DRP News Bulletin 28 March 2016(Is India facing its worst-ever water crisis?)

Is India facing its worst-ever water crisis? On 11 March first time in 30 years history power generation at Farakka power plant in West Bengal was suspended for 10 days due to non-availability of water in Ganges. Nobody is sure why but the evidence about the declining water levels and waning health of the 2,500km long Ganges is mounting. Monsoon rains have been scanty for the second year in succession. The melting of snow in the Himalayas has been delayed. Water tables have also been declining in the Ganges basin due to the reckless extraction of groundwater. The 3-month-long summer is barely weeks away but water availability in India’s 91 reservoirs is at its lowest in a decade, with stocks at a paltry 29% of their total storage capacity, according to the Central Water Commission. Thousands of villagers in drought-hit region of Maharashtra depend on tankers for water & authorities in Latur district, fearing violence, have imposed prohibitory orders on gatherings of more than 5 people around storage tanks. Tens of thousands of farmers and livestock have moved to camps providing free fodder and water for animals in parched districts. The govt has asked local municipalities to stop supplying water to swimming pools. States like Punjab are squabbling over ownership of river waters. In water-scarce Orissa, farmers have reportedly breached embankments to save their crops. Realy the waning health of the sacred river underscores the rising crisis of water in India.

FLOOD

SANDRP Blog Bihar Floods of 1987-I Bihar faced the worst floods if its history in 1987, the records of which are yet to be bettered. In the preceding year of 1986 the flood was severe in many parts of Bihar but as the rainy season drew to close, the last October rains failed and a vast area of the State came under the grip of drought. Surprisingly, the districts cited for perennial floods like Saharsa, Purnea and Khagaria in the State were also hit by the drought. The year 1987, however, was worst for floods in Bihar (in addition to UP and W Bengal) while the rest of the country was facing one of the most severe droughts in the century. Many parts of the country were facing famine like situation while all the rain bearing clouds had moved toward Bihar.  This is first part of a guest blog written by Dr. Dinesh Kumar Mishra

WATER OPTIONS    

Tamil Nadu Rain Centre to tackle water issues set up Madurai-based start-up firm Rainstock, a social venture that was started to solve water problems, has now set up a ‘Rain Centre’ in the temple town. It will address all water-related queries help a person understand rainwater harvesting and other methods of conserving water. It is so good and interesting.

Telangana Govt. to restore five water bodies  With the State government deciding to restore and improve the five important water bodies in tri-cities, the second phase of Mission Kakatiya is expected to be a boon to urban-dwellers. The proposed desilation & beautification of Bhadrakali, Padmakshi, Rangasamudram, Somidi and Bandham tanks are expected to improve the groundwater level in the cities. The State govt is taking up the works at a cost of Rs.11.61cr of these tanks which are in a state of neglect. Over the decades silt got accumulated rendering them partially defunct and reducing their water holding capacity. Once disiltation works are completed, not only the water storage capacity will increase, but also the underground water level around the tank increases. 

Delhi NGT slaps Rs 5L fine on builder over rainwater harvesting The Tribunal has slapped a fine of Rs 5 lakh on M/s ABW Infra Ltd a real estate developer here after it was found that the rainwater harvesting system in its property was not functional. The green panel made it clear that the penalty imposed on the firm was for causing environmental degradation “till this day and the question of payment for the subsequent period will be considered later.” The tribunal directed the company to pay the amount to Delhi Pollution Control Committee within 3 weeks & said an inspection would be carried out by DJB at the property in South Delhi to find out the suitability of the site chosen by the firm for construction of the harvesting system.

Centre Water Ministry working on water law to restrict use of fresh water The Centre is working on a legislation to restrict the unregulated use of freshwater across the country, according to Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti. Speaking at The Indian Express Idea Exchange event, Bharti said that in future, people would need to rely more on treated water & use freshwater whether it is surface water, ground water or reserved rain water only for limited purposes. The Water Resources Ministry is working on a draft legislation to regulate the use of freshwater & government would persuade farmers to buy treated water for irrigation purposes. According to Minister regulation on use of freshwater was being planned not just in the context of cleaning the Ganga but as a standard to be applied throughout the country.

DROUGHT 

National Thermal power plants in water stress areas may lead to drought In totality, over 40% of the proposed Indian coal fleet is in highly stressed water use areas and if all the proposed coal plants are actually built, India’s coal fleet will double its current water consumption to 15.33 billion cubic metre/year more than any other country, including China. 10 states in the country have declared drought so far due to the poor rainfall from the 2015 monsoon and water scarcity is already affecting operational power plants – the 1100Mw Parli power plant in Maharashtra has been shut down since July 2015 & 4 units of the 1720Mw Raichur power plant in Karnataka was recently shut down due to a lack of water.  NTPC Solapur power plant has faced commissioning delays and an ongoing threat to its financial viability due to water supply issues. The information is based on Green Peace report titled “The Great Water Grab: How the coal industry is deepening the global water crisis”.

Gujarat 30 villages in Songadh taluka reeling under water crisis 30 villages in Songadh taluka of Tapi district are reeling under a severe water crisis for the past few days. The irony is all these villages together having a population of 50,000 are located close to Ukai dam and Tapi River. The major reason for the water crisis is state government’s apathy. The water tanks constructed in villages are non-functional and there is no water to draw from the hand pumps. The water level in the villages has gone down but the state government did little toward rain harvesting, water conservation and to maintain its machineries. The hand pumps supplied by the state government and private agencies are not working and water in many villages is not good for human consumption. It is typical situation where large dams do not serve the tribals staying next to it.

Karnataka Water crisis worsens State acute drought Water level at 13 major reservoirs in the State is just 225tmcft, last year, it was 329tmcft. 33% of agricultural & horticultural crops have been affected in 136 of the total 176 taluks which are drought-hit. 385 villages being supplied water by 882 tankers. This year the shortage of rainfall in 12 districts of north Karnataka was a record 55%.Power generation at  1035mw Sharavathi HEP, part of which was gutted in a recent fire, will resume now which will improve the power supply situation. 2 more units will start functioning by the month-end and the rest by June.

