DRP News Bulletin 04 April 2016 (India Water Week continues to show absence of any fresh thinking from water resources establishment)

SANDRP Comments India Water Week continues to show absence of any fresh thinking from water resources establishment The 4th India Water Week being organized by Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation during April 4-8, 2016 in Delhi shows continued absence of any fresh thinking from water resources establishment.

The Information Brochure of the event says: “Ministry of Water Resources, RD & GR is to organize the India Water Week -2016 between April 4-8, 2016 to use it as a platform to elicit ideas and opinions from global level decision makers, politicians, researchers and entrepreneurs in the ­field of water resources for mutual benefi­t and goodwill… This is the fourth event of its kind with the theme “Water for all : Striving together” focusing on improving efficiencies of water use across all sectors… ”

No place for RIVERS: The event as usual focuses on water as a commodity and not on the implications or significance of the ecosystem where most of the available water occurs. For example, the word river occurs three times in the 16 page information bulletin of the ministry whose name includes river rejuvenation:

  • Brainstorming session: “Role of Water Storage in River Rejuvenation” This is contradiction in terms, since most water storage options considered by the ministry actually would kill the river.
  • Panel Discussion: “Inter-linking of River project – Achievements and Way Forward”. In fact ILR is one of the biggest threat to the future of Rivers.
  • Panel Discussion: “River Siltation, its Impact and Way Forward”. River siltation is a vague term, generally the word siltation gets used for reservoirs, not rivers. Here the word is used possibly in the context of the plans of developing waterways along the rivers, which is another big threat for the future of rivers.

The word wetland does not figure, the word Rain occurs just one in Cast study: “Rainwater Harvesting and Water Conservation at Local level”.

Partner country: Israel, a country with 22000 sq km area and 8 million population, is the partnering country and Sushri Uma Bharti has called the country her water guru. The trouble is, the area and population of that country is less than 1% that of India and Israel has nothing comparable to Indian mountains, rivers, aquifers or social and cultural milieu. Just based on some drip irrigation and precision agricultural engineering practices, can Israel be a useful model of India’s water resources future?

Commercial angle: The event website says: “As a part of the recently commenced XII Five Year Plan of the country, there is a proposal to devote substantial financial investments of the order of about Rs.16, 230 million for achieving the above mentioned goals.” Unfortunately this seems like a copy paste from some old document, the XII FYP started in April 2012 and will come to an end in less than a year.

Exorbitant participation fees: With participation fees of Rs 5000-10000 per person, the event is designed to keep all farmers, common man and women and most NGO and water campaigners.

The ministry clearly seems to have no fresh idea or clear thinking on water resources and development. May be if it decides to celebrate rivers in place of water, it would get better ideas and some fresh thinking? May be in a drought year MoWR could have selected some more  relevant theme?

DROUGHT    

SANDRP BLOG Sugar Industry steals drinking water released for Maharashtra  drought-hit places Large parts of Maharashtra are facing possibly the worst droughts in the past 100 years, the third drought in the last 4 years. Currently, the situation is unprecedented even for drinking water. Section 144 has been clamped in Latur, possibly first time in the history for safeguarding water sources, protect tanker water supply and avoid unrest. However, the Policy response to these repeated droughts seem to start and end with Jalyukta Shivar Abhiyan. Assembly announcements and drought relief measures have firmly focused on short term efforts, part credit waivers, cattle farms, tanker supply, paltry compensations for crop loss. None of these really try to adequately address enormity of the issue at hand. There has been nearly NO long term policy solution that has emerged in this drought or neither any change in the way we have managed water for so long.  Also see, Water for sugar factories when there’s barely a drop to drink The report quotes SANDRP’s Associate Coordinator and acknowledges SANDRP as a source of information.

National Why drought in many parts has been unnoticed? This time’s drought has been a most unusual one. Because this time, it’s only rural producers, not urban consumers, who are feeling the heat. In the past, droughts invariably fuelled speculation and hoarding by unscrupulous traders. But this time, Indians in the cities are hardly feeling the pinch. Barring sugar, where the price increase in recent weeks is more of a correction from unhealthy lows, consumers aren’t paying all that more for what they are eating compared to a year ago.  Simply put, this is a drought essentially of farmers & rural producers. Lack words to comment, severe drought in countryside going on unnoticed simply because it has mostly affected rural populations and urban consumer lot is greatly unaffected says this report.

 Water crisis looms as dearth of rains dries up reservoirs The water situation in parts of the country has reached alarming proportion after an extended period of deficit rain, including two consecutive monsoon failures. This has already hurt hydropower generation and can delay planting of pulses, cotton, paddy and millets in western and southern states where water level has fallen drastically unlike northern India where some reservoirs are in a relatively better position.  According to GS Jha, chairman of Central Water Commission the situation is alarming as of now. We will soon be sending advisories to state governments for judicious use of water from reservoirs. Better planning can rescue states in the next few months if rains are delayed or not widespread. AB Pandya, former CWC Chairman, says the pre monsoon rains beginning from March till May end will not make any major impact on the reservoir position. The CWC says the most deficient river basin was the Krishna, which caters to Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra, where levels were 63% below the 10-year average. The Tapi river basin, originating in MP and flowing to Maharashtra and Gujarat, was 42% below average. Water level in the Mahi and Godavari basin was also below normal. Also see, Brace for scorching April-June, says IMD’s first summer forecast

West, South may face severe water stress this summer As the country braces for a long and drier than usual summer season, water levels in 91 major reservoirs across the country do not look promising. There could be a serious drawdown if the heat wave persists beyond June. From Central Water Commission data as of 31 March, the level in the reservoirs is a combined 25% of their full capacity. All 12 river basins have water levels less than last year at this time. More than the national average, the regional picture is of greater concern. A severe drinking water, power and irrigation crisis looms in parts of Andhra, Telangana, Karnataka and Maharashtra. Levels in the reservoirs of southern and western India are 17% & 21%, respectively, of their full capacity. Worryingly, this is also part of the area which might see a 0.5-1 degrees Celsius above normal temperature in April-June, according to the IMD 31 March forecast.

Op-Ed Despite proven success MGNREGA facing a monetary drought by Nikhil Dey, Aruna Roy The cynical attitude towards the MGNREGA is an example of how policymakers are deliberately and knowingly causing immeasurable misery and suffering to people. Through the fund squeeze, the govt has consciously crippled the MGNREGA’s ability to help people facing drought. The saddest part is that notwithstanding the government’s grand announcement increasing the number of workdays to 150 in the nine drought-affected states all these states have a negative cash balance. It’s hardly surprising then that only 5% households have completed 150 days of work. This is conclusive proof that the govt is ignoring the 2 most important legal requirements of the MGNREGA work on demand & full, timely payment of wages. The continued shortage of funds severely undermines the credibility of the law. Despite its proven success, the scheme is itself facing a monetary drought. A whopping Rs10588cr is currently pending in payment delays. Also see, Unpaid salary bill of over Rs 8,000cr set to hit MGNREGA

Maharashtra A land of dried up farms, dreams Summer’s just beginning but temperatures are already crossing 40 degrees Celsius in Beed, Latur and Osmanabad, the three districts worst-hit by the drought that is ravaging Marathwada. For the 65 lakh people who live there, it’s a struggle to get even their daily ration of 20 litres of water, hardly a bucketful. And, with dams and reservoirs running dry, no one knows how long the supply through tankers will last. Suicides by farmers this year numbered 244 in Marathwada by March 19. Also see Water crisis in Marathwada worsens as 7 dams dry up The stock of ‘live water’ or ‘usable water’ in seven key dams in the drought-struck Marathwada region of Maharashtra, including Asia’s largest earthen dam Jaikwadi in Aurangabad, has come down to zero.  Dams in the region had only 5% live water stock as of March 25, while the stock at the same time last year was 18%. A total of 2378 tankers have been deployed in 8 districts in the region while 210 tankers have been deployed in Latur only. District collector there has imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, banning assembly of five or more persons near the tanker-filling areas.

