India Rivers Week 2016: River health assessments highlighted during this year’s discourse
The second edition of India Rivers Week that took place from November 28- 30th 2016 witnessed a gathering of stalwarts in the field of river conservation, including activists, academicians and practitioners from across the country.
This year’s theme ‘State of India’s Rivers’ highlighted the importance of arriving at a comprehensive way of understanding and assessing the health of our rivers. Over the three days, experts in the field discussed the methodology of river health assessment and deliberated on state wise reports prepared, with the aim of arriving at a list of rivers graded blue for wild/pristine, pink for threatened and red for critical or destroyed. 290 rivers across the country were assessed out of which 205 figured in the red list indicating that 70% of our country’s rivers are in a critical state, warranting immediate action.
Shri. Kapil Mishra, Minister for Water, Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi, delivered the inaugural address calling for a joint initiative between all stakeholders to look at practical steps for river conservation and revival in our country.
“Rivers know just one religion – that is to flow” said Shri. Anupam Mishra, Chairman, Organizing Committee, India Rivers Week. Shri. Mishra called for the urgent need to work on small rivers which have so far not received adequate attention. Conservation and protection of small rivers makes ecological and economic sense added Shri. Mishra.
Former Union Minister and Member of Parliament Shri. Jairam Ramesh advocated the need for cumulative assessment of impacts of projects on rivers and the need to understand and develop standards on environmental flow and developing basin management plans. He decried current government’s attempts to push through the Ken-Betwa rivers link without adequate studies.
Shri Shashi Shekar Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources – River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation called for developing an alternate approach to man-made embankments. The restoration of wetlands and water bodies will be central to river revival in the country, added Mr. Shekhar. The Ministry is trying to put hydrological data online in public domain and will work towards greater data availability for use by citizens.
Mr. Ravi Singh Secretary General and CEO WWF India urged the stakeholders working in areas of river conservation to look at freshwater habitats and aquatic biodiversity as an important parameter to assess river health.
Mr. Himanshu Thakkar spoke of rivers being the report card of the catchment. He indicated that a single common definition of rivers is lacking in India. Outlining the objectives of the coalition, he stressed that the survival of mankind is linked to the survival of rivers.
This year, the Bhagirath Prayaas Samman (BPS) award, a medium to showcase inspirational initiatives on river rejuvenation and recognise unsung heroes, the first of its kind in the country, was conferred upon To Shri. Ritwick Dutta (Delhi), Dr. Dinesh Kumar Mishra (Bihar), Citizen’s Concern for Dams and Development (CCDD) (Manipur) and Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective (HP).
Furthering the work on developing the ‘State of India’s River Report, the list of river assessed and ranked will now be further refined and submitted to the Ministry of Water Resources to collectively arrive at a roadmap for conservation steps for selected rivers in each of the four (North, East, South and West) zones in the country. A Citizen’s report on the State of India’s Rivers is planned as an output from the Conference.
About India Rivers Week
A consortium of organizations comprising WWF-India, SANDRP, Toxics Link, INTACH and PEACE Institute under the guidance of Late Sri Ramaswamy Iyer, initiated the India Rivers Week (IRW) to deepen the discourse on rivers in our country. IRW is designed as an annual get-together of individuals, organisations and communities who have worked on river rejuvenation in different parts of the country.
For details contact –
Suresh Babu (WWF-India); 9818997999; firstname.lastname@example.org
Himanshu Thakkar (SANDRP); 9968242798; email@example.com
Manu Bhatnagar (INTACH); 9810036461; firstname.lastname@example.org
Ravi Agarwal (Toxics Link); 9810037355;email@example.com
Manoj Misra (PEACE Institute); 9910153601; firstname.lastname@example.org
NORTH EAST MONSOON 2016
Tamil Nadu HC wants tap closed on beverage plants The Madras High Court on Nov 21 restrained the State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu (SIPCOT) from supplying water from Tamirabarani River to Prathishta Business Solutions and South India Bottling Company, co-packers for PepsiCo and Coca Cola respectively, for manufacture of aerated drinks and packaged drinking water at their plants inside the SIPCOT Industrial Growth Centre at Gangaikondan village in Tirunelveli district. This move comes amid water scarcity in Tirunelveli and adjoining municipalities. Good to see this and one hopes the HC and higher judiciary sticks to this and also implements such decisions in all drought affected areas.
