DRP News Bulletin 30 May 2016 (Centre’s new wetland protection rules reinforces the stereotype that Govt see wetlands as wastelands)

Centre’s new wetland protection rules reinforces the stereotype that govts see wetlands as wastelands  The draft Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016 which replace the existing Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010, are up for public comments till June 6, 2016. While wetlands nationwide are threatened by encroachment, pollution, catchment degradation and mindless development, the Narendra Modi government’s draft rules show no indications of acknowledging this threat. The draft rules, environmentalists say, reinforces the stereotype that governments see wetlands as wastelands. The essence of the new rules is to decentralise wetlands management to states. The Centre will have a say only in ‘exceptional cases’ While the 2010 rules gave some role to states, the draft rules gives them all powers. But in the process, the whole conservation process has been weakened. The period for public comments on the draft notification ends by the month. Several organisations, including BHNS, WWF, LIFE, International Rivers, INTACH, YJA & SANDRP have sent, or are in the process of sending, representations to the environment ministry. Among the concerns is that the 2010 rules itself were barely getting implemented. No state has identified a wetland yet, and few have made state-level nodal agencies mandated by the 2010 rules. In an ongoing case before the NGT, it emerged that states had not notified wetlands under the 2010 regulations. This forced the tribunal to demand that states begin to do so in at least 5-10 districts in a time-bound fashion. The Union meanwhile has proposed to substantially change the existing regulations. The new regulations do away with the elaborate list of activities that are prohibited or restricted. It prohibits reclamation of wetlands, conversion to non-wetlands, diversion or impediment of inflows and outflows from the wetland and ‘any activity having or likely to have adverse impact on ecological character of the wetland’. The need for the environmental impact assessment before permitting such activities is to be done away with. The earlier regulations allowed appeals against the decisions of the central wetlands authority with the NGT. This, too, is to be done away with, though aggrieved entities could continue to file cases against violations of these rules. The concerns were also raised during a discussion organized in Jodhpur on May 23 by three NGOs EIA Resource and Response Centre, Libra India and Life on Draft Wetland Rules 2016 issued recently by the environment ministry seeking suggestions and comments.

DROUGHT OPTIONS

SANDRP Blog HC directs release of water from Private Dams In a welcome move, Hon. Bombay High Court vacation bench of Justices Bhushan Gavai and Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi, while hearing multiple clubbed petitions about drought and the state’s response, has passed a strong order recommending release of water stored in PRIVATE DAMS and sources for drinking water purposes of drought hit region. It is great to see the importance and priority given to Drinking Water by the Hon. High Court, a step which should have been taken by the State much earlier, as a part of this fundamental responsibility. Several Organisations, including SANDRP, had been opposing Hydropower water diversions through Tata Dams and Koyna Hydropower Project, in the face of drought. SANDRP had been consistent raising this issue since 2013. A good step!! Direct Implications for Tata Dams finally! Some hope from the judiciary even as Maharashtra State implicitly refuses to accord priority to drinking water over Hydropower. Also see, Can water from private dams be used for drinking purposes

Punjab To save water, farmers adopt smarter practices, get greater yield Even as concern over declining water table and over exploitation of water in Punjab for paddy continues to grow, some farmers in the state are adopting innovative techniques to save water. Avtar Singh, a farmer in Phagwara has inter-cropped cotton crop with cucumbers and is practicing capillary action irrigation which also helps in conserving water. He irrigates his fields after every 2 weeks, helping him save a lot of water which would otherwise have been used to flood the land. Paramjit Singh Gill of Moga cultivated red garlic, a crop that is not familiar to Punjab, and has reaped profit of Rs 1 lakh per acre. Another farmer, Sukhvir Singh from Fatehgarh Sahib has grown onions on 7 acres, muskmelon on 5 acres, tomatoes on 2 acres, chillies on 2 acres and pumpkin on 1 acre.

Odisha Farmers’ traditional solution for drought In the dry and dusty landscape of Kharamal village, located on the foothills of Gandhamardan hill range, two farmers depict a picture of contrast. The village comes under Jamseth gram panchayat of Paikmal block, which is often hit by drought but farmers Sitaram Majhi & Dambru Majhi, who have created water harvesting models in their agricultural land, which if replicated can bring an end to drought in the area. Harvesting of rain water is the only solution to the water woes in the area. Although the village has been hit by two successive droughts in a row including this year, the two farmers have managed to irrigate vegetables and earn profit. POSITIVE story of how rain water harvesting by farmers in Drought hit villages of Orissa made such a difference.

Madhya Pradesh Drought-hit  tribals build check dam sans govt aid For the last five months, 30 to 35 Korku tribals from Markhandhana village have been toiling tirelessly every day to construct a check dam over the Mandu Kheda stream. The structure – measuring 40 metres in length and 16 feet in height – is almost ready, and the ‘builders’ cannot wait to see it fill up with water once the rains start. The tribals planned, designed and constructed the dam without any aid from the government. The Korkus are a scheduled tribe found primarily in the Betul, Harda, Khandwa, Burhanpur and Chhindwara districts of Madhya Pradesh. Another example of people’s initiative in water sector, this time by Tribals in Betul district in MP.

Farmers dig ponds, harvest rain to be drought proof  Since 2006-’07, the farming community, with some good-intentioned officials of Dewas district, devised the farm pond scheme where farmers chipped in with their money and the administration with technical inputs. The long-term mitigation plan has turned out to be a huge success with hundreds of farmers going in for the farm pond scheme and benefiting from the winter crop. The message is simple: catch the rain where it falls. Another place which has shown how it is done is Ramgarh in Rajasthan as despite scanty of rain, people have ensured that the 500-year-old Viprasar tank is filled to the brim. Farmers in Dewas benefiting from farm ponds, reports Nivedita Khandekar.

Indore: ‘Dig ponds’ a win-win plan for farmers, government The Indore district administration’s unique offer to farmers – dig up water bodies, cart away mineral-rich soil and manure your fields—has begun to pay dividends in water crisis-hit areas, according to officials. The idea is working both ways-it is saving the district administration money in deepening water bodies and giving farmers mineral-rich manure for the fields at an affordable cost. All they have been asked to do is dig 3-5 feet deep and use 1/10th of the soil to strengthen the embankment. Wise work in Indore: desilting of the water bodies and canals.

Maharashtra Participatory groundwater management offset recurring droughts PGWM involves trying to understand groundwater availability by gaining an understanding of the aquifer characteristics and its regional spread, and understanding, analysing and managing demand with community participation by taking into consideration the economic and social aspects and planning supply augmentation. Three different methods using PGWM that resulted in better water management demonstrate that hydrogeology can become a catalyst for villages to come together to plan and achieve water security. Important case studies of how participatory groundwater management can help.

Gujarat Kutch villages protect water table with community wells As the state reels under water scarcity this summer staring at empty dams on minor rivers, several areas in Kutch are still satiating their drinking water needs from carefully managed groundwater. A total of 300 villages of four talukas on coastal area – Abdasa, Mandvi, Mundra and Anjar – are involved in an aquifer management project for the past 4 years. This summer has showed a marked difference in several, if not all, villages that are part of the network. Positive ground water management example from Kutch.

DROUGHT 2016

SANDRP Blog Landmark SC order on Govt failure in tackling drought The recent trend of states refusing to declare drought seems an outcome of the pressure on governments from investors and market forces to decrease social spending and commit to austerity and also continue to flog growth horse by hook or by crook. Expenditure on the agricultural sector is seen as wasteful and subsidies for farmers as market distorting, whereas subsidies for industry and commerce as incentives. Reluctance of governments to implement the National Food Security Act or to encourage employment under NREGA is also an outcome of this pro-business bias in policies.

National  Storage status of 91 major reservoirs on May 26 The water storage available in 91 major reservoirs of the country for the week ending on May 26, 2016 was 26.816 BCM which is 17% of total storage capacity of these reservoirs. This was 55% of the storage of corresponding period of last year and 79% of storage of average of last ten years.  

Gujarat To meet water needs, power generation shut at Narmada dam Due to due to poor rainfall recorded last year, Narmada dam authority has kept the 6 River Bed Power House (250-MW hydro-power) turbines, which are situated on the bed of Narmada river downstream of Sardar Sarovar Dam at Kevadia in Narmada district, out of operation since October last year. This is said to be one of the longest periods at a stretch that the RBPH has remained out of operation due to water shortage in Gujarat.  This was done to save water for supply to Gujarat and Rajasthan during scarcity this summer for drinking purpose. AMAZING statement from Narmada officials: “because water supplied to RBPH goes into the sea, which is a waste, something that we cannot afford”. THEY ARE LEAST BOTHERED THAT THERE IS 150 KM OF RIVER DOWNSTREAM OF DAM, 10000 Families depended on fisheries in the estuary, lakhs other on the river water and so on. On the other hand Maharashtra has demanded Rs1800cr compensation from Gujarat for not getting its due share of electricity produced by riverbed power houses (RBPHs) built under Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP). Since Oct last year, the Gujarat govt has shut down power generation from RBPHs and reserved water at Sardar Sarovar dam for drinking purposes. As a result, Maharashtra, which is one of the beneficiaries of RBPHs with a 26% stake, has not got its share of electricity from the project. Power minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule agreed that Gujarat had not supplied the state’s share of power supply; however, he was unaware of the amount Maharashtra has asked for as compensation from Gujarat.

