Hydro power projects impact riverine fisheries The bleak future of fisheries is reflected in the “Vision and Perspective Plan” released by the Department of Fisheries earlier this week. The department is keeping its fingers crossed to even maintain the production of 5,393 tonnes in 2014-15 as it feels that with the commissioning of 294 hydro power projects in the recent years, the downward trend will be difficult to arrest.
It says that the expansion of the hydro power sector has resulted in the shrinking of rivers and streams and high silt levels. Rampant sand mining and indiscriminate use of pesticides have further aggravated the problem.
The fish production from the rivers and streams is falling drastically each year and the multi-pronged environmental assault is proving to be too damaging for the fisheries promotion. The state has some precious mahseer reserves. Though the power policy stipulates a minimum discharge of 15% ecological flow of rivers, the failure of the regulatory authority to check this has converted riverbeds into sandy deserts. That’s how the department perceives the threat from hydro power generation. As a further blow to the riverine fisheries, under the revised hydro-power policy, there is no requirement for micro hydel project developers to prepare environmental and social impact reports.
The vision document reflects that the coming up of hundreds of micro-hydel projects has drastically affected the streams environmental flow in Kangra, Kullu and Chamba. The picture is so grim that the project commissioned on the Sujan Nullah is virtually threatening the hatchery of the prestigious Indo-Norwegian trout project which is the lifeline of the entire trout farming programme of the state.Perceived as one of the major threats, the commissioning of 92 power projects, in the last few years has altered the river hydrology and blocked migratory routes exterminating spawning and feeding grounds of fish.Adding to the already bad situation is the array of pesticides and insecticides being used by farmers and fruit growers.
As per data being collected by the department, 30 tonnes of these are being used in Kullu district itself, which shows the extent to which it is being used in the entire state. The indiscriminate mining of cobbles, sand and gravel from river beds is leading to vanishing feeding and breeding grounds of juvenile fish. The department now plans to undertake bio-mapping of all major rivers, streams and more importantly involve local panchayats who have the potential to play an active role. This is something several groups, including SANDRP had warned. The Himachal Fisheries Department was content with giving licences to Hydropower Projects even in in-situ protection zones, but good to see that they have woken from the slumber finally. This should be a lesson to all Himalayan States.
SANDRP Blog Land slide dam creates flood threats in Uttarakhand A landslide on Sonam river (Bhagirathi basin) in Bhatwari block in Uttarakashi district in Uttarakhand has blocked the flow of the river and created a lake about 90 m long, 80 m wide and 1.5-3 m deep. The landslide dam in Nelong valley in Jadhganga river basin about 145 km from Uttarkashi town, apparently was formed due to landslide during cloud burst on July 27, 2016, but the information about it reached the administration only on Sept 4, 2016, 39 days later.
INTER-STATE WATER DISPUTES
Cauvery Row Why is Karnataka growing water-intensive crops in arid regions? Karnataka’s cropping patterns have shifted in at least two major ways in the past four decades, moving away from millets that grow well in arid areas and towards water-intensive crops enabled by irrigation. In the past 25 years, the area under sugarcane has grown by five times. The staggering increase takes on grave proportions when seen in the context of Karnataka’s geographical and hydrological conditions. About 80% of Karnataka’s land area is drought-prone, followed by, ironically, Tamil Nadu, at slightly over 65%. Karnataka is also the second-most arid state after Rajasthan. Govt figures show that from the 1970s and up to 2014-15, the area under sugarcane cultivation has grown by a massive five times. Sugarcane is an annual crop, grown in varying degrees in 22 of the state’s 30 districts. Data from the All India Report on Agricultural Census of the year 1970-71, Ministry of Agriculture, shows that the area under sugarcane in 1970-71 was 91,245 Ha. Of this just 296 acres was unirrigated land. According to the Economic Survey of Karnataka 2014-15, farmers planted sugarcane on 6.26 lakh Ha that year. This is an increase of 586% in 40 years. However, with over 6 lakh Ha under the crop, it still forms just 5% of the total area under cultivation in Karnataka. For the same period, paddy increased by 20%. Paddy currently constitutes about 10% of the total area under cultivation. The massive increase of sugarcane cultivation and to a much lesser extent, paddy, between 1970-71 and 2014-15, has corresponded with the sharp decline of millets such as jowar, ragi, bajra and other minor millets. In short, Karnataka’s dire water situation has been caused by several government policies. Despite this being the state’s reality, politicians have been making tall promises, stopping short of promising water from Mars. Meanwhile an editorial in Business Line underlines many key issues, including failure of governance and judiciary in taking long term sustainable and democratic practice. Rather than pit farmers against each