Submerged shrines rise after 34 years Stretches of the Godavari passing through Chandori village, around 25km from Nashik, have dried up because of the ongoing drought in regions of Maharashtra & several temples have resurfaced for the first time after over 3 decades. The last time the villagers had seen some of these temples was way back in 1982, when Nashik had witnessed a drought of this scale. The river had dried up only once before 1982 in 1936. The Nashik Gazetteer states that ghat and the temples were submerged after the Nandur Madhyameshwar dam was built in 1907. The villagers claimed that the temples were built in the 13th century & went under water after the Godavari changed its course.

Farmers block roads demanding better drought relief measures Around 30,000 farmers have blocked the main square and roads in Nashik city in armed with a specific set of demands for the state government. The protest has resulted in heavy traffic jams and disruption of movement of vehicles in the city. The farmers are demanding a loan waiver, better drought relief measures along with Rs 50,000 per acre of destroyed crops. They also want land rights for tenant farmers. Maharashtra records the most number of farmer suicide cases in the country every year and also suffers from an acute lack of rainfall especially in the Marathwada region. Farmers have time and again complained that successive state governments have shown nothing but apathy towards them. Also see, Govt adds 11,962 villages to drought list in Vidarbha region

Uttar Pradesh Drought in Maharashtra brings behatar din to UP sugar mills State on course to become India’s No. 1 producer in 2016-17; finances of mills improve on higher price realisations. Excess sugarcane cultivation is also being blamed for leading to unprecedented drought situation in Maha. This report says that sugar output in Maharashtra is likely to fall to around 83 lakh tonnes (lt) in the current 2015-16 season, from the all-time-high of 105.14 lt for 2014-15. Moreover, it may drop further to 60 lt “plus or minus 2.5 lt” in 2016-17. Instead of outcompeting Maha., UP should learn its lesson timely and preserve its water resources to face similar drought like situations which are inevitable given the mismanagement, pollution & over exploitation of water sources in the State.

Telangana Water shortage severely hits Raghunathpally The situation is precarious for the 6,000-odd population of this town lying on the national highway between Hyderabad and Warangal when it comes to drinking water requirements. The only source being the 12 borewells maintained by the gram panchayat, half of them have gone dry while the rest are not yielding enough water to cater to the drinking water needs of the people. According to Sarpanch Safia Begum this was the worst affected mandal & groundwater table has reached beyond 300 feet with village tank has gone dry long ago. Unfortunately, there is no other alternative water sources to tackle the situation & people are worried about the days ahead till June, when the monsoon arrives.

Karnataka Water level depleting rapidly in Almatti dam Water level in the Almatti dam is coming down rapidly in the wake of the rising mercury levels in the district. Following the rapid depletion of water, the district administrations of Vijayapura & Bagalkot have appealed to the people to use water optimally. Officials of these districts have launched a drive to disconnect illegal pipelines and seize pump-sets that are illegally drawing water from the dam. The government has instructed farmers not to use the water for irrigation as the priority is for drinking water.

WATER OPTIONS

Centre PM promises 500,000 ponds for agriculture Given the prospects of drought in several parts of the country and the looming water scarcity because of depleting water table, PM Narendra Modi on 27 March said that the government would help construct 500,000 khet talab (farming ponds) as part of the Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Scheme to augment water for irrigation during his monthly radio broadcast ‘Mann ki Baat’. Referring to the agriculture sector, he said water table was falling in parts of the country. He said small reservoirs should be made to conserve rainwater.

Madhya Pradesh Bhil tribes revive old tradition to conserve forest and water Bhil tribes people in Jhabua and Alirajpur districts have revived their age-old tradition “halma” to conserve environment. Until now, tribes people have planted more than 11,000 trees in 110 villages, repaired more than 250 hand pumps and dug more than three dozen big ponds in the region, under the drive. More than 10,000 Bhil tribes people from more than 300 villages will gather at Hathipawa hill, about 1.5 km from district headquarters on March 14 and 15 to take a pledge for the cause. Tribes people will dig more than 100 contour trenches around the hill to conserve water. The drive started in 2005, when a group of Bhil social activists decided to take up the cause, said Harsh Chauhan, one of five people who started the drive under a banner called Shivganga Abhiyan.

National Recharge groundwater to keep taps flowing, say experts India’s water crisis has been brewing for long. A 2007 report of an Expert Group on Groundwater Management and Ownership of the Planning Commission showed that in 2004, as much as 28% of all blocks showed alarmingly high levels of groundwater use. The mid-term appraisal of the 11th five-year Plan (2007-08 to 2012-13) also noted nearly 60 % of all districts had problems with either the quantity or quality of groundwater. Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP says that govt should first acknowledge that groundwater is the country’s ‘water lifeline’ and policies could then be framed. Groundwater is the lifeline we must understand the recharge systems such as rivers, wetlands etc, & devise methods to enhance and protect them. Second, we need to enhance groundwater resources through artificial means. Third, groundwater use should be curtailed through regulation. For this, a national water aquifer map and budgeting are needed.

Karnataka Rainwater harvesting is the future of water conservation: Bengaluru’s ‘Rain Man’ AR Shivakumar, a resident of Bengaluru, has not paid a penny for his family’s water needs for the last 20 years. A pioneer in water harvesting techniques, he believes in the mantra, ‘be the change you wish to see in the world.’ Shivakumar is the principal investigator for rainwater harvesting (RWH) at the Karnataka State Council for Science and Technology. His house ‘Sourabha’ in Vijaynagar, Bengaluru, which he built in 1994, depends entirely on rain water harvested during the rains and collected in underground and overhead tanks. One can store rain water in tanks and use it to flush toilets, water plants, etc. Rain water can also be harvested, to recharge groundwater through recharge pits, dug wells, borewells, soak pits and recharge trenches. However the successful implementation of RWH depends on the collective efforts of individuals, govt bodies and builders.

Delhi SDMC starts using recycled water Recycled water will now be used at two parks in Munirka, with the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) on 30 March launching the eco-friendly scheme. In a step to improve the groundwater level and stop misuse of drinking water, the SDMC partnered with the Jaypee Vasant Continental to provide recycled water to the parks. The hotel will process the sewage at an effluent treatment plant to make it fit for use in parks. The SDMC had laid pipelines from the ETP to the parks in Munirka Enclave and Munirka Vihar. The project would save one lakh litres of water.  

Fix norms on rainwater harvesting in hotels, malls: NGT The green tribunal has directed Central Ground Water Authority & DJB to fix a uniform procedure for installation of rainwater harvesting system in hotels, hospitals and malls in the national capital. It also asked CGWA, DJB and Delhi Pollution Control Committee to convene a meeting within 10 days & prescribe a format and proper design for rainwater harvesting system. It also directed that inspections be conducted in Jaypee Sidharth Hotel & IBIS Hotel to check whether rainwater harvesting systems of the two hotels were installed as per law. NGT had recently slapped a fine of Rs 5 lakh on a real estate developer after it was found that the rainwater harvesting system in its property was not functional.

Tamil Nadu Saving the temple tanks With many temple tanks vanishing due to urbanisation, Suganthy Krishnamachari turns the pages of history. This is the first part of the story on the significance of temple tanks in water management. The concluding part can be read here Much water has flowed Turn the pages of history to see how we have lost the excellent network of ponds and lakes.

HYDRO POWER 

Centre Govt will take policy initiatives to boost hydro power output According to Piyush Goyal the power minister govt will take major policy initiatives to boost hydro power generation, improve the transmission network and further accelerate the use of energy-efficient LED bulbs, which are now selling in such large volumes that their prices have crashed below Rs 60. Given the impact of climate change on water resources, freak weather events and ongoing drought it is unwise to invest in large hydro projects which directly and indirectly do a lot of damages to dependent community and environment (not to talk of the river) in short and long run specially when other better energy options like solar & wind are being preferred across the world.