PM reviews drought situation The PM Narendra Modi, on May 16 chaired a high level meeting on the drought and water scarcity situation in parts of Gujarat. Senior officials from the Centre & State Govt. were also present including CM Smt. Anandiben Patel, were present in the meeting. Elaborating on the State’s efforts for water conservation, recharge and creation of water bodies, the CM mentioned that 1.68 lakh check dams, 2.74 lakh farm ponds, 1.25 lakh Bori Bandhs have been made with storage capacity of 42.3 billion cubic feet water, benefitting 6.32 lakh hectares. Also see, 160% rise in budget for water board’s drought plan

Odisha PM reviews drought and water scarcity situation PM Narendra Modi, on May 21 chaired a high level meeting on the drought and water scarcity situation in parts of Odisha. The CM Odisha, Naveen Patnaik including senior officials from the Government of India, and the State of Odisha, were present in the meeting. An amount of Rs. 600.52 crore has been released to the State under the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), after adjustments of the State balances. This is in addition to Rs 560.25 crore released as central share of State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) for 2015-16 to the State. A further amount of Rs. 294.375 crore has been released as first instalment of SDRF for 2016-17.  As part of water conservation efforts, the State has constructed 25000 farm ponds, 7000 check dams, 4000 diversion weirs, 4000 percolation tanks, 400 water harvesting structures and 350 community tanks.

Rajasthan PM reviews drought situation The PM Narendra Modi on May 14 chaired a high level meeting on the drought and water scarcity situation in parts of Rajasthan in presence of CM & all senior officers from Central & State Govt. An amount of Rs. 911.64 crore has been released to the State under the National Disaster Response Fund, after adjustments of the State balances. This is in addition to Rs 827.25 crore released as central share of State Disaster Response Fund for 2015-16 to the State. A further amount of Rs. 434.25 crore has been released as first instalment of SDRF for 2016-17. Rajasthan has faced drought for 61 out of the last 67 years. Under Mukhyamantri Jal Swavlamban Abhiyan 7 lakh water conservation structures are to come up in 4 years, including 1 lakh by 30th June, 2016.

Uttar Pradesh PM reviews drought and water scarcity situation  An amount of Rs. 934.32 crore has been released to the State under the National Disaster Response Fund, after adjustments of the State balances. This is in addition to Rs 506.25 crore released as central share of State Disaster Response Fund for 2015-16 to the State. A further amount of Rs. 265.87 crore has been released as first installment of SDRF for 2016-17.  Uttar Pradesh State shared the action plan for revival and restoration of 78,000 water-bodies including tanks, ponds, and farm ponds; 1 lakh new water-bodies and recharge structures. This will be achieved by utilizing funds available in schemes such as MNREGA. Also see, Summer of scarcity in Bundelkhand

Jharkhand PM reviews drought and water scarcity situation Rs 273 crore was released to the State as central share of State Disaster Response Fund for 2015-16. A further amount of Rs. 143.25 crore has been released as first instalment of SDRF for 2016-17.  The State has disbursed Rs. 376 crore to 12 lakh farmers under SDRF, through DBT. Insurance claims of Rs. 53 crore were also settled through DBT. Jharkhand plans to double its irrigated area from 19% to 40% in the next 2 years. 1 lakh farm ponds are planned to be built under the State Plan, and an additional five lakh farm ponds will be built under MNREGA. The State is promoting fishery in the water bodies.

Madhya Pradesh PM reviews drought situation An amount of Rs. 1875.80 crore has been released to the State under the National Disaster Response Fund, after adjustments of the State balances. This is in addition to Rs 657.75 crore released as central share of State Disaster Response Fund for 2015-16 to the State. A further amount of Rs. 345.375 crore has been released as first instalment of SDRF for 2016-17. CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan says that 61 lakh farmers have been given a total of Rs. 4664 crore as relief assistance. This is the highest ever in MP.

Talengana PM reviews drought situation An amount of Rs. 712.62 crore has been released to the State under the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), after adjustments of the State balances. This is in addition to Rs 205.5 crore released as central share of State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) for 2015-16 to the State. A further amount of Rs. 108 crore has been released as first installment of SDRF for 2016-17. The CM said so far 40,000 ha is under micro irrigation in the State.

Karnataka PM reviews drought situataion The CM of Karnataka thanked the Government of India for the assistance of Rs. 1540.20 crore against the Kharif memorandum. He further said that Rs. 723.23 crore had recently been approved for the Rabi memorandum, which should be released expeditiously. It was informed that this was in addition to the Rs. 207 crore released as central share of SDRF for 2015-16. Further, Rs. 108.75 crore has already been released as first instalment of SDRF for 2016-17. It was further informed that Rs 603 crore would be made available with Karnataka during 2016-17 for water conservation and drought proofing under various schemes of Government of India. Similarly, Rs 830 crore would be available under various agriculture schemes.

Expert Speak Drought: the way out P. Sainath speaks at “National Consultation on Drought” about the crisis the region is gripped with. According to him, the region is not just looking at drought, but a full blown water crisis. This video is the part 1 of the series. P Sainath, as usual, enlightening on Drought in Marathwada and elsewhere.

Op-Ed Moving towards water pricing regime Without a price on water usage, it is they who will suffer the worst consequences of a drought. A counter-argument will be that water pricing may erode India’s export advantage. But this argument ignores how the status quo continues to erode the competitiveness of farmers living in water-deficient parts of India—also some of the same regions where the incidence of farmer suicides is high. The challenge to introducing water pricing is the entrenched political economy in different parts of India. The severe water crisis in Latur was in stark contrast to flourishing fields of sugarcane, a water-guzzling crop, sustained with the patronage of politicians in the state of Maharashtra.

MAHARASHTRA DROUGHT

6 yrs on, 41 villages wait for their share of water Barely 20km from Jayakwadi Nanegaon has been waiting to get its share of the Jayakwadi water, promised via the Brahmgavhan lift irrigation scheme cleared six years ago. The long wait has hurt the farmers financially and taken the life of nearly 22 farmers in the region over the past two years. But the bigger tragedy that most farmers are unaware of is the Rs222-crore lift irrigation scheme, cleared in haste ahead of the 2009 Assembly polls, is not technically feasible.  Nanegaon’s story is similar to that of the entire region, where even as big dams get built, the promised water rarely reaches the beneficiaries. The reasons for these are varied —unrepaired canals, technically unsound irrigation projects and cornering of rightful share of water by politically strong western Maharashtra region. But it largely stems from the government and political apathy and corruption. EXCELLENT story that shows how irrigation scam of Maharashtra has worsened the drought impact as farmers wait for their promised water from lift irrigation scheme, made for contractors, but is not feasible to deliver water.

SC junks plea for total cut in water supply to breweries The Supreme Court on May 24 shot down a plea for a complete cut in water supply to distilleries & breweries in Maharashtra on account of drought, observing that a balance must be maintained in the matter. The Bombay High Court had recently asked the state govt to curtail water supply to the liquor industry by 60% from May 10, an order which will be operational till June 27. The plea filed in the apex court had contended that instead of a curtailed water supply, there should be no supply at all. Disappointing, the least one expected SC to at least assess if there is any proper policy for water allocations and also transparent mechanism for implementing the policy, but once again, judiciary fails to do that.

Sugarcane area to come under drip irrigation in 3 years In a drought review meeting with Prime Minister the CM on May 07 has said that as said that the State Government is working on a plan to ensure that 100% of the sugarcane growing area in the state comes under drip irrigation in 3 years. The CM also stated that under Jal Yukt Shivar Abhiyan for water conservation and storage the State has set a target of 51,500 farm ponds for Financial Year 2016-17, which may be scaled up further, in view of the enthusiastic response of farmers. 

Hydrology department to work towards water balance in state The hydrology department will take the lead of the pilot project, National Hydrology Project-3, with the help of Resources Engineering Centre-all in the Nashik-based Maharashtra Engineering Research Institute campus under the water resource department (WRD). A similar project will later be undertaken in other states as well. The study may help improve the situation of the parched regions of Maharashtra.  The restricted flow of information between agencies is not allowing the WRD to go ahead full steam with water conservation projects & management.

Adani Power shuts 2640Mw units at Tiroda plant Adani Power on May 16 said it has shut down four units of 660mw capacity each out of 5 units at the Tiroda plant in due to acute water shortage.  According to statement Tiroda Power Plant gets water  under a long-term arrangement from Dhapewada Project of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation. The company said due to drought condition, the water dam has dried up and is unable to supply water to Tiroda Power Plant.  

