DRP News Bulletin 09 May 2016 (Welcome initiative by Lok Sabha Speaker)

On May 4-5, 2016, Lok Sabha Speaker Smt Sumitra Mahajan took the lead in organising a workshop for Members of Parliament on Drought, Agrarian Crisis and ILR. As part of the newly constituted Speaker’s Research Initiative’s (SRI for short) work, Smt Mahajan inaugurated the workshop at 4 pm on May 4, 2016, where a panel of eight speakers were invited (4 on each day, SANDRP coordinator was one of the invited speakers on 1st day) to share their views, followed by questions from Members of Parliament. The idea was that on these important issues, Parliament Members are better equipped to raise the relevant issues when debating and raising questions in Parliament. It was heartening to see that at least 90 MPs (88 from Lok Sabha and 2 on Rajya Sabha) were present for 2.5 hours on first day, and they wanted to ask so many questions that there was not sufficient time to allow all of them to ask, nor sufficient time for speakers to make full presentations or answer all the questions. Similarly on second day too Speakers showed lot of interest on these issues. While inaugurating the workshop, Smt Mahajan mentioned how in Solapur, Maharashtra, because of the work of the collector and his team of officials, the impact of drought is lower than that in other districts. This was certainly heartening since it was SANDRP Associate Coordinator Parineeta Dandekar who first wrote on this issue, following her visit to Solapur and interview with the district collector. The workshop highlighted the need for many such workshops, possibly more focussed, but the impact of the workshop was already visible in the (as yet unfinished) debate under section 193 that started in Lok Sabha on May 5, 2016, hopefully to be continued in current week.

DROUGHT OPTIONS

Maharashtra An oasis in drought-hit Maharashtra, village sets example While other villages in the arid Ahmednagar district are digging borewells even up to 400 feet, the underground water table in Hiware Bazar is so good that the precious commodity is available barely 20 to 40 feet below. The village has banned water-guzzling cash crops like sugarcane and banana but the farmers here are still far richer than their counterparts in the region. For the record, no family qualifies to be below the poverty line. Hiware Bazar, now a byword for watershed management and water conservation, had found special mention in Prime Minister Na rendra Modi’s `Mann ki Baat’ programme.

Uttar Pradesh In parched Bundelkhand, one farmer scripts a success story, sets example Locals and activists are now approaching Prem Singh to find out how his practices have transformed his farm into a lush area. Singh, 53, is among the very few farmers in a land with plummeting water tables to have an orchard, processing units and flourishing livestock across his 32-acre farm. What Singh has been practicing since 1989 was recommended by National Institute of Disaster Management in 2014, “Emphasis should be on diversification – minor crops and animal husbandry.” Today 22% of the people in his village have an orchard on their farms.

Bundelkhand’s dalit women join hands to drought-proof their villages  In 2011, women from 60 gram panchayats of the 3 districts got together to form paani panchayats (water councils) in their villages, which have become a model for local self-governance to address water and employment problems in rural areas. The focus of these paani panchayats, mostly led by dalit women, is to create more water resources, revive old ones and conserve natural water bodies with the help of traditional and modern technology.  The first paani panchayat was formed in 2011 in Jalaun district. By September 2011, a total of 96 such water resource management councils were formed.

Karnataka How some farmers are defeating the drought About 20 villages in the drought-hit Navalgund taluk of Dharward district stand as a stark contrast to the calamity prevailing in the neighbourhood. A majority of farmers in these villages are unaffected by the drought. They are able to cultivate crops and keep them healthy by sufficiently watering them & are making profits. Their insurance are the farm ponds they have dug with the help of the Deshpande Foundation The farm ponds dug in low-lying areas allow farmers to harvest occasional rainfall, store water and use it to provide timely irrigation to their crops.

Jharkhand Waterman ensuring all year water supply in 51 villages Simon Oraon 84-year-old man has transformed the lives of thousands of villagers in Jharkhand with his massive tree-planting and water conservation efforts. Simon Oraon, a Padma Shri awardee & popularly known as Baba in his area, has been working undeterred in 51 villages of Bero to protect natural flora for decades from his mission of water conservation and forest plantation. Today, his village is one of the state’s agri-produce hubs, supplying more than 25,000 metric tonnes of vegetables to various districts of Jharkhand and nearby locations.

Rajasthan Saving raindrops for thirty years  Laporiya, a village 80 km from Jaipur, a collective effort to harvest water by 350 families has been defying drought for the past 30 years. While ground water has gone down to 500 feet in nearby areas, it is found at 15-40 feet in this village. Not only does lush Laporiya have enough water for its population of nearly 2K it even supplies water to some 10-15 surrounding villages.

Expert Speak ‘Let this be the last photo-op for drought’ In this interview Anupam Mishra, India’s most respected thinker and researcher on water tell us where water policies have failed. How is it that Latur runs dry when desert communities that receive much less rain than Latur manage so well? Mishra has spent long years studying social traditions and ancient water systems. He is the author of a revolutionary book on community water harvesting. Anupam ji is as usual straight forward and brilliant.

DROUGHT 2016

SANDRP Blog Karnataka: Profile of 2015-16 Drought Karnataka is witnessing drought for the third successive year; rainfall has been deficient since 2012-13. Because of the rainfall deficit, reservoirs did not fill up completely. Coupled with the hot summer temperatures in March and April 2016, the stored water has now almost depleted. Groundwater, the saviour in times of failure of rainfall, has dipped severely because of years of reckless exploitation for irrigating water guzzling crops in semi arid soils. With even drinking water becoming scarce, agricultural activity has come to a standstill in the region.

Expert Speak ‘Get Ready For More Droughts’ Roxy Mathew Koll leading researcher on ‘Indian Ocean warming’ The person seems to make some new revelations. His contention that there is gradual decline in overall rainfall in central India over the past 50 years needs to be checked. His other contention that tree coverage has declined by as much as 30% whereas crop coverage has increased by 45% in India sounds a bit doubtful. He also makes an interesting comment that as the atmosphere warms due to increased heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, it can hold more water and that too for a longer time. This can result in long dry periods intermittent with a few days of heavy rainfall. He also says that globally, droughts & heavy rainfall events are on the rise which is largest over Southeast Asia, with an increase in extreme rainfall events by about 56%.

National Chart shows no time spent on drought in Lok Sabha  Since 25 April the Lok Sabha has witnessed heated discussions various issues but drought is yet to feature in the list of business. On the other hand, Rajya Sabha had a 3 and half hour discussion on the crisis on 27 April, when the opposition parties cornered the govt over this issue. The members of the upper house called on the government to take immediate relief measures on war footing in order to address the “national crisis”. About 25% of India’s population is currently reeling from record-high temperatures and severe drought conditions. The crisis has left more than 200 people dead in Odisha and Telangana alone.

Declare water emergency in country Peasants’ organisation All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha (AIKMS) have demanded Central govt to declare state of water emergency in the country, review implementation of water conservation and take up immediate long term measures to ensure adequate supply of water to all. Through a statement, central executive committee of AIKMS declared that they would take up nationwide campaign to create public awareness against provision of large quantity of water to units of large corporate houses while allowing farmers and the downtrodden to suffer in severe water crisis. According to AIKMS without adequate provision of water rural economy cannot progress.