Haryana Puri Oil Mills to invest Rs 210 crore in four hydropower projects Delhi based Puri Oil Mills has signed a MoU with the Haryana Govt that entails an investment of Rs 210cr in 4 hydel projects & 4 canal top. This is when Haryana lags behind in Hydro potential and its water resources like SYL canal & Yamuna river are both overstressed. Already set up projects by the company have caused a lot of trouble for farmers & Govt Irrigation dept a lot as Yamuna canals are unrepaired, silted up, lack required head-fall ratio & have breached twice due to this in last two years. Read on SANDRP report on this. The mustard oil producer company is also firming up plans to set up green energy projects including a string of hydropower projects in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

Uttarakhand Did climate change cause those floods? While there is sufficient evidence from official reports including from India and US that Uttarakhand floods of June 2013 saw role of climate change as also hydropower projects, there is no attempt to learn lessons from there by the rest of Himalayan states including North East India. While our governments keep waiting for more evidence and models, the destruction of resources crucial for achieving adaptation are getting destroyed and as scientists have written recently, we may cross the tipping point before we achieve “convincing evidence”.

W-Bengal BHEL commissions 40Mw Teesta Low hydropower plant On 28 March Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) has commissioned the second 40Mw hydropower generating unit at the Teesta low dam hydro electric project (HEP) stage IV in West Bengal. According to BHEL BSE filing the company has commissioned the second unit of the same rating just a month after the commissioning of the first 40Mw hydro electric generating unit at Teesta low dam HEP stage IV. The run-of-the-river project, located in Darjeeling district, is being set up by NHPC & the order for the electrical & mechanical work of four units of 40Mw each was given to BHEL. The remaining two units of the project are also reported to be in advanced stages of execution. BHEL is also executing the 3x40Mw Rammam Stage-III HEP in the State. The company has so far commissioned nearly 400 hydro generating sets of various ratings with a cumulative capacity of around 20000Mw.

DAM  

Maharashtra RTI query reveals only 53,275ha irrigation potential created by Gosikhurd dam Some 28 years down the line, the Gosikhurd Indira Sagar project, supposed to irrigate 2.5 lakh hectares, has failed to bring water to even a quarter of the area. In reply to a RTI query VIDC had admitted that it has only created “potential” to irrigate 53,275 hectares as yet.  The mega project is a classic example of corruption, politician-contractor nexus, and government apathy to release funds in time that led to it becoming a white elephant. All this led to its cost escalating to a whopping Rs18494cr from the original estimate of Rs372.22cr. With the project in doldrums, the region has instead gained notoriety for the large number of its farmers committing suicides due to continuous crop failure, droughts and mounting debt.

Odisha State lost 21% of live storage capacity of reservoirs in 10 years At a time when uncertain monsoonal rain is upsetting farmers’ annual crop plan, significant drop in live storage capacity of Odisha’s major and medium reservoirs seems to have made the matters worse. Odisha’s live storage capacity has dropped alarmingly by about 21 per cent during the past 10 years. The aggregate live storage capacity of 7 major and 38 medium reservoirs has shrunk from 1.43 million hectare metre (mha.m) in 2006 to 1.12 m ha.m in 2015.

Andhra Pradesh Polavaram will be completed by 2018 According to CM N Chandrababu Naidu  his govt. will complete the Polavaram project by 2018 just as it completed Pattiseema in a record time of one year.  Addressing a public meeting organised to mark the completion of the Pattiseema project, Mr. Naidu said the Polavaram project was the biggest ongoing project in the country. The CM said that he would not rest until the projects needed for the development of the State were completed. CM says one lakh cubic m of earthwork is happening at Polavaram dam every day, needs to increase it by 50%. According to one more news Naidu launches Pattiseema LIS, calls for water conservation Addressing a public meeting after the inauguration of the Pattiseema Lift Irrigation Scheme  on 28 March, the CM N Chandrababu Naidu called for conservation of water to make the State free of drought & rain water harvesting. Naidu says total of 9 TMC of water has been transferred from Godavari to Krishna, seems rather high. The project is getting inaugurated when its operation season is coming to an end, it is supposed to transfer only “surplus” flood waters.

Karnataka  Thumbe dam has water only for 10 days The city will have to brace the heat for two more months and there is more bad news. The Thumbe vented dam, the main source of drinking water to the city, has enough water in store, only for 10 days. Water level at the dam has dipped from the maximum 13 ft. to 8.3 ft, according to Gururaj Maralihalli, Executive Engineer of Mangaluru City Corporation. At a meeting on 26 March, A.B. Ibrahim, Deputy Commissioner, directed the corporation to take steps to get water released from the vented dam of AMR Power Project (HPP) at Shambhoor on the upstream of the Thumbe dam from 28 March & before releasing the water, people living in the downstream of the AMR project should be warned. An official from the AMR HPP said that there was no power production & as much as 11.25 MCM of water was currently available at the dam. Meanwhile according to report authorities of AMR HPP would release 350 cusecs of water from their vented dam built across the same river from 11 p.m. on 28 March.

RIVERS

National Coal India asked to conduct long-term hydrologic study of rivers In a recent meeting, while examining the company’s Rs152cr proposal to set up Jagannathpur open-cast mining project on the catchment area of Mahan river in Surajpur district, Chhattisgarh. Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), Coal India Ltd (CIL) has been asked to conduct urgently a long-term hydrologic study of all rivers/river basins where the company has planned more than one mining project to ensure the protection of hydrological regimes. EAC has also said that the impact of washeries should also be included in the long-term study. CIL has also been asked to examine the option of underground mining instead of opencast mining. In case, the company opts for opencast mining, then it has been asked to exclude the mining area through which the nallas pass.

Telangana Mighty Godavari goes dry The Godavari river has become totally dry for the first time in a half a century due to prolonged dry spell & lack of rainfall in its catchment areas.  People of villages on the banks are reaching the other side crossing the dry river bed in vehicles. An RTC bus service is also being run from Jagityal to Kadam via the empty river. The flourishing agriculture between Basara and Gudem has become a thing of the past. Farmers, Shepherd, Washer men, Boatmen & Fishermen who are continuing their age old professions by depending on the perennial river, have been rendered jobless. Agricultural labourers have migrated to nearby towns in search of livelihood. There is no water for pilgrims visiting the shrines on the banks of Godavari to take a holy dip.  The river is facing same fate in Maharashtra where submerged shrines in riverbed have risen after 34 years

Kerala Otters return to revitalised Thoothapuzha River A sustained local community effort to restore the health of the Thoothapuzha river has seen otters return to the river after many years. Otters are apex predators in this riverine ecosystem. Their return to a river is akin to tigers returning to a forest. It indicates that the ecological health of the river has improved, there is plenty to eat for the otters, and there is a natural habitat safe enough for them to breed. A local group under the banner of Thoothapuzha Samrakshana Samithi carried out a river cleaning campaign a few months ago. They gathered the youth and schoolchildren from the village to clean the river. Similarly, the group’s effort to prevent sand mining in the river has met with reasonable success. GREAT to see this multi dimensional river conservation efforts in Kerala leading to reappearance of Otters in Thothapuzha river.

J&K Experts raise alarm over dumping of Jhelum’s dredged material Despite the Central government’s financial support, the dredging of the Jhelum has put the J&K Govt in a difficult situation as the disposal of excavated material may need over thousands of kanals.  Experts have raised an alarm as the department is disposing silt and sand excavated from the river in low-lying areas of Srinagar which may lead to another 2014-like floods. Urban planner Iftikhar Drabu said the dumping of the excavated material in “low-lying areas or water bodies” around the city would create another catastrophe. A Kolkata-based company, Reach Dredgers, has been tasked with the mechanical dredging of 7,00,000 cubic metres in the Srinagar stretch and 9,15,000 cubic metres in the Baramulla stretch of the Jhelum. This is in addition to the removal of over eight lakh cubic metres of sand and silt from the Jhelum and its spill-over channel by the Irrigation Department. On more news highlighting the issue states that encroachment, pollution & siltation continue to chock  Jhelum river 

Rajasthan Dravyavati river rejuvenation work to revive city’s water table The water table of Jaipur city which is receding at an alarming rate is expected to revive after the Jaipur Development Authority (JDA) completes the rejuvenation work of Dravyavati river. Tata group, which will execute the project in 30 months will construct 85 check dams and 122 fall structures.  The depth of these check dams will be 1 metre & they will be constructed on similar grounds of small anicuts that were earlier constructed in the state. Similarly, the fall structures will be constructed to prevent soil erosion in the river. As per the recent report, in the past one decade, the groundwater level in the city has depleted by 25 metres. All the 13 blocks in the city have been declared as dark zones by the Central Ground Water Board. Interesting initiative in Jaipur, let us see how far it goes.