Beed patients left in lurch as drought leaves hospitals high and dry A hospital cancelled around 300 surgeries after it ran out of water. Now, it is only performing operations that can’t wait, the rest have been postponed until the taps start running again. The situation is similar at the Govt Medical College Hospital in Aurangabad. Compared to last year, it has witnessed a 20% rise in admissions.  Also see, Re 1 for 1000 kg onions is what a debt hit farmer earned

INTERLINKING OF RIVERS

Reviving traditional water bodies better than interlinking rivers Advocating smaller steps to recharge groundwater water experts Indira Khurana who has been documenting the use and abuse of water, especially focussing on Bundelkhand says that Interlinking of rivers is a costly solution, and one that will take long to execute, feels Khurana. Aquatic ecologist Brij Gopal, who has been documenting the Ken river for the last 5 years, reckons that the cost of the interlinking project, estimated at ₹10,000 crore, could climb to ₹18,000 crore. Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP suggests that the State governments should emulate the Chandela kings, who ruled over Bundelkhand 800 years ago. The Chandela royals created tanks and aquifers and harvested rainwater successfully. Several fact-finding committees have toured Bundelkhand and mapped its water resources and offered several practical solutions. The need now is for execution.

Linking rivers will not save Bundelkhand Environmentalists have spoken about the harm the project will cause to the Ken’s riparian ecosystem as well to local biodiversity, affecting several endangered and vulnerable species. These admittedly serious concerns have however diverted attention from looking closely at the claimed usefulness of linking the two rivers. The huge amount of money to be spent on the proposed project could be better deployed to develop more localized water management solutions, many residents and experts say. According to Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP the Ken may no longer have the surplus that is proposed to be transferred to the Betwa basin & surplus-deficit argument was from the beginning based on a questionable assumption. 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.

₹10,000-cr project to Ken-Betwa Link mired in controversy Fearing widespread displacement of those living in the buffer zones of the reserve, local NGOs oppose the project, arguing that what is needed instead is revival of traditional water bodies and systems. Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP says that the assumption is that Ken has water surplus and Betwa is dry. He feels the project will end up transferring water to an area in Betwa region which is already irrigated. He fears that the water may be exported out of Bundelkhand and finally benefit the river’s upstream areas near Bhopal and Vidisha. He also says that the standing committee approval is a “farce” as it was given even before the sub-committee gave its report.

Ken-Betwa river interlinking will change the lives of many in the region Professor Brij Gopal who has been doing studying the bed characteristics, sediments, biodiversity and water quality of Ken for last five years says that the river has not been properly studied & National Water Development Agency (the nodal agency in the interlinking plan) has data for only flow, rain gauges and rainfall pattern. According to Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of SANDRP rivers are the mother of civilization. But forests are the father of rivers and this project is going to destroy the forest that sustains Ken. The interlinking project hopes to irrigate six lakh hectares and supply water to 14 lakh rural people. But Manoj Misra, of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, is baffled how a river that is running dry will feed the Betwa, which is always full.

Environment panel clears Lower Orr dam project The dam is a project undertaken by the state govt, but would become an integral part of the Ken-Betwa project if and when it materializes. The move is sure to anger environmentalists who have been demanding environmental appraisal of all projects associated with the Ken-Betwa project. The project was discussed by the environment ministry’s expert appraisal committee for river valley and hydroelectric projects during a 2 May meeting. The recommendation will need approval from the ministry, which rarely vetoes a decision by the expert panel. According Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP the lower Orr dam is not an independent project. If tomorrow Ken-Betwa project doesn’t come up or gets stuck in legal cases, Lower Orr project will not be feasible. So, EAC has cleared a project whose feasibility is still doubtful. Ministry of Environment’s Expert Panel on River Valley Projects continues to clear projects without ANY application of mind, a project whose feasibility is in doubt has been cleared on May 2 meeting.

India attempts to divert rivers to tackle historic rainfall shortage Objecting to the River Interlinking Project NBA spearhead Medha Patkar says that river linking  is a danger to the existence of the Narmada and if the water of Narmada is diverted to the Malwa region, where will the water for Narmada valley be brought from? According to Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP this is the worst water crisis in India since Independence & water scarcity across rural India is very bad as groundwater levels are depleting and demand is going up. He further adds that the biggest cause for this drought is complete neglect by the government as by the end of monsoon last Sep 2015 it knew how water demand, availability and the groundwater levels would be for this summer. If the government had woken up and curbed all these wasteful loses, the impact would have been much lower. But the government did not wake up & it does not seem they’ve even woken up now.

RIVERS AS NATIONAL WATERWAYS

National It won’t be smooth sailing for govt’s waterways plan In paving the way for turning 111 rivers across India into national waterways, the government has overlooked environmental issues that may crop up at a later stage. Nachiket Kelkar, an expert in river and water ecologies, in an article for environment advocacy group SANDRP, puts it as this will involve the construction of locking barrages to hold water for vessel movement, concretisation and building of embankments to create port terminals, and regular (high-intensity) capital dredging of river sediment deposition along channel bottoms and margins. Besides, for funding such large scale operations, the government intends to invite private participation. The operations of a navigable river promise to alter the economics and ecology of the riverine system inalienably. At the most basic level, it sets up competing demands on the stressed water levels with existing users, particularly farmers who need water for irrigation. This important piece on waterways (very few articles in Media on such an imp bill passed by Parliament) quotes SANDRP blog.

118 Port Modernisation projects approved 118 Projects of port modernization, costing Rs.53,354 crore have been approved/awarded in the first five years of the 12th Five Year Plan.  This is against 27 projects approved during the 11th Plan with an investment of Rs.13195.85 crore.  Modernisation and upgradation of Major Ports of the country is an ongoing process to keep the ports in tune with the  new  technology and also to meet the trade (traffic) requirements. The 6 waterways in the State of Odisha have been declared as National   Waterways under the National Waterways Act, 2016.  On the remaining five National Waterways in Odisha, Stage-I study of two-stage Detailed Project Report (DPR) is in progress and draft feasibility reports are expected by end May, 2016.  The 2nd stage DPR would be conducted on viable national waterways. Under the Jal Marg Vikas Project, Government is developing  National Waterway-1 (NW-1) (1620 km Haldia-Allahabad stretch) with   technical assistance and investment support from the World Bank for providing an assured depth of 2.5 to 3.0 metres in the fairway to enable safe navigation of at least 1,500-2000 ton vessels.  Phase-I of the project covers the Haldia-Varanasi stretch. The project would be completed by 2020-2021 at an estimated cost of approximately Rs.4200cr.  This information was given by Minister of State for Shipping, Pon Radhakrishnan in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha on April 26. 

IRRIGATION

National Micro-irrigation lags far behind potential, shows study Just 7.73 million hectares in India, compared to a potential 69.5 million hectares, were covered under micro-irrigation by March 2015, shows a study, titled ‘Accelerating Growth of Indian Agriculture-Micro Irrigation, an Efficient Solution’. The study concludes that with the current target of covering 0.5 million hectares per year under micro-irrigation, and a budget of only around Rs.1000cr, it will take nearly a century to achieve the potential 69.5 million hectare under micro-irrigation. It added that savings from using micro-irrigation systems like drip and sprinklers are enormous—between 20% and 48% savings on water use, about 28.5% less fertiliser use and 30.5% energy savings. According to the report, just 6 states (Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat and Haryana) account for over 82% of India’s micro-irrigation coverage.

Maharashtra Govt looking to finish 80% irrigation projects by funds through loans, bonds Its just a representation of whats wrong with Maharashtra Water Resource Department. An this report claims “Reasons for shortfall in creation of irrigation potential: fund paucity, opposition of project affected families, land acquisition, litigation, time taken for green clearances.” When in reality the ACTUAL reasons for shortfall in creation of irrigation potential in Maharashtra have been badly designed projects, bad water availability studies, never ending projects due to new components added by contractors, bureaucrats and engineers all the time to get kick backs, bad quality of work, no emphasis on completing the project in all senses and HUGE, HUGE corruption issues. It is HIGH TIME we stop using the bogey of project affected families, land acquisition and green clearances in Maharashtra’s dam projects. There is a while list of projects which go on without any attention to any of these issues anyway illegally.

Faced with govt apathy, farmer sells land to build dam A 42-year-old farmer from a small village in Akola district has sold a large chunk of his farmland to build a dam for himself and farmers of his village after he got no aid from the state government. Sanjay Tidke, who along with his brother, owned 30 acres in Sangvi Durgwada village in Murtizapur taluka, sold 10 acres for Rs 55 lakh and is using Rs 20 lakh to build a dam which has a water storage capacity of 3 crore litres. Tidke says he sold off the part of his farmland that would always get washed off during the rains.

Karnataka Govt suspends 26 engineers in Rs 34-crore irrigation scam On May 20, minor irrigation minister Shivaraj Tangadagi told reporters he has suspended 26 engineers suspected to be involved in the Rs 34.35-crore scam in the development of minor irrigation tanks in Koppal and Kushtagi taluks, and will be soon writing to the CM, seeking a CID inquiry into it. He said the officials were suspended after he found violations in the Karnataka Transparency in Public Procurement Act in awarding 47 contracts.  Sources said the suspended officials have been charged with producing fake bills for dredging tanks. These employees allegedly produced the bills to claim money without executing work, sources said. While 17 employees belonged to the minor irrigation department, the others were on deputation from other departments.

