DRP News Bulletin 09 Jan. 2017 (India Continues to Witness Decline in Groundwater: Govt Report)

Ground water recharge plan is a non-starter Though the latest report, covering assessment of ground level situation as on March, 2013, is still being compiled, sources in the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) hinted at further increase in the number of `dark’ (over-exploited) units. Decline in ground water level due to over exploitation of available resources had prompted the Centre in 2013 to come out with a master plan for artificial recharge of ground water, specifying how different states would go about it on priority. But majority of the states have, so far, not implemented the master plan. Only six states -MP, Gujarat, W-Bengal, UP, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka have taken follow-up actions despite the fact that the number of `dark’ units increased from 802 in March, 2009 to 1,071 in March, 2011. This not only says what the title mentions, but also shows how slow our official agencies are in even coming up with groundwater data, the latest data is for March 2011! 

INTER LINKING OF RIVERS 

KBL Ken-Betwa river linking gets environmental clearance YET another evidence of COMPROMISED environment governance in India? Very strange that the minutes of the EAC held on Dec 30, 2016 are not yet out, but the MoWR is already announcing that EAC has cleared the project. The official MOWR document that this news report refers to cannot be found so far. This PTI report has even more unbelievable quote from MOWR. Similarly there is one more emphatic statement which claims due to code of conducts in upcoming elections would delay launch of KBL project. Such statements are surprising, considering there is no info from MoEF, the authority for giving Environment Clearance. From available info, this seems like a planted story, accepted uncritically by the media. 

DAMS 

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Maharashtra A state with most dams & highest number of farmers’ suicide Data released by the National Crime Records Bureau shows a widespread drought and rising indebtedness led to 12,602 suicides by farmers and agricultural labourers in 2015. The data shows that just seven states accounted for 87.5% of the suicides in the farming sector in 2015. Its disturbing that Maharashtra, the state with highest number of BIG DAMS, now has the shame of having the highest number of farmer suicides in 2015. In fact, the number of farmer suicides in 2015 in Maharashtra (4291) are MORE THAN THE ADDITION OF FARMER SUICES IN SECOND (Karnataka – 1569) + THIRD (Telangana – 1400) + FOURTH (Madhya Pradesh – 1290) Ranked states. Also see a film on Madhav Gomare who seems famous as an organic farmer in Latur, if we google his name. 

Andhra Polavaram to ground cruises; tourist spots to be submerged Confusion prevails among the 200 operators who organise the popular Papikondalu cruises on the river Godavari, with the state government rushing to complete work on the Polavaram dam by next year. The cruises run from Rajahmundry to Bhadrachalam via Polavaram and Kunavaram, passing by Papi Hills of the Eastern Ghats which are rich in fauna and flora. More impacts of Polavaram Dam keep coming to light, and these have not been part of any impact assessment or cost benefit analysis. 

Telangana HC vacates NGT stay order on Palamuru project High Court Hyderabad vacates NGT stay on Palamuru Ranga Reddy Lift Irrigation Scheme. NGT had issued stay on Dec 13, 2016 since project was proceeding without Environmental Clearances. Now High Court says drinking water component can go ahead, when Telangana claimed that Rs 10 crore per day was their loss as the contractors had to be paid! Its clearly a contractor driven project.   

Punjab AAP vows to return surplus BBMB land  The party candidate from Anandpur Sahib has announced that after coming to power the land belonging to the Bhakra Beas Management Board lying unused will be returned to original owners. The land was acquired to construct the Bhakra Dam five decades ago and still a big portion of it was lying unused till now. 700 displaced families can benefit if this really happens and it will set a very good precedent. 

INTER STATE WATER DISPUTES 

Andhra & Telangana After water, TS wants its share of fish from AP   At a time when the two Telugu states of Telangana and AP are locked in water wars, Telangana CM K Chandrasekhar Rao on Jan 03 came up with another issue that might create fresh trouble between them. He wanted to decide the share of Telangana in the fish available in Krishna and Godavari rivers with the neighbouring state. He raised the issue on the floor the state Assembly. Recalling that there were clashes between fishermen of Kurnool and Mahbubnagar districts before creation of Telangana, Rao said he himself visited Mahbubnagar and warned AP fishermen of serious consequences, if they attack the local fishermen. INTER STATE RIVER FISH DISPUTE? Never heard of that, but this seems like beginning of one. 

