DRP News Bulletin 14 March 2016 (No Rain Dance, Only Dry Holy This Time: Pune District Administration)

Dam levels down, ‘rain dance’ for Holi dropped Pune district, where a water cut is in effect due to depleting water levels in the dams, will not have any kind of “rain dance” functions this Holi. As water reserved in the dams is to be used only for drinking purposes as per the district administration’s instructions, the collectorate has urged people to go for a “Dry Holi” this year and will ensure that there are no such functions during Holi. With dam levels coming down to as much as 23% of their capacity, the entertainment department of the collectorate will ensure that permissions are not given for events like the “rain dance” during the festival. Meanwhile, a BJP legislator in Mumbai has written to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Commissioner seeking a ban on “rain dance” functions in Mumbai in the metro during Holi. Ameet Satam, in a letter to the BMC, said that the civic body should ban rain dance and even asked the corporation to slap a fine of Rs 50,000 on those who indulge in waste of water.

Another news report mentions that a law and order problem has arisen in the parched Marathwada region, threatening to snowball into social conflict. Last week, the police were called in to deploy and organise tankers under their protection after furious residents of Dongargaon village refused water supply from their dam to nearby Latur city. 11 villages are denying the city water from the Dongargaon dam, justifying the move on grounds that their plight was no better. Eventually, a team of 25 water tankers, under the vigilant eye of the police were pressed into service to draw water from the dam and ferry it to Latur.

Early in the week 2 women died due to water related issues in Laturr.  Civic officials said Latur city has seen at least five such water- related deaths. Latur is going through worst water crisis as the Manjara dam in Dhanegaon village has gone completely dry. As a result, the civic body has not been able to supply tap water. It was otherwise supplying water every 22 days, but since 22 Feb it has completely stopped supply water. Citizens are reportedly forced to spend Rs 1,000 almost every day as the water quota provided by the civic body is not sufficient to meet needs. Over 150 small & big hospitals also have been hit hard.  In September last year, Latur’s residents received water supply barely once a month.

In the 540-odd villages across 13 talukas in Pune district, the groundwater levels have alarmingly plummeted to 1 to 3 meter, as per a recent report by the Groundwater Surveys and Development Agency. This acute water scarcity has stunted the growth of the Rabi crop with eight of the 12 Tehsils reporting 40% less than their normal sowing.  The urban areas of Pune, Solapur and Daund, have staked claim on this precious stock of water, while the State Government has hinted that it might supply arid Latur and other parts of water-bereft Marathwada with this reserve stock.

The government on its part has decided to grant Rs 10,000 crore to boost water conservation in the drought-prone districts which is long term plan and would not be able improve water situation in near future. One more report has covered that over 100 farmers in drought affected Wardha sought suicide clearance  

The situation is also worsening in Palakkad district of Kerala as all the major sources of water rivers, dams, ponds are drying up. Similarly water levels in major reservoirs in country has declined to alarming levels and the current level is 71% of last year’s capacity, far below the average level of the last 10 years

HYDRO POWER 

National 4,371-MW hydro power addition goal in 12th Plan may slip  Rao Inderjit Singh the Planning Minister in a written reply to the Lok Sabha on 08 March 16 stated that the planned hydro power generation capacity addition of 4,371mw out of a total target of 10,897 mw in the 12th Plan (2012-17) will not be completed in the policy period or by 31 March 2017. The factors for this slippage include disruption of works by locals, delay in regulatory clearance, land acquisition issues and poor geology. Replaying to a query whether NITI Aayog has recently conducted a survey on revival of hydro-power projects across the country in which a large amount has been invested, the minister replied in the negative.

Assam Expert panel against dam at Lower Subansiri The four-member expert panel of Assam has in its final report on the Lower Subansiri HEP “refused” to give its consent for construction of the 2,000MW dam in its present design and form. Work on the project had been kept in abeyance following the constitution of an expert panel comprising the four experts of Assam, besides another group of experts recommended by the Government of India in December 2014. Briefing media-persons on the expert from Assam committee’s findings KMSS adviser Akhil Gogoi said that the report exposed the serious lapses and the casual approach of the engineers and experts of the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) which wanted to get the project cleared in a hurry, undermining the serious concerns of the downstream populace of Assam. The KMSS also announced that it would now launch a stir for ‘‘demolishing’’ the dam, as it has been established that “it is no more than a water-bomb” hanging over the people of Assam. Also see, Mega dams will destroy Assam 

Sikkim Centre to fastrack implementation of 3 hydro plants Looking to put back on track three stalled power projects in Sikkim, the Centre this week will meet officials of the state government and PSUs to resolve issues hampering implementation of the proposed plants. The three stalled plants Panan, Teesta VI and Rangit IV  in Sikkim have total generation capacity of 920Mw. According to a senior official power ministry has called a meeting this week with top officials of Sikkim and PSUs like NHPC to resolve the key issues plaguing implementation of Panan, Teesta VI and Rangit IV power projects. The Centre is roping in the Sikkim government as the state has awarded these contracts and is also beneficiary of the projects. This is unlikely to succeed.

Himachal Concern expressed over India’s hydro-power plans Environmental Justice Atlas, an interactive portal conceived by an international team has expressed concern over India’s plans on hydro-power generation in Himachal Pradesh and northeast. In collaboration with the local environmental research collective Himdhara, the team has prepared a featured map for the State to highlight key issues of environmental justice in the state. The group says that with hundreds of new projects coming up in the state the situation was “alarming.” According to available data, it was estimated that 70 percent of the Sutlej river will be diverted for hydropower purposes. In the case of Nathpa Jhakri Hydro project, the communities claimed that about 128 water sources would be affected due to the blasting and excavation activities inside the mountains. The team also underline the necessity of consultations with locals. With over 200 reported conflicts India tops the EJAtlas, put together by the EJOLT project ‘Environmental Justice, Liabilities and Trade’.

J&K State plans to start 66 hydro projects worth 7645 mw capacity in next 7 years The decision was taken on 10 March during 71st meeting of the board of directors of J&K State Power Development Corporation chaired by Governor N N Vohra. The Governor asked the Managing Director to urgently identify project wise critical issues and personally ensure strict adherence to the timeliness of each project to avoid cost escalation and generation loss due to the traditional recurring delays in project execution.  The crucial decisions taken in the meeting also include approval for construction of 178 Meter Steel Bridge over river Chenab on access road to 1,856 MW Sawalkote Hydro Electric Project (HEP) besides 1,500 Meter double lane tunnel for external access to the HEP. With a view to expedite the construction of 93 MW New Ganderbal HEP, the board approved constitution of a high level committee to examine the issues related to cost of the HEP within a period of one month and submit its recommendations for approval of the government.

Arunachal CM lays down modalities for revenue generation In order to create a strong resource base and gear up investments, Chief Minister (CM) Kalikho Pul 06 March laid down modalities to improve revenue generation and to plug “leakage” of revenue in the state.  In the power and hydro power sector, the CM encouraged the departments to develop small hydels with the generating capacity from 10kw to 500kw in order to provide power to interior blocks so that it is made self-sufficient. He also stressed on tapping the huge hydro-power potential of the state by developing mega projects to make the state self-sustainable and self-sufficient. While this is good, new CM’s simultaneous emphasis on large hydro is clearly non starter and counterproductive. Particularly in view of the track record and lack of credible impact assessment or public consultations, his advocacy for large hydro seems to give credence to suggestions that he has come in power with their backing.

Punjab 27 years on, unused SYL hydro gear to be sold as scrap Even as the state government is preparing itself to fight another legal battle with its neighbouring states and the Centre over river water sharing, Punjab State Power Corporation Limited has finally given its nod to dispose of hundreds of tonnes of heavy machinery it had purchased around 27 years ago to set up 2 hydel projects of 20mw each over the controversial Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal one at Malakpur village near Anandpur Sahib and other near Rajpura. Interestingly, the machinery, which was purchased for around Rs 27 crore in 1989, will now be sold to scrap dealers in an auction. Sources reveal that BoD has decided in favour of selling it to scrap dealers after Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited advised the corporation that the equipment couldn’t be used for new projects of a similar nature.

Karnataka Residents oppose Ganeshpal mini-hydel project Local residents led by taluk panchayat member Narasimha Hegde met Uttara Kannada Deputy Commissioner Ujwalkumar Ghosh at the site for the Ganeshpal mini- hydel project on 09 March to express their opposition to the project. The permission given to Kare Power Resources Pvt. Ltd. to take up the project was cancelled in view of the protests by the people. The permission given to the company expired on 16 Sep 2015. Mr. Ghosh visited the spot in the backdrop of reports that Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Limited has revoked the permission given to the company. Deputy Conservator of Forests Mr. Manjunath told Mr. Ghosh that the site would come under the Shalmala Valley Conserve and permission of the National Board for Wild Life was required to take up a project there.