DAMS

Gujarat Unkept Narmada dam promise The success of any dam project depends on completion of the minor and sub-minor canals that actually take the water to the fields, but Gujarat badly lacked in planning its execution. The project envisaged construction of 74,296-km canal network but the state in 36 years has constructed only 27,189 km, largely the main canal. Even as the dam height has reached its final level of 138 metres, though it is still not permitted to close the sluice gates at the level of 122 metres, the state could supply Narmada waters for irrigation to only 3.70 lakh hectares, a far cry from the target of 17.92 lakh hectares. The report again exposes the myths & tall claims behind big dams.  The farmers on whose name the Sardar Sarovar Dam was built still depend on monsoon as for past 36 yrs govt fails to build minors & sub minor canal. Industries & towns have been steadily increasing their stake. Govt is even feeding dead Sabarmati with Narmada water but has done nothing to provide benefits to farmers.

Bund proposed to check salinity ingress in Dahej With the salinity ingress in tube wells supplying water to the industries reaching alarming proportions, the representatives of Dahej Industries Association (DIA) and Vilayat units met the top government officials to discuss an immediate solution to the problem. In the meeting, it was decided that a temporary bund near Mangleshwar is the immediate solution to check the ingress. Sources said that the government is not willing to release water from the Sardar Sarovar dam into the Narmada river. DIA has also agreed to bear the entire cost of the bund. However, the proposal is likely to be met with a fierce opposition from farmers living in the downstream of Mangleshwar who claim that their fields will turn completely saline due to the structure. Having destroyed the Narmada River, estuary and fisherfolk’s livelihoods, salinity ingress is now having huge impacts due to Sardar Sarovar Dam. The Dam authorities are refusing to release any water to the river, and they are looking for structural solutions to pollution and salinity ingress, these will only multiply the problems, the costs initially likely to be borne by the poor farmers and others, ultimately by the whole society. Later the govt agreed to release in Narmada from SSP

Maharashtra Eyes on Tata, Koyna dams to meet demand An increase in the intensity of drought has put pressure on the authorities for releasing water from Tata dams and Koyna Hydropower Project for the downstream region from Solapur to Osmanabad. In a letter to PM Modi & the National Human Rights Commission, Parineeta Dandekar & Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP wrote that Tata Power claims that all its dams can release water only through the spillway, which happens only when the dams are full. This is unacceptable and shocking and the dams need to be immediately modified to make appropriate mechanism to release water downstream as and when required. Till the time this is done, there are several ways to use the existing water.  The duo demanded that all the documents related to water lease agreement between Tata Power and the government of Maharashtra must be put in the open domain and make necessary changes to enforce deficit sharing. They also demanded a system which is implemented every drought year through which Tata Dam and Koyna Hydropower Project water is released on priority for the legitimate water needs of the Bhima and Krishna Basin. Good to see this TOI report carrying SANDRP letter to PM and NHRC, but it should not have carried Tata Power response uncritically, Tata Power response is ABSOLUTELY wrong, misleading, empty, dishonest and inhuman.

Only 1% water remains in Marathwada dams Around 3,600 water tankers are operational in the region and water is being supplied to the drought-affected villages and hamlets through them. This is the fourth year of drought in Marathwada in the last five years. Each of its 8,522 villages has been affected for two consecutive years. Latur in the region has been getting water by a special water train. Around 400 cattle fodder camps are now operational in Beed, Latur, Osmanabad and Ahmednagar districts. Also see, Pavana Dam at historic low, Pimpri parched

Karnataka Bhadra dam water at dead storage level The water level at the Bhadra dam touched the dead storage level on May 23 for the first time in 25 years. It means, there is only 13.5 tmc ft of water left in the reservoir and the situation can get worse if the monsoon fails to set in the first week of June as predicted. The dam caters to the drinking water needs of Shivamogga, Davanagere, Chitradurga and Haveri districts besides irrigating 1.05 lakh hectares. To make use of the dead storage, the dam authorities had to take permission from the govt & a letter had already been written to the irrigation department in this regard.

Uttar Pradesh MP ends hunger strike over dam construction BJP MP Savitribai Phule, who went on a hunger strike to protest against the ongoing construction of a dam on Saratu river, has ended her fast after Sub Divisional Magistrate Amitabh Yadav conveyed her the DM’s message that work on the dam would be stopped and a technical committee will be constituted that will take the villagers into confidence before the construction is resumed. The administration also assured her that it will withdraw cases against villagers. The MP went on a hunger strike on May 17 deprecating that consent of affected people was not taken before construction of the project and demanded that cases against the villagers who had protested earlier be dropped. The Bahraich MP had earlier raised apprehension that 68 villages would get marooned if the 11 km-long dam was constructed on the river near Gopia Barrage.

Andhra Pradesh Inquiry into Allegation of Polavaram Dam Central Water Commission has not suggested any fact finding visit to Polavaram dam to look into serious allegations at Polavaram dam Site. However, this Ministry constituted a Committee to look into the project implementation status viz-a-viz the original design and its irrigation benefits. Further, information regarding Rehabilitation and Resettlement is prepared and maintained by the Government of Andhra Pradesh and Polavaram Project Authority (PPA).  PPA has intimated that there are no authenticated details of illegal eviction of women. This information was given by Union Minister Prof. Sanwar Lal Jat in a written reply in Rajya Sabha on May 09. Earlier on May 04 Union Minister of State for Tribal Affairs Mansukhbhai Dhanjibhai Vasava in a written reply in Rajya Sabha stated that no forceful viction of tribals from Polavaram project site is being done and the Rehabilitation and Resettlement is being implemented as per LA & RR Act 2013 since 01.01.2014 and prior to that the Rehabilitation was being done as per Government of Andhra Pradesh Policy of 2005. The project has got the status of Central Project under Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014 only. No wrongs have been committed against Tribal(s). The land acquired for Polavaram Project is in accordance with LA Act – 1894 till 31.12.2013 and later in accordance with LA R&R Act with effect from 01.01.2014.  Union Minister for Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti in a written reply in Lok Sabha on April 28 also stated that target date of completion of Polavaram Project is March, 2018 as planned. She also told that in order to expedite the works, an amount of Rs. 600cr was released for this project during 2015-16.

MATU PR MD of Tehri Hydro Development Corporation would be liable: NGT   The green court on May 13 while hearing a case filed by activist Vimal Bhai highlighting violation of green norms by company in disposing the muck, made it clear that in the event of default, the MD of the Corporation would be liable and would be dealt with in accordance with law. The case was filed on the ground of Alaknanda River is getting polluted due to disposing of the debris generated from the construction of the road near the site of Vishnugad-Peepalkoti HEP. THDC is disposing the debris and muck coming from the construction of the HEP straight away into the Alaknanda river. Respondents sought more time to file to replies accordingly July 13 is set next date of hearing in the case.

RIVERS

National Dredging: a controversial river rejuvenation plan Unscientific dredging raises the danger of dredged riverbed sand clogging the aquifers instead of reviving them, and dredging too deep can expose aquifers, causing the water in them to evaporate. Only when check dams and bunds are constructed at the right spot after hydreogeological studies will they recharge groundwater in the area, else it remains as stagnant water, depriving villages downstream of water. Experts fear that ad-hoc river rejuvenation projects may further increase water conflicts instead of decreasing them since there is still no institutional mechanism for equitable distribution. The basic principle of watershed management recommended by experts is the “ridge to valley method”. A better model to emulate is participatory groundwater management that marries scientific understanding with social structures. EXCELLENT piece by Nidhi Jamwal about the risks of blind river deepening, widening and straightening works going on in Maharashtra, and now Karnataka wants to emulate the same.

The remains of our rivers While a third of India is in the grip of drought following successive bad monsoons, the worst hit are the Godavari and Krishna basins. That’s an area that includes 80 per cent of Maharashtra, north and central Karnataka, and the whole of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

कभी नदी बन बहकर तो देखे मीडिया बहुत जरूरी है कि व्यापक सरोकार के विषयों पर मीडिया के साथी आपस में सतत् संवाद करें। इसके लिए हर स्तर पर मीडिया चौपालें आयोजित हों, जिनमें विषय की बुनियादी समझ विकसित करने की कवायद हो। विषय को लेकर फैले भ्रम और हकीकत के बीच की खाई पाटी जाये। दिमागों के जाले साफ करने के नैतिक प्रयासों को भी गति दी जाये। शोध, समझ और संवेदना का दौर वापस हो, तो नदियों के साथ संवेदना रखने वाले जी उठेंगे; साथ-साथ नदियों के जीने की उम्मीद भी। इसमें प्रेस क्लब और पत्रकार संघों की भूमिका अह्म हो सकती है। किंतु इसके लिए उन्हे खान-पान और निजी सरोकारों का अड्डा बनने के बजाय, व्यापक सरोकारों पर पहल के वास्तविक जनसंचार जंक्शन में तब्दील होना होगा। क्या वे होंगे ?  EXCELLENT post (HINDI) on Rivers and Media by Shri Arun Tiwari.

