DRP News Bulletin 07 Nov 2016 (India Rivers Week 2016 – Presenting the Positive & Beautiful side of India’s Abused Rivers)

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India River Week-2016 to focus on State of India’s Rivers Since time immemorial, rivers have held a coveted place in the mindscape of Indians. Rigveda has dedicated suktas on mighty rivers like Sindhu describing not only the river, but its tributaries, its flow, its myriad paths, the glaciers and lakes which feed it. Across India, local cultures are replete with evocative river stories, river festivals and several rituals which bring rivers in the homes and hearts of people. And yet, Indian rivers remain some of the most abused in the world.

It’s natural for rivers to be in the news during the monsoon or a drought, but that is not the only reason why rivers are being discussed these days.

Rivers are indeed grabbing headlines, be it Cauvery or the Indus or the mindless plan of River Interlinking. But while that happens, are we discussing rivers at all? We are discussing conflicts and interstate issues, even geopolitics, but we have very successfully cut our rivers and the hydrological systems including the catchment, headwaters, groundwater, wetlands, lakes and estuaries into convenient pieces: water supply, water sharing, irrigation, hydro-power, drinking water supply, sanitation, pollution, flood control. It seems, most of the time, rivers are in the news for all the wrong reasons!

For example, the Cauvery is in the news for the never-ending dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu on sharing of its waters, a conflict that keeps rearing its head whenever there is a deficit year. Unfortunately, the dispute is about the Cauvery, but the poor river’s condition is on no one’s radar. Everyone is only talking about its water!

Similarly, Mahanadi is in the news for interstate water disputes. But none of states is particularly worried about the condition of the river. In the case of the Mahadayi, again, the states seem least bothered about the river itself, with Goa planning to allow navigation on it without any assessment of its impact on the river. Telangana and Andhra are locked in Krishna and Godavari water-sharing disputes, which are bound to spill over to Maharashtra and Karnataka, among other basin states.

The river Indus featured in front-page headlines and breaking news for several days, but in the context of Indo-Pakistan tensions and some elements talked about shutting off water flow to Pakistan. The prime minister declared that water and blood cannot flow together. Blood should not be flowing under any circumstances and terrorist activities must come to an end, but it is not possible to shut off the flow of water from the Indus, Chenab or Jhelum, the three western rivers flowing to Pakistan under the 1960 Indus treaty.  As feared, China promptly declared that it has diverted a tributary of the Yarlung Zangbo (the Siang river, one of the main tributaries of the Brahmaputra) in Tibet for building the Lalho multipurpose storage project on the river. Many saw it as a Chinese threat to India for suggesting that India could review the Indus water treaty with China’s ally, Pakistan, to reduce or stop water flow to Pakistan.

No one, unfortunately, is thinking of the sustained existence of the rivers in this whole episode.

Back home, again the river-linking fundamentalism of the current Union government has recently led to the wildlife clearance recommended for the Ken-Betwa River Link project, by the Steering Committee of the National Board of Wildlife, chaired by Union Environment Minister of State (Independent Charge) Anant Madhav Dave. The project does not even have a proper Environment or Social Impact Assessment, nor the landscape management plan that was supposed to be part of the Environment Management Plan. For whatever little benefit is claimed for Bundelkhand, there are much better alternatives. Here again, rivers are in the news for projects that will destroy them.

During the monsoon, the Ganga crossed its highest recorded flood levels at a number of places including Patna and its upstream and downstream areas. Nitish Kumar has rightly advocated that we need an independent assessment of the usefulness of the Farakka dam, prior to taking a decision about its decommissioning. That will certainly help the cause of the Ganga much more than all the dredging and other navigation-related work that is ongoing. But, clearly, the Ganga’s cause is not close to the heart of the current government.

It is clear that, in all the news about rivers, there is little concern for the rivers themselves. That is not how it was supposed to be. The Modi government, which is reaching its term’s half-way mark, had come with the promise of a better deal and future for India’s rivers. Unfortunately, not only does the promise remain unfulfilled, there seems to be no roadmap in sight, no light for our rivers. There is nothing in the policies, plans or projects of the current Union government that would provide any ray of hope for the Ganga, now or in future. The government is pushing for more funds, more infrastructure, more technology, the same path that has been followed for the past three decades and which failed to achieve any improvement in the condition of the Ganga. Even now there is no attention to democratic, transparent, participatory and accountable governance, without which there seems no hope for the river.

Amidst all this, Indian rivers are not only some of the last frontiers of astounding biodiversity, they still are the major source of livelihoods for millions. Our rivers hold nearly 1,000 fish species, with more being discovered; they hold hundreds of aquatic and riparian plants, several species of mangroves, and at the same time support more than 20 million fisherfolk, boatmen, riparian farmers!

But the picture is not all that bleak. In a tiny state like Goa, Mahadayi Tribunal is rooting for river water, not for consumptive use, but for the ecology of the river itself. There are bright stories from across the country where communities are coming together to protect their rivers: from a remote corner in Arunachal to floodplains of Delhi, from Yettinahole struggle in Western Ghats to the restoration of rivers in Mumbai.

In all this melee, the organisers of India Rivers Week 2016, to be held in Delhi over 28-30 November, are focusing this year on “The State of India’s Rivers”. The meeting hopes to come out with a clearer picture of the state of our rivers. There are bleak stories and then there are glimmers of hope, which need to gain strength and be highlighted as well. Some individuals and organisers who have done exemplary work in river protection will also be honoured with the Bhagirath Prayas Samman during the programme. Groups across the country will come together to host ‘The India Rivers Week 2016’ in Delhi, trying to bring rivers back in focus of governance.

RIVERS

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SANDRP Blog  काठोकाठ भरलेली वाशिष्ठी SANDRPs blog in Marathi about Vashishthi River, flowing through Western Ghats to meet Arabian Sea..her issues and her treasures. Includes interviews and videos.