Why Gujarat, Haryana & Bihar did not declare drought (despite being rainfall deficit) When the declaration of drought becomes an arbitrary exercise based on political considerations, it is the poorest who suffer. Though Gujarat has since declared 994 villages in five districts as affected by “semi-scarcity”, which is determined by crop yield, Haryana is yet to declare drought in four districts along its border with Rajasthan, despite farmers reporting a water crisis. Revealing analysis shows why parts of Gujarat, Haryana and Bihar are facing drought, but why the states refused to declare drought there.

Karnataka Hard for State to meet demand Minister for Water Resources M.B. Patil’s assurance to a Telangana delegation on releasing water from Narayanpur dam to Krishna river has been opposed by farmer leaders in Raichur. It has also triggered fear that this might affect power generation at the Raichur Thermal Power Station. According to sources in the Department of Water Resources, of the 13.5 tmcft available water in dam, only 5.2 tmcft is live storage that is strictly reserved for drinking and power generation purposes. It is also not possible to get water from Almatti Reservoir as the live storage there reached zero level two days ago.  This shows the state of water availability in Krishna basin in Karnataka and also Telangana and AP.

Chhattisgarh Officials forget to repair canals The administration was left red faced after a plan to fill up lakes in a drought-hit area in Mahasamund district failed miserably. The water was to be released from Kodar dam to benefit 50 villages, but the govt forgot to repair the canals which had broken in many parts. As a result, most of the water split away. The plan was to release 150 cusecs of water to fill up 150 lakes for 50 villages. In fact, the govt had even sanctioned around Rs3lakh for repairs, and even set up 12 committees to oversee the works.

Gujarat Saurashtra town gets water once a week  Residents of Veraval town in Gir-Somnath district are getting water once in 7 days despite nearby Hiran dam reservoirs having adequate water. Because of a lax municipal administration, there is no proper management of water and as a result water that would come once in 3 or 4 days now comes in 7. Interestingly dam officials have reportedly written to the municipality that there is enough water for three months, but the municipal administration is not supplying the water to residents.

Jharkhand MLAs unable to pay for water projects  Members of legislative assembly in are of little use in the state’s crippling drought, which has been officially declared in all the but 2 districts. According to a local media report  MLAs are unable to release funds for water related programmes, until the accounts related to their expenditure in 2015-16 are settled with the state administration. Because of this, they are unable to commission new work until the monsoon, although there is a dire need in the summer.

Punjab No relief from wter woes in Chandigarh The city residents can hope for improved water supply by next year as the Punjab govt has allotted land to the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation for setting up a pumping station enabling Chandigarh to get its share of water from phases V and VI of Kajauli water works. As per the water sharing agreement of phases V and VI, out of 40 MGD, 29 MGD will be the share of Chandigarh while the remaining 11 MGD will be shared between Punjab and Haryana.

W-Bengal  Irrigated winter crop in Bengal has taken a hit The usually lush green crop fields in Dhaniakhali, Hooghly are turning brown this year as Kana river, the principal source for irrigation, has turned into a dry soil bed a first in several decades. During the boro paddy season (January-April), around 2K-6K hectares could not be irrigated in Dhaniakhali. With little river & dam irrigation, farmers are relying on deep tube wells. But a prolonged dry spell has made that unsustainable, too as groundwater has dipped so much that even tube well irrigation is not possible. With cultivation taking a hit, farm incomes have come down for both farmers and farmhands. The level in almost all the major reservoirs from which West Bengal draws water Maithon, Panchet, Konar and Tilaiya  is lower than last year.

Telangana Crops disappear from farms as water table drops  Crops disappear from farms as water table drops. Rainfall deficiency of 32% in 2014 & 25% in 2015 have lowered the water table. Surface water sources, crucial for aquifers, dried up 3 years ago in many parts. There was a net decline of 2.61 metres in groundwater level during 2015-16 and the department expects a further drop of one metre by the end of this summer. If rain is delayed in June, the situation would become worse. The fall in the water table is more widespread in neighbouring Medak and Mahabubnagar districts. Govt reported a fall in groundwater to a depth of 20 metres in 58 mandals in May 2015, which rose to 138 in March 2016. Of these, 62 mandals are in Medak and Mahabubnagar districts. The groundwater department has categorised 300 mandals in the state as water stressed. The state government had declared 231 of the 443 rural mandals as drought-hit in November 2015.

UP& MP Heat, dust and water in Bundelkhand Bundelkhand is a dirt poor region where people are now desperately scratching the dirt for water. Only a few farmers have enough money to dig over 50 metres and pump water out of the few aquifers that have not gone dry. A few others have built check dams and embankments to hold the rain where it falls, and their farms remain profitable. But such oases are too few and far between. Photo essay on Bundelkhand drought. Also see, Bringing Water Back To Bundelkhand Wiser water-retention strategies and a revival of traditional land-use practices could rejuvenate the ravaged land of Bundelkhand that has been battling drought for years. It’s a detailed account of state of water situation in Bundelkhand.

Rajasthan People apart, even govt buying water from private tanker suppliers   About 91% of state’s demand is met through extraction of groundwater. The rest is drawn from 7 major reservoirs, of which 4 have reported less than 40% availability. This9% water is mainly supplied to urban areas, around 24% of the population. The other 76% are dependent on groundwater, the quality of which is questionable. State officials say 40% more water is being drawn and this has further lowered the water table, leaving most handpumps and tubewells dry and defunct. As a result, the govt now plans to send water tankers to villages. It is estimated around 15K villages are facing a shortage in these 19 affected districts.

Op-ED Dealing with increasing floods and droughts demands new thinking This op-ed has a number of problematic statements. The statement that there will be need for far more water storage is unnecessary.  For water saving, it does not even mention System of Rice Intensification, whereas IWMI meeting actually provided me exposure to SRI. Most disturbingly, the article is full of technology and techniques, but not a ward on governance; it seems our faith in people’s capacity to govern their own resources is dwindling.

The season of scorching ironies by Yogendra Yadav  Irony. This one word captures our response to the ongoing nationwide drought in more ways than one. We have woken up to the reality of drought a full six months after the end of monsoon. After waking up, we focus on the drinking water crisis in urban centres and not the multidimensional crisis of life and livelihood in rural hinterland. A petition on a cricket tournament, rather than the plight of the people and its real culprits, has triggered media attention to the drought. Finally, it is the apex court of the country, and not its Parliament, that has found time to pay attention to serious issues of drought relief and mitigation. Excellent and Passionate piece

Harvest of Misery and the Perpetual Politics of Drought by Shankkar Aiyar The inter-linking of rivers was projected as one solution to address this skew between access and availability. The theory is that if water that currently flows into the sea is stored, it can provide both electricity and water. In practice, issues of funding, perplexing definitions of surplus for water in river basins, and tedious politics have all combined to stall the idea. Add the sordid saga of delayed projects over 312 dams are delayed for decades, of which 152 are from Maharashtra. In fact, the coexistence of the largest number of dams (delayed and existing) and severe drought in Maharashtra raises questions.

The drought is no longer a natural disaster by Amita Baviskar In the 19th century, drought could be described as a natural event and famine as caused by the failure of political and economic institutions. More than a hundred years later, drought is no longer natural. Our cars, planes and coal-fired power plants have induced climate change, amplifying the variability of the monsoons and melting the glaciers that feed our perennial rivers. And in areas where deep drilling has sucked ground-water dry, water scarcity is not a natural condition either. Drought and famine are both human-made. And our most vulnerable people and landscapes are at risk as never before.