DAM  

National Storage Status of 91 major reservoirs as on 10 March 2016 The water storage available in 91 major reservoirs of the country for the week ending on March 10, 2016 was 45.801 BCM which is 29% of total storage capacity of these reservoirs. This was 71% of the storage of corresponding period of last year and 74% of storage of average of last ten years.  States having better storage than last year for corresponding period are Andhra Pradesh and Tripura. States having equal storage than last year for corresponding period is West Bengal. States having lesser storage than last year for corresponding period are Himachal Pradesh, AP&TG (Two combined project in both states), Punjab, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Odisha, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. Also see, Water levels in reservoirs decline to alarming levels

Chhattisgarh Leaders raises Polavaram dam issue in State Assembly The construction of Polavaram dam will lead to displacement of over 45,000 tribal and non-tribal people residing in Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh . Work on installation of water-blocking walls would start in next 1 week & 30 % work of the scheme will be completed within the next 6 months. In Chhattisgarh approximately 8,000 hectares of normal land, 40 villages and 7,000 hectares of agricultural land will come under submergence area in Konta tehsil of Sukma district. Besides, vast forest and mineral resources will come under the dam’s submergence area. Areas inhabited by Dorla and Koya, both protected tribes, will get submerged, putting their very survival at risk.  Work on the project is going to start but it seems the Chhattisgarh Govt is not serious on the issue of displacement of tribal people  and submergence of tribal farming land.

Tamil Nadu Farmers oppose plan for additional dam Farmers say that construction of another dam near Athoor Kamarajar dam would stop the flow in the river, destroying all drinking water and irrigation sources, and wipe out food production of 1,500 tonnes per season. Already, the western side of the river was affected owing to discharge of tannery effluents into Kudaganar river. If there were no flow in the river, tannery effluents would percolate into fertile land on the eastern. Excess water from Athoor dam had been used to fill several tanks for indirect irrigation. Before the construction of Athoor dam, the entire ayacut was a triple-cropping area. Now the overflowing water from the dam was the only source to recharge groundwater and irrigation and drinking water wells at 75 villages on both sides of river between Athoor and Azhagapuri dams. The State government had sanctioned Rs. 70 crore for the dam to create additional storage facility.  

Central Water Commission official inspects Ponnainyar dam A senior official of the Central Water Commission on 07 March inspected the progress of work on the renovation of the Ponnaniyar dam in the Kadavur region on Tiruchi-Karur district border. The scenic dam is renovated at a cost of about Rs. 2.50 crore under the Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project funded by the World Bank. The dam built in 1974 has catchment area spread over 33.60 square miles. The dam stands 51 metres tall with a storage capacity of 120 million cubic feet (mcft). This is the first major renovation to be taken up in the structure. The dam has 2,100 acres, mostly dry land. Chief Minister Jayalalithaa laid the foundation stone for the project on 27 Feb. The work was expected to be completed within a year.

West Bengal Low water level shuts down most of Farakka power plant  Abysmally low level of water in the Farakka Feeder Canal has caused the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) to shut down five units of its power plant at Farakka in Murshidabad district of West Bengal. The five units together have a combined generating capacity of 1600 MW and the shutdown is likely to affect Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and industry in the Eastern Region, officials said today. Describing the dip in water level as “unprecedented” NTPC officials said that the situation is unlikely to improve in the next few days unless water is fed into the canal from the barrage. This is the first time in the last decade when NTPC has been forced to switch off all the Stage I and II units together for water scarcity. This sounds quite alarming situation as the 2100 MW Farakka power plant is able to generate only 200 MW power due to water shortage in the feeder canal from Ganga.

Kerala Palakkad in the grip of water scarcity Though summer is yet to set in, most parts of Palakkad district are facing acute shortage of drinking and irrigation water, with the drying up of its major water sources. Water in Malampuzha dam, the State’s largest irrigation dam, was released twice in the last one week in view of shortage of drinking water in Shoranur and Ottappalam regions. Drawing of water from pump houses located on the bed of the almost dried-up Bharatapuzha has become impossible and it would take four more days for the released water from Malampuzha to reach the pump houses. Normal functioning of the Ottappalam, Shoranur, Ongallur and Vallapuzha drinking water schemes has been crippled in the last one week. In the previous years, the shutters of the Malampuzha dam were opened only in April-end. Meanwhile, there is a scramble for drinking water, supplied in tanker tankers in Chittur, the worst-hit taluk. More grama panchayats located on the eastern borders of the district are increasingly relying on such tankers.

RIVERS AS NATIONAL WATERWAYS

National Rajya Sabha passes inland waterways bill On 09 March the Rajya Sabha passed the National Waterways Bill 2015 unopposed setting the stage for the adoption of the new law. The bill had already been cleared by Lok Sabha last year and would now be sent to the President for his approval. Many of the Parliamentarians across political lines raised environment and occupational concerns and cautioned that the law should not infringe upon state government rights on rivers and water bodies. Most members complimented Nitin Gadkari for such a radical plan to makeover the transport matrix. However, environmentalists have been opposing the bill, claiming that because of the numerous large and small dams, the water flow in the rivers is severely restricted. Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP stated that the state governments are not realizing how it going to impact them and would be suicidal for them at the time when extreme climate change is being witnessed through drought, floods, river-erosion and declining agriculture and fisheries.

INTER-STATE WATER DISPUTES  

Harayana & Punjab Budget session: Governor backs State on river water sharing agreements Speaking on the first day of Punjab’s Vidhan Sabha, Punjab and Haryana Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki on 08 March supported Punjab’s claim to water from its rivers. He added that the Centre must resolve the “injustice and discrimination” meted out to the state. Over the last week, Punjab has repeatedly maintained that it cannot share its water with Haryana as it is itself suffering from shortage of water. The Governor also said that if the reliance on tube well irrigation water continued, the state could turn into a desert in the near future. His statement on the issue comes on the heels of the renewed hearing over the water sharing dispute between Punjab and Haryana. The Congress walked out from the house over the issue of Satluj Yamuna Link (SYL) canal and ineptness handling of the state government in the water disputes issue. After this on 10 March amid high drama, Punjab Vidhan Sabha adopted resolution against sharing river water stating that Punjab did not have even a single drop of water to give to anyone and any decision of injustice against Punjab on river waters would never be acceptable. The resolution moved by CM Parkash Singh Badal said that as per riparian principles, Punjab has full right on its river water and despite that the state was forced to share its water by enacting different resolutions and decisions. The CM also said that the farmers in the state had to get 73 % of the water using tube wells, due to which the water level of the ground is depleting. Striking at the root of the contentious SYL canal row, Parkash Singh Badal also announced that the acquisition of the entire 5,376 acre land for SYL will be de-notified and given back to owners. The move comes a day before the Supreme Court was set to hear a Presidential reference on the validity of the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, enacted by the Punjab assembly in 2004. The move is set to open another Pandora box in the protracted legal battles between Punjab and Haryana on the river water tangle. Meanwhile Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar demanding SYL water share stated that the water belongs to Haryana and the state would get it. Reacting on the Punjab CM decision to de-notify the SYL land as “unfortunate” the Haryana CM stated that the decision by Punjab govt after the Supreme Court had begun hearing the Presidential Reference on the Punjab Termination of Agreement Act, 2004, was disappointing and driven by purely political considerations. The canal was mooted for water sharing among Punjab, Haryana, Himachal and Rajasthan but was unilaterally called off by Punjab in 2004. The matter is before the Supreme Court. Khattar also said that he was confident that Haryana would get every drop of its legitimate share of river waters. The waters issue were reported to be taken up during an all-party meeting on 12 March.

Punjab’s refusal to share water may lead to tug of war within BJP Haryana is in no mood to buy the Punjab government’s “no-surplus-water-to-share” declaration and will counter this “political stunt” pulled off with an eye on the Assembly elections slated for the next year. While Haryana is getting 16 of the 35 lakh acre feet (LAF) that comes from the Ravi-Beas allocation, the “water war” between the states is over the remaining 19 LAF that Punjab is unwilling to concede despite previous agreements and court orders. For the first-time BJP government in the state, Punjab’s refusal to give Haryana its due could well end up as a tug of war between the respective state units of the party. While a delegation of the Punjab BJP, also an alliance partner of the Shiromani Akali Dal in power in Punjab, recently met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to convey its inability to give more water to Haryana, sources in the Haryana BJP, too, are not averse to approaching the Centre to push for what is “rightfully” theirs. Meanwhile one another informative news report states that the legal validity of the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004 is not only the case being faced by the state with regard to river waters in the Supreme Court and elsewhere. There is virtually a mountain of cases burdening the state since decades. In fact, for the past about five decades or since its reorganization in 1966, Punjab is knotted in a maze of legal battles. On sharing of river waters and on the issue of the control of certain head works, not only Haryana but Rajasthan is also a litigant against Punjab. Likewise, Punjab had also filed cases on various matters related to the distribution of river waters and attendant issues. The failure of the Centre to resolve the inter-state issues over the years has kept states, especially Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan busy in litigation at various High Courts and the Supreme Court. Not only in court, the state witnessed a long bout of violent agitation which took a fierce turn on the issue of SYL construction in the early 80’s. Finally an excellent Op-Ed titled Pouring fire on water: Keep SYL passions limited to courts, off streets in The Tribune on Punjab & Haryana water war suggests politicians including CMs & leaders of opposition to exercise cautions in making public statements and refrain from inciting public over SYL issue otherwise the move may end up pitting the farming communities of the two states against each other and that would be nothing less than sinister as Punjab has known a dark period, and Haryana has just experienced the choking grip of communalism. What can be sorted out in courts and legislatures should not be sought to be settled in the streets.