Gujarat Plea to save Navsari rivers from industrial pollution The Ambika River Bachao Janhit Raksha Abhiyan  has raised an environment appeal in the public interest to save the rivers flowing from Navsari district from the indiscriminate sand and gravel mining, and the release of untreated polluting water from the nearby industries. An appeal-cum-memorandum in this regard has been sent to district collector, member secretary of Gujarat Pollution Control Board and the environment and forest minister of the state government by civil society.  In his appeal, the organization has raised the critical issues including the adverse impact of uninterrupted sand mining in the rivers like Ambika, Mindhola, Kaveri and Purna and has demanded legal action against the perpetrators disturbing the ecology and hydrology of the region.

Maharashtra Govt to make Bhima river pollution-free The Govt decided to make the ancient Bhima river at Pandharpur in the state pollution free and revive its sanctity through the ‘Namami Chandrabhaga’ project. The project, brainchild of Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, was first mentioned by him in his budget speech this year where he spoke of changing the face of the river by 2019. According to an official from Water Resources department, Bhima is called ‘Chandrabhaga’ at Pandharpur in Solapur district as it resembles a half-curved moon. It flows southeast for 861 kms through Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Telangana, before entering the Krishna river. Indrayani, Mula and Mutha are major allied rivers of Bhima which are polluted in Pune district due to sewage water.

NARMADA “Wasted” waters of two re-profiled rivers Narmada & Sabarmati In the report author Rajiv Shah extensively quoting Shripad Dharmadhikary of Manthan & Himanshu Burte, faculty at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, revisited the “flawed” notion of water should not be allowed to go waste into the sea, which is also driving force behind interlinking the of rivers. He also highlighted the ecological problems created by this while highlighting the increasing sea water intrusion in Narmada river due to inadequate flow downstream Narmada Dam. This is excellent piece connecting many dots.

2 years on, AMC yet to decide suitable site for water reservoir  Identifying a place in Ahmedabad for constructing a water reservoir that can supply the city for 15 days, and thus give enough time to make repairs in Narmada canal, has been dragging for two years. For both the Narmada water resources department, Gandhinagar, and the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation finding a suitable site has proven to be a headache. Now Guj Govt wants to create a 20 Million Meter Cube Reservoir to store Narmada water when the Narmada Canals needs to be closed down for repairs.

Patkar slams govt for using Narmada water in Ujjain Kumbh Mela NBA leader Medha Patkar on May 15 took a dig at PM Narendra Modi & Amit Shah for referring to Simhasth Kumbh Mela in Ujjain as declaration for world peace and sustainable development, saying that the holy dip at Shipra river was actually water drawn from Narmada. She told reporters that Rs 5,000 crore was spent on the spiritual gathering at Shipra, including Rs 85 crore only for pandal and other arrangements. About 172 crore litres of water was drawn from Sardar Sarovar Dam across Narmada river in Gujarat. Patkar attributed the recurring features of dry spells and droughts in the country to destruction of natural resources, improper utilization of surface water and its management, and climate change.

Jabalpur markets observe bandh to highlight Narmada pollution Almost all the markets in Jabalpur remained closed on May 22 in response to a bandh call given by a religious leader, Samarth Bhaiyaji Maharaj, to highlight the pollution in the Narmada river. Businessmen, traders & political parties have lent their support campaign urging the state govt. to stop emptying sewage water into the river & stop illegal sand mining on its riverbed. The state pollution control board, however, downplayed the Narmada pollution stating that the quality of Narmada waters was of Grade ‘A’.

Yettinahole protest DK bandh likley to be total on 20 May Normal life in Dakshina Kannada will be severely disrupted with people from all walks of life supporting the bandh call by Nethravathi Rakshana Samyukta Samithi in protest against the Yettinahole project. Concerned have earlier announced to take out a protest march in the city on May 16 to urge the State govt to drop the on-going Yettinahole or Netravathi diversion project.

GANGA Centre Ganga to be among cleanest rivers in 2 years: Uma Bharti AMAZING statement from Union Water Resources Minister: There is no improvement in two years, there is no road map for future, in fact there are not signs how this is feasible  Also see, In Conversation with Uma Bharti, Union Minister Interesting interview, that provides no clarity what the minister is upto, seems to be muddling along the status quo highway.

Release of sewage into river Ganga major issue: NEERI According to NEERI the action plan launched to clean the Ganga is moving in the right direction but the discharge of sewage into the river by big towns and cities is a major issue & industrial pollution was also adding woes to the project. Major cities like Allahabad, Kanpur, Varanasi and Patna are on NEERI’s priority to get rid of the sewage. .

National  Rerouting the Ganges River In an attempt to deal with devastating drought,  the Indian government is preparing to begin an immense river-diversion project by channeling water from the Ganges River and the Brahmaputra River towards the most endangered areas in the east and south of the country. However, environmental activists and other critics are warning this project may in fact be destructive towards river ecology, and do nothing to solve the harsh droughts or help the people. SANDRP coordinator interviewed by Australian Radio.

Clean Ganga Mission seems to be losing track  According to experts, dams would not help to add river flows in the Ganga basin – which is topographically flat. These dams could also reportedly threaten the forests of the Himalayas and impact the functioning of the monsoon system and leading to serious climate change concerns. Tussle between Centre & States Govts along the Ganga, overemphasis on STPs, lack of concrete planning, haste in interlinking of rivers are among 5 reasons stated by the author which indicates that Ganga reviving programme has made no clear progress.

YAMUNA Centre Previous  Yamuna Cleaning Plans were half baked: Uma According to Uma Bharti witten reply in Rajya Sabha on May 02, NGT has given directions to take up cleaning of Yamuna under Maily Se Nirmal Yamuna Revitalization Plan, 2017. Accordingly, DJB has submitted priority of projects amounting to Rs. 1969 cr to be taken up under Phase I of Maily Se Nirmal Yamuna-Revitalization Plan, 2017.  Further, under YAP Phase-III project, five components in Rithala  & Kondli region Pkg R1a, R2, K3, K1, & K2 have been sanctioned which will cost 665.65 cr. The remaining three projects under above DJB’s priority list, have been appraised for a total cost of Rs. 1388.23cr and are in the process of funding. Earlier plan did not take wholesomeness of the Yamuna river system for cleaning Yamuna, due to insufficient engineering efforts, and also the desired result of earlier action plan were not achieved as desired due to lack of availability of fresh water in the river, especially during the lean period and a large gap between generation and treatment of sewage. In fact, there is no fresh water flow downstream of Wazirabad barrage in Delhi. Also see, Delhi Govt presents Yamuna cleaning plan to Centre

Delhi New plan dreams of clean Yamuna The plan, formulated after consulting engineers, water experts and environmentalists for six months. It is going to cost INR 6,000 crore. The Delhi government wants the centre to share the cost, and will present the plan to Uma Bharti, India’s water resources minister. Water activist Himanshu Thakkar from SANDRP says that the NGT gave action points in Jan 2015 but nothing has been done yet. All the plans have failed so far, mainly due to lack of accountability and good governance. This plan must incorporate this. Existing STPs are not functioning to their capacity due to lack of accountability. So this needs to be factored in. According to Manoj Misra there are several positives in the new plan. However, the river flood plain restoration details are weak. The question of how to get environmental (water) flow back into the river remains unaddressed. The matter of industrial effluents entering the drains and reaching the river remains poorly.

Panipat dyes poison Yamuna & Delhi water In terms of water pollution, Panipat has been officially identified as one of the 47 most critically polluted industrial clusters in India. According to a 2009 report of the Central Pollution Control Board, over 2,000 dyeing units have been asked to shift to another location that is connected to a common effluent treatment plant. However there is no information on how many have actually been shifted. Among the local officialdom, there does not seem to be any sense of urgency. It is sad 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.

AoL Row NGT wants post event damage report in 2 weeks The green court  has directed the principal committee to inspect the site and submit a final report within two weeks. The tribunal on May 25 also asked the foundation to file its reply within three days on an application, which had alleged that the spiritual guru had termed its earlier order as “politically motivated”.  The bench asked AoL if it had deposited the environment compensation as directed by it on March 9 for damaging Yamuna’s biodiversity. The counsel for the foundation said that it was ready to furnish the amount as bank guarantee instead of “payment of balance amount”.  “Keep your bank guarantee with you,” the bench said, while posting the matter for next hearing on August 2.

HYDRO POWER

Arunachal Tawang Valley demands justice Representatives from Save Mon Region Federation & National Alliance of People’s Movement on May 26 briefed the media about the developments in Tawang District. Around 60 Monks from the valley are in Delhi in order to make their voices heard and demand justice for this issue which has been blacked out by the media. According to other news report Tawang Police yet to register case on May 2 killings even though complaints against the indiscriminate killings were lodged the next day. No one seems to know where the complaint letters have vanished. Human right groups have been left appalled at the police inaction. Not surprisingly, the family members of the victims, several monks of Tawang Monastery and Save Mon Region Federation, spearheading the movement against hydro power projects says that they have no faith in police or the administration. Lama Lobsang Gyatso too insists on impartial CBI inquiry. But for a CBI inquiry to happen, police has to register a case first. This is beyond shocking.  More than 17 days after two people were killed in Tawang Police firing, the district police has finally filed an FIR, taking cognizance of the complaints filed by the relatives of the victims.