 Op-Ed India’s river battles by Himanshu Thakkar It’s natural for rivers to be in the news during the monsoon or a drought, but that is not the only reason why rivers are being discussed these days. It seems, most of the time, rivers are in the news for all the wrong reasons! Rivers are in the news for projects that will destroy them. It is clear that, in all the news about rivers, there is little concern for the rivers themselves. In all this melee, the organisers of India Rivers Week 2016, to be held in Delhi over 28-30 November, are focusing this year on “The State of India’s Rivers”. The meeting hopes to come out with a clearer picture of the state of our rivers. There are bleak stories and then there are glimmers of hope, which need to gain strength and be highlighted as well. Some individuals and organisers who have done exemplary work in river protection will also be honoured with the Bhagirath Prayas Samman during IRW 2016. Meanwhile, we all await some real good news for our rivers. 

Op-Ed India River Week making Rivers everyone’s business By Parineeta Dandekar Unfortunately, more than 42 years after the establishment of pollution control boards and thousands of crores later, there is no success story from these bodies about a cleaned-up river. But the picture is not all that bleak. In a tiny state like Goa, Mahadayi Tribunal is rooting for river water, not for consumptive use, but for the ecology of the river itself. There are bright stories from across the country where communities are coming together to protect their rivers: from a remote corner in Arunachal to floodplains of Delhi, from Yettinahole struggle in Western Ghats to the restoration of rivers in Mumbai. In Nov, groups across the country will come together to host ‘The India Rivers Week 2016’ in Delhi, trying to bring rivers back in focus of governance.

Op-Ed Religion should not be an excuse to further choke our rivers Tonnes of debris have been dumped in Yamuna after Durga Puja in Delhi. The Ganga is similarly hugely polluted with the faithful immersing all sorts of items of worship in it. The Mithi & Hindon rivers are going the same way, in fact according to the CPCB, there is not a single river in India that can be termed clean. Religion and tradition may dictate that idols be immersed in the river but given its condition, this practice must be lessened or discontinued altogether. The authorities concerned have to impose restrictions on immersing non-biodegradable items on the grounds that this is in consonance with faith.  While what we face here is a gargantuan task, some steps like minimizing these mass immersions could help and planning for next year’s festivities must begin now. 

Study Teesta water scarcity imperils ecosystem in 5 districts The research paper on ‘integrated agricultural plan for Teesta basin’ said a total of 85,570 metric tonnes of fish used to be caught ever year from Teesta and its tributaries. But now only 1,220 tonnes of fishes were caught in Teesta and its 20 tributaries in the past year.In the years between 1984 and 85, nearly 8 thousand tonnes of fish were caught in this river and its waterways.

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Telangana Mighty Godavari reeling under severe industrial pollution The release of untreated industrial effluents into the river by companies located on Godavari banks in Adilabad, Karimnagar, Warangal and Khammam districts may sound death knell for the lifeline if urgent conservation measures are not taken, they warned.  Though the Central govt took up the Godavari River Pollution Control Scheme way back in 1991 at a cost of Rs 34.19 crore, it failed to achieve desired results in checking the inflow of untreated industrial effluents and sewage into the river due to lack of coordination among the local bodies in its implementation. The liberal allocation of the river water to heavy industries by the govt has also become a bane.

Maharashtra On the other hand NGT on Nov 4 has sent notices to the MERI director and the Trimbakeshwar Municipal Council chief officer, asking them to comply with the orders it had passed on Aug 17, 2015 in connection with the Godavari river pollution in the temple town.

At the same time a UN study also finds that discharge of untreated and partially treated sewage from cities is one of the principal reasons behind Godavari river failing to meet Indian water quality criteria. The sources of water pollution include domestic sewage, industrial effluent, and agricultural non-point sources. More than 441 towns, 58,072 settlements and 33 cities are located in the basin area.

In Andhra Pradesh (situated in the lower Godavari basin), there are many sugar and distillery units, pulp and paper and fertiliser companies. The report quoted the Indian Central Pollution Control Board to say: “These industries are likely to be massive water consumers and contributors to the deterioration in water quality in the river particularly from Nashik to Nanded in Maharashtra and at Bastar in Chhattisgarh and Burgampahad in Andhra Pradesh.”

Pollution due to the runoff of chemical fertilisers is also likely to be a problem. The average annual use of chemical fertilisers in the basin area is 49.34 kg per hectare, which is more than twice the national average. The total consumption of pesticides is 21,586 tonnes per year.

Following their study, the UNEP researchers said that the water quality index used for rivers all over India is based on concentrations and does not account for the adequacy of river flow for diluting wastes and supporting the aquatic ecosystem. It would be useful, therefore, to introduce minimum “environmental flows” as an additional benchmark for tracking the health of the Godavari. The researcher found the Godavari particularly polluted along Nashik. They recommended a detailed pollution inventory and water quality control measures.

MP Tardy pace of building ATP polluting Khan river Construction of Affluent Water Treatment Plant (ATP) at Sanwer road industrial area, an ambitious project with aim of helping in purification of Kshipra River, is running at a tardy pace. One part of the project is only 50% complete, while laying down of pipeline network for affluent water has not been rolled out yet. IMC had awarded the contract to a Delhi-based company in 2014 to build ATP plant and laying down of 27 km long network of pipelines from industries to the plant. The contract was given for Rs 14.5 crore. The project had to be completed by March 2016, well before onset of Simhastha.

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Kerala Blame game continues over Periyar river pollution The environmental activists have claimed that the effluents from the industries are being discharged into the river causing the change of course of the river, change in colour of the water and death of fishes. On the other hand, the trade unions refuse to believe that the river is polluted and even if it is, they do not think the industries are responsible for it. State PCB has been changing its stand on sources of pollution. Meanwhile a team of CPCB members had carried out the first phase of inspections in the river between Oct 18 to 22 on the direction of NGT and the second phase will start from 07 to 10 Nov.

Karnataka Reservoirs getting ready for Yettinahole water The barren Hesarghatta reservoir may get a fresh lease of life. The State govt hopes that the reservoir can hold water from the Yettinahole diversion project. Of the 24.01 tmcft of water that the govt believes will come from the Rs. 13000-crore project, around 2.5 tmcft will be stored in the Hesarghatta and T.G. Halli reservoirs, which are fed by the Arkavati. With the project expected to be completed in two years, Bengaluru Development Minister K.J. George and M. Veerappa Moily, MP, visited Hesarghatta lake on Nov 03 to provide impetus to efforts to rejuvenate the lakes. Pumping of water from Hesarghatta was stopped in 1996 and from T.G. Halli in 2013 after the water was deemed too polluted for consumption. 