Tamil Nadu Noyyal river restoration begins On 26 March it was a festive occasion at Kooduthurai near the foothills of the Western Ghats. Hundreds gathered for the launch of Noyyalai Nokki, a people’s initiative to restore the 160-km long river. The river originates in the Western Ghats and passes through Coimbatore, Tirupur, Erode, and Karur districts to join the Cauvery at Noyyal village.  The chairman of Noyyal River Restoration Federation, said the project would be implemented on divide-distribute-develop model by forming committees for every 500 metres of the river. Volunteers, educational institutions, NGOs & the govt will be involved. To begin with, a survey of the river would be taken up and an estimate of the project would be prepared & steps would be taken to install STPs to prevent waste water from entering the river. Good effort to rejuvenate Noyyal River.

Karnataka Honour people’s rights over Netravati first, experts told govt. With the govt appearing to be adamant on going ahead with the Yettinahole water diversion and other similar projects thereby destroying the fragile eco-system of the Western Ghats and affecting life in the coast, the Netravati Rakshana Samyukta Samithi has decided to up the ante and has urged people to jump into the movement. According to experts those fighting against the implementation of the Yettinahole project have almost reached a dead-end and the only alternative is to seek a river water disputes tribunal & govt’s adamant nature to push the Yettinahole project is fomenting the demand for statehood for coastal Karnataka. The struggle against Yettinahole is going on.

NARMADA Madhya Pradesh  Hand over commission report to MP govt, SC tells HC The Supreme Court (SC)has directed the Madhya Pradesh (MP) High Court (HC) not to even open the commission report on relief and rehabilitation work undertaken by the state govt with regard to the Sardar Sarovar Narmada project & asked HC to hand over the voluminous report of the Justice S.S. Jha Commission to the MP govt within 10 days, the apex court’s March 30 directive said. The apex court said the state govt should act upon the report in case it finds wrong-doings during the relief and rehabilitation task and submit an action-taken report to the SC within 6 weeks. Very sad and unfortunate decision instead SC should have directed the report to be made public or dismissed the MP petition. Also see, SC to hear MP’s plea seeking corruption report in Narmada project How much more scandalous can this get? Madhya Pradesh govt does not even want the inquiry report about R&R irregularities, the report that was commissioned not by the govt but by the High Court, to be made public! And SC, rather than rejecting such scandalous plea outright, is going to hear it. Let us hope SC stands by the cause of justice for the affected people, rather than corrupt state government.

GANGA Mighty Ganga drying up? The inflow at the Farakka barrage in West Bengal nearly halved, compared with the quantum of water available in the last two years & the NTPC’s plant beside the barrage had to shut operations from March 10. On March 29, the inflow discharge observed in the Ganga by the India-Bangladesh joint observation team was 50,710 cusecs, while in comparison the discharge on 29/03/2014 and 29/03/2015 were 91,001 cusecs and 83,807 cusecs respectively. Blaming the situation not only on deficit rainfall & a dry winter but also on the increasing exploitation of the river in its upper reaches Himanshu Thakkar SANDRP feels that it was a scary development with the summer just beginning & the country is already seeing a historically low inflow downstream of the Farakka in the Ganga, which reflects the health of the entire river basin.  Also see, Ganga’s width shrinking, oxygen level falling: Study

Op-Ed Saving the Ganga will save us all The total project cost is Rs2293.73cr as is estimated. In all, 110 Forest Divisions will carry out various activities in these States while, Uttarakhand is set to spend Rs885.91cr, UP will be spending Rs 224.71cr and Bihar (Rs 333.67cr), Jharkhand (Rs72.17cr) & WB (Rs547.55cr). To achieve the objective of ‘Namami Gange,’ it is imperative that one understands not just the longitudinal connectivity, but also the lateral connectivity (of river to the floodplains), vertical connectivity (to the underlying groundwater and aquifers) and the temporal connectivity (of river over time). Otherwise, it is just time and money literally going down the drain.  It’s an informative piece showing importance of Ganga-forestry initiative. It also aptly reviews how much govt. has achieved so far in cleaning the Ganga.

Centre PM to launch model stretch of Ganga in Jharkhand: Uma Bharati  Reviewing the ‘River Ganga Work Project’ Uma Bharati stated that on 19 May PM Narendra Modi will launch a model 80-km stretch of Ganga clean-up operation in Jarkhand for cleaning up operation of the river & its surroundings. Ruing that Ganga is most polluted in Sahebganj district of Jharkhand, having the shortest stretch of 80 km, Bharati said the cleaning of this stretch has been taken up on priority basis as part of the larger plan to make the river pollution-free and ensure its continuous flow. Also see, Namami Gange: Status Update (15th March 2016) MoWR Update on Ganga Rejuvenation dated March 15, 2016 provides no road map for flow in the river or no real break from the past.

Uttar Pradesh Dues set to block Ganga water supply  Close to 6 lakh residents of Vasundhara zone which comprises of Vaishali, Kausambhi, Vasundhara & delta colonies of Brij Vihar, Surya Nagar, Ramprashtha and Rampuri may face water crisis soon due to non-payment of dues by the civic authority to the Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam. The UP Jal Nigam has threatened to stop Ganga water supply from the Pratap Vihar treatment plant to the zone from the midnight of April 1 if the Ghaziabad Municipal Corporation (GMC) fails to clear dues of Rs16cr by March 31. The likely closure of supply of Ganga water to GMC will, however, not affect Indirapuram, which gets its water from Ghaziabad Development Authority.

 YAMUNA Study Yamuna floodplains drastically narrowed in 3 decades  A 2014 IIT Kanpur & Delhi University study reveals that after 1980 the remaining floodplain areas were rapidly occupied by settlements, civic structures, roads, bridges, flyovers & metro stations leading to fears that there can be massive flooding in Delhi in the coming years. In recent monsoon seasons, many areas in southeast Delhi have seen basements of buildings getting submerged under water.  The fear is that in the absence of an unambiguous policy to protect the floodplains, more river zone land will be diverted for construction, compounding the problem. According to experts, the much awaited notification of the River Regulation Zone drafted in 2002 could help regulate or prohibit activities on specified stretches of the river. The draft notification did go to the law ministry but hasn’t moved forward after it came back to environment ministry.

Delhi River Regulation Zone can protect floodplain The apparent ‘ambiguity’ in Delhi Master Plan 2021 where zonal development plan sub zone 07 relating to river development leaves scope for ‘recreational purposes’ without clearly specifying which activities are recreational worked in favour of Art of Leaving event. Most importantly, no Central regulatory authority exists to check such recreational activities or construction of farmhouses and concrete structures on the floodplains. Environmentalists attribute the present situation to an inordinate delay on the part of the environment ministry in notifying the River Regulation Zone that is to be modelled on the lines of the Coastal Regulation Zone under the Environment Protection Act 1986. Also see, 5 things you need to know about River Regulation Zones. Also read why Manoj Misra, convenor of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan warns that Delhi’s floodplains need to be protected at any cost

Don’t surrender Yamuna fund: NGT to DJB The NGT on 01 April directed Delhi Jal Board (DJB) not to surrender the amount allocated to it in the last fiscal for rejuvenation of Yamuna to the Delhi government. The green panel also made it clear that DJB would spend these funds for restoration during the year and the implementation of its ‘Maili se Nirmal Yamuna Revitalisation Project’. The tribunal passed the direction after the counsel appearing for the DJB expressed apprehension that since the new fiscal year has started, the amount available with it will have to be surrendered. NGT had earlier slammed DJB for spending money on Yamuna without its permission and directed it not to spend a “single penny” on rejuvenation of the river without its approval.