Andhra Pradesh Farmers oppose Telangana irrigation accord with Maharashtra Andhra’s farming community has objected to the construction of new irrigation projects involving construction of several barraes on Godavari river in Telangana state. They plan to approach government authorities and also the River Management Board. According to AP Reorganisation Act, the construction of new projects on the Godavari river should be taken up after getting the permission from Central Water Commission. As per reports, the Telangana government has proposed new barrages on Godavari River at Tupakulagudem, Medigadda, Annaram and Ellampalli along with Dammugudem. The Telangana government proposed the projects with an attached cost of Rs 30,000 crore. The allege that Telangana government did not follow the rules and Andhra government remained silent. They said that they wish to approach the Supreme Court on the matter. Maharashtra Telangana accord on Godavari projects leads to new dispute with Andhra Pradesh.

Kerala Govt opposes Tamil Nadu move for check-dam Yet another inter-State river water sharing dispute is in the offing with the State Irrigation Department objecting to Tamil Nadu’s move to construct a check-dam across the Palar river located in the Parambikulam-Aliyar Project (PAP) basin. Department officials have written a letter to the State government seeking its intervention to stop the construction as that would obstruct the flow of water to the Chitturpuzha, one of the major feeders of the Bharathapuzha. The proposed check-dam, with an initial outlay of Rs.1,83,00,000, would violate the inter-State water sharing accord between the two States over the PAP basin & adversely affect agriculture in the water-scarce Chittur taluk. As per the PAP accord, consent of both the States is mandatory for any construction activity in the basin. The check-dam project has been in cold storage for long because of stringent opposition from Kerala. Interestingly Tamil Nadu people in 2007 criticized Tamil Nadu people criticized Andhra Govt. plans for construction of a check dam across Palar River.

IRRIGATION 

National Can the budget allocation revive the defunct irrigation projects Since the beginning of Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (ABIP) 297 major and medium irrigation projects and 16,769 minor projects have been approved for funding. Only 143 of the major ones have been completed and 89 are in different stages of construction. Like all big programmes, the AIBP suffered from inadequate central funding, as its scope expanded to include more projects. The result: time and cost overruns in most of the projects. But money is not the only constraint. Problems in land acquisition, and technical difficulties like constructing tunnels in some places have also hampered the execution of AIBP projects. A survey of these projects has shown utilisation gaps the difference between the irrigation potential created and the area actually being irrigated of anywhere between 25 to 55 per cent. That means these projects are serving substantially lower area and lesser number of farmers that they are meant to do.

Maharashtra Irrigation Scam HC Mumbai restrains VIDC from paying Rs 32.55cr to contractor The Nagpur bench of the Mumbai High Court on 10 March directed State govt & Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) not to release an arbitration award sum of Rs 32.55 crore to Jalgaon-based firm MKK Tapi Prestrade Product. The VIDC had awarded contract of Mokhabardi Lift Irrigation Project a part of Gosikhurd irrigation project the company in 2010 but the company ran into a dispute with the VIDC over laying of pipes. The matter went into arbitration in 2012 and an award of Rs 20 crore with interest of Rs 12.55 crore was passed in favour of the company. Jan Manch had alleged complicity of VIDC officials who did not challenge the award despite favourable legal opinion. When the issue came up before the HC last week, the bench directed that the officials concerned should be suspended and the amount be recovered from them. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has directed the chief secretary to probe why VIDC failed to challenge the arbitration award passed against it on 17 August 2013.

Water advisor quits, questions dept’s ‘lack of will’ Expressing discontentment with the functioning of the state administration HT Mendhegiri, an expert who was handpicked by the CM for cleansing the corruption-riddled irrigation sector, has quit. Mendhegiri, who had earlier retired from public service as a secretary of the state water resources department, took over the new assignment from 01 Jan. but resigned from the post on 08 March complaining that “his role in the government remained undefined” & that he felt “unutilised” in his new role. He also said that the “lack of will” in the state administration was among the main reasons behind his resignation. While the expert said he had the highest regard for Fadnavis, he claimed the administration did not appear too serious about the developmental work. Major blow to CM claim about cleaning up irrigation mess.

महाराष्ट्र के जल संसाधन मंत्री महाजन की मुश्किल बढ़ी! राकांपाके वरिष्ठ नेताओं पर सिंचाई घोटाला का आरोप लगाकर महाराष्ट्र की सत्ता में आई भाजपा के जल संसाधन मंत्री गिरीष महाजन की मुश्किल बढ़ गई है। वाशिम जिले के रिसोड तालुका के पैनगंगा नदी के सिंचाई योजना के संशोधित प्रशासकीय मंजूरी में 8 प्रतिशत का इजाफा करने का आरोप महाजन पर लग रहा है।  जल संसाधन मंत्री महाजन ने पैनगंगा नदी की इस सिंचाई योजना के 11 बैरेज के निर्माण के लिए जनवरी महीने में करीब 716 करोड़ रुपए की सुधारित प्रशासकीय मंजूरी दी है। सूत्रों का कहना है कि पिछली कांग्रेस-राकांपा सरकार ने इन्हीं 11 बैरेज के निर्माण के लिए 2008-09 में महज 91 करोड़ रुपए की मंजूरी दी थी। मगर अब महाराष्ट्र में सरकार बदलने के बाद जल संसाधन विभाग की कमान संभालते ही महाजन ने सीमेंट और स्टील की कीमतों में वृद्धि होने की दलील देते हुए संशोधिक प्रशासकीय मंजूरी देते हुए संभावित खर्च को 8 गुना बढ़ा दिया है। इतना ही नहीं महाजन पर कुछ चुनिंदा ठेकेदारों को ही मदद करने का भी अब आरोप लग रहा है।

Maharashtra Budget 2016-17 likely to set deadline for languishing irrigation projects The state government is evolving a mechanism to fast-track irrigation projects where 75 per cent works have been completed, to channel the benefits in drought-hit districts of Maharashtra. The budget 2016-17 is likely to emphasise the urgency of addressing problems related to completion of irrigation projects languishing for last two decades because of administrative delays and lack of funds. In the coming budget, the government is likely to emphasise on end results rather than sanctioning of new irrigation projects. The budget for water resources department is unlikely to exceed Rs 10,000 crore this time. In its last budget, the state government had earmarked Rs 7,272 crore for completion of 38 irrigation projects within a year. Yet, the overall results indicate there is a mismatch between target set and works completed.

Telangana, Maharashtra CMs ink pact on Godavari water projects  Chief Ministers of Telangana and Maharashtra K. Chandrasekhar Rao and Devendra Fadnavis, signed a memorandum of understanding at Mumbai on 08 March on setting up an inter-state water board on Godavari projects, ending decades of discord between the two States on utilisation of water in the river Godavari and its tributaries. The agreement will pave the pay for the two States to work out mutually-agreeable specifications on the construction of Medigadda barrage, 20 km downstream of Kaleshwaram in Warangal District, as part of the Kaleshwaram Project, a component of the redesigned Pranahita-Chevella project. The barrage would allow irrigation of 16.4 lakh acres in Telangana and over 50,000 acres in some tribal areas of Maharashtra with the help of four small lift irrigation schemes. There is no involvement of people of the two states or even affected people here.

Telangana Cabinet approves redesign of irrigation projects The Telangana Cabinet approved the redesign of irrigation projects in the State to create maximum irrigation potential by making best use of available water resources, mostly in the river Godavari and its tribuatries. Rs.1900 cr. each allocated to Mission Kakatiya, Hyderabad Water Board. The Cabinet has given its nod for taking loan from National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development for irrigation and agriculture-related projects. It was one of the several issues discussed and decided at the Cabinet meeting held here on 06 March. It was decided to introduce Bills in the coming budget session of the Legislature to replace ordinances issued in the recent months with regard to municipal laws while going for elections to Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation first and Greater Warangal Municipal Corporation and Khammam Municipal Corporation later.

Chhattisgarh Budget focuses on irrigation At a time when his government has come under fire over the drought situation across the state, Chief Minister Raman Singh on 09 March announced an array of budget allocations for agriculture, as well as several announcements for the Maoist-affected Bastar. In the Rs 73,996 crore budget Rs 2,565 crore has been allocated to irrigation to make farmers “self-reliant”. A sum of Rs 223 crore has been set aside for drought-hit farmers, while Rs 150 crore has been allocated for the distribution of seeds a move that the government said would benefit 7 lakh farmers.

Karnataka Activists urge govt. to set up Netravathi River Authority The Netravathi Rakshana Samyutka Samiti, an action committee of organisations fighting against the Yettinahole project, on 11 March urged the government to constitute a Netravathi River Authority to ensure rights of the people over the Netravathi waters. The samiti said that if the government did not respond to their demand, people in Dakshina Kannada would be forced to demand Statehood. The samiti, which opened its office on the premises of Arya Samaj at Balmatta decided to hold a convention of people of Dakshina Kannada in the city soon to continue pressuring the government to drop the project. Agitation against the Yettinahole project takes a new turn.