Also see,  Tadri port under scanner The largest port project is floundering as it is based on faulty impact assessment, legal violations, data disparities and procedural lapses. Aghanashini or Tadri River is one of the last free flowing rivers in India, it has a very high ecological, social and economic value, linked to its health right from its headwaters to its estuary. Very sad to see that the Tadri Port, based on faulty EIA and related studies is poised to affect this delicate balance.

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GANGA Bihar Ganga water is unsafe for bath In Patna the presence of bacteria & coliform in the Ganga water is much higher than the permissible level owing to discharge of untreated sewage into the river. State level environment impact assessment authority (SEIAA) chairman R C Sinha also said  only around 18-22% of sewage water generated in Patna gets treated before being discharged into the Ganga. According to recent estimates, Patna generates 290MLD waste water. However, the present capacity of the four existing STPs at Beur, Pahari, Karmalichak and Saidpur is mere 109 MLD.

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YAMUNA Delhi 200-cr-riverfront-plan: But where is the water It is well known that the Yamuna in Delhi does not have water for nine to 10 months in a year. For all practical purposes, the river ceases to exist beyond Wazirabad. What flows subsequently for about 20 km is only sewage and waste. The city has already spent more than Rs 1500 cr but the plans have came to naught because they relied on STPs to clean up the water flowing into the river and ignored that a large part of the city was not connected to the sewerage network. The Delhi govt also has not factored in another kind of pollution industrial effluents. According to the CPCB more than 200MLD of industrial water flow into the river everyday.  There have been numerous deliberations on the basic minimum flow of the river, but upstream states, Haryana, Himachal & Uttarakhand, have been extremely parsimonious about releasing water. Delhi itself is complicit for the Yamuna’s sorry state.

UP NGT issues notice on illegal construction in Virndavan The Green Tribunal on Nov 02 issued notices to MoEF, UP Govt, UP Irrigation department, state Jal Nigam, the Archaeological Survey of India, the Mathura Vrindavan Development Authority and local bodies of Mathura district on a petition filed by a green activist objecting to the river front development and beautification project on the flood plains along the heritage ghats in Vrindavan. The petition states how the agencies, instead of complying with the earlier orders of the Tribunal (of demolishing illegal structures on the flood plain), went ahead and brazenly flouted the directions. 

DAMS 

Kerala Centre keeps Siruvani dam plan in abeyance The central govt has conveyed to the Tamil Nadu govt to keep the recommendations by expert appraisal committee in abeyance till the references filed in the SC against the order of Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal are settled or till Kerala gets a positive consent for the ensuing project from the Tamil Nadu govt where CM J Jayalalithaa has taken up this issue time and again with the Centre since 2012. Tamil Nadu opposes the project saying that it would lead to depletion of water level in the east-flowing Bhavani and create drinking water scarcity in Coimbatore, Tirupur, and Erode. The decision has come as a shock to the pro-dam lobby, involving local politicians and top officials of the Irrigation Department. The project is facing resistance from even residents of Attappady owing to the huge costs involved and ecological concerns. Several tribals people displaced around 1970s for the dam project are still waiting for proper rehabilitation and compensation. Green activists say the project would result in destruction of large swathes of forestland apart from eviction of over 300 tribal families from the Vengakadavu, Mundukulam & Kottamala settlements. Though the State govt says it would earmark Rs.400 crore for the project, the actual cost is expected to exceed Rs.1,400 crore.

Telangana Hurdles halt progress of dam works Having got stranded midway several times, the progress of Mid Manair Project (MMD) works is an awful situation. The dam, which can store 25.87 tmcft, is now also billed as a vital component of the upcoming Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project (KLIP) in diverting waters to Medak and Hyderabad. Since the project was initiated across Manair river near Manuwada village under Jalayagnam programme in 2006, it is estimated that barely 45% of the works have been completed so far.

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Maharashtra Govt to start stalled Gargai dam construction After a prolonged delay, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) aims to start the construction of the Gargi dam in the next two years. BMC has received a biodiversity study report on the Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary’s 750 hectares of land, the project’s proposed construction site. The report said forest owlet, an endangered species, is threatened due to the project. However, the BMC has not got the conservation measures they should take for such endangered species. Only after the remedial measures are suggested, the project can be forwarded to the central and state govts for approvals. While the project is yet to get central ministry’s forest department’s nod, a consultant was appointed to carry out a study of the biodiversity on the Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary to seek their approval. For the work on the Gargai project to start, the authorities need to rehabilitate at least 200 families from Wada in Palghar district. The estimated cost of the project is Rs1,900 crore and set an ambitious target to complete in five years. Meanwhile, the civic body is also in the process of appointing a consultant to prepare a DPR for the implementation of the project.

INTER-STATE WATER DISPUTES 

Mahanadi Row Odisha gears up for legal fight over Mahanadi The state govt is in touch with some top lawyers in the country to pursue its case either at the Supreme Court or at the NGT on the Mahanadi water sharing dispute with Chhattisgarh. Sources said the state govt is likely to file a civil suit in the Supreme Court regarding the Mahanadi dispute. To make Odisha’s case stronger, the state water resources department has requested different agencies to furnish historical data and maps regarding crucial projects on the Mahanadi basin like the Hirakud multi-purpose project. It has also sought information regarding the ongoing barrages and projects being undertaken on the Mahanadi basin by the Chhattisgarh govt. Experts suggest that the Mahanadi’s water is important for both the farmers and industries of Odisha and Chhattisgarh & instead of squabbling over it, the states need to come up with a plan to use the water judiciously.

INTER-LINKING OF RIVERS 

Op-Ed India’s river battles by Himanshu Thakkar  The river-linking fundamentalism of the current Union govt has recently led to the wildlife clearance recommended for the Ken-Betwa River Link project, by the Steering Committee of the National Board of Wildlife, chaired by Environment Minister. This clearance will lead to the destruction of the Panna Tiger Reserve, the habitat of tigers, vultures and other wildlife, the Ken river and its catchment, the Ken Ghariyal Sanctuary downstream and large parts of Bundelkhand itself. The project does not even have a proper Environment or Social Impact Assessment, nor the landscape management plan that was supposed to be part of the Environment Management Plan. 