From Plate to Plough: Drop by careful drop by Ashok Gulati In groundwater, the problem is over-exploitation and falling water tables. More than 80 per cent of administrative units in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi are overexploited, and water table is depleting by one feet each year. This is eating away resources of future generations. And one of the key factors behind this is the highly subsidised power supplied to rural areas. A couple of welcome mentions (need to promote SRI and that large irrigation projects are too costly and not delivering and that we are biggest exporter of water through rice and sugar) notwithstanding, rest of the article indulges in standard generalities, it does not even touch the key issues as far as Marathwada or Bundelkhand are concerned.

MAHARASHTRA DROUGHT

Declare Tata Dams a national property With drought and its scourge looming large over the state, members of the Tata Dharangrast Sangharsh Samiti, Mulshi Dharan Samiti and Lonavala Sajan Nagrik group have decided to stage a Jal Satyagraha on 07 May, demanding the nationalisation of six dams owned by the Tata company at Mulshi and Maval, so that its waters can be thrown open for the general public. As part of the stir, members from drought-affected Solapur and Marathwada districts, along with political parties, will walk from Lonavala college to the Valvan Dam in the morning.

Jayakwadi hits lowest point since inception Water levels at Jayakwadi, once of the largest dams in Marathwada, have dipped to the lowest-ever since its construction. Though the reservoir has hit dead storage 13 times since 1976, this year, just 122 million meter cube (mm3) water is available for use now. In 2013, around 147 mm3 water was utilised from the dead stock till June but this year, about 157 mm3 has already been consumed by April-end.

Only 2% of water left in Marathwada dams There is only 2% of water left in dams in drought-struck Marathwada, with a month and a half to go before the monsoon sets in. 8 of the region’s 11 major dams are at dead storage level. Water from the dams has to be lifted as it cannot flow out. The Manjara and Lower Terna dams have run totally dry. Last year at this time, the water level in those dams was higher at 10%. This is the fourth year of drought in Marathwada in the last five years. The state government says there is enough water to last the region till monsoon.

A glance at the parched villages of Marathwada Jalna, a district located in Marathwada, has been characterized as a “frequently drought prone area” due to its semi-arid climate and the meagre quantities of rainfall over the past 20 years. According to the IMD statistics, Jalna records an annual average rainfall of 690 mm. Figure 1 depicts a considerable year-to-year variation in monsoons and over the last decade the district has regularly received particularly scant rainfall. Profile of Jalna district in Maharashtra by WOTR (Watershed Organisation Trust) throws up many interesting aspects, also showing that as per IMD there is no change in average rainfall.

India’s water refugees who live in cattle camps This BBC story does not really add any insights, but provides a pictorial and word narrative about the state of people in BEED district. Some rather exaggerated statements e.g. no rains in 3 or4 years notwithstanding, it does not even go into depth of sugarcane issue, the elephant in the room.

Drought relief announced Ahmednagar district administration has announced drought relief measures in 953 villages after the winter rabi crop failed. In these villages, more than 50% of the crop was found to have failed.

HYDRO POWER 

Arunachal Hydropower lobby drives a wedge over dam in the hills of Tawang 5 decades after the Chinese troops laid siege to it, the 336-year-old Tawang Monastery is facing a new aggressor high-stakes hydropower politics. The monastery is now at the centre of a controversy that seems to have pitted its abbot, Guru Tulku Rinpoche, against a senior monk, Lama Lobsang Gyatso. At play is a dam lobby that allegedly enjoys the backing of Tawang’s most powerful political family, that of former CM Dorjee Khandu. Gyatso, whose arrest on April 28 led to protests and the bloodbath 4 days later, heads the anti-dam Save Mon Region Federation (SMRF) which suspects the dam lobby is using Rinpoche to influence villagers in project areas. Very Apt title, indeed, the events in Tawang, driven by Hydropower lobby, is likely to create long term problems, strangely, all three MLAs of the district belong to one family. Lama Lobsang Gyatso, head of SMRF & one of the most vocal opponents of Hydro power projects in Tawang region was briefly arrested on 26 April for allegedly leading a group of people from Gongkhar village where the Mukto Shakangchu 6Mw project is coming up. He was arrested based on FIR filed by the Personnel security officer of local MLA Pema Khandu for disruption of peace.  The villagers had apparently gone to meet the local MLA to apprise him on renovation of Gongkhar power house, which they allege have stopped functioning because of faulty construction. Lama Lobsang Gyatso was arrested again on April 28 following complaints that he had posted comments against Guru Tulku Rinpoche, the spiritual head of Tawang Monastery, and questioned his nationality. Gyatso also reportedly asked him not to indulge in politics related to hydel projects. The monk heading Save Mon Region Federation, a group opposed to hydro power projects in Tawang was kept in Police custody till 29 April. The whole ruckus started after a meeting was held on 28 April in Tawang called by the Zila Parishad Chairperson Jambey Tsering to discuss developments issues. But instead, the meeting ended up as a political propaganda against Lama Lobsang Gyatso based on the audio clip. Hundreds of PRI members turned up for the meeting, who subsequently filed an FIR against the monk, angered at the content of the audio clip. According to sources, a group of monks gathered outside the Police station on 29 April demanding the release of Lobsang Gytaso while another group also protested against him. Insiders say that protest marches are being planned against Lama Lobsang for insulting the Abbot of the Tawang Monastery, allegedly at the behest of the political leaders, who are bent to crush the voices opposing the hydro power development.  It is really disturbing to see this conspiracy to silence the voices against the hydropower projects. On 02 May at least 2 persons were killed & 8 others injured when policemen opened fire on villagers demanding release of Lama Lobsang Gyatso. Unofficial sources, however, claimed that 4 persons, including a woman, a monk were killed in the firing. Post the event prohibitory orders under Section 144 were promulgated in Tawang town, the Army also staged a flag march. The Save Mon Region Federation has written a letter to PM asking the Centre Govt to intervene and resolve the issue at the earliest. It is so overwhelming that the bullet injured people have pledged to oppose the hydro power projects which they think are dangerous for the region. Meanwhile Amnesty International India have demanded that Authorities in Arunachal Pradesh must conduct a prompt, impartial and independent criminal investigation into the killing of two protestors in police firing in the town of Tawang in the northeastern state.

SMRF has also been spearheading protests against a number of hydroelectric dam projects that are coming up in the area. The State Govt has over the past several years signed MoUs with various companies for over 100 big and small hydel projects in the state, and 13 of these with a total installed capacity of 2791.90 MW  are in Tawang district. Groups like the SMRF are of the opinion that these proposed and upcoming hydel power projects would adversely impact the fragile Eastern Himalayan ecosystem, which is also a seismically vulnerable zone that has experienced several major earthquakes over the past few decades. The anti-dam protesters include various student bodies, environmental groups and civil society organisations in the state  in Tawang, the Buddhist lamas too have jumped in.