Maharashtra Marathwada new epic centre of agrarian distress For years, it was Vidarbha, but now it appears that Marathwada has emerged as the epicentre of agrarian distress in the country. Since the beginning of 2015, there have been over 1,400 farmer suicides more than 3 every day in just this single region comprising 8 districts of Maharashtra.  The region has experienced 3 monsoon failure since 2012, 2014 and 2015 in the last 4 years. Last year’s was the worst, with an overall rainfall deficit of over 44%  during June-December relative to the average for this period. Moreover, there are still three months to go before the onset of the next monsoon. With water levels in the region’s major reservoirs currently not even at 7% of their full capacity some like Jayakwadi, Majalgaon and Manjra have already gone totally dry the worst is still to come. Also see, Govt may seek railways’ help to supply water to Marathwada 

7 Marathwada dams run dry; experts point to flawed plan Of 11 major projects in central Maharashtra, 7 including Jayakwadi, the biggest, currently have zero live water storage. At least two of these dams, Lower Terna and Sina-Kolegaon, have zero dead storage of water forcing authorities to tap into sub-surface water below the dam. The data of Water Resources Ministry shows that the dams have been surviving on dead water storage for the past year.  . According to Parineeta Dandekar, from SANDRP even though Marathwada witnessed historically low rainfall levels last year, the government failed to regulate the use of water for the sugar industry. Sugar factories were allowed to pump out water from dead storage of some of these dams like Lower Terna, even while there was an acute drinking water problem. Equitable distribution of water for Marathwada has remained solely on paper, despite the change in govt.

Latur water crisis worsens: city suffers more than rural areas Experts held uneven rainfall, sugarcane crop as main culprit behind drought and feels that Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan could be a game changer if implemented properly.

INTERSTATE WATER DISPUTES

SYL Row Punjab to ask apex court to first decide HR, RJ ‘riparian status’ Punjab is learnt to request the SC to first decide on the ‘riparian status’ of Haryana and Rajasthan before it gives a verdict on the Presidential reference on the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004. The Act had sealed the fate of the SYL canal. Punjab will seek a decision on a plea pending in the SC that had challenged distribution of river waters mandated under the Punjab Re-organisation Act 1966. Punjab had moved the petition under Article 131 of the Constitution, asking the SC to adjudicate if Haryana and Rajasthan are ‘riparian states’. Section 78 of the 1966 Act had allowed distribution of water to successor states (Haryana and Rajasthan).

Central team visiting SYL faces protests A central team headed by Dalip Kumar, Joint Secretary, Union Home Ministry on 22 March visited the district to assess the damage caused by farmers to the SYL on March 15 and 16 after the Punjab Assembly had passed the Punjab Satluj-Yamuna Link Canal Land (Transfer of Property Rights) Bill, 2016. On Haryana’s plea, the apex court, in its interim order dated March 17, had appointed the Union Home Secretary and Punjab’s Chief Secretary and Director General of Police (DGP) as ‘joint receiver’ of land and other SYL property till the next date of hearing on March 31. Dalip Kumar, who was accompanied by Chief Engineer of the Central Water Commission Ashok S Goyal and Punjab Irrigation Secretary KS Pannu, will submit a report to the Centre. The team faced protest at several places by people who were led by leaders of political parties.

Day after SC order, Badal moves anti-SYL resolution Less than 24 hours after the Supreme Court ordered status quo on SYL canal, Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal moved yet another resolution on not allowing its construction. This is the second resolution on SYL tabled in the Vidhan Sabha in a week by Badal, the first being the de-notification of the 3,928 acres of the canal area that was later converted into a bill announcing return of the land free of cost to oustee farmers 40 years after its acquisition. The ruling party chief feels that resolution was not contempt of the apex court’s interim order. Meanwhile upset over the Punjab new resolution, the Haryana govt on 18 March announced that it would present the resolution before the SC.

SC orders Punjab to keep status quo on SYL Canal land Intervening in water wars, the Supreme Court on 17 March ordered Punjab to maintain a status quo on the SYL Canal land. A five-judge Constitution bench was hearing a 2004 presidential reference to examine on the legality of the Punjab Termination Agreement Act, 2004 that scrapped all water sharing agreements with neighbouring states. The court’s interim order came three days after the Punjab assembly, pre-empting a possible ruling from the apex court, cleared the Punjab SYL canal Land (Transfer of Property Rights) Bill, 2016, on 14 March. The bill still needs to be approved by Punjab governor & be notified before becoming law.

Farmers can’t own SYL land till Governor okays Bill, norms met Though many farmers have on their own reclaimed portions of the SYL canal land, they would not get back ownership till the Punjab SYL Canal Land (Return of Proprietary Rights) Bill becomes a law and is notified by the state govt.  The ownership is a long-drawn-out process, which starts with the passing of the notification of the Bill. After that, the revenue records would have to be updated, for which the land would be recorded afresh in the name of the person(s) who owned it at the time of its acquisition around 35 years ago. The Bill with its passage in the state Assembly will be sent for Governor’s assent only after that the govt will issue the notification to enforce the Act. Interestingly, the return of the land to over 5,000 farmers would ‘revive’ many dead persons as owners of the pieces of land as heirs would have to prove their claim via a succession certificate. Also see, Why Punjab move not yet violation of SC order 

Get your own canal, Haryana tells Delhi amid row over water In a letter to Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal on 17 March, Om Prakash Dhankar Irrigation Minister Haryana expressed the inability of his state to carry Delhi’s share of river water through its canal system in view of the position taken by him against the interests of Haryana’s people. The minister said that Delhi should get its separate canal constructed from Nangal Dam and Tajewala barrage to carry water. Haryana carries 498 cusecs Delhi’s share of water through the Bhakra Main Line canal and and 330 cusecs of additional water from the Yamuna was also delivered to Delhi through the Yamuna canal system.