IWP Report Should wildlife suffer for water? The essence of a river is its ebb and flow. Taming free-flowing rivers by building massive dams poses a threat to the rivers, the ecology and the communities that live by them. Both the environmental and forest clearance of the project are due and they are likely to be pushed by the ministry of water resources without any exhaustive assessment. Turnarounds now are unlikely and Panna has little hope.  

HYDRO POWER 

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Himachal Desperate govt finds no takers for hydro projects Despite offering several concessions in the Hydropower Policy to woo investors, the state has again got a poor response to 37 projects, advertised for the fourth time, as only six power companies have applied for 11 projects. There were still no takers for 24 projects, for which not even a single bid had been received. With Oct 31 being the last date for sending in bids for these projects, technical bids were opened on Nov 2. The deadline for these 37 projects this time was extended five times to allow more investors to send in their bids. Out of the 37 projects, 11 power projects are located in the Chenab basin, seven in the Ravi basin in Chamba district and 11 in the tribal Kinnaur district, where the locals are vehemently opposed to more hydropower projects. On the other hand, according to MeT officials hydro-power generation in state has been affected with sources of major rivers starting to freeze as cold wave conditions intensify in high-altitude areas of the state. Natural sources of water like lakes, springs, rivulets and tributaries of major rivers have started freezing. Hydro power generation has come down by 50% with reduced discharge of water from snow-fed the Sutlej, Beas and Ravi rivers. MeT sources say the monsoon ended with a 26% deficit while the deficit from Oct 1 to Nov 4 was 88%.

Kerala Thampy award for V K Geetha V K Geetha, a 30-year-old environmental activist, will be presented the 19th PV Thampy Memorial Endowment Award for Environmental Protection in remembrance of journalist P V Thampy. She is fighting against the Athirappilly hydroelectric project that will endanger the forest along with displacing the settlements in Vazhachal & Pokalappara. 

IRRIGATION 

Op-Ed Govt should not blindly promote micro irrigation by J Harsha Water in India has now become a contentious issue due to rise in demand, climate change and growing mismanagement. With erratic rainfall and recurring droughts in 2012, 2015 and 2016, “water saving” has become a high priority for the govts. A bubble of widespread optimism has been created regarding micro-irrigation in India that will eventually burst. Micro-irrig-ation is a complex system of electro-mecha-nical components that is energy-dependent without which the system does not work. Indeed micro irrigation cannot be seen as solution to groundwater crisis and the massive state subsidy could at best help big farmers and at worst fill the coffers of equipment suppliers.

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Punjab Relining of canals in limbo Non-release of funds for Centre-approved project for the relining of “severely damaged” more than 140-km parallel running Rajasthan Feeder and Sirhind Feeder canals has led to reduced water flow, acute seepage and waterlogging at several places along the entire length. Sources said the Centre had approved the project of relining of the canals which had “outlived their lives” at an estimated cost of Rs 1,440 crore. After working out design in consultation with the IIT, Chennai, a revised estimate of Rs 2,125 crore was sent in 2014. 

Maharashtra Irrigation could quell the Maratha unrest Protective irrigation through watershed development seems to be the only response to instill confidence among the poor Marathas. At the same time given the huge untapped potential to recharge the groundwater through scientific watershed-based development that doesn’t require time-consuming construction of big reservoirs is thus the low-hanging fruit for the Fadanvis govt. Jalyukt Shivar programme has started showing results. But it has also been criticized by experts. The main criticism is that it is contractor-oriented at the cost of losing its scientific focus. Insightful report, indeed, protective irrigation through watershed development could be answer to silent marches by Marathas which are now being seen more as a manifestation of agrarian distress. 

Tamil Nadu Farmers seek treated sewage to irrigate farm lands The treated sewage that the Coimbatore Corporation lets out from its Ukkadam sewage treatment plant may soon irrigate agriculture fields, if the civic body were to act on a farmers’ representation. The farmers, who are water users under the Parambikulam-Aliyar Irrigation Scheme, appealed to the civic body to share the treated water from the plant to irrigate their fields in the area. They have also sought treated water from other treatment plants as and when they turned operational.

Centre PM launched solar irrigation scheme PM Narendra Modi has launched Saur Sujala Yojana that aims to install 51,000 solar pumps for irrigation in the state during his one-day visit to Chhattisgarh on Nov 1.

SAND MINING 

Center Drones to track mining sector activity The Union mines ministry has asked state govts and several public sector units (PSUs) to consider using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly referred to as ‘drones’, in areas of mining sector such as exploration, tracking vehicle movements, land boundary fixation and mapping forest area. The ministry has specifically asked the states and IBM to curb illegal mining by using thermal cameras on drones, which will help in tracking the night time activities in the mining area. The ministry has also asked the PSUs and states to do “lease (land) boundary fixation using the on-board GPS (Global Positioning System) of drones.” 

Tamil Nadu HC orders issue of notices to authorities The Madras High Court has ordered issue of notices to the Tamil Nadu govt and to the Secretary, MoEF on a PIL seeking a direction to stop quarrying of sand from any of the rivers in the state and also to initiate prosecution against PWD officials. The court gave the direction recently on a PIL by P Ettikan against river sand mining carried out by PWD engineers violating rules. He submitted that the officials were carrying out the sand mining in the rivers by using machinery while clearances were given by state level EIA Authority only for manual mining. The bench posted the matter for further hearing to Dec 13.

Punjab Mining dept GM caught taking Rs 1.5-lakh bribe The flying squad of Vigilance Bureau on Oct 26 arrested the GM of Mining Department, Hoshiarpur, Subhash Chander, for allegedly taking a bribe of Rs 1.5 lakh from the owner of a stone crusher there.The owner of Harji Stone Crusher Harpreet Singh had complained that the GM was extorting a hefty amount from him every month for allowing him to operate. Other stone crusher owners too had lodged a complaint against him.

Maharashtra Miners block Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway  According to the protesters, the past 3 weeks saw increased action against the illegal activity even as they contend that they had “shared“ the illegal revenue with the police and revenue department officials. In Oct, Palghar police had raided illegal sand dredging units and seized around 35 trucks loaded with sand worth over Rs 1.5 crore.  In a tit-for-tat gesture after a raid on Oct 13 netted several villagers on charges of sand mining, the sand mafia released a “bribe rate card“ which immediately went viral exposing the nexus. The sand smugglers also threatened to release the names of police and revenue department officials who had accepted bribes from them.