Hydropower politics casts shadow on Arunachal’s sensitive region The growing resistance to dam projects led by Buddhist priest Lobsang Gyatso and others of the Tawang monastery in Arunachal Pradesh shows India’s failure to understand the nature of governance, security and development challenges in north-east region. Reckless adherence to a dam building spree by politicians ignoring the impact it may have on ecology, people’s lives and national security has raised tension in a region where India is having a long-standing border dispute with China. Anti-dam activists have a reason to protest. Arunachal Pradesh is ecologically sensitive and earthquake-prone. Tawang town, which is situated 10,000 feet above sea-level, is strategically located between India and China. A rising conflict over hydroelectric projects there will only benefit China which has still not accepted Arunachal Pradesh as an Indian territory. But the pro-dam lobby is too powerful and it is said that over a hundred such dams are being planned across the state. Also see, Govt. plans a study on black necked crane

WETLANDS & WATER BODIES

Identify wetlands in atleast 5 to 10 districts: NGT The green court on May 23 directed all State Govts & Union Territories to identify and notify wetlands in at least 5 (for smaller States) to 10 districts (for bigger States) under their jurisdiction  by July 22. The tribunal’s order came while hearing the pleas filed by Anand Arya & Pushp Saini seeking direction to the govt. to identify all wetlands within the state as per wetland rules.   According to Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules 2010 passed under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, govt in coordination with the states was directed to identify & notify all Wetlands in the country within a period of 2 years but no wetland has been identified & notified in the country as yet.

Uttar Pradesh NGT notice to Environment Ministry on Surajpur wetlands A plea claiming construction of permanent structures and chopping of trees inside Surajpur wetlands in Greater Noida on May 24 prompted the NGT to seek environment ministry’s response on the issue. The green bench issued notices to the environment ministry, UP irrigation department, state pollution control board, Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority, Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority and forest and wildlife department of the state while seeking their reply by May 30.

WATER

Swachh Bharat: Toilets aplenty, but no water to use The central govt has spent Rs 9093 cr on building about 1.8 crore toilets across the country under the Swachh Bharat Mission since Oct 2014. Meanwhile according to the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) findings listed  in a ‘Swachhata Status Report’  just 42.5% of rural households have “water for use in toilets”.  The NSSO report says that a staggering 44.4% of villages have no arrangement for the disposal of liquid waste. What about the remaining 55.6% of the villages? Of these, 36.7% have what the report quaintly records as a “pakki nali” while 19% have a “katchi nali”. These are drains, one lined with concrete or bricks, the other just channels dug into the soil. And where are these “nalis” leading to? The report says that about 16% drain into local ponds, 24% into the local “nala”, and about 7% into a local river. The situation in urban areas is worse. Although 56.4% of households are using toilets connected to the sewer network, most of the sewage goes straight into the rivers.”

Conversion of sea water into potable water According Low Temperature Thermal Desalination (LTTD) the cost per litre of desalinated potable water is about 61 paise for island based plants.  National Institute of Ocean Technolgy has set up one LTTD plant with its own funds at Kavaratti with a cost of about Rs. 5 crores and two plants, one each at Minicoy and Agatti islands with funds from Lakshadweep Administration with a cost Rs.10.4 crores and Rs.16.4 crores, respectively. 1 experimental LTTD plant using condenser waste heat from power plant was set up at North Chennai Thermal Power Station with an expenditure of Rs. 4.5 crores by NIOT. This was stated by the Minister of State for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Y.S.Chowdary in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha on May 11.

National FSSAI proposes to allow bromates in drinking water In Jan, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India proposed that bromates, a probable cancer-causing chemical, be permitted to an extent in bottled drinking water. This is the same chemical that the Centre for Science and Environment claims to have found in some bread products after lab tests. Subsequently, FSSAI announced it would ban bromates in breads. The existing standards for packaged drinking water, set in 2011, strictly prohibited bromates. But, in a proposal put out in Jan for public comments, FSSAI proposed that up to 10 micrograms of bromates per litre of water be allowed as a contaminant. The 30-day comment period for the proposal is over. Many countries permit bromates in water to the smallest possible level, based on standards set in the past decade, as detection levels are a constraint. Most countries have set better standards than the one proposed by FSSAI.

Rajasthan Water galore amid sand dunes in Thar desert An oasis amid the sand dunes in Shahgarh Bulge in Jaisalmer district having wells and pond is quite evident of the unfathomable phenomenon. Many small bodies in this oasis have water just 2-3 feet below the surface and there is speculation that probably, water in these water bodies is coming from extinct Saraswati River. On the other hand in Poonam Nagar of Jaisalmer water is gushing out from underground at a particular spot in the village for last 3 years. Similarly in in Jaluwala and Charanwala area of Nachana of border Jaisalmer district for the last 7 years, water from the depth of 550 feet is continuously coming out with pressure for 24 hours and it appears that there is a huge reserve of groundwater in this area.  Several scientists have visited there but have not been able to provide any explanation about this while few have claimed it to be rainwater. On of SANDRP followers Manu Moudgil explains this to be a layer of bentonite running underneath which traps rainwater which is usually accessed through beris (small wells). He further adds that Anupam ji has already documented this in his books and Sambhaav Trust works in this region reviving the concept of beris and khadins.

Industry Water woe signals $17 Billion opportunity for recycler According to Vishvaraj Infrastructure Ltd, India’s water crisis is set to spur the development of a market for recycling plants that could eventually be worth at least $17 billion, driven in part by demand from industries. It also stated further that the nation’s largest cities produce 38 billion liters of waste water daily, all of which will have to be recycled eventually,. While that requires major investment in treatment facilities, the government will need to provide sufficiently attractive waste water contracts to realize the full potential of the market. One of the country’s worst droughts in decades is set to ease from June if predictions of good monsoon rains prove accurate. Even so, the parched conditions underscore the longer-term challenge from depleting groundwater as well as surface-water disruption. Shortages threaten to increase flash-points between industry, agriculture and the 1.3 billion people in India needing drinking water.

GROUND WATER

Centre Centre places draft bills on water conservation, management The Centre has placed two draft bills for water conservation in the public domain for feedback as the country battles a water crisis. The government has also released a draft of a programme to improve groundwater management in the country. Comments have been invited on the two draft bills–National Water Framerwork Bill, 2016, the Model Bill for the conservation, protection, regulation and management of groundwater and the National Groundwater Management Improvement Programme—from states and other stakeholders. The Bills have been put up for public comment.

India’s groundwater dying & contaminated According to a Central Groundwater Board report about half of India’s groundwater is contaminated. The report said that as many as 276 districts have high levels of fluoride, 387 districts report nitrates above safe levels and 86 districts have high levels of arsenic. The groundwater board also said that contaminated water caused 10 million cases of diarrhoea, 740,000 cases of typhoid and 150,000 viral-hepatitis cases between 2007 and 2011 & as many as 650 cities and towns lie along polluted rivers, which contaminate groundwater.

Exploitation of underground water Excessive withdrawal of ground water for various purposes including irrigation, domestic and industrialization are some of the factors responsible for decline in ground water levels and in many areas ground water recharge is reduced due to varied & erratic rainfall pattern as well as change in land use. The Central Government has taken several steps to curb the underground water exploitation and for managing ground water level in the country. Central Ground Water Board is implementing a Central Sector Scheme ‘Ground Water Management & Regulation’ in which aquifer mapping is a component during the XII Plan Period. An area of 8.89 lakh sq.km has been targeted to be covered during XII Plan Period which includes ‘Over-Exploited’, ‘Critical’ and ‘Semi-critical’ areas prioritized for mapping in this phase. According to Union Minister o Prof. Sanwar Lal Jat in a written reply in Rajya Sabha on May 09 mapping for an area of 2.28 lakh sq. km has been completed as against the target of 2.38 lakh sq.km, till March, 2016

Delhi DJB to roll out rainwater harvesting policy before monsoon DJB has finalised its rainwater harvesting policy and plans to roll it out before the onset of the monsoon. Having issued new, simplified designs for RWH structures, the water utility has given residents time till June 30 2016 to install the same, failing which a penalty equivalent to 50% of the monthly water bill will be levied on defaulters. While RWH has been mandatory in the city for several years, implementation has been extremely lax, followed by poor maintenance of existing structures.

MONSOON

Rains to be above normal: Skymet Upgrading its outlook for this year’s monsoon, private forecaster Skymet on May 25 said rains are expected to be `above normal’ at 109% of the long period average (LPA), almost reaching `excess’ levels. This is 4 percentage points higher than Skymet’s first monsoon prediction made on April 11. According to the forecast, the monsoon may have a relatively poor start. Rainfall in June is expected to be 13% below normal. The situation is likely to improve sharply in July, when 8% above normal rains are predicted & the second half of the monsoon season is expected to be better with skymet models showing 13% above normal rains in Aug &  23% higher than normal in Sep. India Meteorological Department, the country’s official monsoon forecaster, has predicted 106% rains. The department is expected to issue an updated forecast in the first week of June.