AOL Row Will pay fine for Yamuna event only after damage assessment: AOL The foundation has sent an application to the NGT to modify its 09 March order and accept a bank guarantee instead. It said it was preparing a proposal to conduct a scientific study to assess the damage to the floodplain. Yet again AOL act is in contravention of not only the NGT direction dated 11 March 2016 but also its own undertaking given to the NGT in the matter. On the other hand Uma Bharti, Minister for Water Resources creating a controversy by saying that AOL event left Yamuna floodplains cleaner, Uma Bharti makes a lot of interesting statements here, not all of them are problematic, but this one is bother interesting and seriously mindless. Also see, 2 weeks later, a look at who is cleaning up the Yamuna

INTERSTATE WATER DISPUTES

National Inter-state water disputes remain unresolved for decades The seeming refusal by Punjab to share its water resources with other states is one of many inter-state disputes that have been awaiting resolution for years. The Cauvery water dispute involving Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry is one of the most debated and long-drawn cases. Similarly, a dispute between Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, which was being looked into by the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal-II, is sub judice. According to Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP water is a decentralised resource and its dispute resolution therefore needs to be decentralised with active involvement of the people. The centralised approach to dispute resolution has not worked as yet. He further adds that the current problem in Punjab has nothing to do with the issue of water availability but the problem is of mismanagement of water resources and faulty crop pattern.

SYL Row Punjab talks tough on SYL, Haryana may cut Delhi water The water war between Punjab and Haryana appears set to intensify with the government defiantly telling the Supreme Court on 30 March that it had no jurisdiction to pass an interim order virtually staying the law unanimously passed by the assembly to return land acquired for the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal. In the same breath, the govt defended the 2004 law terminating water agreements with neighbouring states, saying it was a necessity given the “serious injuries caused to agriculturists” because of the water sharing agreement of 1981. On the other hand the Centre on 31 March told the Supreme Court that it was maintaining a the Centre tells the Supreme Court that its neutral stand in the tussle between Punjab & Haryana over sharing of water through the SYL Link Canal.

IRRIGATION 

Telananga Redesigning of irrigation projects inevitable: KCR CM K.Chandrasekhar Rao on 31 March emphatically told the State Assembly that redesigning of irrigation projects had become inevitable in the backdrop of inter-State disputes. During a first of its kind audio-visual presentation the CM said that environmental & wildlife hurdles and construction of over 450 barrages and lift irrigation schemes by upper riparian States Karnataka and Maharashtra across Krishna and Godavari rivers and their tributaries have forced us to take a re-look at the ongoing irrigation projects and go for re-engineering. In his two-hour-fifty-minute presentation he described how the combined AP government designed projects in with an intention that they remained incomplete for decades together by entangling them in inter-State disputes & environmental issues. Also see, Govt. encouraging corruption in irrigation projects:TDP Telangana Telugu Desam Party working president A. Revanth Reddy alleged that CM K. Chandrasekhar Rao led Govt had opted for redesign of the projects in the lure of kickbacks to the tune of Rs15000cr.

Maharashtra Govt to raise Rs 80000cr in loans to complete irrigation projects According to irrigation minister Girish Mahajan the state govt is considering raising loans to the tune of Rs80000cr from JAICA & other financial institutions to complete irrigation projects across the state as the govt budget allocation of Rs. 7272cr was insufficient to complete all the projects. There are around 800 incomplete irrigation projects. The department has identified 90 last-mile projects which are 75% complete but work cannot proceed further as there are no funds.

SAND MINING     

Centre Govt to rely on IT technology to control illegal sand mining  Environment ministry is to hold a national workshop of all the officers on how to implement bar coded technology to rein in illegal sand mining in country. The ministry will insist that there has to be a bar-coded cheque-book-like receipt which cannot be tampered with & which can be used only once & which will be tracked by the computer network and a server so a full proof mechanism from the point of extraction & quantity of extraction, to its end disposal. Environment Minister has also stated that  the state govts have to implement the new sand mining policy, where they have to ensure that sand mining will be allowed only after satellite maps are available for where the sand is deposited how much sand is deposited. Union environment ministry has set a target to bring down the number of days it takes to give clearance, from current 190 days to 100 days in future. Also see Mining turns to technology to end fraud and bring transparency

Maharashtra  5 held for illegal sand mining in Alibaug The Revdanda police team raided the creek at Diwiparangi village in south-east Alibaug on 26 March afternoon & caught 5 men red-handed while excavating sand and loading them into trucks. Upon spotting the police, the men attempted to escape by leaving in a boat, however, the police cornered them at the other end of the creek and arrested them. The police have seized eight truckloads of sand, a suction pump & the boat collectively worth Rs 3.16 lakh. The 5 men have been booked under sections 379 and 34 of the IPC and under section 48 of the Maharashtra Land revenue Act. The Raigad district superintendent of police had ordered the respective police stations to be vigilant & to crack down illegal sand excavation after receiving several complaints from residents.

Uttarakhand  NGT notice to state, MoEF on mining in Gaula river The green tribunal has taken notice of the contempt plea filed by Dinesh Pandey, member of Wildlife Trust of India who alleged that illegal mining is still continuing on Gaula river in violation of the tribunal’s order passed in Jan this year. The bench ordered the state govt & environment ministry to conduct an inspection of the site and furnish its report to NGT by July 4, the next date of hearing. In his plea, Pandey has asked NGT to quash the “forest clearance” the state government had accorded on Jan 24, 2013 for collection of stone, boulders and other minor minerals from an area spanning 1,497 hectares in river bed of river Gaula for a period of 10 years. Its surprising that about half of the length of the river is infested by sand and boulder mining.

Andhra Pradesh Serious threat to Krishna river ecology The growing demand for sand and illegal sand mining is taking a toll on the existing sand deposits of the river. As a result the sand deposits have gone down significantly on the banks of River Krishna due to indiscriminate and illegal sand mining at several places in the three districts of Krishna, Guntur and Kurnool. Unless there is a check on the sand mining it could badly affect the river ecology. Only heavy inflows into the river during the next 3 years will help in sand accumulation on the river bed and enable it to retain water holding capacity. Senior officials from irrigation department pointed out that the sand deposits on the banks of River Godavari were much larger than the sand deposits on the banks of River Krishna.

Technical assistants to monitor illegal sand mining Amid allegations over misuse of the state government’s free sand scheme, the district administration has appointed technical assistants at all the 14 sand reaches in Visakhapatnam district. Guidelines have been issued to restrict loading charges and the maximum was fixed at `900 (`100 per cubic metre) for loading a lorry. According to J Nivas Joint collector the technical assistants had been appointed at the sand reaches in several villages of the district & will be available at the reaches from 6 am to 6 pm to check illegal transportation of sand. The technical assistants would be given electronic tabs to upload all the details of free sand scheme in a given website & have been asked to make sure that the sand was mined only up to 1 metre depth. Also see, People prevent sand mining

Telangana Public hearing on sand mine held According to sources, the Telangana State Mineral Development Corporation has been granted a mining lease over an extent of 28 hectares at Veerapuram village under Duginepalli gram panchayat in Pinapaka mandal to produce 6 lakh cubic metres of sand per year from the lease. The estimated cost of the proposed project will be about Rs 30 lakh. Speaking on the occasion, officials said the proposed sand mine at Veerapuram would have a positive impact on the socio-economic environment of the area. Insisting that the mining activity does not involve any displacement of human settlement, they listed the proposed dust control measures in the mine to check air pollution.