WETLANDS & WATER BODIES

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Centre MoEF sets up Loktak Lake conservation team The Environment Ministry has constituted a four-member team for conservation and management of Loktak Lake in Manipur.  The team will visit Loktak Lake from Nov 7 to 9 and hold discussions with the State govt, its concerned agencies and other stakeholders.  The consultations will also include people living in the vicinity of the lake. The Ministry has asked the team to submit a report by Nov 15, 2016. 

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Maharashtra NGO to file petition against wetland destruction by Navy New Link Road Residents’ Forum will file a petition in the Bombay high court alleging wetland reclamation in violation of high court rules by the Indian Navy Station Hamla, at Malad (West). Malad residents & city-based NGO have alleged that the station is reclaiming a pond located within wetlands near Marve village.  Residents said a dumper truck and an excavator machine were seen dumping debris in the pond.  

GROUND WATER 

Op-Ed Growing water shortage India accounts for about 17% of the world’s population but has only 4% of the world’s fresh water resources. At 1,544 cubic metre per capita annual availability, India is already water stressed country and rapidly moving towards becoming water scarce. At present, irrigation consumes about 84% of India’s total available water with industrial and domestic sectors consuming a mere 12% and 4% respectively. Ground water today accounts for a whopping 62.4% of net irrigation needs, 85% of rural drinking water needs and 50% of urban water needs. This over dependence on ground water has resulted in a radical decline of the ground water table. The Central Ground Water Board has categorised 62.2% of the total assessment units – 6,600 blocks, mandals and taluks – as over exploited. The report suggests measures  to protect & recharge water sources. 

WATER

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Book Review टॉयलेट के फ़्लश में कितना पानी बहा देते हैं? आने वाले दिनों में पानी समस्या कितनी विकराल होने वाली है, इसका केवल अंदाजा भर लगाया जा सकता है. पिछले कुछ सालों में हमारी सरकारों का उद्देश्य खुले में मल त्याग रोकने के लिए शौचालय बनाने की तरफ़ ज़्यादा दिखा है. स्वच्छ भारत मिशन के तहत गांवों-कस्बों में लाखों की संख्या में टॉयलेट बनाए जा रहे हैं, इन टॉयलेटों के इस्तेमाल से साफ़ पानी के मैला पानी में बदलने और उसके चलते जल स्रोतों में होने वाले प्रदूषण की ओर किसी का ध्यान नहीं है.  भारत के तमाम बड़े महानगर, जो अंधाधुंध विकास का ढिंढोरा पीटने में मगन हैं, वे ख़ुद का गंदा किया पानी साफ़ नहीं कर सकते. शौचालयों के इस्तेमाल से निकले मैले पानी को खाद के तौर पर इस्तेमाल किया जा सकता है. 

MP Ujjain Water Supply, Sanitation  Analysis Report Despite all the hype around Swachh Bharat Mission, the situation on the ground remains abysmal. Here is a study on the water supply and sanitation situation in the holy city of Ujjain that exposes the hypocrisy and incompetence that besets the water managment sector in this country both in the govt and outside. Study by Rahul Banerjee about water supply n sanitation situation in Ujjain. 

Himachal HC directs govt to file status report on water shortage in Shimla The High Court on Nov 1 has directed the state govt to file a status report on the shortage of drinking water supply in Shimla. The court has taken up suo motu on the basis of news items published in various news papers regarding supply of contaminated water in the Shimla city. The news reports even suggested that sewage had mixed with water being supplied to the residents, which had created an epidemic like situation in the city. The Court directed the authorities to file fresh status report within 2 weeks. The matter was posted for fresh hearing on Nov 21.

Haryana Gurugram Sector 23-A faces severe water crisis The residents of Gurugram Sector 23 A have been facing a severe water crisis and lack of various civic amenities for several days now. They have accused the Harayana Urban Development Authority and the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram of not addressing the problems and shifting blame. 

Tamil Nadu Water woes plague residents of Ketti Residents of Manthada Puduline in Ketti collect water from broken pipes and tanks far away from their homes, as the lack of rainfall in the district had dried up a stream that was their main water source. There are more than 75 families residing in the small settlement and they were tapping water from a stream on the upper slopes of the village. The residents alleged that hostility between two sides of the village has led to one section of the residents blocking the flow of water to the other side of the settlement.

Centre International seminar on water resource management Central Water & Power Research Station will host an international seminar on integrated water resource management on November 7 and 8. The seminar is being organized under the aegis of the World Bank-assisted National Hydrology project, in partnership with the Indian Society for Hydraulics. The two-day seminar will be followed by a field visit to Khadakwasla Dam, and the instrument testing and calibration facilities at CWPRS near the dam, on Nov 9. 

WATER OPTIONS 

Maharashtra 6883 villages to be made water neutral in 2016-17 According to statistics on Oct 2016, jalyukta shivar works in second phase (2016-17) across 5,281 villages planned 51,701 projects. 35,238 works have been completed. Total expenditure so far Rs 351.28 crore. Public participation in second phase resulted in 1,886 de-silting work undertaken by villagers whose contribution was Rs 113 crore. The first phase across 6,202 villages (2015-16) saw completion of 2,22,531 works. Public participation was seen in 6,183 de-silting works and the contribution was Rs 401 crore. The total expenditure incurred on jalyukta shivar projects was Rs 3326.57 crore. The water storage created was 42 TMC. Good news, works under Jal Yukta Shivar seems helping ground water table to rise. One wishes only, if Maha Govt could stop unscientific deepening and widening of river channels and involve more people rather than outsourcing the work to contractors. 

