadji dam on Niger River is in doubt given problems with the resettlement process and construction delays. Many resettlement communities are struggling with a lack of potable water. There is not enough space to resettle 33000 more affected people. At the same time, there is growing impatience on the part of the project’s financiers, whose loans remain undisbursed. In the face of persistent failures by the government to meet key milestones on resettlement, and amid intense scrutiny over the World Bank’s resettlement track record, the World Bank is facing the prospect of pulling out. The World Bank appears unable to learn its hard-won lessons, and for all the Bank’s innovations, dam-affected communities are routinely left worse off. With Kandadji, another of the World Bank’s model dams is turning sour. It is blog by International River.

US Flint Water Pollution Past toxic poisoning future of America  “I know if I was a parent up there, I would be beside myself if my kids’ health could be at risk,” said President Obama on a recent trip to Michigan. Flint is a rusting industrial city in the grip of a “water crisis” brought on by a government austerity scheme. The report alleges that To save a couple of million dollars, that city switched its source of water from Lake Huron to the Flint River, a long-time industrial dumping ground for the toxic industries. Now, the city is enveloped in a public health emergency, with elevated levels of lead in its water supply and in the blood of its children. The price tag for replacing the lead pipes that contaminated its drinking water is now estimated at up to $1.5 billion. No one knows where that money will come from or when it will arrive. In the meantime, the cost to the children of Flint has been and will be incalculable. Water Pollution crisis in drinking water in Flint in Michigan US has evoked strong words.

The Flint River lead poisoning catastrophe in historical perspective By now the main facts of the Flint River lead poisoning are pretty well known and essentially undisputed. A spectacular regulatory failure by all levels of government – enabled by Michigan Governor Snyder’s unprecedented “emergency management” policies for African-American majority cities. The big remaining question is why this disaster happened? The Snyder administration and investigators have focused on gross incompetence of many officials, especially state and federal environmental regulators. That is clearly part of what happened, but why?

Cities and towns across the US suffer lead poisoning rates worse than Flint While the Flint water crisis has drawn international attention due to the magnitude of the disaster and the callous criminality of government officials involved, the high rates of lead poisoning in the Flint population are not unique. Countless cities and towns across the United States suffer from lead levels that are as high as what has been reported in Flint—and in many cases, far worse. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s 2014 figures, 18 Pennsylvania cities had a higher percentage of children with elevated blood lead levels than Flint.

Economics of public safety Public safety needs to be put into perspective with other costs. The Flint situation offered many opportunities for the research community. Researchers could rebuild public trust if scientists identify issues affecting public safety early, complete good-quality research quickly, and publicly release their findings. One strong recommendation is to involve scientists early on in major decisions that affect public health or safety. Flint is a disaster of many proportions, from the illnesses of its victims to the questions it raises about the integrity of government officials and science agencies. Has trust in science been poisoned, along with the water? I can no longer drink a glass of tap water without thinking about either. Can we think of an Indian scientific organisation doing research on these lines that helps right decisions?

NASA Study Increasing water on land slowing down rising seas Climate change has caused Earth’s parched land masses to soak up increasing amounts of water in the last decade, slowing the pace of sea level rise, according to a new NASA study.  The study shows that while ice sheets and glaciers continue to melt, changes in weather and climate over the past decade have caused Earth’s continents to store an extra 3.2 trillion tonnes of water in soils, lakes and underground aquifers, temporarily slowing the rate of sea level rise by about 20%. New measurements from a NASA satellite have allowed researchers to identify and quantify, for the first time, how climate-driven increases of liquid water storage on land have affected the rate of sea level rise. This sounds VERY counter intuitive, so will need further details to confirm where this additional water is getting stored, besides the greater storage within the atmosphere.