other, govts should promote SRI (system of rice intensification) irrigation techniques and less water intensive practices. Given that the Cauvery delta is urbanised, it is important that controlling water wastage and pollution is seen as integral aspects of river-sharing strategies. Managing disputes is as much about protecting rivers as it is about creating credible institutions to apportion water. Similarly this Indian Express Edit raising questions about the SC order and also suggesting way forward in terms of cropping pattern, cropping methods like SRI and giving importance to Cauvery family efforts. One editorial in ET states that Both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka insist on growing water-intensive crops like sugarcane. If water is scarce, the solution should be to change the crop mix to reduce water consumption, not to reduce the share going to the other party. In both states, there is much scope to change agronomic practices and reduce water use. Also see, Karnataka releases water for Tamil Nadu fights fire on its streets
Polavaram Row BJD calls hartal in southern districts on Oct 1 The BJD leaders claimed that 15 revenue villages and 10 hamlets in Motu tehsil and 7686 hectares of land in Malkangiri district will be submerged if the project is implemented with the present design. They alleged that 6818 people including 5916 tribals will be displaced due to the project. Meanwhile, according to Sep 08 PIB release the Central Govt will fund the Polavaram Irrigation Project in the following manner. (i) It will provide 100% of the remaining cost of the irrigation component only of the project for the period starting from 1.4.2014, to the extent of the cost of the irrigation component on that date. (ii) In view of the recommendations of the Vice Chairman NITI Aayog that it will be appropriate for the State of Andhra to execute this project (as it is an important project and the State Govt is keen to complete it at the earliest), the Govt of India has agreed to the State’s request for the execution of the project by the State Govt on behalf of the Govt of India. Govt of India’s decision to form Polavaram Project Authority even as legal issues and cases remain unresolved is bound to create protests and challenges.
INTER-LINKING OF RIVERS
Maharashtra River interlinking no answer to Marthawada drought: Experts Central Water Commission’s report on water situation in drought affected areas has recommended interlinking of rivers in Marathwada along with construction of water harvesting structures, mass awareness campaigns, construction of new dams & renovation and repair of the existing water bodies. Interestingly, the Central Water Commission’s report argues that the representatives of various government departments in Maharashtra have advocated diversion of water from other basins to Marathwada region as a long term measure. The report mentions diversion of about 6 TMC water by gravity from Upper Vaitarna to Godavari basin from the Konkan region. Diversion of about 30 TMC water from Wainganga, Pranhita and Indra vati from Vidarbha region of Maharashtra to Manjra dam.It also mentions diversion of water from west flowing rivers of the tune of 80 TMC to Godavari basin. The report includes comments by Parineeta Dandekar of SANDRP.
Op-Ed Connecting the drops BIG DAM LOBBY AT WORK. The authors of this article are selling the misguided and wrong advocacy of big dam fundamentalism of the World Bank when they mention per capita water storage through big dams, not even including in calculation or the graph the storage options through soil moisture, aquifers and local small storages. By way of lip service it mentions aquifers (not other storage options) but also uncritically advocates MASSIVE Himalayan storages and Inter Linking of Rivers. Typical of IWMI and ICRIER?
W-Bengal Reviving the Farakka debate The recent floods in Bihar and to a lesser extent in places such as eastern UP & parts of W- Bengal and MP have again raised serious questions about the role of dams and barrages in flood protection. While this has led to a debate on dam management, what has attracted even more attention is the statement by the CM of Bihar regarding the adverse impact of the Farakka barrage on making Bihar more prone to floods. While this is not the first time the adverse impact of the Farakka project has been highlighted, the issue being raised by a CM in rather strong terms has its own importance. Apart from voicing the apprehension that the project by increasing the silt load in the Ganga has made it difficult for flood waters to be cleared quickly, Nitish Kumar has called for a review of the Farakka project and if such a review supports the frequent allegations of its disruptive and harmful role, the possibility of decommissioning it should be kept open. Very good to see this from Shri Bharat Dogra.
Uttarakhand Mahaseer survival bleak due to Kotlibhel hydro project Wildlife scientists have warned of near extinction of Uttarakhand’s state fish Golden Mahaseer if the proposed Kotlibhel-2 hydro power project is built close to Devprayag in Garhwal. Mahaseer comes to Nayar river here for spawning from plain areas. If the project happens, then the barrage will block the route of this migratory species for spawing which will put their survival at risk. The golden Mahseer which weight 40-50 kg of Nayaar river in Pauri are world famous. To go ahead with any of the Kotli Bhel projects will be suicidal not only for Mahseer, but for the river itself.