AGRICULTURE 

Report Green revolution wasn’t quite what it’s made out to be Narratives that present the Green Revolution as necessary and successful ignore the context that it was brought around in and the fact that it did not lead to a food-secure India. Majority of Indians were not consumers of wheat in the decades prior to and following independence. Second, much of the wheat grown in the country was exported to Britain and Europe under colonial rule as raw material for cheap bread. In fact, there was an excess production of wheat in the late 1920s and with the crash of purchasing power due to the worldwide Great Depression in 1929, wheat exporting nations, including India, participated in a series of urgent meetings to figure out how to dispose of the surplus and work towards reducing production! Given this background, it is obvious that there wasn’t enough ‘wheat’ to feed 500 million people – it was never supposed to be the only thing that Indians ate. In fact, most statistics of the time did not even capture large portions of the diets of coastal Indians who ate fish and rural Indians, especially tribal groups, who relied on forest produce, not to mention oilseeds, pulses, meat, milk and the like, apart from cereals. 

Op-Ed The crisis of farmer politics by Himanshu The opening up of the economy coincided with declining fortunes in agriculture, with the 1997-2003 period being acknowledged as the worst since the green revolution. But what has also changed is the nature of farming itself. One important change has been in the cropping pattern with the rise of commercial crops and horticulture, which are less dependent on state support than rice and wheat. While the politics around MSP for rice and wheat continues, horticulture crops as well as commercial crops are more dependent on market conditions than state support. Unfortunately, it has also led to a situation where dominant farming communities from regions that were known for strong farmer movements are now on the streets demanding reservation but no longer seem interested in seeking better incomes and state support for farming.

Centre NITI Aayog ranks Maharashtra most farmer-friendly state Its first-ever index on reforms in the farm sector was issued on Oct 31. UP, Punjab, W-Bengal, Assam, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu performed poorly, not even reaching the halfway mark of 50. Maharashtra got 81.7 and Gujarat was second at 71.5, Puducherry, Delhi and Jammu & Kashmir got the lowest three grades, of 4.8, 7.3 and 7.4, respectively. MP was ranked fourth, followed by Haryana, Himachal, Andhra, Karnataka, Telangana, Goa and Chhattisgarh. 3 states and four Union Territories including Bihar and Kerala did not figure in the list, as these do not have any Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Act. The index is aimed at helping states identify and address problems in the farm sector, which suffers from low growth, low incomes and agrarian distress.

Text of PMs speech at International Agro Biodiversity Congress 2016 Notable excerpts from the text 

  • विकास की अंधाधुंध दौड़ में प्रकृति का जितना शोषण इंसान ने किया, उतना किसी ने नहीं किया और अगर कहें कि सबसे ज्यादा नुकसान पिछली कुछ शताब्दियों में हुआ है तो गलत नहीं होगा। 
  • प्रकृति के साथ तालमेल बिठाने में संस्कृति की बहुत अहमियत है। हमें ये नहीं भूलना चाहिए कि AGRICULTURE में ही CULTURE भी जुड़ा हुआ है। 
  • 1992 में बायोलॉजिकल डाइवर्सिटी कन्वेन्शन के प्रस्तावों को स्वीकार किए जाने के बावजूद आज भी हर रोज 50 से 150 SPECIES खत्म हो रही हैं। आने वाले सालों में आठ में से एक पक्षी और एक चौथाई जानवरों के भी विलुप्त होने का खतरा है। 
  • भारत में चावल की एक लाख से भी ज्यादा LAND RACES हैं और इनमें से ज्यादातर सैकड़ों साल पुरानी हैं। पीढ़ी दर पीढ़ी हमारे किसान इन को सहेज कर रखते गए और उसका विकास करते रहे। 
  • हमें अलर्ट रहना होगा कि एग्रीकल्चर में अपनाई जा रही टेक्नॉलॉजी से किस प्रकार से बदलाव रहा है। एक उदाहरण है HONEY BEE का। तीन साल पहले HONEY BEE TIME मैगजीन के कवर पेज पर थी। बताया गया कि फसलों को कीड़ों से बचाने के लिए जो पेस्टिसाइड इस्तेमाल किया जा रहा है, उससे मधुमक्खी अपने छत्ते तक पहुंचने का रास्ता भूल जाती है। एक छोटी सी चीज ने मधुमक्खी पर अस्तित्व का संकट ला दिया। पॉलीनेशन में मधुमक्खी की भूमिका हम सभी को पता है। इसका रिजल्ट ये हुआ कि फसलों का उत्पादन भी गिरने लगा। 
  • एग्रीकल्चर इकोसिस्टम में पेस्टिसाइड बड़ी चिंता का विषय हैं। इसके उपयोग से फसल को नुकसान पहुंचाने वाले कीड़ों के साथ ही वो INSECTS भी मर जाते हैं जो पूरे इकोसिस्टम के लिए जरूरी हैं। इसलिए AUDIT OF DEVELOPMENT OF SCIENCE भी आवश्यक है। AUDIT ना होने से दुनिया इस वक्त कई चुनौतियों से जूझ रही है। 
  • वर्तमान जरूरतों के हिसाब से VALUE ADDITION किए जाने की आवश्यकता है। लेकिन यहां एक बारीक लाइन भी है। वैल्यू एडीशन का मतलब प्रजातियों से छेड़छाड़ नहीं है। 
  • प्रकृति की सामान्य प्रक्रिया में दखल देकर ही मानव ने क्लाइमेंट चेंज जैसी समस्या खड़ी कर ली है। तापमान में बढोतरी की वजह से पौधों और जीवजंतुओं के जीवनचक्र में बदलाव रहा है। एक अनुमान के मुताबिक क्लाइमेट चेंज की वजह से 2050 तक कुल वन्य प्रजातियों का 16 प्रतिशत तक विलुप्त हो सकता है। 

Also see, Need to study flipside of scientific growth PM Narendra Modi appealed to the scientific community on Nov 6 to conduct an audit of development of science so that its negative impact, if any, could be known. He also urged people to be aware of changes in the field of agriculture technology. He said this in the context of use of pesticides in agriculture and even cited an example from a report which talked about how it affected existence of honeybees and also agricultural productivity in certain areas. Addressing a gathering Modi said that the use of pesticides was a major concern as it killed even those insects which were useful for the entire agriculture ecosystem. Highlighting the importance of research in agro-biodiversity in ensuring global food, nutrition and health security, the PM said best practices in agriculture needed to be noted and curated so that natural resources were preserved for future generations. Expressing concern over the extinction of some plant and animal species, he said global laws on conservation of agro-biodiversity should be harmonized in a way that they do not hamper the growth of the agriculture sector in developing nations. He also cautioned against ignoring sustainable development and conservation of biodiversity while finding solutions to poverty, malnutrition and hunger through science and technology.