Siddaramaiah attempts to placate farmers on Yettinahole Project Days after farmers from Kolar and Chikkaballapur descended on the city demanding implementation of water projects, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on 06 March announced a slew of measures for implementation of the Yettinahole project. He also said new sources of water will be found to meet the irrigation and drinking water needs of arid Kolar, Chikkaballapur, Bengaluru Rural and Tumakuru districts. He, however, refused to set a deadline for the completion of the project.  Very unfortunate to see farmers from Kolar and Chikkaballapur pinning their hopes on Yettinahole Diversion project, when it will not even get 24 TMC water for their region. As Vishwanath Srikataiah says, there are several cheaper and more effective solutions IN the region than outside, only if we look at smaller scales. Also, it is clear that Yettinahole was always conceived as an Irrigation Project, but it put on a mask of a Drinking Water Supply Project only to escape Environmental Clearance and Public hearing in Western Ghats.

Villagers take up lift irrigation project Disappointed with the delay in the completion of the Karagada lift irrigation project, which will provide water to villages spread over 11 gram panchayats of Chikkamagaluru taluk, the villagers themselves got to work on 07 March 16 under the leadership of C.T.Ravi, MLA. The project was scheduled to be completed in 2014, but has been hit by various delays. The villagers have now decided to complete the remaining work on a rotation basis. From 08 March onwards the villagers will take up the remaining work, and they are expected to hire earth movers for this purpose.

RIVERS

Gujarat State has 38 urban centres located on polluted rivers In reply to a question on “polluted river stretches”, the Minister of State for River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Uma Bharti laid a statement in the Lok Sabha earlier this month stating that 650 towns in the country were located on 302 river stretches identified as polluted on 275 rivers, including Ganga. Maharashtra had the maximum such towns (161), followed by Assam (49), West Bengal (46), Gujarat (38), Madhya Pradesh (37) and Uttar Pradesh (37). Out of the 46 metropolitan cities in the country (as per the 2011 Census), 35 of them are located along the polluted river stretches. This includes the cities of Ahmedabad, Surat and Vadodara in Gujarat. In 2008, based on the water quality assessment conducted by Central Pollution Control Board there were 150 polluted river stretches on 121 rivers. This increased when the status was reassessed in 2015.

Maharashtra Poisar river has 100 times more polluted than safe limit: Study The Poisar river that originates at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is polluted more than 100 times beyond the safety limit, making its water unsafe for human consumption and dangerous for the animals and plants that call it home, a two-year study shows. The ‘Nallah Restoration Report’, complied by the Environmental Policy and Research India in 2014-15 found the levels of BOD & oxygen that affects the quality of water, which plants and animals need for survival – was as high as 414.73 mg per litre at certain locations along the 7km river.

GANGA Centre GIS, NIH experts to assess the threat to Ganga ghats in Varanasi The experts of Geological Survey of India & National Institute of Hydrology will assess the measures to check erosion on the left bank of river Ganga induced due to siltation on right bank during their visit to the city from 8 to 10 March. The Varanasi district administration had conveyed to PMO its concern over the sedimentation that is taking place along the right bank of river Ganga resulting in increased river flow velocities along its left bank (ghat side), which can cause erosion and damage the ghats and associated structures. The PMO through letter dated 05 Oct. 2015 asked the ministry of water resources to look into the matter. Accordingly, the ministry constituted a team of officers with chairman, Ganga Flood Control Commission as team leader to find out the causes of erosion & suggest immediate remedial measures to check erosion.

Uttarakhand Saints demand adequate water flow at Ganga ghats Many saints have demanded that CM Harish Rawat & Uttar Pradesh Irrigation Department to ensure substantial flow of water at Ganga ghats in Neel Dhara, Bhoopatwala & Khadkhadi in Haridwar. Swami Lalitanand Giri Maharaj, who is staging an indefinite fast for the past 5 days on 11 March said that despite repeated reminders and a symbolic agitation carried out last month, the state government, the District Administration and the Irrigation Department had not taken any measures to ensure sufficient flow of water at the Ganga ghats. City Mayor Manoj Garg has also lent his support to the saints’ agitation. Other social groups have warned the Govt to intensify the agitation if sufficient water flow was not ensured in the coming days. Later in the day, Purushottam Sharma, OSD to CM for Ardh Kumbh affairs, arrived at the agitation venue and assured the saints about raising this issue with the Chief Minister.

YAMUNA 

Yamuna Floodplains & AOL Op-Ed AOL incident exposes India’s environmental governance agencies The Art of Living (AOL) controversy shows how supine our environmental regulatory agencies have been. It rightly says that participation of political leaders of different parties including PM Narendra Modi will give the destructive event legitimacy at the cost of the environment even though two massive floods showed what happens if environmental norms are flouted like this. It’s really shameful that the MoEF, the mother ship of all things green, failed to present an affidavit to the NGT to show why the programme did not require environmental clearance. By this it is also proved that how rudimentary Ravi Shankar’s pro-ecology stand is. Moreover, who will keep an eye on AOL’s restoration promise? The same government departments that failed to carry out their basic duties in the first place? This is asking for too much from a supine bureaucracy. Also see NDTV debate featuring Himanshu Thakkar SANDRP describing the failure of govt agencies & impact of the event on flood plains.

The art of living must also include the science of sustainable lifestyles The controversy surrounding the AOL event on the flood plains of Yamuna river highlights a colossal failure of urban planning. At the event site, the Yamuna floodplains have been flattened and vegetation removed. Experts believe that the ecological damage may take years to repair. For example, one of the main functions of the floodplains is groundwater recharge. Having now been flattened, the area’s recharge capacity could diminish considerably. Unless and until urban planning takes into account environmental protection, our cities will not only grow unliveable but also suffer large-scale damage from catastrophes such as floods and earthquakes. To send across a stern message, the NGT should make AOL bear the full cost of restoring the Yamuna floodplains. The art of living cannot defy nature. It must also include the science of sustainable lifestyles. Also see a NDTV debate on the issue including Himanshu Thakkar SANDRP 

Spiritual Gurus must see a river system in its totality  Yamuna may be highly polluted, but the low lying and other floodplains are essential spaces for the biodiversity – including grass, bushes, birds, trees and other such vitalities. Floodplains are already fighting a losing battle in India. Flood devastations in Chennai have not taught us any lesson and the wrong precedence the NGT has started with this order will never let us learn any. I only wish the spiritual gurus, who claim to be doing a lot to conserve and rejuvenate our rivers, understood the river systems in their spiritual, socio-cultural and ecological totality. Spirituality and river systems cannot go separate ways.

Respect for nature is devotion The grandiose spectacle that the AOL has organised on the Yamuna floodplain will go down as a spectacular example of thoughtless environmental destruction. The Central and Delhi governments have, in a display of extraordinary non-application of mind, allowed a private entity to take over part of the floodplain. The Union Ministry of Culture, the Uttar Pradesh and Delhi governments, the Sangeet Natak Akademi, the Lalit Kala Akademi and other organisations that have supported the three-day extravaganza should worry that they have lent their credentials to the creation of a large and destructive footprint for the river. It should surprise everyone that the NDA government, which has been making a high-profile campaign of river-cleansing projects, allowed unregulated construction activity on the Yamuna floodplain and removal of vegetation without so much as a sound environmental impact assessment.

When it comes to scarring the river, we have made exceptions the rule By choking the Yamuna with constructions and stomping all over its floodplains, we are only setting ourselves up for urban tragedies. It’s time Delhi says enough is enough and means it. Or the river will. Riverbed is not real estate. It is the biggest reserve for the freshwater the city will ever have. A river must breathe and the floodplain functions as its lung. It is a living delicate organ that collects and releases water seasonally. Even temporary construction here destroys the grass, shrubs and trees that sustains riverine ecosystem. They are essential to keep river alive and cities liveable. Parts of Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Dresden, Passau, and Bratislava were destroyed by the 2013 floods because they are built right on the rivers they flank. The Turkish prime minister called it “the river’s revenge. Excellent piece by Shivani Singh of Hindustan Times, as usual

The Yamuna flood plain: A hidden treasure  For the porous, sandy flood plain, monsoon rainfall and floods can recharge about 30 cm of raw water every year. The 1000 acres that will be impacted by the Art of Living event has a potential of giving a perennial and sustainable supply of over 1 million cubic meters of water a year. At the rate of tanker water it values to about 20 crores per year. A water stressed city like Delhi cannot afford to damage such a perennial survival resource. It is clear that the philanthropist and the state government must learn a little more about floodplain otherwise the loss of this amazing evolutionary resource would be irreversible. Also see, Art of gobbling up Yamuna floodplain In contrast, this piece by Sunita Narain CSE refuses to recognise that NGT order of January 2015 has already clarified the specific role of floodplain that needs to be protected. Justifying past violations of pucca DTC bus depot wont help, it will only help the violators.  