Dear Governor, Please withhold assent to the Punjab SYL bill The Op-Ed is based on Ashok Khemka IAS officers letter to Haryana Governor.  The governor may kindly reserve the bill for the consideration of the president of India under Article 200 read with Article 254(2) of the Constitution. Assent to the bill would clearly defeat the presidential reference and render it totally redundant. Also see Mahabharata over SYL

DAMS  

Maharashtra Villagers halt water release from Kashyapi dam Villagers surrounding Kashyapi dam are up in arms against the water resources department (WRD) lifting water from the storage reservoir to Gangapur dam from where the water will be taken by the civic body for city and industrial purposes. The protesters have sought employment from the administration, which had acquired their land for the dam. As per the 1993 agreement, the Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) had promised jobs 60 families that were displaced due to land acquisition. However, so far, only 23 families have been given jobs. The NMC had acquired land from farmers for construction of Kashyapi dam in 1989. The displaced villagers have been agitating since 2000. The WRD officials, meanwhile, have requested for police protection for releasing water from Kashyapi to Godavari.

Gujarat Narmada dam gates to be ready in March 2017 CM Anandiben Patel while while addressing a farmer’s gathering near the city stated that work on placing gates on the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river is expected to get over by March next year. She also said that PM Narendra Modi had given a permission to put the gates on the dam within 17 days of coming to power. Patel said that work on 22 out of the 30 radial gates had been completed on a war footing & the remaining 8 radial gates would be put up by March 2017. This is very irresponsible statement made by the CM. According SC order the States (GJ, MP) cannot close the dam gates without completing the resettlement and rehabilitation work of all the people displaced the project and related activities. It’s also sad that the CM has made said nothing about rehabilitation of dam oustees.

INTER LINKING OF RIVERS

Odisha Kisan sabha to oppose river linking project The Odisha unit of peasants’ organisation All-India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha (AIKMS) has decided to oppose Mahanadi-Godavari river linking project as well as over-promotion of ground water use for agriculture in the State. It was decided at the two-day State level conference of the organisation that concluded in Berhampur on 15 March. Speaking to newsmen, organisation national general secretary Sushant Jha and State president Natabar Pradhan claimed that river linking project and over-tapping of ground water would be a major bane for environment and agriculture. The AIKMS claimed that although Odisha had ample amount of surface water and adequate rainfall, due to lack of proper water management its farmers were suffering drought-like situation regularly.

HYDRO POWER 

Arunachal CM appreciates Bhutan hydro power model  Kalikho Pul CM of the State seems to be impressed with so called achievement made by Bhutan Govt in tapping hydropower resources and expressed its eagerness to adopt their developmental model in the state too. The CM particularly expressed his keen interest on learning the system of land compensation, types of dams being built, nature of ownership of hydropower projects & the measures taken for environmental and cultural preservation with economic development taking side by side, being followed in Bhutan. Also see, Arunachal wants to go Bhutan way in hydropower Arunachal Pradesh should also know the negative side of the so called Bhutan success story of hydropower developments there.

IRRIGATION 

National PM Krishi Sinchai Yojana: Can it deliver Har Khet Ko Paani? The report has some worth to adopt suggestions for Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY). PMKSY should focus on closing the gap of 35-40 million hectares between irrigation potential ‘created’ and irrigation potential ‘utilised’. This is a low-hanging fruit that more than money, requires deep reform in irrigation governance. PMKSY should invest in rehabilitation of over 5lakhs traditional irrigation tanks on the lines of the Telangana government’s Mission Kakatiya. PMKSY should energise 8-10 million pump-sets in 150 irrigation-deprived districts & should promote solar pumps by encouraging Discoms to offer farmers buy-back guarantee for the surplus power they produce from photovoltaic panels, as Gujarat and Haryana are already trying to do. It needs to operationalise a decentralised groundwater recharge plan for hard-rock peninsular India, while supporting planned conjunctive management of surface and groundwater in the alluvial Indo-Gangetic basin.

Maharashtra Maharashtra govt gives Rs 7,850 cr for irrigation 7 irrigation projects, at Waghur, Bavanthadi, Lower Dudhna, Tillari, Lower Wardha, Lower Panjhara and Nandur Madhveshwar Phase II have been included under the PM Krushi Sinchai Yojana. Incidentally Bombay HC has already termed the approval to all 189 irrigation projects (worth Rs5600cr given during year 2007-2013) as outside the scope of the law since all these projects fall outside the purview of the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Act 2005. Of these, work on 66 projects is yet to begin. Also in budget, Rs3473 for MGNREGA, Rs4462.69cr proposed subsidising energy tariff for agriculture, power loom, industrial and commercial consumers & Rs 20cr for Namami Chandrabhaga Mission to clean up Chandrabhaga river at Pandharpur. Also see, Budgets sets 7850cr for irrigation sector

Andhra Pradesh Govt set to inaugurate country’s first lift irrigation project Described as the first river linking project it will connect Godavari with Krishna in this lower riparian state. The first pump of this Rs1300cr project was installed & switched on in Sep 2015. The project was designed to lift 80 tmc of flood water in a span of 110 days during the flooding season from Godavari containing 24 motors & 24 pumps of 6300 HP & 5300 HP respectively. The project requires 113mw of power to run all the 24 pumps as each motor require 4.7mw of power to lift the water. The pumps will consume about 235 million units of power to lift 80 tmc of water, and that translates into about Rs131.6cr in electricity bill as per the tariff of Rs5.60 per unit. As per the terms of contract, the company is expected to receive an incentive of Rs268cr for the timely completion from the govt. AP likely to inaugurate the controversial project now, when there is no water in Godavari to lift.

Seema irrigation projects see tardy progress The remaining works at Pothireddypadu project main canal, known as Srisailam Right Main Canal (SRMC) expansion, & at Banakacharla project are progressing at a snail’s pace for the past 8 years. Under the current situation, the experts predict that it will take at least 2 years to bring works to a certain level. In 2005, the State govt augmented its capacity from 11000 to 44000 cusecs & relevant works were grounded in 2007. The pending works include building a road bridge at the 14th km, strengthening standard bund to prevent canal ramps from erosion, rebuilding of three regulators of Banakacharla cross regulator complex that were washed away in the unprecedented floods in 2009 and desilting of escape channel, SRBC & Telugu Ganga canals. Yet, the State government disbursed Rs12cr to contractors towards clearing their bills. So far the govt had spent Rs180cr but the quantum of works to be still executed is valued at Rs20cr.