MONSOON 2016

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IMD Monsoon 2016 ends with 3% less than normal rains Third time in 10 years when the Met office predictions have gone wrong. Till date, India has received 862 mm of rainfall during the 2016 southwest monsoon season, against a normal of 887.5 mm. East, comprising of states such as W-Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Odisha, and the Northeast, received 1,281.5 mm from June 1 to Sep 30, 11% less than the normal for the period at 1,438.5 mm. Central India received the maximum at 6% above normal rains. The region got 1,034.1 mm of rainfall against a seasonal normal of 975.5 mm. North-West India, comprising of the grain bowls of Punjab, Haryana, UP &  Rajasthan, got around 584.2 mm, 5% below the normal of 615 mm. South received around 661.5 mm of rainfall which was 8% below the normal of 716.1 mm. 

ENERGY OPTIONS 

National India’s rooftop solar capacity doubles in a year India’s rooftop solar programme have added 513 MW of fresh capacity in the past 12 months, or more than what it had a year ago. Of the 513 MW capacity added in the past year through Sep, 280 MW of projects were set up in the last six months, according to the India Solar Rooftop Map released by solar consultancy, Bridge to India. India now has total rooftop solar capacity of over 1,020 MW 377 MW by the industrial sector, 263 MW by the commercial sector, 121 MW by govt buildings and the remaining 260 MW on residential buildings.

Report Green power installations beat fossil fuel for first time According the International Energy Agency, global green power rose by a record 153 Gw, equivalent to 55% of newly installed capacity last year. Total installed capacity exceeded coal for the first time. Renewables will be the world’s fastest-growing source of electricity over the next five years, according to the report. The IEA raised its estimate of the amount of green energy on power grids by 13%, revising its forecast to 42% by 2021. About 500,000 solar panels were installed each day across the globe in 2015, according to the report. 

SOUTH ASIA 

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Bhutan The future of hydropower There has been increasing criticism of the hydropower industry in Bhutan. Recently an Indian think tank, the Vasudha Foundation, came out with a blistering report focussing on the financial, ecological and other problems of the sector in the country. This has resulted in greater public discussion and debate. In this interesting interview, the managing director of Druk Green Power Corporation, Chhewang Rinzin, reveals several informative facts regarding hydro projects in Bhutan.

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Bangladesh Ganges barrage project on way to implementation: Indian diplomat Leaders of Rajshahi Rakhsha Sangram Parishad have handed over a memorandum to the Assistant Indian High Commissioner of Rajshahi demanding a speedy implementation of the Ganges Barrage Project (GBP). Their memorandum further hoped, the sharing of Ganges water in accordance with the water sharing treaty with India and Bangladesh should be ensured. In connection with the GBP implementation, the memorandum mentioned, Bangladesh Water memorandum demanded to complete the works of GBP within the time specified. Based on GBP, hydro-power projects will also be implemented. Assistant Indian High Commissioner Abhijit Chattopadhyay said the proposed GBP is on the way of implementation.

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Nepal keen to develop water connectivity with India Nepal on Nov 2 expressed its keenness to develop water connectivity with India through Kosi and Ganga rivers which will connect the Himalayan nation with ports in W-Bengal. Kosi development project (KDP) has been pending for over 60 years because of land issues and displacement of people from building dams. The connectivity project now being brought up by Nepal’s Vice President can see the light of the day only when dams are built on the river and KDP is started. India Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar has said the DPR of Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project, which is worth over Rs 30000 cr for producing 5000 Mw of electricity is likely to come up this month. The project is on 20% equity and 80% loan with India and Nepal sharing the 20% equity on equal basis. India has an open border of 1850 km with Nepal spreading across 5 states Uttarakhand, UP, Bihar, W-Bengal & Sikkim.

Nepal Glacial lake drained Great to see that army members have successfully averted a possible disaster by draining a glacial lake near Mt Everest after efforts since April 2016. 

CHINA 

India, China troops in stand-off at Ladakh over irrigation canal Chinese and Indian troops are locked in a stand-off at the icy heights of Ladakh division since Nov 2 after People’s Liberation Army (PLA) personnel entered an area where an irrigation canal was being built under the MNREGA scheme and stopped the civilian work. The incident took place on Nov 3 afternoon in Demchok sector, located 250 km east of Leh, where the work for linking a village with ‘Hot spring’ was being undertaken under MNREGA. The area had witnessed a similar incident in 2014 after it was decided to construct a small irrigation canal at Nilung Nalla under the MNREGA scheme that had been a sore point with the Chinese. According to latest report, the face-off ended on Nov 4 night after an irrigation project, to which the Chinese had objected to, was completed. The stand-off ended hours before National Security Adviser Ajit Doval met his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi in Hyderabad to discuss measures to improve bilateral ties.

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China’s largest freshwater lake dries up due to drought Much of the Poyang Lake, which is about three times the size of Greater London, has disappeared after the northern part of China’s Jiangxi Province had suffered from a shortage of rainfall since mid-Sep. According to the Xingzi Hydrological Station, the water level of Poyang declined to 10.6 metres on Nov 3. Officials linked the decrease of the water levels in the Yangtze River, to reduced rainfall and human activities. Jiangxi Hydrology Bureau say that the low-water period of Poyang Lake has become longer since 1952.  Furthermore, the fishing season was shortened by two months this year as water started receding in September. 

REST OF THE WORLD 

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International Rivers A rallying cry in the global battle for Rivers The epic battle at Standing Rock is North America’s largest-ever gathering of native peoples. Indigenous leaders and activists have converged to defend their lands from a proposed oil pipeline. The mobilization has galvanized an international movement, and brought allies to the cause from throughout the Americas, and indeed the world.

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Study Hydropower generates surprising amount of GHGs Many countries consider hydroelectricity a clean source of power because it doesn’t involve burning dirty fossil fuels. But that’s far from true. Hydropower is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions: a new study shows that the world’s hydroelectric dams are responsible for as much methane emissions as Canada. The research, which examines 100 recent studies on greenhouse gas emissions from 267 large reservoirs around the world, also calls into question the wisdom of building more hydroelectric dams as countries try to nix their dependence on coal, natural gas and oil. An estimated 3,700 new dams are proposed or under construction around the globe, the study reports. It suggests the hydropower industry will need to control its emissions.  