US Modelling residual flood risk behind levees, Upper Mississippi River: Study The combined hydraulic and economic modelling covered in the study documented that levee-related surcharge + the residual risk of levee overtopping or failure can lead to negative benefits, meaning added long-term flood risk. Up to 31% of residential structures in the study area, 8% of agricultural structures, and 22% of commercial structures received negative benefits, totalling $562,500 per year. Although counterintuitive, structures at the margin of a leveed floodplain can incur negative benefits due to greater flood levels resulting from levees purportedly built to protect them. National levee policies and plans for local projects are unbalanced, crediting levee benefits but rarely fully planning for adverse impacts or considering alternatives. While Embankments (called levees in US as in this article) have benefits, its costs and impacts are unassessed, says this study.

Also see, Every drop of Earth’s water fits into a really small space over the US  Stunning image reveals all the Earth’s water would form a sphere just 860 miles wide. The findings come from a recently updated map created by the US Geological Survey to show what it looks like if all the water on the planet is condensed into a sphere over the US.

ENVIRONMENT

National Govt needs to be transparent with its environmental policy The NDA govt came to power promising greater accountability and transparency in higher echelons of government. But, on issues of environmental rights and attendant public interests it has instead worked in stealth mode on one too many occasions. Modi govt is often formulating its environmental policy secretively. These policies impacts millions and involves businesses worth billions. The opaqueness stinks of vested interests being in control and others being handed a fait accompli. Decisions arrived at by stealth generate a stench of distrust. This stink now pervades some of NDA’s environmental policy decisions. It is the right of the public to know and not a privilege of the elected government to share information based on its whims and fancies.  It is a very relevant article by Nitin Sethi.

6 critical areas where the new national wildlife plan falls short The country’s third National Wildlife Action Plan for 2017-2031 is 113 pages of recommendations. The draft went public on the website of the Ministry of Environment, Forests, & Climate Change on 4 February. It invites comments from the public until 17 February. The document provides detailed recommendations for protected areas. But it falls far short in other subjects. The chapters on wetland and coastal conservation, wildlife tourism, and people’s rights are just as vague and unscientific. It’s as if the committee suffers from amnesia, ignoring the debates, scientific progress, and experiences of the past decade. What’s worse: this plan is to guide conservation for 14 long years. To be effective, it needs to be flexible enough to absorb scientific advances and learn from experiences. Author Janaki Lenin The highlights lacunae in National Wildlife Action Plan (2017-2031).

Urban Planning experts doubtful about Govt Smart City Mission While the Government has set in motion the process of building smart cities with the selection of 20 cities in the first phase, experienced urban planners and experts doubt the likely success of the government’s ambitious programme given its present approach. They think that the government’s “consultants-led approach” is unlikely to take the prestigious project to a successful completion. The experts were participating in a two-day international conference on “Future scenarios for urbanising India: Governance, Security and Environmental Change”, jointly organised by Observer Research Foundation and Peace Research Institute, Oslo on 08-09 Feb.16. The Conference was an important part of a collaborative project funded by the Research Council of Norway. A large number of experts from India and abroad show why Smart City program is not smart, environmentally sensitive or people centric and how climate change issue is neglected

Centre The green ministry hires social media experts to show its not anti-environment The ministry has put out a tender seeking a social network management agency that will coordinate all its media activities and amplify its efforts towards sustainable development, growth and environment protection, development without destruction, poverty eradication and green growth. The agency, according to the tender, will also be responsible for uploading of audio and video content on social media. Interestingly, this is not the first time that the environment ministry has turned to outside experts. Last year, in the run-up to the Paris climate change conference, the ministry hired a private firm for such a campaign in India and Paris. The ministry official said the contract could be worth a few million rupees but added that it is necessary. While this is funny and ironic at one level, it will be good if the responsible officials indeed respond to comments in an open manner. However, that is not likely to happen.

Tamil Nadu SC ruling on forest land delivers justice to tribals A Supreme Court ruling on 01 Feb.16 delivered justice to the rights of forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes in the state. The court vacated a stay by the Madras high court in April, 2008, restricting the distribution of title deeds to these forest-dwelling communities in the state. Distribution of land titles was mandated by the “Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers  Act, 2006“, popularly known as the Forests Rights Act (FRA) promulgated in the year 2006. Many states and Union territories which have such forest-dwelling communities started implementing FRA immediately after the notification of the rules on 01 Jan. 2008, by issuing title deeds to land. Contrary to this in a response to a PIL contesting the constitutional validity of this Act, the Madras high court, in April 2008, granted a restrictive prohibitory order on the issue of title deeds to tribal communities.