Centre Govt prepares framework to boost hydropower According to Additional Power Secretary B P Pandey power ministry is preparing a new framework to boost hydropower development in the country by lowering the cost and removal of long-drawn clearances, a senior official said today.  Highlighting that reducing the cost of hydroelectric power is one of the major challenges in the hydropower sector, he suggested for financial restructuring together with innovative financing instruments. Speaking at the conference CM of Arunachal Pradesh Kalikho Pul invited private players to install hydropower plants in his state and assured all necessary support. He further said projects between 50-100 MW should be promoted and taken up and there is need to source subsidy funding for the same. This is happening when more and more evidences hint that hydro is neither clean nor green source of energy. Given the impact of climate change on water resources, the future of hydro projects is also uncertain. Power demand is falling and private players are running away from under construction projects. Most surprising is the Arunachal CM invitation to private developers which is in sharp contrast to ongoing resistance by local community which is strongly opposing such projects. Just couple of weeks ago NGT has scrapped 780Mw Nyamjang Chu HEP involving Rs.6400cr investment. 

Panel for tax-free bonds, multilateral funds for hydro power A Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy in its report tabled in Lok Sabha on 05 May 2016 said that Govt should issue tax-free bonds similar to the infrastructure sector & arrange funds from multilateral agencies like ADB to provide long-term finance to hydro projects. The committee suggested that the provision of providing long-term loans should not be limited to REC and PFC but utmost efforts be made by the govt to make the required provisions and persuade other financial institutions & banks as well to lend finances to hydro power projects for longer tenure. The panel was of the view that the government should explore avenues to provide funds to the hydro power sector by LIC and pension funds and cash rich PSUs of the country should invest in hydro power sector for diversification, as fossil fuels are limited. Earlier the misguided panel has asked to resume work on highly controversial Subansiri HEP on Assam & Arunachal Border. The pics showing how badly 8mw Gangani hydro project (built) in Uttarkashi & 120mw Vyasi HEP (under construction) has negotiated the entire flow of water in the river which only one aspect of multiple impacts Hydro projects make local community and river ecology subject to in long and short term.

Stalled hydro project not to impact 24X7 power supply plans According to Power Minister Piyush Goyal statement on 04 May 2016 as more than 95% of the capacity addition target for the 12th Five Year Plan has already been achieved during first 4 years of the plan, therefore, the stalled hydro projects, which constitute only 4341MW of the generation capacity, are not expected to impact the govt’s plan to ensure 24X7 electricity supply across the country in a significant. The factors for this slippage include disruption of works by locals, delay in regulatory clearance, land acquisition issues and poor geology.

Panel call to resume Subansiri dam work A parliamentary panel has recommended “removing the stumbling blocks” in implementation of the Lower Subansiri hydel project, located on the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh boundary, at the earliest. The department-related parliamentary standing committee on home affairs, in its report placed in the current session of Parliament, said efforts must be intensified to remove the stumbling blocks in implementation of the project. The committee observed that while the Northeast has a huge potential for generation of hydropower, the efforts of the implementation agencies have not translated this into gains for the region and the nation. Clearly misguided recommendation of the Parliamentary committee, in the face of the govt appointed Assam expert com recommendations quoted by the same news report.

Himachal Settle issues with hydel project-affected people first: Tribunal In a setback to an Asian Development Bank-funded hydroelectricity project, a judicial panel hearing a petition on diversion of forest land to the upcoming project has directed the government to get the issue resolved first with the affected people. State-run Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd. is undertaking the execution of the 130-MW Integrated Kashang Stages II &  III hydroelectric project in Kinnaur district. The tribunal, in its May 4 order, directed the state forest department & environment ministry, which allowed diversion of 17.6857 hectares of forest land, to ensure that the entire proposal pertaining to the forest clearance is placed before the gram sabha of Lippa, Rarang, Pangi and Telangi villages for its perusal. The judgment was passed by the NGT on a plea of the Paryavaran Sanrakshan Sangarsh Samiti of Lippa, one of the project-affected villages, which challenged the forest clearance. It’s a big victory for some 1,200 people of Lippa village in Kinnaur district. After a 7-year struggle, the villagers have become the first grass-root people in the hill state to get empowered under Gram Sabha (village body of locals) to decide whether a hydel power project would be set up in their area or not. The empowerment came when the rights of the villagers under the Forest Rights Act  were recognized following a judgment of NGT on 4 May. Local resistance to hydro projects in Kinnaur has gained a lot momentum in the last few years due to a wide range of issues. Interestingly, the judgement expresses grave concern over “the folly of allowing hydel projects in the State at such alarming scale which was highlighted earlier manifestly resulting in serious consequences to its ecology and environment and, the very life and livelihood of the people in whose benefit the State claims to have allowed the projects”.

INTERLINKING OF RIVERS  

National Interlinking of rivers: an idea with flaws The stark differences in water availability in the river basins in the country has thrown up the idea of interlinking of rivers, but this project is not foolproof. For most of March and April, Thursdays are dismal news days for India’s Central Water Commission, the nodal body responsible for commissioning dams and major water-storage bodies, and monitoring their health. On that day they make public the state of water storage in India’s principal reservoirs and the general news has been that water has plummeted to historic lows, both in terms of the corresponding period of last year and also compared to the average storage of last ten years during the corresponding period. Their view of river basins is not very different. Good to see this increasing skepticism in public about ILR.

Madhya Pradesh Linking rivers will not save Bundelkhand The Ken-Betwa link project will cost around INR 10K cr & take about 9 years to build. The project is part of a national plan of linking India’s rivers that has been being pushed hard by successive governments despite many concerns. Retaining rainwater through ponds, check dams and farm embankments will quench Bundelkhand’s thirst far better than a grand river linking scheme based on dodgy assumptions on water availability. There are 30 major dams & weirs in Bundelkhand and scores of smaller structures that together feed close to 7,000 km of canals, many of them defunct. Its three major canal irrigation systems were built in colonial times. The Betwa river alone has nine dams across it, with 11 more on its tributaries. The Ken may no longer have the surplus that is proposed to be transferred to the Betwa basin. Himanshu Thakkar SANDRP says the surplus-deficit argument was from the beginning based on a questionable assumption & Betwa basin would not be water-deficit at all without the many dams, barrages and weirs built and planned in its upper reaches. He is worried that the link canal and its branches will submerge fertile land, while the project will also affect irrigation downstream in the Ken basin. A couple of inaccuracies notwithstanding, this article clearly shows that Ken Betwa link won’t help Bundelkhand, it will destroy and export water out of Bundelkhand.

Expert committee may ask for reduction in height of Daudhan dam A committee constituted by the National Board for Wildlife to study the impact of Ken-Betwa river linking project on wildlife in Panna Tiger Reserve, has found that there are 2 breeding tigresses in the area worst affected by the project & that the dam is likely to submerge habitat of vultures. Following the site visit, the committee is mulling over proposing reduction in the height of the 77m tall and 2031m wide Daudhan dam to be built for diverting Ken River or suggest a change in its existing alignment. One only hopes that the NBWL committee does not compromise on the future of Panna Tiger Reserve and also water and livelihood security of the Ken Basin. Any compromise could be counter productive. It is good to see that the committee has realised that the project will impact Tiger, Vulture and also Sloth Bear habitat.