Telangana CM preparing hard for marathon irrigation presentation K Chandrashekhar Rao has readied more than 3 hrs long Power Point presentation on the need for redesigning existing projects & taking up new projects to achieve the target to irrigate 1cr acres. The CM has already conducted rehearsals 55 times since Oct last year & another 10 times in last 15 days. He is reported to have undertaken elaborate research to prepare the presentation all by himself. The CM is reported to have studied Google maps and & has indentified over 400 illegal barrages & other structures built over Krishana & Godavari rivers by Maharashtra & Karnataka.  Meanwhile the Cabinet Sub-Committee on irrigation projects has decided to give a final shape to redesign and reengineer the projects package as the process had financial commitment. The committee which met on 27 March also decided to hold another sitting on 30 March. As the cost of some of projects might escalate, a final shape to projects will be given in consultation with the finance department. On the other hand the ambitious plan of CM K Chandrasekhar Rao to give a power point presentation on the floor of the House, on re-engineering of irrigation projects in the state is likely to face hurdles as opposition parties  could not make consensus over the issue.

RIVERS

Maharashtra Villagers shun Panchganga as pollution soars Ichalkaranji, Gaobhag, Dharangutti, Nandani and Haroli villagers in Kolhapur are facing water scarcity despite living close to rivers. These villages, situated near Warna, Krishna and Panchganga rivers in Shiroli taluka, have witnessed the streams getting completely dried up for at least three-four times since February which is unusual. Moreover, these rivers carry all sort of filth for most of the time of the year making their water undrinkable. The river starts flowing only after the water resources department release water from Radhanagari & Kalammawadi dams. In the meantime, two packaged drinking water plants in Shiroli MIDC cater to the requirements of villages on the river banks. Families, which relied heavily on the Panchganga for all their needs, now have turned their back to the river because of high pollution levels.

GANGA Centre Forestry intervention on Ganga a time bound manner: Uma Releasing the Detailed Project Report on Forestry Intervention for Ganga on 22 March alongwith Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, Uma Bharati said that from time immemorial the vegetations along the river Ganga had the medicinal power to keep its water clean. Terming them as Brahmdrav, the Water Minister also said that plantation programme will start from Uttarakhand. Uma Bharati was of the opinion the large scale vegetations along the river Ganga will also help in enriching the aqua life of the river. Complimenting the experts of Forest Research Institute for their contribution in the preparation of voluminous report, the Minister said her Ministry will start implementing the report very soon. Also see, DPR on forestry interventions for Ganga hailed

Uttar Pradesh NGT seeks complete data on sewage discharged in Ganga The green court on 21 March slammed Uttar Pradesh (UP) Pollution Control Board over the quantum of sewage discharged in Ganga from various towns of the state & directed it to submit complete data on domestic and industrial waste released in the river. NGT had earlier directed UP & Uttarakhand (UKH) govt to identify seriously polluting industries located on the banks of Ganga and apprise it about “quantity and quality” of discharge generated by them in the river. Irked at the lackadaisical approach of officials of the two states for failing to enumerate the causes of pollution and the locations affected, NGT had also asked the Water Ministry not to release funds to UP & UKH govts without its approval.

Uttrakhand Construction on Ganga floodplain: NGT slaps Rs 20L fine The green court has imposed a penalty of Rs 20 lakh on Darrameks Hotels and Developers Pvt Ltd developer in UKH for construction of hotel within 200 meters from the Ganga river bank. The tribunal also pulled up State Govt issuing No Objection Certificate to the hotel, located adjacent to the river, without inspecting the site in question.  It also constituted a committee headed by UKH pollution control board to inspect the site in district Tehri Garhwal and give its recommendations with respect to the hotel project and its impact on Ganga & submit its report within 4 weeks besides preventing the fined hotel from further construction.

Against norms authorities diverted Ganga water to Haridwar ashrams In a clear violation of the Wildlife Protection Act, forest officials allegedly gave permission for creating a rivulet to divert Ganga water from the Rajaji Tiger Reserve to ashrams in Haridwar. The rivulet was created from the section of the river flowing into the Dudhiya beat of the Haridwar range of the reserve to ghats in the Saptsarovar area of Haridwar. The diversion was permitted by chief wildlife warden (CWLW) DVS Khati, in violation of section 35 of the Act of 1972. As per rules no person can divert, stop or enhance the flow of water into or outside the National Park except with permission from the CWLW. However, in this case, neither was NBWL consulted nor is the diversion being done for better wildlife management.

YAMUNA AOL Row Lawyer, petitioners who fought for Yamuna on CID radar Ritwick Dutta the lawyer, Manoj Mishra & Anand Arya the petitioners who raised their voices against AOL event are now on the Crime Investigation Department (CID) radar and Delhi Police have been asked to keep a close watch on cases related to the Yamuna floodplains that are currently being heard at the NGT. So why & who in Govt has brought in the CID? The lawyer and petitioners were even warned by fringe elements because of their decision to fight the case against the AOL. So why is raising your voice against the destruction of environment considered as going against the interests of the state or religion? And why should caring for the environment be given a communal tinge? Surely the idea of India is not so fragile that it gets threatened by a bunch of green activists? By Bahar Dutt

Army opposed building bridges for Sri Sri’s ‘private function’ Written in the third week of Feb the Army chief letter cited 3 arguments why operational army bridges should not be used for a private event. The army’s first objection was that the bridging equipment was stored across various army cantonments. Transporting these to Delhi would require a major logistical effort and expense. The second reason was that these bridges comprised valuable operational equipment, which had a finite service life in terms of the number of times they could be launched. The army argued that this limited service life should be safeguarded for war. The third reason was the impropriety of deploying military troops for what it considered a private function. Very disappointing Defence Ministry deployed Army to build bridges overruling its logical objections.