RIVERS 

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Proposed Metro alignment passing through Mutha riverbed (Source: Report of Technical Support Group on Biodiversity of PMC)

SANDRP Blog Pune Metro: Another violation of the river floodplain In a welcome move the green tribunal issued an interim stay on the proposed portion of the metro route passing through the Mula –Mutha river bed in the Pune city. This directive was passed in an Environmental Interest Litigation filed in the NGT on May 26 last year by a group of citizens contending that in the proposed metro rail alignment, a 1.7 km stretch passing through the left bank of the Mula-Mutha river could cause an irreversible damage to riverbank ecosystem along that route. Amruta Pradhan of SANDRP writes about the NGT decision to stay construction of metro in Pune River Bed and flood plains. Congratulations to Sarang Yadwadkar and colleagues, this some good news in new year for PUNE RIVERS.

Gujarat Narmada ecosystem facing threat due to less water Narmada Pradushan Nivaran Samiti, a NGO has written to MoEF urging it to take steps to save Narmada river. The low level of water in the downstream is affecting the river’s ecosystem and threatening the livelihood of people. Referring to a recently done study that had recommended release of 28.3 cumecs (1,100 cusecs) from the dam to maintain the flow of the river in the downstream and to bring to life the estuary as well the NGO say that  dam authorities had released very less water last year. The letter has demanded a cumulative impact assessment study by experts and scientists to save Narmada’s ecosystem. The group warned of an agitation by farmers and other stakeholders if nothing was done. Also see, Navalawala raises some questions about unsustainable water use in Gujarat. 

Yettinahole Row MoEF team assesses eco damage due to project A team of officials from the MoEF on Jan. 02, 2017 visited several villages in the taluk to assess the environmental damage caused by the Yettinahole drinking water project in the Western Ghats. The team inspected the check dams at Aluvalli and Kadagaravalli and gathered information from the authorities concerned. Local officials explained that over 6,000 trees were axed for the project. This irked the environmentalists, who claimed that more than 15,000 trees had been axed so far. Good to see this, but how independent is the team and what is its TOR is not clear. 

J&K Dry spell in Kashmir, Jhelum waters go alarmingly low According to officials of the flood and irrigation department, Kashmir Jhelum river water level on Jan. 01, 2017 morning touched a low of minus 0.55 foot at Sangam in south Kashmir. It was the lowest measure of the river’s water level since the department began maintaining the record in 1955. The unprecedented drop in the river’s water level has been caused due to decreased precipitation as Kashmir continues with a long dry spell with no downpour recorded in November and only one rainy day in December. 

SAND MINING 

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SANDRP Blog River Sand Mining in India in 2016–III – Judicial Interventions In 2016, the plea in NGT highlighting the lack of provisions in appointment of independent environmental experts in SIEAA and SEAC is key development. It is a key issue, but neither Central nor State Govts have ever shown any inclination in this regard. Possibly the most surprising and unexpected development in the year was stopping of HC Allahabad initiated CBI inquiry by the apex court of India. 

IRRIGATION 

Gujarat Vulnerability hits Narmada-based canal network BN Navalawala, CM’s water resources adviser has warned that Gujarat’s Narmada-based canal network has been “reduced to be vulnerable”, underlining it does not even have the “buffer for 15 days” for supplying water, making its “closures for maintenance” almost an impossible task. Pointing out that things are turning bad for Narmada-based irrigation, domestic and industrial water supply Navalawala said that while Rs 9000 crore has been spent on Narmada-based water supply pipelines, and more is being spent, the limit for 0.86 million acre feet for water to be used for non-irrigation use has already been crossed. Navalawala raises some questions about unsustainable water use in Gujarat. 

HYDRO POWER 

National Key NGT rulings on Hydro projects in 2016 The Green Tribunal played an important part in several notable environmental cases in 2016 including some related to construction and operation of Hydro power projects across country.

In Uttarakhand, the NGT sought compensation from the Alaknanda Hydro Power Company to persons affected by the floods in 2013 by virtue of the dam they constructed. The argument made in that case was that even in the case of natural calamities, companies that played a role in exacerbating or precipitating the conditions of harm were expected to provide reparations.