FLOODS

Uttarakhand Cloudburst causes immense damage to life & property  teenager was killed as heavy rains triggered a series of cloudbursts in Ghansali area of Tehri district damaging a number of houses in Balganga valley and disrupting Char Dhaam Yatra leaving hundreds of pilgrims stranded along Lambgaon, Kotalgaon and Chamiala en-route to Kedarnath. The cloudbursts took place at about 3 pm on May 28 over Kothiara village bringing around 50 residential houses under loads of debris. About a 100 animals were also buried alive under the debris. On May 07 also a cloudburst wreaked havoc in Khuret and Pujaldi villages near Chamba in Tehri Garhwal district damaged several fields, standing crops, drinking water pipelines, roads, water mills and irrigation canals. The farmers were the worst sufferers as they incurred immense loss in form of damaged crops, namely potatoes, beans and standing crop of wheat.  This news reports of significant damage in Tehri & other parts of Uttarakhand due to cloud brust. This is second such incident in this month.

National Approval of National Hydrology Project for Flood Forecasts The Govt. has approved  the National Hydrology Project under Central  Sector  Scheme  as an Externally  Aided  Project with support  from the World  Bank  for  Rs.  3679.77 crore.  The National Hydrology Project (NHP) envisages establishing a system for timely and reliable water resources data acquisition, storage, collation and management. It will facilitate informed decision making through    Decision   Support   Systems   (DSS)   for   water   resources assessment, flood management, reservoir operations, drought management, etc. Under the Project, it is proposed to build capacity of the State and Central sector organisations in water resources management through the use of Information Systems and adoption of State-of-the-art technologies like Remote Sensing.The project is designed for eight years duration and the benefits of the project shall accrue on completion of the project. It is a people and farmer centric programme as information on water will help in predicting water availability and help farmers to plan their crops and other farm related activities. This information was given by Union Minister Prof. Sanwar Lal Jat in a written reply in Rajya Sabha on May 09.

Andhra Pradesh Need for plans to shield Amaravati from freak floods Even as the Capital Region Development Authority clarified that floodplains in the Krishna River will be demarcated before taking up the construction of new capital Amaravati, there are suggestions that the government should take into account once in 1,000 years flood flow for identifying the floodplain area. Allaying the concerns raised by petitioner E.A.S. Sarma, former IAS officer and social activist in the NGT that the capital construction in the ecologically sensitive area was against the guidelines of Environment Ministry, CRDA submitted that it would take 100 years flood flow into account and demarcate the zones. The next hearing of the case is scheduled for July 7. The State government, which was also made respondent by the petitioner along with Union Environment Ministry is yet to submit its affidavit.

Real time water management system soon:  Naidu The State government will soon put in place a real time water management system, enabling the authorities concerned to monitor the ground and surface water levels in different parts of the State at any given point of time. The government, at the same time, will take steps to ensure inter-linking of the Krishna with the Penna from the Kandaleru reservoir to avoid scope for any shortage of water in the coming days. Mr. Naidu, on May 17 while having an hour-long meeting with PM Narendra Modi on the drought situation in the State stated that we cannot control natural calamities like cyclones, which cause immense damage, drought is a manmade disaster that can be tackled. The State government had accordingly put in place several mechanisms like water harvesting structures, rain gauges to ensure that rainwater was harnessed to the maximum extent possible.

Haryana Breach in Balsamand branch canal floods several residential areas  2 persons were killed and extensive damage was caused when a massive storm hit the district last night. The storm damaged around 350 electricity poles which affected power supply in many areas in the city and villages & uprooted nearly 1000 trees. The Balsamand branch canal also caved in near the town after uprooted trees blocked the water current. The breach in flooded the residential areas of Sector 16-17, Patel Nagar & juggi areas on the outskirts of the town. Officials plugged the breach after nearly 8 hours.

SAND MINING

Karnataka NGT bans sand mining in CRZ areas in Udupi The green court on May 17 has banned sand mining in the rivers that fall under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) areas in Udupi district. The next hearing will be on July 13.  Advocate for the applicants said that in spite of strong protests from villagers against the sand extraction in the in the rivers coming under CRZ areas in the district, sand was being mined in violation of norms and flouting all environmental laws in last few years. Residents were scared by the movement of heavy trucks used during sand transportation. Sand extraction was being done not only in violation of norms but also by deceit, as the permit issued for the extraction of sand at one place was used for extraction in a different river. Besides this, there were number of sand extractors without any permit. Deputy Commissioner Udupi  told that the district administration was yet to receive a certified copy of the NGT order.

Bihar 2 children drown in sand mining pit in Gaya village Two children, identified as Ankit (12) and Anand (8) of Kalher village of Sherghati, in Gaya district drowned in a sand mining pit full of water on May 24. They jumped into the water to take a bath, but drowned. Angry villagers torched several vehicles, including four trucks, six dumpers, a tractor and a police jeep.

Maharashtra Green activist Girish Gandhi’s son booked for sand mining Nishant Gandhi, son of a prominent environmentalist and politically influential Girish Gandhi, has been booked for illegally mining sand from a jhudpi jungle. The cost of sand seized is estimated at 5 lakh. According to sources in the patwari’s office, illegal sand mining continued for more than a month. The matter was soon reported to the revenue department by the locals. Huge quantities sand was reported to be taken to Gandhi’s 26-acre plot close to the minor forest area. Since the area from where sand was mined is a Jhudpi Jungle, no such activity was allowed, said an official related to the action. Another truck was seized by the police at Kamptee in an independent action.

ENERGY OPTIONS

National Abu Dhabi sovereign fund ADIA eyes $200 million investment in Greenko Six months after making its first bet on India’s fast growing renewable energy sector , sovereign wealth fund  Abu Dhabi Investment Authority ( ADIA ) is gearing up for a rerun. ADIA is in advance negotiations with Hyderabad headquartered Greenko Group to invest between $170-$200 million for a minority stake, said multiple sources aware of the ongoing negotiations. ADIA’s growing interest in this sector reflects the emirates’ focussed strategy to diversify from petroleum and other fossil fuels and back newer, clean tech ventures across the region, especially in emerging geographies like India.

Centre Rs 86K cr invested in Renewable Energy in last 3  years Accoding to Energy Minister Piyush Goyal reply on May 05 in Rajya Shabha a total estimated investment in renewable energy power projects during last three years is around Rs. 86,000 crore. As per inputs provided by Central Electricity Authority (CEA), around 15,400 MU has been generated through solar energy during the last 3 years and it has met the energy requirement to that extent in the country. He also said that most of the investment in renewable energy come from private sector.

Gujarat Villagers irrigating fields for free with solar power Around seven months ago, about a dozen farmers in Ramabhai’s village about 90 km from Ahmedabad came together to form a solar cooperative and set up solar panels in the fields to generate electricity. While the farmers shelled out 10% of the Rs.60 lakh that it cost for the project, the rest was funded by International Water Management Institute. The farmers sell the surplus power to the electricity board. The cooperative also signed an agreement with a government-run power distribution company to sell excess electricity. Even while the project develops, farmers can earn up to Rs. 4,500 per month by selling solar power. The villagers now say they want to see the experiment replicated in other parts of the state.

SOUTH ASIA

Sri Lanka Illegal constructions cause for flooding along Kelani River Sri Lanka’s Department of Irrigation has said that major cause for the constant threat of flooding along the Kelani River Valley is due to improper and illegal constructions suggesting that that a 33-feet wide reservation on either side of a Kelani River or any major river should be maintained to minimize the flood threat. Other officials also recommending removal of illegal constructions in order to control the overflowing of the river pointed out that these illegal constructions during the past few decades could not be controlled due to the interference of several authorities. According to the Disaster Management Center, till May 22, 242,927 people were still displaced and 348,476 people affected by the floods and landslides in 22 districts of Sri Lanka.

Bangladesh Farakka Long-March Day observed The Historic ‘Farakka Long-March Day’ was observed on May 16 commemorating populist leader Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani’s huge long march towards Farakka Dam 40 years ago. On May 16 in 1976, Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani led a massive long march from Rajshahi towards India’s Farakka Barrage, demanding demolition of the barrage constructed by the Indian government to divert flow of Ganges water inside its territory. Thousands of people participated in the long march and staged demonstrations protesting the construction of the barrage. Different socio-political organisations observed the day with various programmes. The Farakka Barrage over the Ganges in the Indian state of West Bengal is roughly 16.5 kilometres (10.3 miles) from the Chapainawabganj border that has had a massive adverse impact on Bangladesh’s ecology since its implementation. Interesting that a LONG MARCH was organised in Bangladesh on May 16, 1976 against the Farakka barrage.

24 killed over 5 lakh evacuated due to cyclone Roanu At least 24 people have been killed and over 100 others injured as cyclone Roanu battered Bangladesh’s southern coast, triggering landslides, forcing authorities to evacuate over five lakh people and leaving thousands homeless. A disaster management ministry spokesman said that over 5 lakh people were evacuated to cyclone shelters and preparations had been made to secure some 21 lakh people. Bangladesh is vulnerable to cyclones because of its location at the triangular shaped head of the Bay of Bengal, the sea-level geography of its coastal area and its high population density. 2 of the deadliest cyclones that hit in 1970 & 1991 claimed about 5lakh & 14K lives respectively.