Karnatka BTPS faces severe shortage of water The 1700 Mw Ballari Thermal Power Station (BTPS), at Kuditini is facing a severe water crisis. The limited water impounded in the reservoir will last for the next 35 days to generate power from all 3 units. If only 2 units function the water will last for around 70 days and if only 1 unit is run then it will last for 135 days.
INTER-STATE WATER DISPUTES
Odisha Govt seek Center help end Hirakud dam dispute with Chhattisgarh The Hirakud multi-purpose project in the Mahanadi basin has been hanging fire for long and spoiling relations between the two states. Odisha politicians believe that the project would harm the interest of the farmers in their state. However, Chhattisgarh govt has maintained that the dam project would not affect the interests of the neighbouring state and also that the state of Chhattisgarh has been “utilising only its legitimate share” of water.
Telangana Govt to oppose Godavari board’s draft In the working manual draft, sent to Telangana and Andhra Pradesh recently, the Godavari River Management Board (GRMB) authorities are understood to have included half a dozen projects of Telangana against only one of A.P. in the list of projects it proposes to manage. The river board has given the two States a fortnight’s time for giving their opinion on the draft and is likely to take a final call on it before forwarding it to the Union Water Ministry for issuing a formal notification at its next meeting likely to be held in December.
Study Himalayan hydro projects may face glacial floods According to the study, 441 hydro-power projects spanning India, Nepal, Pakistan and China, that is, 66% of constructed and potential hydro power projects, are on possible Glacier Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) tracks, which means they could be gorged with extra water from melting glaciers. It also says that almost a third of these hydro power projects could experience GLOF discharges well above what these dams account for. India accounts for 129 of the hydro projects analysed.
MoEF Impact of Glacier Retreat As per study conducted by the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology on the mass balance and other aspects in the Pensilungpa Glaciers in Suru basin, Indus river catchment, the glaciers in the basin are retreating. Glacier specific mass balance has been estimated for glaciers in 9 sub-basins viz., Nubra, Zanskar, Warwan, Bhut, Chandra, Bhaga, Miyar, Parbati, Baspa of the Indus basin. Observations indicate overall positive mass balance at sub-basin level for Indus basin. Results of the study are given in the table below:
GANGA UP NGT flays UP govt over tanneries The NGT said that if the state govt was ready to give land and provide infrastructure to tannery clusters, there should be no problem in shifting them. The hearing remained inconclusive and will continue. On Nov 15, the tribunal had stopped the govt from spending “a single penny” for Ganga rejuvenation work between Haridwar and Unnao, saying awhopping Rs 20K cr was being spent on the entire national project by officials who did not even know about the river.
MoEF 6197 sites identified for planting trees As per the aforesaid Forest Research Institute DPR, a total 6,197 sites have been identified by Forest Departments of five participating States viz., Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal for raising plantations. The afore-mentioned DPR provides for carrying out plantations to the extent of 1,33,751 hectares in the afore-mentioned five States over a period of five years including the current year.
Saving the Ganga is not an election issue Boatmen & fishermen are the other river-dependants who say their livelihoods have been hit by the mounting pollution choking aquatic life. But for many, faith is unshaken. Ganga has also triggered competitive ghat politics. In response to the rockstar evening aarti, a counter morning aarti-cum-yoga session has come up at Assi Ghat, a few kilometres away, supported by the state government. But mostly, the river is left selling everything from water to appliances on giant billboards, while aarti organisers rope in banks and corporates as sponsors.
New Book Ganges Basin-Status & Challenges While there are many books covering one aspect of the Ganges, ranging from hydrology to cultural significance, this book is unique in presenting a comprehensive inter-disciplinary overview of the key issues and challenges facing the region. Contributors from the 3 main riparian nations assess the status and trends of water resources, including the Himalayas, groundwater, pollution, floods, drought and climate change. Information about a book on Ganga coming from IWMI, it is likely to basically reflect mainstream thinking.