Tamil Nadu Ofiicials take 28 trucks in custody for sand mining Revenue officials confiscated 28 trucks for illegal sand mining on poramboke land belonging to State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu at Sriperumbudur on 24 March. The trucks, under police custody, will only be released after truck owners pay a fine amount of Rs. 26500 each. Tamil Nadu Sand Lorry Owners Federation alleged that contractors present at the site fled the site before officials got to the spot. The union also pointed to similar violations in sites around Padappai being done by illegally appointed contractors who forge bills, complete with official seals, hologram mark & date which are used at different sites as license for mining.

Goa Congress threatens to approach NGT over sand mining licences Addressing media persons, Congress spokesperson Avinash Tavares said permissions granted for sand extraction by the Mines department are illegal and the government needs to adopt proper methods before granting permission. Tavares said that as per central guidelines, sand extraction leases are to be auctioned, however, in Goa they are granted without conducting any environment study.

WETLANDS & WATER BODIES

Gujarat CAG raps Govt for failing to set up wetland conservation The CAG report, which was tabled on 31 March in the state Assembly pointed out that the state govt did not provide adequate funds for wetland conservation activities and failed to maintain data on migratory birds, set up Bird Rescue Centres at 3 largest wetlands & control bird poaching at Nalsarovar & Wadhwana Lake. The performance audit of wetlands, covering a period between April 2009 & March 2015, is part of the CAG report. Surprising during the audit period, government received Rs3.78cr sanctioned for the conservation of wetlands and related research activities, of which only Rs3.17cr was utilised. It is sad to see Gujarat including many Indian states grossly ignoring the significance of Wetlands & delaying conservational measures.

Kerala Poll campaign fail to notice rampant wetlands reclamation in Kochi As election fever grips Ernakulam and officials busy with pre-poll works, the rampant reclamation of water bodies, paddy fields, wetlands and destruction of mangroves are going unnoticed. Environmentalists and Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority (KCZMA) raised concern over the disappearance of mangroves and vanishing marshy lands. Activists said there were reports of wetland reclamation from Vallarpadam and mangroves being destroyed in areas around Mundamveli. Similar activities were reported from Maradu also. Environmentalists claimed that such things were happening in Alappuzha too in Kuttanad, Kayamkulam, Chengannur and Cherthala regions.

Op-Ed Can saving a wetland become an election issue in Assam? By Bahar Dutt At a time when every city across India is facing a water crisis, saving our wetlands has become important not just for biodiversity but for the entire urban landscape. The report also says that against NGT order dumping truck loads of waste is common thing there and wild animals like elephants unable to access the wetlands are invading agriculture lands causing a lot of damage to farmers.

WATER        

Centre World Bank support to Swachh Bharat Mission The Union Cabinet, chaired by the PM Narendra Modi, has given its approval to the US $ 1,500 million project of World Bank Support to Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin (SBM-G). The Project basically provides for incentivising States on the basis of their performance in the existing SBM-G. Incentivisation of States was approved by the Cabinet while approving the SBM-G on 24th September, 2014. The current approval provides for the mechanism of such incentivisation through World Bank credit. Under the approved project, the performance of the States will be gauged through certain performance indicators, called the Disbursement-Linked Indicators.

Centre Water conservation top priority for Govt: Uma Bharti Ms Bharti said that the “substantial” funds allotted to her ministry in the last two years will provide the impetus to achieve the target of cleansing major rivers and having clean water reserves. The budget for ground water conservation has been increased to Rs.6K cr. Last year, Rs.20K cr was allotted for ‘Namami Gange Programme’. Through these funds and schemes we can make substantial changes in the next two years like installing ETPs at various places. If one goes by these statements, money seems to be the only driving force behind MoWR, but can money alone achieve clean rivers, water conservation or groundwater regulation? Of course not!

Jharkhand Jamshedpur to become ‘zero sewerage discharge city’ Jamshedpur, which ranked fourth on account of per capita water consumption, will be the first city of the country to become “zero sewerage discharge city” in a year’s time. According to Deputy General Manager of Jamshedpur Utilities & Services Company Ltd the work is well in progress to achieve the milestone & the initiative to recycle & reuse 100% waste water (sewerage water) has already begun. The company had been making efforts to minimize water leakage and reuse the sewerage water after being recycled at its two treatment plants at Bistupur and Bara. Bara treatment plant has the capacity to treat 30 million litres sewerage water per day & the company could reuse altogether 40 million litres recycled water per day for industrial and gardening purposes in the city in the next one year’s time. Interesting initiative but seems ambitious.

National International water day: An equitable, efficient and scientific allocation needed The escalation of the conflict between Punjab and Haryana over the Sutlej-Yamuna Link is pointer to rising water scarcity in the country. Of the 20 major river systems, 14 are already water-stressed; 75% of the population live in water-stressed regions, a third of whom live in water-scarce areas. Climate change, the demands of a rising population and the need for agriculture to keep pace, increased rate of urbanisation and industrialisation will exacerbate water stress. The Constitution has water as a state subject, except for regulation of inter-state rivers. The Centre, at best, plays referee. Rising water-stress makes imperative a national legal and policy framework for water to ensure fair and equitable allocation amongst different regions and within regions among user groups, environment protection, development priorities, efficient water use, demand and supply.

Delhi Drinking water through pipeline to all households by 2017: AAP The AAP government in Delhi today proposed supply of rpt supply drinking water to all authorised and unauthorised colonies by 2017 through pipelines and allocated Rs 676cr for the financial year 2016-17 for this. According to one more news Delhiies benefitting from the  free water scheme will continue  to get the relief in the next fiscal, with the government announcing that it will continue the subsidy in the Budget for 2016-17. Reiterating the government’s promise to connect the whole city to the piped network by Dec 2017, Mr. Sisodia allocated Rs.676cr to extend the network to 300 unauthorised colonies. Mr. Sisodia also made an ambitious statement of connecting the whole city to the sewerage network in 08 to10 years, instead of the deadline of 2036 set by the Sewerage Masterplan. The DJB will also be coming up with comprehensive rainwater harvesting scheme, a water bodies’ revival policy and a summer action plan.

Haryana We have ample power for paddy season, says PSPCL chairman During the paddy season, consumption in peak time is between 9000Mw to 11000Mw. Otherwise, it varies between 3500Mw to 5000Mw. The problem arises when the peak load reaches 11000Mw a day. The chairman appeared determined to rectify over a dozen trouble spots which could affect power transmission during the paddy season. Department helpline number 1921 normally receives over 1 lakh calls per month but complaints during the paddy season often rise to 2-3 lakh a month. Officials have been directed to speed up the pending connections. On the water metering policy he stated that the PSPCL was upgrading its software for this purpose. Contrary to PSPCL claims, farmers rue power supply shortage

Govt water supply quality poor: CAG Government & Auditor General (CAG) has rapped Haryana govt for “high percentage” of unfit water samples, saying it indicates supply of poor quality which results in high incidences of water-borne diseases. A laboratory in Karnal tested 15481 samples from 2010 to 2014. Out of these, 9663 samples were found fit for human consumption while 5818 samples (38%) were found unfit. In 8 districts including Ambala, Hissar & Kaithal, out of 57,900 samples checked, 6,251 samples (11%) were found unfit for human consumption. In four districts such as Ambala and Kaithal, 1210 cases of diarrhoea, 176 cases of jaundice and 53 cases of enteric fever were noticed due to consumption of contaminated water during 2010-15.

Industry inspection norms simplified The Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) has framed an inspection policy to streamline and simplify the inspections of industrial units. The policy aimed at inspection of industries and projects for checking the compliance with the various environmental acts like Water, Air & Environment (Protection) Act. Every inspection will be carried out after taking permission of the competent authority except in the case of inspection of illegal units operating without ‘consent to establish’ (CTE) and ‘consent to operate’ (CTO) of the board. No inspection is required for the CTE cases unless violation comes to the notice of the HSPCB. Self-certification for compliance with prescribed policies and norms would be considered sufficient to decide the CTE applications subject to submission of complete application with prescribed documents and consent fee.