NGT vs AOL NGT ignored reports citing damage the AOL event would cause Excerpts from Himanshu Thakkar SANDRP interview given to CatchNGT has clearly said in its order that any activity which affects more than 50 hectares of land comes under a specific clause, Clause 8, of the EIA notification. And that MoEF failed to take action based on that. So it is partly an implementation problem. The DDA issued the clearance despite knowing that it was in violation of the NGT’s earlier order.  It is also a problem of policy, because any activity that affects the river or any component of the river should invite a clearance and impact assessment from the ministry. But this is not the situation today. In a notification on 31 July 2014, the environment ministry transferred all the issues related to pollution of rivers, like the Yamuna, to the water resources ministry. It’s unfortunate that both the agencies have failed to do their duty”.

Green tribunal flouted its own order against AOL Despite showing serious displeasure over the turn of events, the NGT allowed dilution of its order passed on 9 March. The legal experts have taken a strong exception to the NGT’s order and subsequently that of 11 March where AOL Foundation has been allowed to go ahead with the show by paying only 5% of the initial fine of Rs 5 crore. According to experts technically the tribunal should have taken action on 11 Feb when the petition was filed. Instead, the NGT has violated its own earlier judgment, which has set a bad precedence in public life. Advocate Ritwick Dutta, a counsel for the petitioners said that NGT’s order has set a bad precedence. This order communicates the message of ‘Pay & Pollute’ and that’s what has happened in this case. AOL Foundation has been allowed to ahead with the mega-event by paying only Rs 25 lakh, and not even the full initial amount of Rs 5 crore! Here the message that has gone to public is very clear – those who have big pockets and right connections can flout the law and escape be it Ravi Shankar or Vijay Mallya.

NGT fails to show courage In the on-going saga of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s event to be or not, the biggest spectacle has been the NGT. When needed to bite, it growled and found that the politically powerful sometimes don’t get deterred by mere growling that might still make a bureaucrat stand quivering in attendance before the quasi-court. The NGT squeamishly backed off. The NGT appointed panels found that the festival organisers had violated environmental norms and conditions and harmed the flood plain. The conditional permission from the DDA shoddy as it was, said if conditions were not met the permission would be cancelled. DDA didn’t do it. NGT has gone with the pattern that has been followed for a long while in Indian judiciary in dealing with environmental violation by large players. The NGT has done so too in this case. Unfortunately for the NGT this time, it had to act in full public glare which high decibel events and controversies only in Delhi can generate.

NGT committee member CR Babu disagrees with approval given to AOL event In an interview to Catch, Professor Babu, who has surveyed the site extensively, talks about the extent of damage done to river Yamuna, for whose revival central government has already spent thousands of crores. Despite a huge public outcry, Ravi Shankar’s AOL got the go-ahead from NGT but one of the people who was part of the committee appointed by the NGT to look into the possible damage caused to the Yamuna flood plains, DU professor CR Babu, says it might already be too late to do anything. Repairing the damage already caused flood plains will cost nothing less than Rs 100-120 crore, and will take at least three years. Some of the effects of Ravi Shankar’s event are already beginning to show in the ecology the plants and birds for whom the flood-plain is home.

Damage Control: Panel issues dos and don’ts to organisers This event certainly deserves registration in Guiness Book of World Records for VIOLATING RULES OF LAW at every step. The organisers didn’t disclose the SOURCE OF WATER that’s being used for the event and only 650 BIO-TOILETS were made for 5 LAKH PEOPLE who are likely to visit the festival. It seems they are using bottled water for drinking purpose and bore-well water but they cann’t use groundwater without having permission from DJB or CGWA. NO ONE KNOWS DO THEY HAVE THE PERMISSION? The expert panel has also directed the event manager to PRODUCE VEDIO FOOTAGE of the compliance with all its orders. Let’s see if that happens at all.

Don’t you need to clear it NGT asks Water Ministry A mega cultural event organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living foundation on the banks of the river Yamuna appears to be on shaky ground with just three days to go. A green court on 08 March questioned who cleared the event and is expected to decide tomorrow whether it will be held at all. See the 10 latest developments in this story. SAD, NGT refuses to stall or cancel the AOL plans to destroy Yamuna flood plains, with every passing day, it is allowing the event to be a fait accomplice.

AOL won’t have it easy explaining its stand to NGT Whether  AOL eventually succeeds in holding its ambitious event 2016 on the floodplains of river Yamuna in Delhi is debatable, but one thing is certain: it’ll not find it easy to explain its position to the NGT. It’s the NGT that recommended a fine of Rs 120 crore on AOL Foundation for causing damage to Yamuna floodplains and it posed tough questions to the representatives of the AOL Foundation and the government agencies at the NGT court on 09 March. At the hearing, the respondents (mainly government agencies) either contradicted their earlier statements or failed to justify why they granted the necessary permissions for the three-day event to AOL Foundation. The Delhi Police inspection also revealed the only one bridge constructed is unsafe for participants and more bridges are needed to accommodate the huge audience that’s expected. Meanwhile another media report revealed that in December, the Ministry of Culture sanctioned Rs. 2.25 crore for the illegal event.

AOL event near Yamuna ‘disaster’: Delhi HC Delhi High Court on 09 March said holding the World Culture Festival on the Yamuna flood plain appears to be a disaster from the ecological point of view. The court’s observation came while hearing a PIL on the unauthorised constructions on the river’s flood plain in Jaitpur & Mithapur areas of Delhi. As for the case on hand, the court ordered that no further unauthorised construction will take place in both the areas. It said the government should consider making the structures in the area compliant with building by-laws as well as seismic zone IV norms in case unauthorised colonies there were to be regularised. If an earthquake or flood hits Delhi, these areas would be the most vulnerable and there could be massive loss of lives, the bench pointed out.

AOL Event Artistes call it a nightmarish experience The festival started with the organisers boasting about a never-before participation of 35,973 artistes. But, after the first day, many of them opted out. The AOL event that culminated on 13 March evening was a grand event for everyone except the artistes performing here. From pulling off performances in wet clothes to school children braving the poorly-lit muddy patches on the Yamuna floodplains, many artistes said it was a nightmarish experience. The rain during the first two days added to the miseries of the artistes. Carpets were rolled out for them to sit on, but these were so wet that tiny pools were formed at the crevasses. Already drenched, most of them especially the children had to sit through the event despite their performances being over. Besides, the mosquitoes that swarmed the venue tested the last bit of patience. In fact, a couple of children from a few dance academies are now down with fever. Many were also seen complaining about non-availability of water. As if this was not enough, young girls were left worried after their buses never arrived to pick them up. For the audience, who trudged their way to the festival, catching a glimpse of the action actually required a miracle. The stage spread over seven acres was designed in such a way that the visitors could not see any of the performances. In fact, they had to rely entirely on the giant screens installed at the venue.

NGT rules violated again on Day 2 of AOL event The controversy around the Art of Living’s World Culture Festival being held on the Yamuna floodplains refuses to die down. Environmentalists say that on 12 March the second day of the event the organisers violated the orders of the NGT once again. With heavy rain on 11 & 12 March the venue which is located on the ecologically sensitive floodplains was reduced to a slushy field with wet carpets and planks of wood greeting visitors. In fact many elderly visitors to the festival slipped in the mud. On Saturday evening, the organisers tried to alleviate the problem by bringing in coarse sand that was to be put on top of the wet mud which according experts say it was a violation of the NGT’s order against construction on the floodplains.

People wade through muck to reach festival venue Controversy took a backseat as chaos took over at the AOL festival that started on 11 March. The public had to walk for more than an hour through wet mud with feet immersed in muck before they could catch even the sight of the venue. There were huge poles with lamps mounted on them, but most of them were dysfunctional some used the phone’s flashlight to find the way. With snack and cold drink stalls dotting the long walk, garbage has already started to pile up on the floodplain. Men were spotted urinating in corners everywhere. Long lines formed outside portable toilets. Rain played the biggest spoilsport. The entire stretch that general public had to walk became slippery since it is packed mud and not a tarred stretch. While people may have been able to protect themselves from the rain, many were disappointed after reaching the venue as they could see nothing on the 7-acre stage. Many screens set up across the length and breadth of the venue didn’t work because of the rain.

Art of misleading: Sri Sri’s ‘no trees were cut’ defence is a fig leaf PM Narendra Modi has legitimised the AOL festival, inaugurating an event that just a day before was found by the NGT to have destroyed Yamuna’s floodplains. Despite scientific reports saying the event permanently damaged the Yamuna river floodplains, Shankar’s rebuttals have been about trees, trees and trees, and how they weren’t cut. Maybe they weren’t. But that’s not the point. The Yamuna floodplains, like the rest of nature, are more than just about trees. Like the rest of nature, its value lies less in flat “beauty”, and more in the chaotic mix of wetland, vegetation, grasses, and slopes, that all survive by depending on each other.