Damage extent was known before the event The letters, accessed by Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan show that the AOL had twice been refused permission to hold an event in the area by the DDA. The letters also point to a tug of war between the foundation and DDA over granting permission to hold the event over the last year. They show the DDA repeatedly shifting its official position on the matter. The DDA had initially stated in a letter dated 18 May, 2015 that permission could not be granted owing to the area falling within the active boundaries of the Yamuna floodplains where it says, ‘The NGT had banned all activities’. However, a letter dated 11 June eventually allowed permission after imposing a few conditions. This happened after AOL had countered the DDA by saying all activities are not banned and it will not undertake any construction which pollutes the river in any form.

Maybe someone called up NGT to clear AOL event: Jairam Ramesh Calling the recently-concluded event of AOL event on the floodplains of Yamuna river a “blatant, & complete violation” of laws, former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh 17 March wondered whether some “higher-ups” had made phone calls to the NGT which had allowed the event to go on.

NEERI scientist in a spot after declaring AOL event did no harm to Yamuna National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) has distanced itself from the comments made by one of its senior scientific officers, Rakesh Kumar, who gave a clean chit to AOL event on Yamuna floodplains in Delhi recently. The environmental activists working for the cause of river Yamuna have questioned Neeri on the grounds that led Kumar to conclude that no damage was caused to the Yamuna river floodplain. Meanwhile, Neeri has sought explanation from Kumar for making a public statement, which is against the norms of the organization. Also see No clean chit: NEERI disowns scientist’s views on AOL event Good to see this time NEERI rejecting its scientist claims made in personal capacity. Otherwise NEERI’s report has been used to justify the abuse of floodplain in past like in CWG village 2010 case. Dr. Rakesh Kumar himself now has clarified that it was his personal observation and he was not giving clean chit to AOL for damaging Yamuna floodplain.

AOL lying & misleading on cleaning Yamuna with Enzymes The recently concluded AOL event on the banks of Yamuna is a classic case of how we govern our rivers and its floodplains, rather misgovern them. The AOL administered enzymes into Yamuna, something that the NGT has banned through its recent order. In order to set a scientific inquiry in motion in the matter of introduction of enzymes in Yamuna, the character of enzymes used by AOL volunteers has to be established. And that is pretty unclear. If the volunteers took samples of water from the Yamuna before and after a few days of enzyme treatment and have found marked difference in the quality of water, AOL should share its documents and findings for further verification. The last defence of AOL of enzymes treatment is also falling apart.

How building on Yamuna floodplain can be harmful AOL like event can cause permanent & irreparable damage to the river ecosystem in the affected area. The process of flattening severely impacts its groundwater recharge capability. The work at the site has also changed the natural gradient of the floodplain, which can diminish its flood-carrying capacity. Small water bodies and wetlands have been filled up. No study was done before the AOL was allowed to make changes to the floodplain for the event. In the absence of a baseline scenario, there is no way to assess whether the original condition has been restored.

Art of killing a Yamuna Another important article on destruction of Yamuna floodplain by AOL function. It rightly says that an event of such an enormity within the active floodplain of the river would set a dangerous precedent which others could cite for similar permissions. This would be detrimental to the health of the river.  

AOL & politicians: When loyalty trumps propriety Sri Sri is able to combine a populist edge to his spirituality with an uncanny knack of attracting the affluent devotee. This isn’t a guru living in penury but someone who travels first-class, swings into an interview in a Bentley, lives in a luxurious ashram in Bengaluru, will stay in the capital at a posh Golf Links address and is often seen in the company of the bold and the beautiful. The access to money power although his lawyer strangely claimed in court that AOL didn’t have Rs 5 crore to pay up — means that Sri Sri’s skills as an impresario can create a grand spectacle of the kind witnessed in Delhi this time. Op-Ed by Rajdeep Sardesai a senior journalist.

Delhi It’s now or never for the Yamuna NGT order, titled ‘Maili Se Nirmal Yamuna project 2017’, was a ‘now or never’ moment & had a detailed plan involving all the stakeholders & looking at all the possible factors. Over a year later, there is no perceptible change except the fact that Haryana is releasing more water in Yamuna from Hathini Kund Barrage. The DJB is currently in the final leg of its ambitious Interceptor Sewer project. But the Centre, which has otherwise talked a big game on cleaning the rivers, is yet to help financially. To make things worse, NGT has order DJB not to spend any money without its permission. DJB wish to launch the project in December but NGT order asks it to build more STPs which DJB feels is waste of money. As it is put now or never moment for Yamuna.  Unfortunately, now it is looking like never.

Yamuna action plan to be ready by June, focus on natural drains This summer, the DJB is likely to come up with a comprehensive action plan to clean the Yamuna that will include decentralised sewage treatment plants and focus on storm-water drains. Instead of large-scale projects, the plan will include decentralised solutions in the form of a group of projects. There will be separate plans for the natural drains, the main course of the river, the banks and for involving Delhiites. According to a senior DJB official, the focus on the river’s water alone won’t be enough. Just installing more sewage treatment plants won’t work, as solid waste from the slums & unauthorised colonies along the drains finds its way into the water.

Too many cooks spoil the broth For years, the central as well as the State governments involved have been discussing, drafting and constituting committees for the river, only to worsen the mesh of multiplicity of authority. Apart from the slew of measures ordered by the NGT over a year ago, Delhi CM in October last year had decided to introduce a legislation named, the Yamuna River and Flood Plain Development Bill, but nothing has happened after the announcement. In fact, the proposed bill, which was aimed at eliminating multiplicity of authorities that has contributed to the river turning into a highly polluted waterway, has been scrapped now as “it was not feasible”. The legislation was to enable the Delhi govt to create a separate agency to revive the river. Amid all the “rejuvenation” plans for the Yamuna, which have been tasked to dozens of agencies, it’s ultimately the river itself which has become a “victim”.