Odisha NGT issues notices over environment norm violation in Talabira-1 coal mine NGT Eastern Zone bench, Kolkata has issued notices to Ministry of Environment and Forest, Odisha government and Odisha State Pollution Control Board over plea for cancellation of environment clearance granted to Talabira-1 opencast coal mining near Hirakud Reservoir Local residents Subash Mohapatra and Hemant Rout had moved NGT pointing out that the coal mining was being carried out very near to eco-sensitive zone and  operator has been consistently violating environmental norms. Petitioner prayed for the Environment Clearance granted in 2011 should be suspended till full compliance of all the conditions imposed in environment clearance is met. It seems like a test case, let us see what happens in this case.

Goa State ready to declare Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary as tiger reserve With the Wildlife Institute of India pitching for a tiger reserve corridor along Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra, the Goa government has finally expressed its desire to declare the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary, located along the Western Ghats, as a tiger reserve for the protection and preservation of big cat. The final decision on declaring the sanctuary a tiger reserve will be taken after receiving reports about the animal’s presence, which is expected next year. The Forest Department is currently undertaking a tiger census in the State to ascertain the existence of the wild cat and this will continue till 2017. The preliminary census report of the State has confirmed the presence of the wild cat in the sanctuary. The camera-trap technique used by the forest department in a joint initiate with WII in 2014-15 had shown the presence of tigers. The Forest department census of 2002, 2006 and in 2010 had showed the presence of the tiger in Goa. This is significant news. And just 3 km from here, Maharashtra is damming a feeder river, without any clearances!

Delhi HC warned over fast disappearing forest area The Delhi High Court was on 10Feb. 16 told that the forest areas in the national capital were “disappearing very fast” due to rampant encroachment. A division bench of Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva was further informed by amicus curiae Kailash Vasudev, who was assisting the court in a suo moto case on air pollution in city that Delhi is left with green cover of 20.8 percent while the master plan 2021 requires it to be 30 percent. The bench asked for a survey of actual area forest area in the capital and posted the matter for further hearing after three weeks. During the hearing, the chief forest conservator, Delhi told the court that old trees emit more carbon dioxide than oxygen and thus they have to be replaced with new ones in a planned manner. Hearing the submission, the court asked whether CFC’s statement was based on “scientific info” as it was contrary to popular notion.

Haryana Govt demarcates Mangar Bani forest area Taking a step towards protecting the Aravalli mountain range, the Haryana government has identified the Mangar Bani on scientific principles. As per the exercise carried out by the forest department, the Mangar Bani area has been found to be about 677 acres and the 500-metre buffer will have about 1,200 acre, however abadi areas of the village will be excluded. The National Capital Region Planning Board had earmarked the Mangar Bani grove in Haryana as “no-construction zone” and said that it would be out of bounds for tourism activities. The decision was taken in a meeting in May 2014 after following strong protests from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest, the Delhi govt and environmentalists. Though the Mangar Bani was declared “no construction zone”, the Haryana government was dilly-dallying on measuring the total area of the Mangar Bani and the buffer zone.

Maharashtra Forest cover declines despite successful plantations All the plantations done by forest department have wonderful success rate, yet Maharashtra was among the 12 states the forest cover has declined. Nagpur, Bhandara and Gondia districts contributed to the decline in net forest cover by 4 sqkm as per India State of Forest Report 2015. Some facts about afforestation An evaluation report by state forest department itself reveals the circle-wise performance of 10-year-old plantations since 2004. In Nagpur Circle, only 22% plantations were successful, 11% partially successful and 67% failed. This evaluation was done at just 9% sites. Besides, evaluation of 2011 rain plantations (3-year-old) reveals that in Nagpur Circle 8% plantations were successful while 17% were partially successful and 75% failed.

You may like to visit DRP News Bulletin 08 Feb.2016 & DRP News Bulletin 01 Feb. 2016

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