President Mukhejee opts out, show wades into troubled Yamuna waters The Rashtrapati Bhavan confirmed on 07 March16 that President Pranab Mukherjee will not attend the World Culture Festival of the Art of Living Foundation which he had earlier agreed to. The President’s office did not say why Mukherjee, who was to preside over the valedictory function, had opted out. The NGT hearing the case on daily basis did not meet 07 March 16 because of the Shivratri holiday and is expected to deliver its verdict 08 March 16. Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar declined comment on the likely damage to the floodplains, saying the matter is sub-judice. Also see, pictorial report by Vimlendu Jha & Sara Hylton busting Sri Sri’s claims of not harming the Yamuna floodplain.

Art of Living gets go ahead for Yamuna bank event, fined Rs 5 crore The NGT on 9 March cleared AOL event on the Yamuna floodplain despite fears of irreparable damage to the area’s delicate ecosystem. The green court said AOL foundation will pay a fine of Rs 5 crore before the event. The rest of the fine amount will be decided after a NGT-appointed committee assesses the damage to the floodplain. The NGT imposed a fine of Rs 5 lakh on the DDA for granting “vague permissions” & 1 lakh on the Delhi Pollution Board. The order came on a day the controversial event rocked Parliament, with opposition parties demanding the government scrap the festival as it violated an NGT order prohibiting construction on the Yamuna floodplain. The full copy of NGT decision can be seen here.  Also see Sri Sri event cleared with 5crore fine MoWR says they have not given permission for ART OF LIVING function on Yamuna Riverbed, MoEF refuses to reply why no permission of MoEF is required, Police finds the stage and venue unsafe, pontoon bridge in very poor condition, unsafe and inadequate. AOL didn’t inform about scale of event at Yamuna plains: DDA Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on 03 March told the NGT that the AOL did not inform it about the scale of the three-day cultural festival to be held on the Yamuna floodplains and is constructing temporary structures without any permission. The ground which is being prepared for the World Culture Festival, to be held between March 11 and 13, is spread over an area of 1,000 acres. The stage alone is 7 acres in area and will accommodate 37,000 artists. According to DDA, it never gave permission for such construction. DDA’s counsel told NGT the foundation had sought permission for setting up a platform and not a stage of this scale and had given the foundation the permission to hold the event only in a limited area but the organisers had spread out without permission.

Cong slams PM for use of soldiers, JD(U) gives notice The use of army soldiers to build bridges on the Yamuna flood plains here for a private event of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar gave ammunition to Congress on 08 March to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying it was “shameful” and distressing that the Defence Ministry had asked Indian Army Jawans to build (pontoon) bridges for a private event on the banks of the Yamuna. As the controversial three-day cultural extravaganza starting 11 March drew criticism, another opposition party JD(U) gave a notice in Rajya Sabha to raise the issue of environmental degradation.  Full blown political fight out in open inside parliament now. Had these parties including ruling one have taken corrective actions and right stand about a month back when concerned citizens have been appealing against the blatant attack on Yamuna floodplain. AAP also have jumped the bandwagon ONLY NOW stating that it gave nod to Sri Sri for bridge on event of flood only. FLOOD IN THE MONTH OF MARCH???

17 सवालों के घेरे में श्रीश्री की श्रीश्रीश्रीयमुनाजी प्रकरण by अरुण तिवारी नाम के आगे लगी दो-दो श्री के बावजूद, श्री रविशंकर जी के बयानों के सच को झूठ बताने की हिम्मत कुछ लोगों ने दर्शा दी है। महामहिम राष्ट्रपति जी ने आयोजन में आने से इंकार कर दिया है। प्रश्न यह भी है कि जब राष्ट्रीय हरित पंचाट की समिति ने स्वयं माना है कि आयोजन ने कुछ दिन में ही यमुना खादर बर्बाद कर दिया है, तो फिर समिति की रिपोर्ट आने के तुरंत बाद ही आयोजन काम रोकने का आदेश क्यों नहीं दिया गया ? इनके यहां उल्लेख का मकसद सिर्फ यह समझना और समझाना है कि सवाल उठते हैं तो उठते ही चले जाते हैं। मनोज मिश्र, आनंद आर्य, केतन बजाज, विमलेन्दु झा, रवि अग्रवाल, भारती चतुर्वेदी, रमेश शर्मा, डॉक्टर ओंकार  मित्तल.. सवाल उठाने वालों की फेहरिस्त लंबी होती जा रही है। जरूरी है कि इन सवालों का उठना अब बंद हो और रचनात्मक उत्तर आने शुरु हों। यह काम अब आयोजकों का कोई संजीदा पश्चाताप् भी कर सकता है और विरोध करने वालों के रचनात्मक प्रतिरोध भी। यमुना को इंतजार है।

आर्ट ऑफ लिविंग की भेंट चढ़े 200 किसान परिवार, पीएम से लेकर सीएम सब खामोश !  श्री श्री रविशंकर के ‘आर्ट ऑफ लिविंग’ के कार्यक्रम को आयोजित करने के लिए जिस यमुना स्थित ज़मीन से किसानों को खदेड़ा जा रहा है, उनका आरोप है कि इतने रुपयों में तो उनकी बुआई लागत की भरपाई कर पाना भी मुश्किल है। एक गरीब किसान पान सिंह ने बताया कि उनकी करीब 9 बीघा ज़मीन आर्ट ऑफ लिविंग ने कब्जाई है, और इसके बदले उन्हें मात्र 26 हजार रुपये मिले हैं। जबकि इस अपनी फसल पर करीब 2.25 लाख रुपये का भारी खर्च आया था। ‘मेरी पूरी मेहनत और पैसे पर पानी फेर दिया गया है। भगवान जाने अब मैं इस मुसीबत से कैसे निपटुंगा।’ इस घिनौने कृत्य से पान सिंह की तरह ही यहां करीब 200 किसान परिवार प्रभावित हुए हैं। इतना ही नहीं दिल्ली में यमुना के पश्चिमी हिस्से की करीब 100 एकड़ जमीन पर उग रही गेंहूं, सब्जियों और फलों की फसल को बुल्डोज़र से उजाड़ दिया गया है। इनमेंचिल्ला, नंगली सराय काले खां, डीएनडी व नोएडा के बगल में दिल्ली की डीडीए की प्रॉपर्टी का एक बड़ा हिस्सा शामिल है।

SAND MINING     

Madhya Pradesh Forest Guard Dies While Trying To Stop Sand Smuggling In Gwalior According to local police a 45-year-old forest guard was killed on 06 March when a tractor-trolley loaded with illegally mined sand fell on him while he was trying to stop the trolley at Raira area in Gwalior district. The incident occurred when a joint team of police and forest department, carrying out a drive against illegal sand mining, was bringing 3-4 sand laden tractor-trolleys from the bank of Chambal river to Purani Chowki police station area. Police and forest officials for last few years who have been trying to stop the activities of mafia carrying illegal mining at the banks of river Chambal are being killed by the fearless mafia. On 2 April last year, Dharmedra Chauhan a police constable was run over by a vehicle carrying illegally mined sand when he tried to stop it in Morena district, adjoining Gwalior. Earlier, IPS officer Narendra Kumar had died in a similar incident on 08 March 2012, in Morena district. List of govt. officials being killed by sand mafia is only becoming longer and MP seems topping it. Also see, Sand mafia is waging a war in Chambal, endangering wildlife & Congress demands CBI inquiry into illegal sand mining

Uttarakhand Green activists back Matri Sadan’s battle against Ganga mining On 07 March, several environmental groups openly came out in support of Matri Sadan ashram which is spearheading the battle against mining on the banks of river Ganga in Haridwar. Swami Shivanand, head of the Matri Sadan, and his disciple Atmabodhanand are on fast to demand total ban on mining on the river. Various NGOs and environmentalists along with a few political party members threatened to initiate and take the agitation to the streets, if government does not deal with the problem head on. Citing, government’s apathy, various environmental groups said despite Shivanand and Atmabodhanand intensifying their fast against mining on the Ganga, on the ground no strict action is being taken to stop mining.

Karnataka No sand mining in CRZ without MoEF nod: Minister Vinay Kulkarni, minister of state for mining and geology on 06 March stated that the extraction of sand in coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) from allotted portions of the riverbed can be done only after the Union ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) issue its clearance. The environment clearance for the extraction of sand from the riverbeds in CRZ area expired on 16 Jan. and the department has sought fresh clearance from the MoEF to permit mining of sand in the area. The minister on Sunday said the state government is hopeful of obtaining clearance in 20 days. Only traditional forms of extraction are allowed in the CRZ area. As for the extraction in non-CRZ area, he said that the public works department has identified 38 blocks, of which 23 have been auctioned in the DK district.

Andhra Pradesh Sand mining only at pre-designated reaches:DC According to A Babu District Collector the mining of sand will be allowed only in the reaches that have been designated in advance and nowhere else. Reviewing the new sand policy with heads of all line departments on 08 March the Collector said that this was a unique exercise and it was not being undertaken in any other State in the country. The Collector listed seven guidelines for sand mining. First on the list is the point the sand mining is banned in reaches that did not have environmental clearance. No sand mining was allowed 500 metres from bridges, culverts, irrigation and drinking water and groundwater sources, irrigation structures, national highways, and railway lines. The taking of sand over and above what was required for building was not permitted. Sand should not be used for filling and transport of sand would not be allowed at night under any circumstances.