No relief for Akshardham temple on NGT fine The green court has stood by its decision taken last year imposing a fine on Akshardham temple management for carrying out expansion without prior environmental clearance and quashing two office memoranda of the Environment Ministry. The Tribunal, however, allowed the petitioner to approach the Principal Committee headed by Shashi Shekhar  for redressal of its grievances and directed the panel to expedite hearing in the matter. The bench had passed the order on a petition filed by Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan alleging that the temple management had allegedly used one of these two memoranda to get a “post facto” clearance for expanding the complex on a proposed built-up area of 25,497 square metres. Also see NGT raps DJB over Yamuna

WETLANDS & WATER BODIES

Karnataka Court issues summons to officials over pollution of lakes in Bengaluru In a first, the top brass of the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), often in the dock for letting sewage into the city’s lakes, is being held accountable. A city court has found prima facie case against it under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. The incumbent BWSSB Chairman, 2 former chairmen & 10 engineering staff, will face legal proceedings for letting sewage into the Hulimavu, Madiwala & Arakere lakes. If found guilty, they may face a prison term. The V Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court, ordered the registration of the case & issued summons after hearing complaint filed by Karnataka State Pollution Control Board. The chairman & other heads were supposed to file their reply on 22 March. However, the agency has sought more time. The case has been adjourned to June.

Andhra Pradesh Govt destroying wetlands in the name of development: Experts According to the Andhra Pradesh Wetland Atlas, Nellore district comprises 2,998 wetlands & they account for an area of 2,15,404 ha. Krishna district comprises 1764 wetlands that account for an area of 1,65,818 ha. The West Godavari district comprises 1743 wetlands & the wetlands account for an area of 91,447 hectares. The East Godavari district comprises 1,972 wetlands and they account for an area of 99, 057 hectares. These four districts were so rich in wetlands seen by environmentalists as the “lungs and kidneys” of nature. But unfortunately both the Central and State Government were trying to destroy them in the name of development.

Kerala Acres of Kottuli wetlands may soon be a thing of past Acres of wetlands in Kottuli and surrounding areas are on the verge of extinction with the rampant filling works under way evading the eyes of the local govt bodies and the revenue authorities. To escape from the public ire, most of the filling works are being carried out late night with the loads of soil mined from distant locations of the city. Revenue officials, who are supposed to keep tab on the illegal land development works in restricted areas, are hardly concerned of the issue as most of them have been busy with the arrangements ahead of the Assembly elections. Complaints reportedly filed in some of the village offices are also remaining ignored. Activists from the area reveal that the work is carried out with the backup of some of the prominent political leaders and the city Corporation.  As a token of resistance, Yuvadhara workers, including men and women, will stage a protest in front of the filled area holding footwear in two days.

J&K Delay in notification threatens Narkara wetland Failure of the Govt to notify Narkara wetland on city outskirts as Wildlife Protected Area is hampering its conservation. There are 8 notified wetlands in Valley but Narkara wetland is not under Wildlife department.  In absence of any monitoring, reports of unabated poaching of migratory birds by professional hunters in collusion with some officials is going on unabated in wetland. The hunters visit the wetland in wee and evening hours and on an average kill between 300-400 birds per day. Narkara wetland is spread over around 8,000 kanals of land and is surrounded by Shiekhpora, Humhama, and Hyderpora.  The land mafia has managed to construct illegal structures on the wetland in collusion with some officials.

SAND MINING   

Maharashtra Pune authorities take action in 2,743 illegal sand mining cases In the last 7 months, the Pune district administration has taken action against 2,743 cases of illegal mining the highest in the state towards the end of the financial year. The district administration has registered FIRs in 62 cases and collected Rs 9 crore as fine. In the last five years, the administration said that this is the first time that action has been taken against so many cases in every taluka of the district in such a short span of time. Large-scale violations have been observed in the district and in Indapur and Daund; nearly 70 cases of illegal mining using boats were caught in this period. Last year, the total number of cases were only 448 in the same period with 48 FIRs registered.

Tamil Nadu Petition in High court to prevent sand mining on Tamirabarani bank The Cauvery Water Resource Environment Protection Association on 22 March moved the Madras High court seeking a direction to prevent sand mining near the Iron Age urn burial site at Adichanallur, located on the banks of the Tamirabharani river. The petitio filed by Association President T N Mahendrakumar, submitted that sand was being mined from a place close to Adichanallur a famous archaeological site that was brought to light in 1876 &  Public Works Secretary & Tuticorin district collector has taken no steps on his written complain. The petitioner contended that mining would destroy the monuments & asked the govt to intervene and stop mining activities at the site. Admitting the petition the court posted the case for hearing on 11 April.

WATER

India’s water crisis is set to worsen As Marathwada & SYL show, the problem ties into a political ecosystem that is entangled in calculations of patronage and electoral viability. Massive agricultural subsidies, a mainstay of every administration, have incentivized indiscriminate water usage and inefficient cultivation patterns—a problem the Economic Survey 2015-16, presented last month, recognized when it said that the system “encourages using more inputs such as fertiliser, water and power, to the detriment of soil quality, health and the environment”. It is a very readable article pin-pointing key reason behind water crisis in India. Regarding SYL it’s also failure of judiciary which sat over the issue for 12 years and the water governance in country is very weak. Also see Half of Indian population will face water scarcity by 2030

The importance of water management Water has been at the centre stage of the development and political debate. Growing scarcity; increasing pollution; enhanced competition, conflicts and trans-boundary water sharing issues have dominated the national discourse in current times. However, certain fundamental aspects need to be addressed if we are to ensure the safety and sustainability of this precious resource. The first among these is a comprehensive assessment of water resources in India. The last time a comprehensive assessment of water resources for the entire country was done was in 1999-2000. The planning of water resources needs to be based on updated data and it is time that a complete assessment on water availability, use and future demand is carried out. Also see, World Water Day 2016: 40 photos to make you think twice about wasting this

Delhi Cities at crossroads: Where water is safe to drink Delhi needs a single public authority suitably empowered and responsible for the delivery of safe drinking water. With multiple agencies present, it is not clear who is responsible for making the whole system work to respond to the enormous challenge of delivering safe water to the residents of Delhi. One good development is the rise of a single regulator, the NGT. What we need in addition is a single public authority suitably empowered and responsible for the delivery of safe water with whatever it takes. Such an entity should be accountable to the people and able to respond to the NGT in one voice.