Maharashtra Inter-linking of rivers can tackle drought: Uma Bharti The ILR proposals between Gujarat & Maharashtra won’t help, but would certainly create deforestation, displacement, conflicts, destruction and worse. But she seems to not even know that Maharashtra is transferring EVERY YEAR, INCLUDING THE CURRENT DROUGHT YEAR, over 3 billion Cubic Meters of Water, which is equally providing water all across the year at the rate of 100 litres per capita to 72% of whole of Maharashtra population, from water deficit Bhima and Krishna basins to high rainfall Konkan basin. Union Minister Uma Bharti could not have been more OFF the mark. Will she first stop this Ulti Ganga? Also see, Interlinking of Rivers faces trouble in BJP’s home turf

INTER STATE WATER DISPUTES

AP & TS AP opposes what Teangana proposes Fresh trouble seems to be brewing between Andhra Pradesh &Telangana, with CM N. Chandrababu Naidu, passing a resolution, seeking the Centre’s intervention in irrigation projects being taken up by Telangana on Godavari and Krishna rivers. His counterpart CM K. Chandrashekar Rao, however vowed to complete the projects come what may, “thunderbolts, lightening, or earthquakes”. Naidu accused Telangana of violating the provisions of the AP Reorganisation Act by constructing new projects on the 2 rivers flowing through the Telugu-speaking states. The Godavari & Krishna River Management Board have been formed to ensure harmony in water sharing between the 2 states. The dissonance between the two states is not new. Ever since the creation of Telangana in June 2014, the two states have been at loggerheads with each other over power generation and sharing of Krishna river water. Meanwhile considering the growing demand for drinking water in TS and AP, the Krishna River Management Board has ordered release of 9 TMC ft of water from the “balanced storage” available at Srisailam and Nagarjunasagar dams. This release is being considered as the last withdrawal of water from the dams, especially from the dead storage levels, due to failure of monsoon as well as poor inflows in 2015. According to one more report CM N. Chandrababu Naidu on 07 May  promised to divert 100 tmcft of water from Pattiseema lift-irrigation project to the Srisailam reservoir through Pothireddipadu head regulator and complete all the irrigation projects to drive away drought from Kurnool district. Naidu seems to be focussing too much on Kurnool district, But this promise of transferring 100 TMC to Srisailam than to Rayalaseema does not seem likely.  Meanwhile the Srisailam reservoir reaches new lows. The alarming decline in the storage capacity of the reservoir was attributed to accumulation of silt over the years. The full reservoir level of Srisailam is 885 ft (308 tmcft). The accumulation of silt in the reservoir is estimated once in 10 years. Its storage capacity fell to 215 tmcft when the accumulation of silt was last studied in 2011. It means there is nearly 100 tmcft drop in its storage capacity. The water level dwindled further due to the prolonged dry spell affecting the interests of the two riparian States. The use of river water for generation of hydroelectric power complicated the situation further.

UP & MP River runs dry, UP farmers allege ‘water grab’ by MP The farmers of more than 100 villages in Etawah, Auraiyya, Jalaun districts of Chambal valley in UP are facing water scarcity these days, and are alleging that farmers in upstream Morena & Bhind districts in MP are indulging in ‘water grabs’ by diverting the flow of the Kwari river. The local activist allege that upstream farmers are diverting the Kwari water by making check- dams and powerful pumps. However district administration blamed the poor monsoon for causing nominal flow in the river and promised taking the matter to MP officials if farmers show the spots where the river is being diverted.

RIVERS

SANDRP Blog Shimla Gujran in Yamuna baisn: Journey from a flourishing village to a living hell The word Shimla was added to the village name due to presence of the clean water flow in DN-2 in earlier times, which would keep the village area cool apart from benefitting the villagers innumerably. Now the same drain carries all sort of industrial toxic filth turning the adorable place in a living hell. It is sad that much emphasis and focus is given to the Delhi ammonia pollution whereas thousands of villagers whose health and daily life have greatly been impacted and who are paying a huge price for the problems they are never part of, continue to suffer in multiple ways. While urban centres like Delhi manage to find ways to deal with the pollution, already helpless rural areas are left to suffer and fend for themselves.

Maharashtra NGT pulls up MoEF over Ulhas river pollution The green court while pulling up the Environment Ministry has warned that the ministry’s secretary could face arrest and a heavy fine if the it fails to submit an action-taken report against the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board in the next 10 days with regard to a petition filed against increasing pollution in the Ulhas river. The NGT, in its order on March 30, had asked the ministry to first issue a show cause notice to pollution board. However, upset with the laxity shown by the environment ministry the tribunal, in its order dated April 29, has issued a warning that under the given circumstances, it can initiate action under Sections 26 and 28 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010. MoEF continues to drag its feet in taking action against the Mah State Pollution Board in this case, hope NGT does take strict action. Great work by Vanshakti. Also see NGT orders action against Maha pollution control board

Civic body dumps STP project to clean Nag river As an annual ritual, the Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) has announced to launch a drive to clean Nag, Pili and Pora rivers for the fourth consecutive year in 2016. However, the civic body continues to neglect setting up of mini sewage treatment plants (STPs) on the rivers that could offer a permanent solution to rejuvenate the water bodies. Four mini STPs were planned over four years ago, but not a single plant has been commissioned as on date. As if this was not enough, the NMC has literally dropped the plan to set up two of the four mini STPs. Work on the remaining two STPs is getting delayed for want of funds. Pollution of Nag River, from CM’s city Nagpur goes on unabated, plans for STPs are being dumped, despite High Court Orders. In this drought, cities have not taken up their responsibility, although they have been demanding more and more water.

Kerala Periyar river catching fire over pollution Protests over release of untreated effluents from Sree Sakthi Paper Mills to Periyar river, the drinking water source of Kochi, is gathering momentum. It may soon take the shape of a mass movement, which would assert the right of people for safe drinking water. Seeing the protest Kerala State Pollution Control Board will inspect the discharge points on 09 May. The board will also hold a meeting on May 14 to take a final call on the issue. Meanwhile activists are also planning a national level gathering on May 13 highlighting the pollution issues faced by the Periyar and calling for cleaning up the drinking water source of Kochi.

Karnataka Where Have all the Big Fish Gone? With the water levels in tanks and reservoirs dipping, fish rearers and consumers alike are looking skyward and praying for rain. While bigger varieties of fish have become rare and their price gone up drastically, smaller fish in market are not a match in taste. Indeed the impact of drought on fisheries is grave, though remains unquantified.

Haryana तब लुप्त नहीं होगी कोई सरस्वती नदियां जीवित होती हैं तालाब बचाने से; खासतौर पर नदियों के रास्तों  के किनारे गाँवों -कस्बों के तालाब; नदियां जीवित होती हैं  जोहड़-डबरे बचाने से। यही देश की स्वयंसिद्ध और शाश्वत सनातन नदी नीति है। सरस्वती बोर्ड की सार्थकता तभी है जब हरियाणा की नदियां, तालाब, जोहड़, डबरे, बावडिय़ां और कुएं संभाले जाएं। अगर हरियाणा प्रदेश सरकार पर्यावरण प्रेमियों, जल का महत्त्व समझने वालों, पंचायतों और युवकों को साथ लेकर अपने जल स्रोतों को बचाने में सफल होती है, तो यकीन मानिए कि इससे न केवल दिन-प्रतिदिन विलुप्ति की कंदरा की ओर बढ़ती यमुना भी बच पाएगी और भविष्य में कोई ‘सरस्वती’ फिर कभी लुप्त नहीं होगी। Indeed, there is so much to do to conserve, protect, sustain and rejuvenate existing rivers rather than spending efforts on the lost Saraswati.