Blame it on the dam For the hoteliers of Kharadi, the NGT’s decision to fine Alaknanda Hydropower is an acknowledgement that their anger against Gangani Small Hydro Project may finally hold up in a court of law. The 8 MW project unleashed big destruction to local town in consecutive floods of 2012 & 2013. As a result almost 50 hotels were washed away but locals were not compensated adequately. Excellent report on how small hydro can have big local impacts.
Himachal Govt to withdraw case against tribal rights A direct intervention by Congress Vice-President made State govt on Sep 08 to withdraw its petition before Supreme Court which directly challenged tribal rights and their consent powers over traditional forestlands. The Himachal govt, through its state power corporation, had filed an appeal before the Supreme Court challenging a NGT order which required consent from the effected 19 tribal gram sabhas (village councils) to set up the 130 Mw Keshang Hydroelectric Project. It had contended that the tribals were unskilled and incapable of taking a technical decision. It contended that the NGT order was not practicable and should be annulled. Good to see that Congress leadership is at least gracious enough to correct the mistake.
National A tough task cut out for grid managers With a massive deployment of renewable capacity, the thermal plants will need to undergo a paradigm shift, which could be testing for grid managers. This article brings out a number of interesting facts, including, showing how exaggerated are the projections of power demand by Central Electricity Authority and how there is no need to add more capacities, including hydro (though article keeps talking about more hydro), considering the potential of saving through efficiency (200 billion units by 2022), additional renewables and lower demand.
Centre Rs. 20000 Cr Long Term Irrigation Fund to be raised Ministry of Water Resources & NABARD on Sep 06 signed an agreement to operationalise the Long Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF) to be instituted in NABARD as part of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana. On the occasion Shashi Shekhar, Secretary, MoWR indicated that cost overrun and delays in irrigation projects has been a major concern. The loans from NABARD will be provided at six% interest rate for a period of 15 years. A phenomenal 76.03 lakh hectares of land is estimated to be brought under irrigation through 99 identified projects under this initiative which has a total estimated allocation of Rs. 77595 cr. Speaking on the occasion Water Minister Uma Bharti said that Rs 77000cr will be raised during the next 4 year from the market for speedy implementation of 99 prioritized projects under Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP) throughout the country. The Minister said 56 AIBP projects will cover all most all drought prone districts of 18 States of country. The Union Cabinet on July 27, 2016 had approved the Establishment of Mission for completion of 99 prioritized projects and its funding arrangement through NABARD. Rs 77600 crores to be spent on the same BIG irrigation projects that have consistently failed to deliver for over 2.5 decades now. It is claimed that the 99 Major and Med Irrigation projects that will be funded under this project will create additional irrigation in 7.6 mil ha land by 2019. It claims 56 of the 99 projects are in drought prone areas. 23 projects to be completed in 2016-17, 31 in 2017-18 and 45 in 2018-19. NABARD will mobilise funds. Strange that media is not even asking critical questions. 26 of the 99 projects under PMSKY are in Maharashtra, 14 in MP and 11 in Telangana. NABARD will lend Rs 20000 crores for the 23 Phase I projects to be taken up by March 2017 (i.g. in next seven months!).
SAUNI Project Media fail to high light hype around SAUNI With just 10% of work done on the SAUNI project so far, there is still no signs of the large number of pumping stations that would be required, nor allocation of responsibility for bearing cost for the high power requirement for pumping water. However, that’s the least of the concerns. SAUNI Saurashtra Narmada Irrigation – Project is clearly a hyperbole which even most of the media could not see through. Its cost has already escalated to Rs 33000 crores as per this report.
U.S. weather forecaster says La Nina no longer likely in fall, winter A U.S. govt weather forecaster on Sep 08 said that La Nina conditions were no longer likely to develop during the Northern Hemisphere fall & winter 2016/17, saying neutral conditions were more likely. The Climate Prediction Center (CPC), an agency of the National Weather Service, said in a monthly forecast there was a 55 to 60 percent chance of El Nino-Southern Oscillation neutral conditions, meaning La Nina was no longer favored to occur. Last month, CPC said La Nina conditions were slightly favored to occur, with a 55 to 60 percent chance of developing during the fall and winter of 2016/17. This signals lower rainfall in India in next few months.
YAMUNA Delhi DJB to ‘review’ drains and pipelines Giving a push to the project, a decision to analyse the functioning of all sewage pumping stations and sewage treatment plants within a month’s duration was taken at the meeting. Welcome initiative, do not go by what the title says. Push for smaller, decentralised STPs and review of functioning of STPs can go a long way.