Kerala Kochi in the grip of water scarcity In many parts of the city, households are forced to buy drinking water at least twice a week because the pipes run dry. The 20-litre water dispenser has become more of a necessity in several city households. Though the city has two river sources supplying water after the commissioning of the Maradu water treatment plant under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, it remains parched in quite a few areas. Kerala Water Authority (KWA) maintained Cheranalloor & West Kochi are mostly affected as the former is at the tail-end of the distribution system and the latter has inherent supply & distribution problems. There have also been power supply issues that affect pumping in certain areas. A break in pumping creates a gap in supply that gets corrected very slowly, said the official.

MONSOON

Maharashtra Meteorological data system to get Rs160cr makeover The Water Resource Department (WRD) has chalked out plans to spend Rs 160 crore in the first phase of a eight-year National Hydrology Project through which it aims to project weather and climatic changes more accurately. The programme is supposed to strengthen meteorological and hydrological data acquisition systems thereby improving weather and climatic projections. The World Bank has primarily approved funding the project proposed by the WRD, Maharashtra but the state government and the World Bank are yet to sign the memorandum of understanding on the issue.

ENERGY OPTIONS

Industry Investors may shun thermal projects for solar energy The private sector may be giving up on green field thermal power projects and looking to solar energy instead as installation and generation costs have risen for thermal plants following an increased coal cess (that is likely to go even higher) and stricter pollution norms,. Also, there’s uncertainty over coal availability and distribution companies are shying away from announcing power purchase agreements. On the other hand, solar power installation and generation costs are expected to fall. Due to this ultra-mega power projects might not attract enough interest from private players. Banks are reluctant to lend for thermal power projects while most private players have shelved new project plans. They are diverting money into solar power projects. NTPC too is setting up solar power plants. 

Centre UDAY is a game changer: Piyush Goyal In an interview with Mint, Goyal explains how the government is capitalizing on improved efficiency in the entire power sector value chain to deliver affordable and uninterrupted power, and in the process, create globally competitive manufacturers in India.

Madhya Pradesh Rewa gets ready for 750-Mw solar park The State Govt is inviting tenders for a 750Mw solar energy park at Rewa. State-owned Madhya Pradesh Urja Vikas Nigam has joined hands with Solar Energy Corporation of India to form an equal-stakes venture, Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Ltd, implementing agency for the project. So far, bidding for solar energy parks have been conducted in Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Though Karnataka is said to be developing the biggest solar park, with 2000Mw capacity in Tumakuru district, the Rewa park will be the largest contiguous project with a single evacuation point. Altogether, 33 solar energy parks with 19900Mw combined capacity are coming up in 21 states. MP with 2750Mw planned is second only to Rajasthan in terms of capacity.

Jharkhand Domestic firms take lion’s share in State’s first solar energy tender In its first bulk tender of solar power projects of 1200Mw, Jharkhand received interest from domestic solar companies. Sumant Sinha-promoted ReNew Power led the pack by winning 522Mw. Wind major Suzlon Energy followed closely with 175Mw. The tariff ranged from Rs 5.08 per unit to 5.48/unit for above 25 MW projects and Rs 5.29 to 7.95 per unit for sub-25 Mw projects. The projects, when commissioned, would support 90% of state’s peak consumption. This is one of the largest bulk tenders by the state.

Karnataka Tribal hamlets to get solar power More than 1,500 tribal families in various hamlets inside the forests in the districts of Mysuru and Chamarajanagar will receive solar power under a Central Government scheme. The Centre has alloted Rs.20.74cr for the works and the tender has been finalised but the implementation is awaiting final clearance from the Forest Department. This came to light at the second District Electricity Committee held to discuss various power-related projects under implementation in the region. Besides, tenders are yet to be invited for similar projects to benefit an additional 1433 households in these regions.

Solar best energy option that leads to water wisdom  All forms of conventional energy thermal, hydro-electric, nuclear requires large volumes of water. Solar energy requires the least, at least in the operations part of it. A solar-electricity-based system makes absolute sense not only ensuring that water is available for the household but reducing the load on thermal and hydro-electric plants, thus saving water. 

SOUTH ASIA

Nepal US lends 9.9 million dollar to support Nepal hydropower sector USAID’s 5 year USD 9.9 million Nepal Hydropower Development Project supports Nepal’s efforts to expand its access to modern, quality hydropower services and realise its potential as an energy exporter in South Asia. According to USAID, the project will help Nepal facilitate & encourage private sector investment in hydropower in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner. The agency believes that it will likely to result in greater energy security due to enhanced domestic generating capacity and integration with the Indian market and a lower carbon generation future for both India and Nepal. Amid growing demand, imports from India grew over the past 15 years & in 2014-15, imports from India accounted for 27% of Nepal’s total energy supply according to USAID.

DPR for 410Mw Nalsing Gadh Hydro Project delayed The preparation of a detailed project report (DPR) for the Nalsing Gadh Hydropower Project located in mid-western Nepal has been affected due to a flurry of “anonymous complaints” against the consultant appointment process.  The 410MW project in Jajarkot district had been identified as one of the potential storage-type hydropower projects by the Identification and Feasibility Study of Storage Projects conducted in 1999-2001. The consultant appointment process landed in controversy after a number of complaints were filed with the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, the PMO, Energy Ministry and varied watchdog agencies. The Nepal Electricity Authority had done a feasibility study of the project 4 years ago. More than Rs1 billion has been spent on various tasks related to the project. Issues related to selection of consultant for DPR for 410Mw HEP in Nepal. Why do such issues never come to light in India? Is it to do with lack of transparency on these matters in India?