YAMUNA Delhi Course correction needed to save Yamuna Even though rivers are revered in India, urban planners believe that cities are turning their backs on them. Experts say plans to develop the Yamuna riverfront should be complemented by efforts to restore the natural ecosystem and increase citizen participation in maintaining it. Globally, several cities have revived waterfronts and created public spaces around them.
UP Heritage ghats: NGT asks irrigation dept to explain ongoing works Hearing the matter related to the construction near Vrindavan heritage ghats, NGT on Nov 18 directed the irrigation department to file its reply explaining why construction is still going near the Yamuna river in the holy city. The NGT, on Nov 1, had issued notices to the MoEF, MoWR, several UP govt agencies and the ASI on a petition alleging illegal constructions near the heritage ghats and in the Yamuna floodplain zone in Vrindavan.
Yamuna carries politics, filth after near-death in Delhi The river has been reduced to a stream at many places across Uttar Pradesh, mostly carrying sewage, industrial effluents and dirt. Its water already gravely compromised by Delhi faces death at the hands of politics in a state where caste angles and communal lines define the election syllabus.
Himachal Illegal sand mining in Sutlej basin damages environment Illegal sand mining in the Sutlej River basin in Himachal is on the rise. This unscientific and illegal method of sand queering is not only creating environmental hazards, but also, giving a fillip to corruption. Local residents are disappointed, as influential people are easily queering sand, whereas they have to seek permission queering sand for their personal use.
IMD Use rain to beat drought It’s great to see IMD doing assessment of Rainwater harvesting potential in Maharashtra districts and recommending it. Head of IMD’s Climate Application Group, Dr Pulak Guhathakurta says:
* The total amount of water that is received in the form of rainfall over an area is called the rainwater endowment of that area. Out of this, the amount that can be effectively harvested is called the water harvesting potential.
*For calculating rainfall harvesting potential in Maharashtra, the normal rainfall data of 326 well-distributed rain gauge stations for the period 1951-2000 was used. The runoff, which is the amount of rainwater that flows off after it falls on a surface was calculated. The quantity of rainwater that flows off after falling on the surface depends on the area and the type of material on which it falls.
* The study found that if the state harvests rainwater during a good monsoon, it will be possible to save as high as 26 crore litres of water every year! Let us look at Pune as an example. A small house in Pune can harvest close to 44,717 litres of rainwater during the monsoons, a medium-sized house 89,435 litres while a big house can harvest 1.34 lakh litres of water.
*The analysis found that some stations in Kolhapur, Nashik, Raigad, Pune, Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri have the highest rainfall harvesting potential in the state. Among the 20 stations that were studied in Pune district, Khandala, followed by Paud and Vadgaon Maval, were found to have the highest rainfall harvesting capacity during monsoon.
*Same is true of cities like Mumbai. Andheri has the highest rainwater harvesting potential followed by Borivili during the monsoon. In places like Nashik, Igatpuri has the highest rainwater harvesting potential followed by Peint, the smallest tehsil of Nashik subdivision. Mahabaleshwar in Satara district has the highest potential of all in the state.
Andhra CM launches water monitoring portal CM N. Chandrababu Naidu on Nov 23 formally launched the ‘Smart Water Distribution Monitoring’ web interface through which people can check the status of drinking water in the water tanks nearby. Vijayawada Municipal Corporation Commissioner explained said that the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system which helps in reduction of water wastage as well as ensure seamless supply to the households. The monitoring portal is a part of ourvmc.org from where it can be accessed.
DELHI WATER & WATER BODIES
Lake’s blues end with green push Interesting revived using traditional and biological methods Lake Neela Hauz now treats thousands of liters of waste water that too without consuming any electricity.
Delhi techie floats idea to purify water Tarun Nanda, an environment been building miniature floating wetlands for lakes and ponds to naturally purify them. It not only improved the water quality but also helped rejuvenate dying water bodies.
Pakistan Fishermen protest encroachment of water bodies Pakistan fishworkers are coming out against encroachment of water bodies. This is indeed great. Wonder when we will hear similar stories from India.