The NGT further suspended environmental clearance for the Nyamjang Chu Hydro Project in the Tawang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh in a landmark case of wildlife protection. They found that the assessment had ignored the fact that the area was inhabited by the endangered black-necked crane and took into account the pleas of wildlife activists who were calling for protection of the bird.

Finally, in Himachal Pradesh, the NGT recognized the rights of forest dwelling groups and tribes over forest land and protected the same in the case of land diversion. The Kashang Hydropower Project, which was fast-tracked despite pleas from local community boards, was called into question by the NGT, which directed the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change to place the full proposal before the Gram Sabhas (village councils) to consider claims and impacts before making a decision on going forward. This article lists some important NGT orders of 2016. 

AGRICULTURE 

Maharashtra Meet a organic farmer Madhav Gomare seems famous as an organic farmer, if we google his name. Here is a film on this Latur (Maharashtra) farmer.

SOUTH ASIA

IWT Row Disputed hydel projects don’t violate IWT: India World Bank held talks with India on Jan. 06, 2017  over the disputed Kishenganga and Ratle hydropower projects in J&K. As per sources Indian officials again conveyed to World Bank that these projects did not in any way violate the IWT as alleged by Pakistan. India side was led by Gopal Baglay, a joint secretary in MEA. After Delhi, Solomon will head to Pakistan.

Islamabad says the Kishanganga project, coming up on Jhelum, will reduce by 40% the water flowing into its territory. It wants the storage capacity of the reservoir of the Ratle project, coming up on Chenab, to be reduced to eight million cubic metres from 24MCM. Solomon’s visit is the first move by the World Bank after it “paused” on December 12 the mediation process initiated between the two countries, asking them to consider “alternative ways” to resolve their disagreements. This is on predictable lines, but noteworthy for records. 

Meanwhile, according to Pakistan media, the US administration has initiated a process for resolving a water dispute between India and Pakistan “without waiting for an invitation” to get involved in the matter. The initiative stems from the “fear the US administration shares with the World Bank that the dispute, if dragged, may harm” the IWT that has effectively resolved disputes between India and Pakistan for more than half a century, the Dawn newspaper quoted official sources as saying. The report quoted unnamed diplomatic observers in Washington as saying that the US felt obliged to take a “proactive role” since it had facilitated the IWT. This is an important development, though not clear where this will lead to.

REST OF THE WORLD 

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Research Rivers reveals the toll of human activity A new, expansive model of gravel-bed river systems in mountainous areas, such as the Yellowstone, depicts a more complex scenario in which a host of human activities combine to degrade river systems and render them more vulnerable to destructive outside influences such as parasites.

This body of research — 40 years in the making, but much of it summed up in a recent paper — rewrites the understanding of the ecological dynamics of these rivers. And it casts a harsh light on human river valley activities such as homebuilding, dam construction, irrigation, and channelization that may be slowly choking highly dynamic river systems — and the biodiversity that depends on them — to death.

It is interesting that on the Snake River near Jackson, Wyoming, for example, local and federal officials are working to restore riparian habitat damaged by the construction of 22 miles of 15-foot-high flood-control levees in the mid-20th century.

The Drava River — which flows out of the Alps through Croatia and Austria and into the Danube — has been constrained historically by farming, hydroelectric dams, and flood control. In recent years, however, conservationists and government officials have launched major restoration programs to reconnect tributaries and floodplains and to restore riparian areas of the Drava. WOW! 700 miles long undammed river! Thats Yellowstone river, the longest undammed river in lower 48 states of US! 

ENVIRONMENT

Tribute Death of a naturalist Peter Jackson Jairam Ramesh here highlights the role played by naturalist Peter Jackson in declaring Sultanpur Jheel in Haryana and another water body in Porbandar (Gujarat) as bird sanctuary. He does not mention the state of Sultanpur Jheel today, my impression is that it is in bad shape? People who may know may share what they know. 

Karnataka Yelahanka residents turn to NGT against Power plant NGT approached against the proposed 370 MW Gas based Yelahanka thermal Power project in Bangalore due to its possible impacts on Jakkur & Puttenhalli lakes, besides other impacts. 

You may also like to see DRP News Bulletin 02 Jan. 2017 & DRP News Bulletin 26 Dec. 2016

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