UN Report Garbage and sewage are choking rivers in Asia, Africa and Latin America Water pollution has risen across three continents, placing hundreds of millions of people at risk of life-threatening diseases like cholera and typhoid, warned the United Nations Environment Programme. The worrying rise in the pollution of surface waters also threatens to damage vital sources of food and harm the continents’ economies, according to UNEP’s recently published Snapshot of the World’s Water Quality. In some countries, more than 90% of the population relies on surface waters as their source of drinking water. These polluted waters – which are also used to prepare food, to irrigate crops and for recreation – pose a major threat to human health. About 3.4 million people die each year from diseases associated with pathogens in water, like cholera, typhoid, infectious hepatitis, polio, cryptosporidiosis, ascariasis and diarrhoeal diseases. Many of these diseases are due to the presence of human waste in water.  UNEP estimates that up to up to 134 million people in Asia, up to 164 million in Africa and up to 25 million people in Latin America are at risk of infection from these diseases.

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Armenia Govt shuts down small hydropower plants A decree from Armenian PM Karen Karapetyan will force small hydropower project owners to shut down plants that have been deemed environmentally hazardous, per recommendations made to the country’s National Assembly. Armenia saw a boom in the construction of small hydro facilities in the early 2000s however many were built without proper environmental safeguards and approvals. The minister also recommended tariff rates for hydro projects 20 years or older be reevaluated to “mitigate the environmental problems”, while the govt might also consider “new water use permits for the construction of new hydropower plants in the Akhurian, Dzoraget-Debed, Azat, Arpa and Vorotan river basins.” 

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Brazil Dam burst like ‘end of the world’ 12 months from the deadly accident at an iron ore mine in Minas Gerais state, the Samarco company and its giant owners BHP-Billiton and Vale say they are putting the pieces back together. Yet the way of life Pascual has known all his 76 years in the village of Paracatu de Baixo shattered beyond repair that day. On 1st anniversary of Brazil Mining Dam Disaster (05 Nov 2015), here is a moving account of a survivor of one of the worst ever dam failure incidents in recent time and how the avoidable disaster has impacted the lives of affected lot for forever which no amount of compensation can undo. 

Tajakistan Govt starts building world’s tallest dam for hydro plant Tajikistan has diverted the flow of Vakhsh a major river to start building the 335-metre world’s tallest dam and the main element of the Rogun hydroelectric power plant. Italy’s Salini Impregilo this year won a $3.9 billion contract. Uzbekistan, another former Soviet republic and Central Asia’s most populous nation of 30 million, has repeatedly urged Tajikistan not to build Rogun. In order to power the hydro plants, Tajikistan needs to accumulate water during the summer — when it is needed downstream for irrigation — and then release it in the winter, causing spring floods downstream.

Ghana River pollution the most threatening environmental problems Poor sanitation and river body pollution are the most threatening environmental problems in the Ghanaian society, a new study has found. Other environmental problems reported to significantly affect the lives of the Ghanaian people include climate change, floods, bush fire, extreme drought, air and noise pollution. Poor spatial planning, the use of dangerous pesticides and herbicides, and loss of common and native biological species were also reported by the study as being environmental problems of public concern. The study recommends the decentralization of environmental policies and programs to the regional and district levels to be the most effective way to address these environmental problems.

CLIMATE CHANGE 

India Paris climate agreement comes into force  The “Paris Climate Agreement”, comes into force on 4th Nov 2016.  India ratified the Paris Agreement on 2nd Oct 2016. Till date, 94 Parties have ratified it, of the 197 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Paris Agreement requires all Parties to put forward their best efforts through “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) and to strengthen these efforts in the years ahead. This includes requirements that all Parties report regularly on their emissions and on their implementation efforts. On the other hand, CWC continues to make ambiguous statements on climate change Addressing issues on climate change and whether a change was observed in the pattern of rainfall, GS Jha, chairman of CWC on Nov 3 said the phenomenon could not be established conclusively since every place has dry and wet cycles and sometimes continuous spells of rains. Talking about the Krishna water row, he refused to elaborate on issues, including on the Brijesh Kumar Tribunal. He said that a study was conducted on 500 Himalayan glaciers over 50 hectares which found that some had expanded by 10 to 20% while some had shrunk by 10 to 20%. Also see, Why India decided to go ahead faster

US Before the Flood Leonardo Di Caprio travels the world speaking to scientists and world leaders about the dramatic effects of climate change. Newest documentary from filmmaker Fisher Stevens on the climate situation/crisis watch it now, or by Nov 6.  

ENVIRONMENT

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Twilight catch: A lone fisherman tries his luck in a pond on the outskirts of Guwahati. Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar

Report Foreign species edge out Mutha’s native fish Biological invasion works to rob a biodiversity-rich region of its unique species, wildlife conservation experts said. The invasion of foreign fish species has drastically altered the population of native species in the Mutha river, and could even wipe out the native fish, they warn. However, the alarm that such a major issue should cause is not because of the lack of awareness. The invasive species also grow faster, and have a very wide feeding range of plants and aquatic life, making native fish a target too, he added. Native fish are unable to take to the increasing water pollution levels, while exotic (invasive) species are more tolerant to it. If not addressed, the native fish population will completely vanish. Also see, Saving inland fisherfolk In his late 30s, Nilesh Heda is a renowned expert on issues related to fishing communities and wetland ecology believes that sensitising local people about the river basin conservation is the need of the hour to sustain wetland ecosystem and fishermen’s livelihoods. True, inland fishermen are fast disappearing. With inshore fishing picking up pace in India, this community needs to be saved.

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Karnataka NGT stays steel flyover for four weeks In a setback to BDA, NGT gave an interim stay of four weeks for the steel flyover project, while hearing a petition by Citizen Action Forum and retired bureaucrat V. Balasubramanian, questioning the project. The bench posted the matter for further hearing on Nov 25. The petitioners have questioned the project on the grounds that BDA had gone ahead without obtaining necessary environmental clearances and conducting mandatory public consultations.

You may also like to see DRP News Bulletin 31 Oct 2016 & DRP News Bulletin 24 Oct 2016

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