Bhutan Conserving the Golden Mahseer Around 7,000 Golden Mahseer fingerlings will be released into the Mangdechhu in Sep by the National Centre for Aquaculture Research in Gelephu. The release is part of the on-going “conservation of Golden Mahseer and other native fishes” project initiated in 2013, which mandates the centre to release at least 15,000 Golden Mahseer fingerlings into the Mangdechhu. So far, almost 3,000 Golden Mahseer fingerlings have been released into the river. In March, the centre released 2,841 Golden Mahseer into the Mangdechhu. More fish will be released after the Oct-Dec breeding season. The Golden Mahseer, called serngye locally, is depicted in one of the eight lucky signs.

REST OF THE WORLD

Keeping Amazon fish connected is key to their conservation Amazon basin fish species living in lakes, floodplain forests and river systems need a high degree of connectivity to stay genetically diverse and healthy, but this connectivity is threatened by proposed dams and increased drought due to climate change both of which threaten rainy season flood cycles. A new study finds that understanding the dynamics of Amazon meta populations is critical to conservation. Same is true for Brahmaputra.

Flooding by Brazil dams affects Amazon rainforest According to satellite images released on May 18 dams along the Madeira River in western Brazil have flooded 36,100 hectares of rainforest, affecting people who live along the river and harming fish populations upon which they depend. The impacts of the two new dams, Jirau and Santo Antonio, could extend beyond Brazil to Peru and Bolivia as they disrupt the long-distance migration patterns of catfish. More on clean & green hydro power

One of the world’s largest lakes disappearing Lake Chad was once one of the largest lakes in the world, but as much as 90% of it has disappeared in the past 50 years.  Drying up of Aydingkol, Aral sea & Lake Chad shows an unprecedented world wide water crisis which is only about visible surface water resources. The impact on invisible aquifers is even more catastrophic.

Oregon County Rejects Nestle Water-Grab Voters in one Oregon county on May 17  approved a ban on commercial bottled water production, stopping a years-long effort by Swiss transnational Nestle to sell over 100 million gallons of water a year from the Columbia River Gorge. According to Julia DeGraw, an organizer for national watchdog organization Food and Water Watch, which helped lead the opposition, voters were very aware of the risks of putting corporate control over the precious resource, despite the purported 50 jobs the plant would provide the job-scarce town. Local Water Alliance is applauding the results as a “landslide victory,” as the group had seen the measure’s implications beyond Nestle’s plan.  GREAT news! Oregon was a case of love at first sight for me during my brief stay there in late Sept 2011, such news only strengthen the feeling!

World’s largest Hydropower Project unravels The World Bank, the World Energy Council and the dam industry have presented the Inga 3 Dam as a “dream for Africa” and a model for the lessons they have learned from past experience with mega-projects. Now the hydropower project on the Congo is unraveling into a political ploy with complete disregard for affected people and the environment. More than two years after the approval of the World Bank and AfDB grants, the social and environmental impact assessments for Inga 3 have still not begun. Yet in early May, Bruno Kapandji, the head of the Grand Inga Project Office, announced that the DRC government would select developers for the mega-dam within three months, and that construction would start by June 2017.

Unplugging the Colorado River Today, there are signs that the promise of this great dam and others has run its course. Ultimately, the decision to drain Lake Powell — or perhaps to forgo the other new dam and water projects now in the works on the river — comes down to a question of whether the seven states and Mexico that share the Colorado River really need the water badly enough. Remarkable that this NEW YORK TIMES report talks about GLEN CANYON DAM Of US.

Sending our pollution problems down stream  The greatest source of petroleum pollution in the ocean is transported there through rivers and streams, largely from the improper disposal of used motor oils down drains and from urban street runoff. Pollutants that travel down stream are not out of sight and out of mind. All of these streams joining together lead us to a bigger problem.

CLIMATE CHANGE

In a word, why climate change matters: Water According to World Bank report by 2050,  water scarcity could cause economic growth in some parts of the world to drop by as much as 6 percent. Regions where water is plentiful will get thirsty, and regions already struggling with scarcity will get thirstier. Water availability in cities could plummet by as much as two-thirds by 2050 compared to 2015 levels. At the same time, global warming will push up temperatures, creating more evaporation – meaning there will be less water at a time when farms and power producers need more of it. And with global warming come rising sea levels, which destroy coastal aquifers with salinity, further reducing available fresh water. It’s not that global warming sops up water and never returns it. Rather, water is being redistributed in ways that make matters worse for water-scarce regions. The report is careful to not suggest that water scarcity will start wars between nations.  

ENVIRONMENT

Centre 2000 environmental approvals in 2 yrs: Govt Environment Minister Prakash Javedkar said on May 23 that more than 2,000 environmental approvals have been granted in the past 2 years & faster approval of environmental clearances was another major achievement. He further stated that strict compliance with environmental laws, use of technology for reducing air pollution, and capacity building of municipal bodies would be among the top focus areas for the environment ministry for the next 3 years. In on more interview the minister gave himself a pat on the back for simplifying green clearance procedures and promised to focus on compliance of green norms in the remaining 3 years. According to another report the minister while stressing the need for increasing farm productivity, ruled out stopping trials of GM crops despite opposition from RSS and its affiliates like Swadeshi Jagran Manch and Bharatiya Kisan Sangh. And that means some high-profile/high investment projects, currently held up because of possible forest area violations, may get a go-ahead. Meanwhile a media house reports that Javadekar-run ministry will not notify the long-pending go/no-go forest areas categories. At least 10% of major pending projects, including the Rs 24,000-crore Rio Tinto diamond mining project in Madhya Pradesh, will benefit. So will around a third of the 800 coal blocks that can be developed. In a separate interview Nitin Sethi grills Javdekar, but clever minister mostly gets away with non committal answers

Implementation of Forest Rights Act According to Union Minister of Tribal Affairs Shri Jual Oram’s written reply in Rajya Sabha on April 27 the Forest Rights Act is being implemented across the country & till 29.02.206, out of 44.15 lakh claims that have been filed, 17.20 lakh titles have been distributed over 89.90 lakh acres of forest land.

List of 52 landslide zone in Northwest Himalayas  According to the GSI landslide compendium for north western Himalayas Uttarakhand with 24 listed zones has most number of landslide zone while Himachal & J&K has 13 & 15 such landslide zones respectively. GSI has launched the  2-year project to create a landslide compendium for north western Himalayas on 1 April, 2014. The information was given by the Minister of State for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Y.S.Chowdary in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha on May 11.

India has 252 multi-hazard vulnerable districts: Ministry of Earth Science Using all the available data Building Materials & Technology Promotion Council (BMTPC) prepared a list of 252 districts covering states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Kerala, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Pondicherry, Daman & Diu and Tamil Nadu and identified them as vulnerable to multi-hazard (Wind, Thunderstorm, Cyclone, Flood and Earthquake). The information was given by the Minister of State for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Y.S.Chowdary in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha on May 11.

Maharashtra Fishermen take out ‘sea rally’ to protest against Shivaji memorial site Over 500 fishermen, living in the vicinity of the site proposed for putting up a memorial for Shivaji in the Arabian Sea, on May 26 organised a protest rally by sailing out in boats to oppose the location of the project, which they said would be a “bane” for them. The fisher folk demanded rehabilitation of their community members who will be impacted by the construction for the memorial before starting the work. The fishermen clarified that they were not against the construction of the memorial per se but the site which they said will “jeopardise” the livelihood of 3,500-odd fishermen. 

Himachal Rising mercury melts away hills’ snow cover Himalayan peaks have started losing snow cover at least a month in advance with greenery replacing the whiteness. Fresh aerial photographs of Pir Panjal, Dhauladhar and Chandrabhaga ranges of Himalayas taken by civil paraglider Roshan Thakur during a flight reveal that the snow cover on mountain peaks has lost its thickness. The snow is melting rapidly, and areas at altitude ranging between 11,000ft and 13,000ft have become snowless at least 15 to 20 days in advance. While the overall temperature in the state is 4 to 5 degrees above normal at this time of the year, snowline on mountains is receding 2 to 3 months in advance.Also see, Famous Bhagsunag waterfall drying up due to natural and man-made causes.

Study Natural spring in Western Ghats- Vital but Completely neglected In the Western Ghats, natural springs are a source of drinking water for many vulnerable rural communities. The springs serve as an essential component for the functioning of our forest cover and dependent ecosystem, yet their conservation is a completely neglected affair. Neither the Maharashtra state policy nor our national policy framework for natural resource management address this issue. There is an urgent need for a paradigm shift from source exploitation to resources management, especially in lieu of climate change. This explains why and how springs are important in western ghats.

W-Bengal Fishermen enter unchartered territories The report covers how the livelihoods of the fishing community in Sunderbans is increasingly under threat to overfishing, change in climate and the unquestioned powers of the forest officials.

You may also like to see DRP News Bulletin 23 May 2016 & DRP News Bulletin 16 May 2016 

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