WETLANDS & WATER BODIES

West Bengal The miracle of Kolkata’s wetlands & one man’s struggle to save them The wetlands are Kolkata’s free sewage works, a fertile aquatic garden and, most importantly, a flood defence but they’re under threat from developers. The city produced a lot of sewage, didn’t have a treatment plant, but didn’t seem to have a pollution problem, either. The waste just sort of disappeared. In tropical countries, expensive water treatment plants struggle to banish bacteria. But Kolkata’s waterways clean its wastewater in less than 20 days. The wetlands produce 10,000 tonnes of fish each year and the wetland “garbage farms” provide 40 to 50% of the green vegetables available on the Kolkata’s markets. If Kolkata’s politicians and policymakers can be persuaded too, this famously thoughtful city might avoid the fraught path taken by so many other urban powerhouses who fail to grasp that the sea is always more unstoppable than their own development. The unorganised urbanization is slowly extending into these wetland areas and Dhrubajyoti Ghosh the ecologist has devoted his entire life in their conservation.

Kerala State revives ponds to fight drought At least 600 water bodies in the state will be cleaned by the end of this month as part of a drought relief plan devised by the revenue department, breaking away from the usual practise of pumping water via tankers in drought-prone areas. The new mission is aimed at de-silting and removing slurry and waste from ponds, lakes and so on and constructing minor check dams using natural resources, as against providing water to households in tanker trucks. The drought monitoring cell under the State Disaster Management Authority had published a drought-prone area map of the state based on long-term data of rainfall, groundwater, drinking water supply and satellite images, which indicated that 2.5% of the state was severely drought-prone, 63.8% moderately drought-prone and 23% slightly drought-prone. It was on this basis that the additional chief secretary (revenue) decided to do away with the earlier practice and focus on ways to recharge water bodies. GREAT to see this effort as desilting of tanks in Kerala.

Karnataka Thousands of dead fish surface at Bengaluru’s Ulsoor Lake  Thousands of dead fish were washed ashore today at Ulsoor lake, a popular boating site, raising concerns about water pollution in the city. Residents living in and around the lake were in for a shock as they found the fish heaped around, raising unbearable stink in the water body. Local residents reported that sewage from the drain flowing into the lake due to a breach in a bund had depleted oxygen levels causing the large fish kill and authorities concerned had done nothing despite complaints. The incident comes even as there is a growing concern by environmentalists over polluted lakes, exemplified by the thick froth and flames from the Yamlur lake that caused ripples in the city last year.  Sadly, Fish Kills are not new in India. But this is at a huge scale.

WATER

Maharashtra City workers fight corporate privatization efforts Vishvaraj Infrastructure Ltd. is a small, privately owned Indian company based in Nagpur. It had no previous expertise in water treatment, distribution or management. The Nagpur Municipal Corporation Employees Union has been protesting water privatization since 2011. The union’s leader, Jammu Anand, told Truthout that the protest is “part of a larger struggle to stop 1.2 billion Indians from having to pay through their nose to privately controlled companies for their drinking water.” Nagpur’s water privatization scheme is a pilot project, a test case for the rest of India. Though the water supply project is not even 40 % complete & has not proven its efficacy, “in a sudden recent move, the Central Govt. has accepted the Nagpur as the ‘most successful’ model for drinking water supply, without even reviewing the necessary data,” Anand told Truthout, calling for the return of Nagpur’s drinking water supply to the urban local body, the traditional service provider for Indian cities. About the struggle related to water privatisation in Nagpur.  

Himachal Health experts for panel to solve water crisis Health experts have recommended a committee headed by the chief secretary to solve the water problem and outbreak of water-borne diseases in Shimla city. Dr SC Dhiman, former chairman, Central Groundwater Board, during a workshop organised by the Shimla Municipal Corporation (SMC) said that the problem can be addressed by involving all stakeholders, including the Irrigation and Public Health Department, SMC, Health Department, Pollution Control Board, residents welfare associations and NGOs. Dr Dhiman said the committee headed by the chief secretary would work out a solution. Mayor Sanjay Chauhan will now forward the recommendation to the state government as the SMC is serious about finding a permanent solution to the drinking water problem in the city. Also see, SIT to probe jaundice outbreak in Solan

DROUGHT    

Maharashtra  Latur’s water shortage worsens: Woman dies filling water, mother dies of shock  The tragedy happened just days after the chief minister and his entire cabinet held an important meeting to assess the water situation in Latur and other districts of the drought-hit Marathwada region. Civic officials said Latur city has seen at least five such water- related deaths. Latur is going through worst water crisis as the Manjara dam in Dhanegaon village has gone completely dry. As a result, the civic body has not been able to supply tap water. It was otherwise supplying water every 22 days, but since 22 Feb it has completely stopped supply water. Citizens are reportedly forced to spend Rs 1,000 almost every day as the water quota provided by the civic body is not sufficient to meet needs. Over 150 small & big hospitals also have been hit hard.

Over 100 farmers in Wardha sought suicide clearance  More than 100 farmers from Wardha a drought-hit district asked the state government for permission to commit suicide, but decided not to take the extreme step after officials counselled them against it, the government has told Parliament. One hundred and nine farmers from the district of among of the worst affected by two consecutive years of drought—sought “suicide clearance” from district authorities. The extraordinary fact emerged in a reply by Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh in the Rajya Sabha on 26 Feb 16. Singh added that these “applications” were due to crop failure and not because of anger towards the government.

Dam levels down, ‘rain dance’ for Holi dropped Pune district, where a water cut is in effect due to depleting water levels in the dams, will not have any kind of “rain dance” functions this Holi. As water reserved in the dams is to be used only for drinking purposes as per the district administration’s instructions, the collectorate has urged people to go for a “Dry Holi” this year and will ensure that there are no such functions during Holi. With dam levels coming down to as much as 23% of their capacity, the entertainment department of the collectorate will ensure that permissions are not given for events like the “rain dance” during the festival. Additional collector Pradeep Patil said a note would be issued reminding people of District Collector Saurabh Rao’s instructions that dam water will be reserved for drinking purposes. Meanwhile, a BJP legislator in Mumbai has written to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Commissioner seeking a ban on “rain dance” functions in Mumbai in the metro during Holi. Ameet Satam, in a letter to the BMC, said that the civic body should ban rain dance and even asked the corporation to slap a fine of Rs 50,000 on those who indulge in waste of water.

Water crisis in Marathwada to exacerbate Pune’s water woes With Maharashtra staring in the face of one of the biggest water crisis in recent decades, a law and order problem has arisen in the parched Marathwada region, threatening to snowball into social conflict. Last week, the police were called in to deploy and organise tankers under their protection after furious residents of Dongargaon village refused water supply from their dam to nearby Latur city. Eleven villages, including Dongargaon, are denying the city water from the Dongargaon dam, justifying the move on grounds that their plight was no better. Eventually, a team of 25 water tankers, under the vigilant eye of the police were pressed into service to draw water from the dam and ferry it to Latur. In September last year, Latur’s residents received water supply barely once a month. In the 540-odd villages across 13 talukas in Pune district, the groundwater levels have alarmingly plummeted to 1 to 3 meter, as per a recent report by the Groundwater Surveys and Development Agency. This acute water scarcity has stunted the growth of the Rabi crop with eight of the 12 Tehsils reporting 40% less than their normal sowing.  The urban areas of Pune, Solapur and Daund, have staked claim on this precious stock of water, while the State Government has hinted that it might supply arid Latur and other parts of water-bereft Marathwada with this reserve stock.

Govt to grant Rs10,000cr for water conservation in drought hit regions The government has decided to grant Rs 10,000 crore to boost water conservation in the drought-prone districts. The funds will be routed as share capital assistance to the Maharashtra State Water Conservation Corporation, the nodal body executing projects with the objective to make the state drought-free by 2019. In the backdrop of the drought, the government’s emphasis on rural agriculture and economics took centre stage in the report.  Under integrated development of agriculture, 21 projects have been approved to provide assured market links to farmers through public and private partnership models. Under the Atal Solar Krushi Pump scheme to make farmers self-reliant, the state will provide 10,000 solar pumps. The farmer will have to pay only 5 % cost of the pump with no recurring energy bills or maintenance charges.

AGRICULTURE

Rajasthan Engineer returns from US to boost organic farming His parents wanted him to be a successful engineer in the US, but an urge to stop the excessive use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides brought 40-year-old Randeep Kang back to his village, 90 F in Sriganganagar district. Though Kang studied electronics, his fascination with agriculture inspired him to get in touch with farmers in California to bring organic fertilisers in use in his village. After reading various researches and going through the videos of Rajiv Dixit, a social activist who promotes ‘swadesi’ things, Kang returned to his village in 2012. Now, he is seen making organic fertilisers with the help of some herbs and gau mootra (cow urine), and not just selling it at a subsidised rate of as low as Rs 60 per litre, but also providing it for free to the farmers of his village. He now wants the state government to promote organic farming as well.