NARMADA  Gujarat Narmada drying up near Bharuch A large number of farmers on the bank of Narmada River on the stretch between Sardar Sarovar Dam and the estuary near Bhadbhut are facing severe issue of salinity ingress. This is mainly because of less release of water from the dam downstream and at the same time water from sea entering the delta region. The situation could lead to scarcity of potable water in the Bharuch city, besides heavy loss for agriculturists who use water from the river to water the crops on the banks. The industrial units too are facing problems due to the increase in salinity in the ground water. Last month sea water reached 40 km inside the estuary till Angareshwar.

GANGA Uttarkhand ऋषिकेश में ही सूख रही गंगा आज ‘मां गंगा’ अपने ही घर में सबसे बुरे दौर से गुजर रही है। ऋषिकेश के गंगा तटों का मंजर देख इस बात का सहज ही अंदाजा लगाया जा सकता है कि अगर आने वाले दिनों में ऐसा ही मौसम रहा तो गंगा में भी पानी की भारी समस्या आ सकती है। Worrisome Ganga started trickling where it used to thunder. It also registered record fall in flow at Bijnor in this month & just with the beginning of the May the river is reported vanishing in Allahabad

YAMUNA Delhi NGT slams DJB for polluting the Yamuna  The green court pulled up the Delhi Jal on 02 May for failure to stop polluting the Yamuna River. Last year, the DJB had established 15 MGD waste water treatment plants at a cost of Rs204cr at the Delhi Gate Nalla aimed at curbing the problem of highly polluted water from areas of Old Delhi being released into the Yamuna. The bench also asked the DJB to submit details of planned expenditure with regard to the water and sewerage sector for the current fiscal year.

Uattar Pradesh Yamuna pollution behind rise in insect attacks on Taj According to Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) science branch pollution from the Yamuna is responsible for green patches on Taj Mahal. Due to pollution and pools of stagnant water, the Yamuna has turned into a breeding ground for the insects that are sullying the white marble of the 17th century monument. A senior ASI official went to the extent of saying that there is no water in the Yamuna, but only harmful effluents from the various industrial units that line its banks because of that small fish which tend to feed on these insects have vanished. For the last one month, the Taj has been under attack from these insects & in the past six months, it is the second such attack leaving the white surface of the monument with green patches.

Op-Ed बीहड़ टूटा तो सूख जाएगी चम्बल by Dr. Faiyaz Khudsar मध्यप्रदेश में चम्बल के बीहड़ बहुत प्रसिद्ध है। एक बात चली कि बीहड़ खत्म कर वहां मकान बनाया जाए, खेती की जाए। बीहड़ टूटा तो चम्बल सूख जाएगी और चम्बल सूखी तो यमुना कैसे बचेगी। हम जो अल्पकालिक सोच रखते हैं वह लंबी अवधि में नुकसान पहुंचाती है। बिहड़ में कास वनस्पतियां, घास और मिसवाक के पेड़ होते हैं। ये पानी समेटकर नदी तक लाते हैं। लेकिन सरकारी भाषा में इसे बेडलैंड कहते हैं। अभी बिहड़ तोड़ने का विचार छोड़ा है पर सरकार तो सरकार है। कान्हा में बंजर नदी उसकी जीवनरेखा है। अब वह सूख रही है, क्योंकि उसके जलग्रहण क्षेत्र में हमने डेवलपमेंट कर दिया।

IRRIGATION  

Centre Uma approves special irrigation package worth Rs30788cr Ms Uma Bharti on 03 May gave in-principle consent for a special irrigation package worth Rs30788cr apart from a Rs2000cr package to tackle the severe drought in some parts of western Maharashtra. The biggest component sought was for 26 projects enlisted under the PM Krishi Sinchai Yojna. The enhanced cumulative cost of these projects is Rs 36000cr . The Centre’s share of 60% works to Rs21600cr. The remaining 40% share will be provided by the state to complete these projects under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme.  Apart from this CM urged Bharti to consider the Tapi Recharge Irrigation Project. The Union minister has given the nod for the Rs5cr recharge project. The Centre has asked the state govt to provide a revised estimate along with expenditure details on the Gosikhurd National Irrigation Project. The state govt has sought Rs 8000cr from the Centre to complete the work on the project languishing for 3 decades.

Maharashtra Cash-strapped & drought-hit Govt looks at Centre for help The state needs Rs89900cr more to complete 380 projects small, medium and big whose cost is today estimated at Rs156216cr. It has sought 90% financial assistance for 219 projects that will cost Rs28500cr to complete. These fall in 179 drought-prone talukas that often see suicides by farmers. The state has also sought soft loans or grants from the Centre for 22 of its large irrigation projects, aimed to be completed by 2019, when the government completes its five-year term. Govt seems to be uncritically going ahead all the pending irrigation projects, without even so much as a review.

GM sugarcane, drip irrigation to drought proof the State According to news Indian Council of Agricultural Research has decided to join hands with the former agriculture minister Sharad Pawar-led Vasantdada Sugar Institute, Pune, to develop drought tolerant genetically modified sugarcane that will not need huge quantities of water. The final call will be taken by Genetical Engineering Appraisal Committee of the environment ministry. CM Devendra Fadnavis has also made his intent in favour of drip irrigation quite clear. In a recent meeting he told PM that state is planning to bring 100% of the sugarcane growing area in the state under drip irrigation in 3 years.

Maharashtra Irrigation Scam HC calls for ACB investigation report in Balganga Dam project The Bombay High Court 02 May said it wanted to peruse investigation reports of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in the alleged Rs494cr scam involving construction of Balganga dam project in Raigad district. Accordingly, the court has asked ACB to produce the reports before June 2016 about their investigation in a case registered by it against a company and its owners for alleged involvement in the scam.

Telangana Govt embarks on major irrigation project on Godavari The prestigious irrigation project across the Godavari river is expected to irrigate 18.5 lakh acres of land across seven districts of the state. The Rs.84000 cr project, expected to be completed in 3 years, will augment drinking water supply to Hyderabad while 10 percent of the water will be allocated for industrial use. The project will lift 160 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) of water from Godavari. The Medigadda barrage at a height of 100 metres can store 16 tmcft of water. 2 more barrages will also be built at Annaram & Sundilla, to store 6.22tmcft & 2.16tmcft of water respectively. The water will then be lifted to various existing projects and this will require 4500 Mw power.  Telangana too is falling for MEGA irrigation projects, which is likely to push the state to debt and attention away from more welcome initiatives like Mission Kakatiya.

Punjab Farmers hold protest against Irrigation Dept According to report for the past one week, there is no water in the distributaries after a breach occurred in Uddat and Musa branches branches near Kishangarh Pharmahi in the Bhikhi block of Mansa district. However, the department failed to repair it affecting over 36 villages. According to Govt guidelines farmer can sow cotton between April 15 to May 15 but as there is no water in these distributaries farmers have been left in the lurch. Residents are also left with no drinking water.

WETLANDS & WATER BODIES

Telangana Badi Baoli provides a silver lining The well, which was recently restored by Aga Khan Trust for Culture, managed to accumulate one lakh litres of water during 04 May showers. When it rains, it pours. And perhaps the impact of Wednesday’s showers could not have been felt anywhere else more than at the Qutb Shahi tombs premises, where the Badi Baoli alone managed to accumulate one lakh litres of water. The 16{+t}{+h}century structure, which had collapsed in 2013, has now been restored, and water channels have been created to let water gather easily and avoid damage to it. Good to see this restoration of water harvesting structure.