Himachal Pradesh Contaminated Chair water scheme closed The Irrigation and Public Health (IPH) Department has shut down the Chair water scheme. Its samples tested by the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, have shown the presence of Hepatitis E virus. The scheme supplies water to the Retreat Building in Chharabra, the official summer residence of the President. The department received the report on March 19 and it immediately stopped the supply. But this has deepened the crisis in Kufri, Chharabra and parts of Dhalli.There is no sewage plant in the vicinity of the Chairh water source, still its samples have failed the purity test. Supply from the traditional water schemes in Tutu, Malyana and Brockhurst that used to cater to more than 1600 households has also been stopped.

Op-Ed Why we must have water budgets Given the zero-sum nature of the game and the impossibility of creating “new” water, it is likely that we cannot restore the water balance in severely depleted regions without painful cuts in water use. However, there are some glimmers of hope. Water users everywhere are worried about the disappearing resource and willing to engage. The trick lies in combining technology (low-water-use crops, xeriscaping) and economic incentives that reduce actual water use (“cash-for-blue” schemes) without reducing productivity or quality of life. This needs a strong water governance system based on awareness building, science and a commitment to fairness and sustainability. Water use is not ALWAYS zero sum game, though consequences of any use are certainly there and the water budget advocated here should also include budget for the river.

India’s water table is slowing down to a mere trickle By Tanya Talwar  Water scarcity has been showing symptoms of being a national malaise. Rural expert P. Sainath warned a decade ago about the danger of privatising rivers, streams and canals in the context of what he called “corporatisation of agriculture”. Whatever the detail, there is certainly an urgent need to look at the big picture from the crop mix to warped policies that favour more elite users of water than the truly needy. India can ill-afford a simple pay-and-use model in a nation where two-thirds of the irrigation comes from truant monsoons. This Water Week may just be the right occasion for some serious introspection on a range of issues including conservation, augmentation of groundwater, and management and governance issues relating to water.

MONSOON

National Hope for Indian monsoon as El Nino weakens Though the 1st forecast of the IMD comes in the 3rd week of April, international climate models are now showing that this El Nino is finally getting weaker and is likely to be neutralised by May. However, El Nino just being one of the several factors that influence monsoon rainfall, a neutralisation does not necessarily mean good rainfall. In addition, there is a lag of about three to four months between the presence of El Nino condition and the impact of rainfall over India. So, if El Nino continues till May, it may still adversely affect the rainfall in June. With worsening drought situation everyone is praying for a good monsoon bounty. Also see, Weakening El Nino raises hopes of normal monsoon

Study The monsoon-predicting plants of Tibet The unfolding of leaves of sedge and grass species on the Tibetan Plateau can indicate the arrival of the Indian monsoon, says a new study.

AGRICULTURE

Centre Govt panel cleared 80% GM field trials since May 2014  According to minutes of the ministry’s Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), 8 meetings since NDA came to power 51 proposals for “confined field trials of transgenic crops” were considered by the. Of which it approved 40 (78.43%) & deferred 8, while 3 applications were withdrawn but none of the proposal were rejected. Field trials for GM crops, also known as transgenic crops, are controversial, with activists claiming the trials are being pushed in a bid to commercialize them but the GEAC claim the whole process is being done in a non-transparent manner without proper public scrutiny. Since coming to power in May 2014, the NDA government has been trying unsuccessfully to build consensus around the issue. In its 2014 election manifesto, the BJP had said that it would not allow genetically modified crops without proper scientific investigation.

ENERGY OPTIONS

Centre Electric vehicles for all by 2030: Piyush Goyal Under the plan, the vehicles will be given without an upfront payment and will be paid for by users over a period of time from the savings made on fuel, he added. The idea is inspired by the success of the govt’s campaign to promote energy-efficient LED bulbs, which has seen costs falling by 80% over 18 months to Rs.99 per bulb now. India’s automobile industry is 6th largest in the world & accounts for 22% of the country’s total manufacturing output. According to Govt, India now consumes 19 million tonnes of petrol & 69 million tonnes of diesel a year. The country also exports 16 million tonnes of petrol & 25.5 million tonnes of diesel every year.

Andhra Pradesh 2 villages to be run 100% on solar power  In a first of its kind of green development initiative, two Andhra villages, Toorputallu & Pedhamyanavanilanka, will be electrified completely on solar power from this year. Commerce & Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has adopted these 2 villages under the Sansad Aadarsh Gram Yojna.  As per the proposal, the district administration has earmarked the required land & State Govt. has consented to buy power from the developer. The solar plant will be completed by Aug 2016. The plant would also generate substantial income for the village 60 paise per unit.

Tamil Nadu 200mw solar power plant to come up in Thoothukudi According to S. Sathiyanarayanan, Executive Director NLC Tamil Nadu Power Plant Limited will establish a new solar power plant with a capacity of 200Mw, Thoothukudi. He said a techno-commercial feasibility study was on to set up the solar power plant over an area of 1200 acres spread over Paraikuttam, Melapandiapuram and Muraman near Maniyachi.

Asia  India, China led investments in renewable energy in 2015: UN The report ‘Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2016’ by the UN Environment Programme said the developing world including China, India and Brazil committed a total of USD 156 billion in new renewables capacity last year, up 19% on 2014. Investments by developed countries were down 8% in 2015 to USD 130 billion. The year 2015 was the first time when investment in renewables in developing countries outweighed that in developed economies, the report said. A large part of the record-breaking investment in developing countries took place in China, which lifted its investment by 17% to USD 102.9 billion, more than a third of global commitments. India was also among the top 10 investing countries in renewable energy, with its commitments rising 22% to USD 10.2 billion.

China Adding a three Gorges Dam worth of wind every year In the past two years, China has added 53.2Gw of wind energy capacity, with plans for another 31Gw in 2016. In 2012, the last of the turbines in the Three Gorges Dam began generating electricity at rated power. It shows how China’s dominance in renewables mirrors its dominance in industrial materials. Last year, China accounted for 52 percent of the world’s 62.7Gw of wind energy installations. This is similar to the country’s share of worldwide coal, concrete and copper consumption, among others. As for wind capacity factors, the Chinese turbine fleet has an average capacity factor of roughly 23%, so was slightly out-produced by America in 2015, despite the latter country’s smaller installation base. Meanwhile, America is adding lots of new “Hoover units.

US Rooftop solar could provide nearly half of US electricity demand A major new study has significantly lifted the potential of rooftop solar PV in the United States, saying rooftop solar alone could provide 40% of all the electricity needs of the world’s biggest economy, and around half if module efficiencies continued to improve. The study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory says the estimated potential from rooftop solar has been revised upwards by more than 80% since the last study in 2008, mostly because of improvements of module efficiencies, building availability and solar modelling. The report underlines the likely transition of the world’s major electricity systems from one dominated by central, fossil fuel generators, to a largely locally supplied pool of electricity, much of it from rooftop solar, augmented by storage and community based projects using solar & other technologies.

SOUTH ASIA

Nepal Tanahu Hydro biggest reservoir project fails to attract bidders Tanahu Hydropower Project has failed to attract a single bidder for prequalification of contractors, forcing it to extend the deadline by 19 days. The original deadline for applying for prequalification expired on 30 March & it has now been extended until April 17. The 140MW storage-type project will be built on the Seti River in Tanahu district. The project will be one of Nepal’s biggest storage-type projects with an estimated average annual energy generation of 587.7 GWh for the first 10 years and 489.9 GWh from the 11th year. The project is designed for peaking up to 6 hours in dry season. The project is being co-funded by Asian Development Bank, Japan International Cooperation Agency & European Investment Bank.

REST OF ASIA

Asia likely to face severe water crisis by 2050: MIT Study Asia, the continent that houses roughly half the world’s population, will face a “high risk of severe water stress” by 2050 if the current environmental, economical and population growth persists, warns a new study. The study points out that water shortages are not simply the results of climate change and environmental stress. The findings, published in the journal PLOS One, showed that the median amounts of projected growth and climate change in the next 35 years in Asia would lead to about 1 billion more people becoming “water-stressed” compared to the present time.