 ENERGY OPTIONS

Chandigarh may make solar rooftops must Chandigarh may soon make solar rooftop plants mandatory for all houses and buildings occupying plots larger than 100 square yards in a first of its kind clean energy drive in the country. A notification to this effect is expected shortly, said Santosh Kumar, director of Chandigarh Renewable Energy Science and Technology Promotion Society (CREST), an arm of the union territory’s department of science and technology. CREST is in talks with Chandigarh administrator Kaptan Singh Solanki to get the urban planning department to issue a notification to this effect. According to the proposal, houses on plots of 100-500 square yards will have the option to install either a 1 kW solar plant or a 100-litre solar heating system. Larger houses will have no such choice.

Haryana State to promote solar power plants on canals The Haryana government on 08 March released its solar power policy, which aims to add 4,000mw of solar power by 2022. The policy unveiled on the last day of Happening Haryana Global Investors Summit aims to promote generation of green and clean power through a conducive atmosphere for the investors. To give boost to the solar energy sector, incentives such as industrial status, electricity duty exemption, banking facility, cross-subsidy charges, etc have been provided in the policy. The government has also decided to purchase solar power over and above the solar renewable purchase obligation subject to a limit of 200 Mw. The State policy also encourages setting up of solar parks and installation of solar power plants on canals tops and banks.

SOUTH ASIA

Bangladesh seeks Teesta water pact with India After the resolution of the land boundary and maritime issues, Bangladesh is now looking up to India for an “immediate signing” of the Teesta water-sharing accord, which the two governments had agreed over four years ago. On 04 March 16 the demand for early signing of the pending deal was made by Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali and State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam at the “India-Bangladesh dialogue”. Referring to the pending water deal, which the Congress and BJP-led governments failed to sign due to objections from West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, Mr. Ali said that water was “a very sensitive and important issue” in Bangladesh-India relations. BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav, speaking at the function, said New Delhi would solve all issues with Dhaka.

CHINA

Still resolving stalled dam project in Myanmar, says China China is pursuing efforts to resolve the problem of a stalled dam project in Myanmar, its foreign minister said on 08 March. In 2011, Myanmar President Thein Sein angered Beijing by suspending the $3.6-billion, Chinese-invested Myitsone dam project, some 90 percent of whose power would have gone to China. Other Chinese projects in the former Burma have proved controversial too, including the Letpadaung copper mine, against which residents have repeatedly protested, and twin Chinese oil and gas pipelines across the country. China wants to help Myanmar to have better and quicker development, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his yearly news conference on the sidelines of the annual meeting of parliament. He did not elaborate on how or when the dam issue might be resolved.

China plans strong measures to curb air, water pollution in 2016 Premier Li Keqiang on 05 March 16 in his report presented at the annual session of the National People’s Congress stated that the Chinese government plans to take strong measures this year to fight air and water pollution. According to the Chinese government report, opportunities will be expanded for an environmentally friendly and highly efficient use of coal, while the consumption of conventional raw coal will be reduced and a shift from coal to gas and electricity will be encouraged. The Chinese government also plans to decommission 3.8 million vehicles that do not meet modern emission standards. Beijing officials have announced plans of spending the equivalent of $2.5 billion in 2016 to tackle environmental pollution.

REST OF ASIA

Thailand Worst water shortage in 2 decades, 14 provinces hit by drought Thailand is facing its worst water shortage in two decades, government officials said on 09 March, with water rationing being imposed in some provinces and hotels told to minimise their laundry loads. Thailand is also facing drought in 14 of 77 provinces, while 31 other provinces are at risk, according to the Interior Ministry. The water crisis has led to some officials warning citizens not to consume too much water during the Songkran festival, also known as the water festival, which is celebrated in April and marks the start of Thailand’s traditional New Year. The water shortage has hit some hotels in a country where tourism accounts for around 10 % of GDP. The Thai Hotel Association has asked 700 hotels to save water by giving out fewer towels to hotel guests to minimise their wash load, among other measures.

Laos announces big hydropower push at International Conference More than 500 delegates over 50 countries attended the International Water Resources conference in Laos last week focusing on water resources & hydropower development across Asia. According to conference documents, Laos is moving forward with the construction of over 350 hydropower projects with private sector backing & will add more than 26,000mw of new capacity to the regional grid. 50 projects of around 4,000mw are being implemented largely for domestic supply while more than 20 schemes are in the pipeline for electricity exports totalling 15,000mw. Laos’s govt has already signed agreements with Thailand covering the purchase of 7,000mw of power.

REST OF THE WORLD 

Global Renewable energy hydroelectricity costs vs other renewable & fossil costs The report mentions that over 620 hydroelectric dams are presently under construction and some 3,000 are planned for the near-future. Most of them are coming in Latin America and Asia at a significant price, including damming most of Earth’s important rivers. Quoting Brad Plumer the report further says that if built, these dams can end up displacing thousands of people & destroying river habitats something the United States learned the hard way last century. What’s more, recent research has questioned whether hydropower is as climate-friendly as once thought. The clean side of this energy source may be great; but the disruptive side needs to be considered with the utmost care. Those are costs too, and they don’t show up in the levelized cost of electricity calculations.

US Photos of the deadly St. Francis dam disaster On 13 March in 1928, the St. Francis Dam collapsed, resulting in the massive surge of 12 billion gallons of water that rapidly flooded the San Francisquito Valley. Located 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles, near Santa Clarita, the dam’s collapse is considered one of the worst civil engineering disasters of the 20th century in America—it’s the second-greatest loss of life in California’s history, just after the 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco. According to the Los Angeles Public Library, the official death toll by August 1928 was nearly 400, but over the years, bodies were frequently discovered, and attributed to the St. Francis Dam flood. Now, the number of those killed is presumed to be more than 600.

Water-poor Saudi Arabia moves farming venture to drought-stricken California Almarai, the largest dairy business in Saudi Arabia, has purchased land in drought hit California to grow alfalfa a thirsty crop. The firm has paid $31.8m for 1,790 acres of land near Blythe, in the south eastern corner of California, for the sole purpose of growing alfalfa and shipping it back to Saudi Arabia as cattle feed to estimated 1m dairy cows. Almarai will grow the crop using water diverted from the Colorado River helping to ensure it remains the number one dairy producer in a nation of 30 million people. For decades, an agricultural boom in Saudi Arabia relied entirely on groundwater. But rapid growth depleted those aquifers, causing many farms to collapse and forcing the nation to whiplash from being a net exporter of many commodities to a net importer.

England Salmon Spawning in Connecticut Watershed for first time in 200 years In a discovery that’s nothing short of remarkable, biologists have found wild Atlantic salmon spawning in New England’s Connecticut River. Wild returning salmon have long thought to be extinct from the watershed, and Connecticut Fish and Wildlife reports that this may be the first wild spawning since the time of the Revolutionary War. Wild Atlantic salmon were once plentiful in the 407-mile-long river, and biologists estimate that before colonization up to 50,000 fish made annual runs upstream. But the species quickly died off after a series of dams blocked the fishs’ migration routes and as the river became increasingly polluted.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Study Warming brings increasing flood risk and heavier rain Findings of a new analysis of storm data and model projections warn that flooding is going to be a worsening problem around the world, with a warmer atmosphere already leading to heavier downpours in both arid and wet climates. The study published on 07 March in Nature Climate Change identified “robust increases” in “extreme daily precipitation” the types of drenching storms that can wipe out homes and flood fields. The study team analyzed 60 years of weather observations in the wettest and driest regions, concluding that increases in heavy rainfall events matched simulations made by earth models. Future projections from those same models project that rates of deluges will increase in dry regions more quickly than elsewhere.

Study Climate change may kill over 130,000 Indians in 2050 Climate change could kill over 130,000 people in India in 2050 because of changes in diet and bodyweight from reduced crop productivity, according to a study in the British medical journal The Lancet. The changes could lead to nearly 529,000 extra deaths globally in 2050, as opposed to a future without climate change in which adequate food availability and consumption could prevent 1.9 million deaths, it predicts. Carried out by researchers from the University of Oxford, the study evaluates the impact of climate change on diet composition and bodyweight, and estimates the number of deaths caused by this in 155 nations in 2050.

ENVIRONMENT

National Why a green budget is good for the economy Bahar Dutt reviewing the positive, negative points and missing aspects from Union Budget 2016-17.Allocation for MoEF & Renewable Energy Ministry has been reduced which is very sad. Separate Allocations of Rs. 150, Rs 6000, & Rs 400crore for afforestation, sustainable groundwater management & encouraging organic farming are positive things in the budget. What it misses is that there is no mention of allocation of funds for the protection of existing forests, lakes, wetlands and water resources or the biodiversity found in them as these are the drivers of the nation’s economic growth and health from minerals extracted from the forests to several thousand tonnes of sand removed from our river beds, natural resources fuel the economy in all forms by providing raw material for high-rise buildings, water for thermal power plants.

You may like to visit DRP News Bulletin 07 March 2016 & DRP News Bulletin 29 Feb. 2016

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