WETLANDS & WATER BODIES
Manipur Sharmila reached out to Loktak lade affected families For generations the lake has been inhabited by fishermen who live in traditional huts that precariously stand on bamboo stilts placed on the phumdis. But a lot of that has changed since the Loktak Lake (Protection) Act, 2006, was introduced by the state government to conserve the lake and develop the area for tourism. Most of the fishermen have since been removed from the lake by the Loktak Development Authority, after a report by Wetlands International claimed that detrimental fishing practices and proliferation of phumdis had led to the degradation of the lake. Since then the fishermen are no longer allowed to fish in the core area of the lake and many have turned into boatmen for tourists or into hawkers selling sundry items by the lake side. Hope this long standing serious problem affecting rights of thousands of families get some attention.
UP You have no respect for human life: NGT The Green Tribunal on Sep 07 pulled up the UP administration for not providing clean water to villages in the Bagpat district. For more than ten years, drinking water sources in the villages, which are situated near the Hindon River, have been contaminated by the polluted river water. Hundreds of persons in the area suffer from permanent physical and mental diseases, which they claim is a result of the polluted water. A Bagpat-based NGO had approached the NGT in Nov 2014 to seek relief.
MP A simple way to trap India’s monsoon rain Monsoon ponds, constructed using a ratio of 8 to 10 feet deep and 1 hectare wide to irrigate every 8 to 10 hectares of land, result in yield productivity increases of as much as 300%. Excellent, Positive, story, indeed, what has happened in Dewas in MP as this story says, can show the way forward for large parts of India.
Bundelkhand Women Water Warriors of Bundelkhand In the Talebhat block of Uttar Pradesh’s Lalitpur district, women have been made water managers. Their water conservation initiatives has turned Talebhat in to an oasis in this drought prone region of Bundelkhand. Also explore links to see related coverage on Jal Saheli 96 women-led pani panchayats take over water resource management. Women come together to resolve water issues in Jalaun, Hamirpur and Lalitpur in Bundelkhand. Kamlesh Kumari a “Water Friend” in Dharaupur village of north UP state demonstrates a tool kit she uses to repair hand-pumped wells. Bundelkhand’s women join hands to drought-proof their villages. Women are not only responsible for water but they also face the brunt of water scarcity. Watch the video to find out what happens when these women become ‘Jal Sahelis’ (water friends).
Maharashtra State beats renewable energy targets Data released by the Maharashtra Energy Development Agency shows that by the end of 2015, the state had achieved generation of 4442 MW of wind power, 1615 MW from biomass, 329 MW from solar and 284 MW from small hydro power projects. This generation exceeds the targets set by the state government in 2008 for generation of renewable energy from non-conventional sources. The aforesaid targets for wind power project were 2000 MW, 400 MW of biomass and 100 MW for small hydro power. Maharashtra has received at least 50 proposals for Power Purchase Agreement from renewable sources this year, but no PPA has been signed.
National Has solar left wind behind Close to 550 MW of wind generation capacity is lying idle in Maharashtra as the state has refused to sign power purchase agreement with the producers. Furthermore, the reduction of levelized tariff from 5.92 kwH to 4.78 kwH in the state of Madhya Pradesh for all the wind power projects commissioned this financial year, have made these projects unviable. Also see, Govt plans $400 million fund for renewable energy firms While this sounds good for renewables, question is, do we need World Bank loan for this?
Nepal Agreements signed for two small hydro in Seti Basin The Nepal Department of Electricity Development, in conjunction with the govt’s Western Uplands Poverty Alleviation Project (WUPAP), issued licenses for the development of two small hydroelectric projects located in the Bajhang district in Oct 2014. According to reports published Sept. 7, two consortiums have signed agreements to fund construction of each plant, the total cost of which is about US$111.4 million. WUPAP is a three-phase US$32.565 billion project designed to create a better economic situation for mid- and far-western regions districts of Nepal. The first of the two projects is the Rs 2.80 billion (US$42.1 million) 15.33-MW Kalanga hydropower project located on the Kalanga River in Sukunda, Bajh and Khairatadi village development committees, municipalities of Bajhang district. Information on the completion date for each project is not immediately available.
Climate change is like death, no one wants to talk about it Speaking at a literary festival in Bhutan, the Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh recently predicted that Himalayan regions, for no fault of their own, will face a catastrophe as climate change takes hold. So chilling was Ghosh that the local paper reported only half in jest that a disturbed audience had to be soothed by a subsequent talk by Buddhist monks. Amitav Ghosh on climate change: “In the book, Ghosh grimly predicts a “politics of the armed lifeboat” where the poor of the global south will be left to their doom while the rich go on unscathed. Similarly in an interview the US President says that climate change is greatest long-term threat facing the world, as well as a danger already manifesting itself as droughts, storms, heat waves and flooding.