REST OF THE WORLD 

US  7 million people face threat from man-made quakes Scientists have revealed for the first time that anywhere up to 7 million people may be vulnerable to the threat of man-made earthquake, created by activities such as wastewater disposal from gas production. Publishing an earthquake hazard map pinpointing potential sites of both man-made & naturally occurring earthquakes US geological survey reported that most of the risk of man-made quakes is tied to “companies that are injecting wastewater from gas and oil production down to porous rocks far below the ground. Between 1973 and 2008, there was an average of 24 earthquakes with a magnitude of 3.0 or higher each year. The rate increased steadily in the relatively short amount of time between 2009 and 2015, averaging 318 earthquakes per year. This peaked last year, with 1,010 earthquakes.

Study The secret life in soil revealed Most of us think nothing of rainfall or where it goes, unless it leads to flooding or landslides. But soil scientists have been studying how water moves across or through soil for decades that may be taking the study of soil hydrology to some exciting new territory. Territories that may help soil scientists manage water resources better.

Global Great Barrier Reef sees ‘worst mass bleaching in years The Great Barrier Reef stretches 2,000km along Australia’s northeast coast and is the world’s largest living ecosystem. Last May, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee stopped short of placing the reef on an “in danger” list, but the ruling raised long-term concerns about its future. The Coral Reef Studies group from Townsville’s James Cook University filmed more than 500 coral reefs, over a period of six days, from Cairns to Papua New Guinea. The results suggest that areas of this World Heritage Site are experiencing the worst bleaching in 15 years. The most untouched part of the Great Barrier Reef is seeing the most severe bleaching in history. A combination of warming ocean waters and a major El Nino event highlights just how sensitive are coral reefs.

ENVIRONMENT

SANDRP Blog Fish Sanctuaries in Western Ghats of Maharashtra While Sacred Groves, or protected patches of forests are relatively well documented, sacred fish sanctuaries which protect the fish as well as rivers, are lesser known. This is an attempt to briefly document a few such sanctuaries in Western Ghats of Maharashtra. These sanctuaries only offer glimpses of the evolved community conservation practices in Western Ghats which protected the endangered fish as well as hereto endangered rivers. These sanctuaries need urgent protection in form of Community or Conservation Reserves so that the conservation efforts of the community are acknowledged and taken further. Most of these sanctuaries are facing severe threats in form of dams and water abstraction.

Centre GSI to compile Himalayas’ landslide data With large tracts of mountain slopes in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand being unstable, the Geological Survey of India (GSI) has launched a project to create a landslide compendium of north-western Himalayas. The project will cover 16 districts in these three states. These include Chamba, Kangra, Kinnaur, Shimla and Solan in Himachal, Udhampur in J&K and Almora, Bageshwar, Chamoli, Dehradun, Nainital, Pauri Garhwal, Pithoragarh, Rudraprayag, Tehri Garhwal and Uttarkashi in Uttarakhand. The compendium will be both digital and in printable versions and prepared from available data on landslide inventory, zonation and other relevant geological and cartographic information. The project has a timeframe of two years. The proposed compilation would contain maps of different resolutions, landslide inventory maps and varied types of textural data on landslide information.

Amendment of green laws: Govt told not to act on panel report As the Environment Ministry finalises its proposals to amend some of the environment related laws, many NGOs & opposition parties have asked the govt not to frame the amendments on the basis of the TSR Subramanian Committee report, which had recommended an overhaul of the environmental governance structure in the country. Yes, indeed, the govt should refrain from pushing the recommendation of discredited TSR Subramanian committee report. Also see, Govt notifies rules to manage construction, demolition waste The ministry in the past few weeks has notified new rules for management of plastic, e-waste and biomedical waste. Environmental campaigners say whether the new rules will succeed in reducing pollution will depend on how well they are implemented.

Kerala Invasive catfish rules reservoirs Farmed illegally and revered as sacred, the invasive North African catfish is proliferating in water bodies across Kerala, edging out native aquatic species. A survey conducted by the Department of Aquatic Biology and Fisheries, University of Kerala, and the Directorate of Environment and Climate Change has found that the species abounds in many of the reservoirs in Kerala. The presence of the fish in large numbers has led to the disappearance of many of the indigenous species, posing a threat to the aquatic biodiversity. Native to Africa and the Middle East the African catfish was introduced all over the world in the early 1980s for aquaculture purposes. Interestingly, the African catfish is protected as sacred in many of the temple ponds like the Thiruvachira Sreekrishna Temple, Kozhikode, where they are fed by the temple authorities.

W-Bengal Firm behind Kolkata flyover mishap blacklisted in Jharkhand Hyderabad-based infrastructure development company IVRCL was blacklisted in Jharkhand in 2009-10 after it failed to execute the project of rural electrification leading to the failure of the scheme in the state. It was also entrusted with the project execution of the urban water supply system in the capital by the erstwhile govt in March 2010, but the work order was later annulled when its involvement in the Koda scam was brought to the notice of the govt. Jharkhand govt Minister Saryu Rai said the IVRCL was involved in several projects in the state, but most of them failed causing govt. losses into crores. Jharkhand high court in July 2012 had on the petition of Bablu Kumar issued notices to CBI, the Enforcement Directorate and the income tax department asking their respective lawyers to file status report on investigation against the company. 

National NGT notice to Centre on microbeads in cosmetics The green tribunal has recently issued notices to the ministries of environment, water resources, and health, asking for their comments on microbeads found in personal care products. Microbeads are tiny plastic substances that act as exfoliators (that remove dead cells) on skin and teeth when used in soap, toothpaste and other products. Nearly all leading brands, including some “herbal” brands, manufacture beauty products with these exfoliating beads. But toxicology and marine experts are sounding alarm bells on their impact on the environment. Microbeads escape the filtration and treatment processes for wastewater and end up in rivers, eventually in the ocean. Marine scientists say there is very little research in India but the repercussions could be alarming.  The Centre’s views will be heard on April 18.

Study Impact of highways on Asian Toad by Ananda Banerjee A new Indian study shows that toads are unable to cross a national highway not just because of the burgeoning size of the highways but also due to factors such as vehicular traffic. It is the first telemetry study of amphibians in India—aimed at giving scientists an understanding of the effect of linear barriers on the common Asian toad in a human-dominated landscape. Radio-telemetry has proven to be a valuable tool for determining amphibian activity, dispersal and migration patterns because amphibians are often secretive, nocturnal and sometimes move long distances in short periods of time. On the other hand a new study reveals finding of a group of scientists have discovered & documented a interesting tadpole in the deep recesses of streambeds in Western Ghats which live in total darkness until they fully develop into froglets.

Op-Ed Our grey, grim future by Samar Halarnkar  Over the past couple of weeks, a string of scientific studies from the IIS Bangalore have laid out the effects of India’s chaotic urbanization and how cities are headed on a rapid, downward spiral. What is clear is that India’s great urban explosion is proceeding with an unplanned frenzy rarely or never seen before in the world.  The solutions that the researchers suggest urban development planned around extensive public transit, powered by clean transport are not rocket science, but they do require powerful, motivated and directly elected urban authorities. Everything else is tinkering, which will, if at all, only slow our grim, grey future.

Op-Ed Decline of pollinators threatens food supply by Kamal Bawa Director ATREE Bengaluru Poor management of our pollinator species may be leading to lower crop yields and to losses of hundreds or thousands of crores annually. And this is a potential crisis not only for biodiversity but also for our agricultural economy. The economic stakes are huge. The value of animal-pollinated crops in India is in the tens of billions of dollars. Compared with this, our level of investment in research on pollinators has been negligible. It is not only the science that requires attention. Policies and governance for managing landscapes natural, agricultural, urban are equally important. The Environment Ministry has recently launched a programme to establish a network of Indian Long Term Ecological Observatories to monitor the country’s ecosystems which  offers tremendous opportunities to monitor wild pollinators.

You May Also Like to See DRP News Bulletin 28 March 2016 & DRP News Bulletin 21 March 2016 

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