Advocacy for West Seti Project not succeeded for about 20 years If PM KP Oli is somehow able to lend momentum to the stalled West Seti, being developed jointly by India and China, it would be manna for Nepal’s energy-starved economy. Typically, tariff structure is fixed on a cost-plus basis by NEA. West Seti is a highly technical project, requiring significant underground excavation in areas of relatively untested geology. CWE Investment Corporation has already demonstrated its commitment to develop the project. The Parliamentary Committee had also emphasized the project’s importance to the historically-ignored, poverty-stricken Far-West of Nepal.

Everest develops several cracks & holes after deadly earthquake Several cracks and holes have developed in the Mount Everest region due to last year’s devastating earthquakes that killed about 9,000 people across Nepal, according to a specialist team responsible for maintaining the climbing route on the world’s highest peak. So far, more than 440 aftershocks with magnitude 4 or more have hit Nepal after the two earthquakes last year. Also see,

Bhutan Indian govt approves Mangadechhu HEP cost escalation The Union Cabinet chaired by the PM Narendra Modi on 23 March  has given its approval to Revised Cost Estimate (RCE) of Rs.4020.63cr for the ongoing 720Mw Mangadechhu HEP in Bhutan.  The bilateral agreement to execute the Mangdechhu HEP was signed between India & Bhutan in April, 2010 at the approved cost of Rs. 2896.3 crore (March 2008 price level) with funding by Govt of India as 30% grant & 70% loan at 10% annual interest to be paid back in 30 equated semi-annual instalments. The total cost escalation for the project, at this stage, is Rs1124.359cr. The factors behind cost escalation to the RCE are due to inflation from March 2008- 2014, construction of cut-off wall against permeation grouting upstream coffer dam, exchange rate variations and other causes, etc.

India-Bangladesh Mistrust main barrier to water cooperation: Experts  In a discussion programme titled Water Sharing and Ecology held on 27 March experts suggested that water sharing issues between the countries should be considered on the basis of need rather than politics. Hydrologist Ainun Nishat said that if a joint management of the three river systems Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna can be established between the countries, many problems including flood management, river erosion and restoration of river navigability could be solved. He also said that besides the water flow calculation, the countries need to consider the issue of sediment and ecology while talking about water sharing as those are integral parts of a river system.

Debt ridden fisherman in South Asia are forced to migrate Photo Essay by  Arati Kumar-Rao The photographs, taken along the Brahmaputra and its tributaries, as well as the lower reaches of the Ganga and the Sundarbans, document the changing fates of fisherfolk, their traditional fishing methods, and the effects of anthropogenic activities on the ecosystem itself. These images are part of an ongoing larger body of work on the issue of trans-boundary river-sharing and the oft-overlooked river fishermen’s rights.

India-Pakistan Multiple landslides in northern India & Pakistan Heavy rainfall in the last few days in northern India and Pakistan has triggered extensive landsliding, resulting in surprisingly high losses.  Whilst this is an area that receives Spring rains, multiple landslides to this degree are not normal, it being some months prior to the development of the southwest monsoon.  Read on to know some key incidents

REST OF ASIA

Malaysia Baram dam stopped! A victory for Indigenous rights Sarawak government officially on 22 March revoked the gazette extinguishing the native ownership rights for land earmarked for the dam site and its reservoir, and returned the land to its rightful indigenous owners. The newly elected CM of Sarawak, Adenan Satem, announced a moratorium on the project. This was a first for the government, and villagers greeted his announcement with cautious optimism. Berta’s story shows us the dangers indigenous people face when standing up to land grabs by repressive governments and powerful financial interests. But Baram’s story shows us that resistance is possible, and that it can succeed.

REST OF THE WORLD 

US Only 9 States claim safe drinking water America’s water issues extend far beyond Flint & Michigan and it’s going to take a massive infrastructure investment to protect citizens from serious public health dangers. Experts say if it doesn’t increase investment in these areas, it will be putting at risk by the year 2020 over $400 billion in U.S. GDP, 7lakhs jobs would be endangered & over half a trillion dollars in personal income would be at risk. Meanwhile on 22 March—World Water Day—the Obama Administration hosted the first-ever White House Water Summit to shine a spotlight on the importance of cross-cutting, creative solutions to solving the water problems of today, as well as to highlight the innovative strategies that will catalyze change across the ways in which we use, conserve, protect, and think about water in the years to come. 

ENVIRONMENT

Madhya Pradesh Govt readies plan to burn Union Carbide waste, greens cry foul The State Govt. is readying a plan to dispose 350 tonnes of toxic waste in the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal. The union environment ministry had in January submitted a report to the SC that MP Waste Management Project in Tarpura village near the industrial town of Pithampur was equipped to incinerate the waste. A trial conducted over July-August 2015 found the facility safe. However Rachna Dhingra, an activist reported that the project incinerated 10 tonnes in 6 days & will take months to burn 350 tonnes that would damage local environment severely. According to her the govt will spend more than Rs100cr to incinerate but refused GIZ a German firm 25cr which was ready to transport, handle and incinerate the waste for Rs25cr.

Centre ‘Peoples’ Cooperation required for protecting forests: Environment Minister  The Govt has sought peoples’ cooperation to bring about an improvement in the quality of forests and to enhance the scientific management of forests. Emphasising the need to appreciate the true value of forest in the growth and development of our country, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, said on 21 March that every person must plant at least 10-15 trees during one’s lifetime and care for the trees, so that trees can create an ‘Oxygen Bank’.

SANDRP Dams, Rivers & People Magazine issues of Sept 2015 – March 2016 The latest issues of our magazine “Dams, Rivers & People” are now available online at following links. We are also publishing weekly DRP news bulletins, the recent 2 issues can be seen at following links DRP News Bulletin 21 March 2016 & DRP News Bulletin 14 March 2016

One Comment on “DRP News Bulletin 28 March 2016(Is India facing its worst-ever water crisis?)

  1. India has hundreds of the world’s BEST and GRANDEST water harvesting technology from ancient India… but sadly not a single one is being used today… some of them are not even known as water harvesting systems… Some the municipalities do not even have on record!!!

    Like

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