Nepal Micro hydro power entrepreneurs’ conference The third annual conference and workshop of the ‘Hydro Empowerment Network’ of micro hydro power project entrepreneurs of South and South East Asia started on Nov 22 in Nepal. The four-day conference organized by Nepal Microhydro Power Development Association was inaugurated by Minister for Population and Environment. Interesting to see that a conference of micro hydro developers happens annually and about 50 such developers from 12 countries are now meeting in Nepal for a 4 day conference.
SOUTH EAST ASIA
Laos Changing Mekong Currents Several factors are disrupting the terrain for investment in large hydropower dams & governments should take note.
Worsening water pollution According to Environment Ministry’s despite commitments to crack down on polluters, the quality of water in rivers, lakes and reservoirs in several regions has deteriorated significantly. Worried about unrest, China launched its war on pollution in 2014, vowing to reverse the damage done to its skies, rivers and soil by more than 3 decades of breakneck industrial growth.
MoEF in Lok Shabha Utilisation of compensatory afforestation fund Environment Minister on Nov 22, has informed the Lok Sabha that as per unaudited figures available, the total principal amount available with the Ad-hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) in various State accounts net of releases to the States and to the National CAMPA Advisory Council projects, was Rs.23901 crore as on March 31, 2014; Rs.26297 crore as on March 31, 2015; and Rs.27201 crores as on March 31 2016. The Interest accrued on the said amount varies with the variation in the interest rates.
REST OF THE WORLD
Do floods play a vital role in ecosystems? When rivers flood, water moves out onto the flood plain. But so does sediment and a lot of organic matter, nitrogen and phosphorus – the energy and materials that fuel river ecosystems and productive farm land. There is in fact mutual exchange of these rich materials between rivers and flood plains, which is why river flats are valued so much by farmers, and often why these areas became permanent settlements. Some fish and other animals move backwards and forwards between the main channel and flood plain too, but all benefit from the rich materials transported by flooding. Herodotus referred to Egypt as “the gift of the Nile”. It would be wise of us to view our own flood plains in the same way: that they are the gift of our rivers.
MoEF Study on Climate Change Key Information
* According to the Fifth & latest Assessment Report (AR5) 2013-14 of IPCC global temperatures have risen by about 0.8°C over the last century and sea levels have risen by about 20 cm.
- In many regions, snow and rainfall patterns have changed.
- Snow, ice, permafrost and glaciers are melting at the poles and around the rest of the world.
- Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent. For example, heat waves are lasting longer and becoming more intense.
* IPCC Reports do not provide country-level assessment on the impact of climate change.
*Such country level assessments are conducted as part of National Communication (NATCOM) prepared by the Government of India periodically. The 2nd National Communication to the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was submitted by the Government in 2012.The First Biennial Update Report (BUR) to UNFCCC was submitted by the Government on 22 January 2016.
*In addition, a scientific study to assess the impact of climate change was undertaken and a report entitled “Climate Change and India: A 4X4 Assessment – A Sectoral and Regional Analysis for 2030s” was published in 2010. The study assessed impacts of climate change on four key sectors of Indian economy, namely, agriculture, water, forests and human health in four climate sensitive regions of India, namely, the Himalayan region, the Western Ghats, the Coastal region and the North-Eastern Region.
MoEF Convert it into E-Governance: Anil M Dave Calling for a rethink on the existing work culture in Pollution Control Boards, Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave on Nov 23 has said that the style of working needs to be converted into E-governance. Addressing the 61st Conference of Chairmen & Member Secretaries of Pollution Control Boards and Pollution Control Committees he also said that E-governance will not only correct the style of functioning, but will also bring about a transformation, making it a result-oriented approach to work. The Minister added that this will also remove the shortcomings of human resources. He also pointed out to the need to enhance capacity-building as a major issue that needs attention. Dave said that there is a need to feel the pulse of the people and complaints of the people must be addressed. He emphasised a collective approach to work. The Environment Minister also launched two online portals – CPCB’s E-Samiksha and Ganga E-track GPI.