Centre Govt released 150cr to States for wetlands conservation Prakash Javadekar stated that 115 sites have been identified as wetlands under the Wetlands Conservation Programme, it is open to add more places to the list. So far, Rs 146.94cr has been released to the states & other organisations for conservation and management of identified wetlands in the country. The Union govt has already begun revising the existing regulatory framework on wetlands across the country in a bid to enable a greater role and ownership by state govts in their management. Statement of Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar during Question Hour in Lok Sabha on 02 May 2016.

Maharashtra ‘Floating wetlands’ bring down pollution by 85% in 3 city lakes It seems inclusion of floating Phytorid technology patented by NEERI water is getting success in reducing pollution in Thane’s water bodies. The technology was included 2 years ago by Thane civic body to help salvage remaining ecosystems in 3 lakes – Siddheshwar Lake in Pachpakhadi, Dativali Lake in Diva & Dawala Lake on Ovala. In the next few years, the 33 currently polluted fresh water springs in city will be filled with a multitude of aquatic ecosystems.  Interesting to see how three Thane lakes are getting plant based treatment to clean it of the pollution.

Karnataka NGT directive can save 93 city lakes, clear up buffer zones With the NGT directive setting a higher threshold for the buffer zone around the lakes, increasing it from the existing 30 metres to 75 metres activists say if the state govt is able to implement the green bench order in true spirit, at least 93 lakes can be brought back to life. On 04 May the NGT quashed the environmental clearances and sanctioned plans for the projects of Mantri Techzone and Coremind around Bellandur-Agara lakes. The State Environmental Impact Assessment Agency was directed to amend the environmental clearance of both projects & also monitor further construction. The Tribunal also directed that no further construction be allowed in a buffer zone of 75 metres around the lake and 50 metres from the edge of primary storm water drains. All existing structures in the zones have to be demolished.  

Life after death for Bengaluru’s lakes Bharat Electronics Limited is coming forward with a plan to build a 10-million-litres-per-day STP and help resuscitate the dying 50-hectare Doddabommasandra lake in the north of the city by filling it with treated waste water. Infosys, Wipro and Biocon are also reportedly coming forward with the same model of waste-water treatment plants, wetlands and lake rejuvenation. In such joint action by citizen groups, institutions and the government lies the key to the preservation of the remaining lakes of Bengaluru once famously called ‘city of a thousand lakes’. Great to see Vishwanath write on issues for which he so passionately works.

J&K Wetlands in Kashmir turn wastelands Official records reveal that 9 Kashmir wetlands, despite being protected legally, have shrunk a great deal over the last 50 years. According to official records, the wetlands have largely fallen prey to paddy cultivation, plantation, and residential complexes.  The decline has also robbed millions of Central Asian, Chinese and European winged visitors of their winter homes and habitat, posing an existential threat to the Valley’s fragile ecosystem.

DAM  

Maharashtra Declare Tata Dams a national property With drought and its scourge looming large over the state, members of the Tata Dharangrast Sangharsh Samiti, Mulshi Dharan Samiti and Lonavala Sajan Nagrik group have decided to stage a Jal Satyagraha on 07 May, demanding the nationalisation of six dams owned by the Tata company at Mulshi and Maval, so that its waters can be thrown open for the general public. As part of the stir, members from drought-affected Solapur and Marathwada districts, along with political parties, will walk from Lonavala college to the Valvan Dam in the morning.

NAPM PR Shocking Indifference to the Plight of Project Affected Persons in Narmada Valley The recent High Level meeting in Delhi chaired by the PM’s Pirncipal Secretary Nripendra Mishra and attended by the Chief Secretaries of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra on the 6th of this month regarding the Sardar Sarovar Project, reveals the deep sense of apathy and indifference of the current Central and respective State governments to the plight of the thousands of Project Affected Persons in the Narmada valley. It is understood that the respective State governments of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have been directed to expedite Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R) process while the Gujarat government undoubtedly seeks a much needed boost in terms of favourable public opinion before the Assembly Elections in 2017. Also see, Open letter from NBA to PM on Sardar Sarovar Project

Uttarakhand Man spreading message against dam Interesting to see Vimalbhai is adopting new ways of spreading the message about struggles against big dams in Uttarakhand, see video of 25 and 26 with Hindi Commentary.  Bandh Katha 25 Vimalbhai on Namami Ganga in a press meet in Uttarkhand on 30-4-2016. Bandh Katha 26 Vishnupryag Dam again broken in June 2015

WATER

National Coal endangers India’s fresh water sources The information accessed by Greenpeace India under the RTI from the Environment Ministry reveals that as many as 417 out of 825 current and future coal blocks should be categorised as inviolate areas as per hydrological parameters. For applying the hydrology parameter, the Environment Ministry has recommended excluding 250 m on either side of a first order stream while marking the boundaries of coal blocks. Taking this criteria into consideration, a whopping 50.5% of the coal blocks are rendered as ‘partially inviolate’. Apart from hydrological parameters, the other most important parameter that has been neglected is the wildlife value. Besides this, 49 coal blocks fall under inviolate areas on the basis of the first four of the draft parameters forest cover, forest type, biological richness and landscape integrity. Wildlife & hydrological values are other two criteria that were part of the draft inviolate criteria. Wildlife value was later dropped from the list without any scientific basis. 

GROUND WATER

Uttar Pradesh NGT asks Centre, UP about groundwater in Ghaziabad The green panel has sought a response in 2 weeks from the Centre & UP Govt about the incessant & rampant extraction of groundwater by industries and households in Ghaziabad and Hapur districts. The directions came on a plea filed by Ghaziabad resident Sushil Raghav and NGO Society for Protection of Environment and Biodiversity seeking closure of all industrial units that illegally extract groundwater in the notified area of Ghaziabad and Hapur. Another sign of failure of CGWB and CGWA, as illegal extraction of groundwater in notified areas in Ghaziabad and Hapur continues, let us see what action NGT takes.

FLOOD

Uttarakhand Massive cloud burst in Chamoli, Badrinath highway closed A massive cloudburst occurred in the Chamoli district of this morning resulting in widespread chaos over the region. Reports suggest that many houses in the area have been submerged in water with several cars being washed away. However, no loss of life has been reported until now. Rescue operations are on in the region. As per media reports, the NH 58, Badrinath Highway remains closed due to a severe landslide in the region. The traffic is on a standstill over the region and efforts are being made for the resumption of traffic. Rains continue to lash the region hindering the rescue operations. Families who have been affected by the cloudburst have been shifted to safer areas. As a fresh Western Disturbance is approaching the Western Himalayas, more rain is likely over the region during the next 48 to 72 hours. There have been heavy rains in parts of Uttarakhand and adjoining Nepal (Kali-Mahakali-Sharda basin) in last 24 hours as per this NASA TRMM Rainfall map, it has already created a disaster in Chamoli.

Bihar A flood warning system in Nepal that India can replicate The ICIMOD developed mechanics begin with a sensor rod that is calibrated in consultation with the local communities to the specific conditions of the landscape and river and installed in an upstream section of a flood-prone river. ICIMOD is willing install two or three of CB-FEWS before this year’s monsoon in Kosi basin in Bihar if govt invites them to. If it works successfully, the Bihar govt can take care of them next year & install more systems. The system will be field-tested for at least two flood events to ensure its efficacy and accuracy.

SAND MINING     

Maharashtra NGT notice to state government on sand mining Perturbed over illegal sand mining from riverbeds despite a ban across the state, the green tribunal western zone has asked the union environment ministry & state govt to apprise it of the action taken against violators. The bench also directed the state govt officers to inform it via affidavit the actual status of mining across the state.  The court was hearing the plea of an RTI activist who has alleged that govt has failed in curbing the use of excavator machines used for sand mining. The matter is listed for next hearing on May 18.

ENERGY OPTIONS

Gujarat In a first, IWMI helps farmers form solar cooperative After conducting a successful pilot project of connecting farmer with the grid at Anand district, IWMI has now assembled 6 farmers of Dhundi village in Kheda district to form world’s first solar power cooperative society to sell surplus power generated from solar water pumps installed at their farms for the society. Having been trained on use of solar water pump and how to earn from connecting surplus power from it to the grid, these farmers have come together to form a solar cooperative society named Dhundi Saur Urja Utpadak Sahakari Mandali or Solar Pump Irrigators Cooperative Enterprise.

SOUTH ASIA

Bangladesh-India-Myanmar cooperation for Hilsa conservation Bangladesh, India and Myanmar have agreed to work together for collaborative efforts to conserve Hilsa, the national fish of Bangladesh. The pledge was taken in a two-day long regional seminar Sustainable Management of Hilsa Fishery in the Bay of Bengal Region at a Dhaka hotel this afternoon. Bangladesh alone produces 60% of the Hilsa in the world. Last year, the yield was 3.87 lakh metric tonnes. India and Myanmar constitutes the rest of the 95% that these three countries produce together. Bangladesh is already in an agreement with India, a memorandum (MoU) inked during Indian PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Dhaka, on “blue economy” and maritime cooperation in the Bay of Bengal. This is a welcome initiative. However, one wishes that the root causes of Hilsa decline barrages like Farakka, decreased freshwater, compounded by increased sea temperature also find a place in the discussion.

Pakistan Mirpur 50 Year Anniversary: The Mangla Dam, now and then Built during the mid 1960s, the Mangla Dam was designed to strengthen Pakistan’s irrigation system. The cost for the neighbouring Mirpur District was the submergence of some 280 villages, leaving one hundred thousand people permanently displaced. Encouraged by labour shortages in British mill towns advertised in Mirpur, many men used compensation to fund their passage to a new life; Mirpuris today account for 70% of British Pakistanis, with a much higher percentage in cities like Bradford. 50 years on, with controversial plans for a Mangla Dam extension in place, our panel consider its sociological impact now and then.

CHINA

Man made disaster Landslide buries 33 workers at Chinese hydropower project Landslides due to heavy rains in Southern China have buried about 33 workers working at a unknown hydro power project under rocks and mud of a volume of 100,000 cubic meters in mountainous Taining County in China’s Fujian Province at about 5am on Sunday. Heavy rain has affected much of southern China since Wednesday, triggering floods and landslides. According reports 7 workers were rescued alive, with injuries including broken bones. The project building office is also reported to have been damaged. Mudslides and flooding had made some sections of roads unpassable, hindering rescuers’ efforts to get heavy machinery to the site. In Dec. 2015 also a landslide of construction waste occurred at Shenzhen in Southern China buried 69 people apart from causing damage to several building. It was an industrial accident due to human negligence rather than a natural disaster. 

Study Hydroelectric power stations affect fish migration According to the Chinese Academy of Sciences the amount of fish fries in the Yangtze River is less than one three-hundredth of what it was in the 1950s, and some rare fish are even dying out. The main reason is hydroelectric dams built upstream in the river’s tributaries. Upstream in the Daning River in southwest China’s Chongqing, torrential torrents disappear, giving way to dry riverbed. The hydroelectric dam blocks not only water, but also migrating fish.

REST OF THE WORLD

Study How hydropeaking disrupts river ecosystems  A group of researchers have concluded that “hydropeaking” of water flows on many rivers in the West has a devastating impact on aquatic insect abundance. It raises serious questions about the current practice of raising river volumes up and down every day known as hydropeaking to meet hour-by-hour electricity demand, which has nearly wiped out local populations of some insects that feed local river ecosystems. The loss of these aquatic insects can have a major impact on fisheries and other aspects of ecosystem health. The study also reports that rivers are some of the most extensively altered ecosystems on Earth, the researchers wrote in their study, and more than 800,000 dams exist globally. A SANDRP 2014 study titled as Headwater Extinctions also deals with impacts of hydropower projects on river ecosystem and its components, mainly fish.

World sees hydropower boom The world added 33 GW of new hydropower capacity in 2015, including 2.5 GW of pumped storage, the International Hydropower Association said in a recent brief. World Hydro capacity addition declined in 2015 from 2014, and still the lobbying group like International Hydropower Association projects bigger increase in 2016.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Report Water shortage could cost some regions 6% of GDP According to a World Bank report water scarcity, exacerbated by climate change, could cost some regions up to 6% of their gross domestic product, spur migration and spark conflict. The report, High and dry: Climate change, water & the economy said the combined effects of growing populations, rising incomes and expanding cities will see demand for water rising exponentially, while supply becomes more erratic and uncertain. The report added that simultaneously, rainfall is projected to become more variable and less predictable, while warmer seas will fuel more violent floods and storm surges. The report also warned that water insecurity could multiply the risk of conflict. The report stressed that the negative impact of climate change on water could be neutralized with better policy decisions. The report called for “water proofing” of economies to limit the impact of extreme weather events and rainfall variability. 

ENVIRONMENT

Expert Speak Development is for the people: A talk by Madhav Gadgil In this framework, India today may be viewed as a mosaic of omnivores, about 15% of our population, constituting the wealthy and the upper middle classes, largely urbanites engaged in organized sector. The rural peasants and landless labourers, herders, fishers, forest produce gatherers and artisans constitute the ecosystem people, about 60% of our population. The ecological refugees, the balance of 25% of the Indian population, are exiles from myriads of development projects and people whose livelihoods have deteriorated as artisans have lost access to resource bases. There is a lot of thought provoking stuff in this first Thomas Kochery Memorial lecture by Madhav Gadgil.

National  NGT’s power at risk in the Environment Law Amendment Bill The Centre Govt through Environment Ministry has attempted to dilute the power of the NGT & complicate the functioning of The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 through its draft Environment Law Amendment Bill. The proposal, released in October 2015, constitutes an intermediate adjudicating authority, introduces a system of mandatory penalties and employs largely vague vocabulary. The process and content seems poorly thought out and should be subject to careful evaluation by the NGT. Good to see this critical view of govt attempt at diluting NGT’s powers, Govt will invite nationwide stir if they go ahead with it.

Uttarakhand How the media got the fire story wrong The Chir pine tree is found in abundance in both the Garhwal and Kumaun divisions. Many are blaming the “needles” or needle-like leaves of the tree, which are highly inflammable, for the fire. In 2015, the Uttarakhand forest department had even suggested large-scale removal of the Chir pine trees to control fires. However, environmental experts suggest other approaches to reduce the fire hazard that pine needles pose. Gradual replacement of monoculture pines or inclusion of broad-leaved species in pine forests could be solutions. But these are long-term solutions which the forest department must work on. In the meantime, if the media in its short-sighted way continues to blame the locals, then we will only add to the policies that have in the past alienated local people from the forest.

You may also like to see DRP News Bulletin 02 May 2016 & DRP News Bulletin 25 April 2016 

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