DRP News Bulletin 13 Feb 2017 (Oroville Dam Disaster, USA: A Wake up Call for India: A Country of aging big Dams)

Finally the Oroville Dam spillway damage has turned into a disaster. Report at this time (01:00pm, Feb. 13, 2017) finds dam level rising about 1 feet above the danger level. Water currents have started pouring out all over and around the emergency spillway which has never been put in use for last half a century. Meanwhile, more water is gushing in the dam reservoirs due to recent heavy rainfall in catchment areas upstream.

The damaged spillway is reported to be stable so far and authorities are reportedly releasing l lakh cusecs + water from the broken spillways. As a result, the Feather River has started swelling greatly with the flash floods. The spillover and non-stop release will go on for more than couple of days to bring down the reservoir water to safe levels. As a result, the deluge is bound to submerge many unconventional areas  in coming days.

Right now, the mass evacuation in vulnerable habitations in California is underway. Over 1, 80, 000 people in downstream areas have been asked to move to safer places.

The Oroville dam disaster was in the making since Feb. 07, 2017 when the crumbling spillway was first noticed. All other important and related information on the Oroville dam have been covered in SANDRP latest blog.

It is worth to mention that while the Oroville dam crisis is getting worse, another dam related disaster has taken place in USA.  In the second incident, the dam named 21 Mile in Navada broke down following heavy rainfall creating unprecedented floods in Elko County. As per report, the third Dake Dam Reservoir would also be also overflowing.

Meanwhile in a repeat like the Larji dam disaster in Himachal Pradesh a couple of years ago, four students of Auckland University were swept away by water releases from a upstream dam in New Zealand. The students were having a bath in the Waikato River when a flash flood occurred in the previously calm river. Three of the students managed to escape while the fourth one reportedly died due to the incident.

These recent and ongoing dam related disasters, should work as an alarm bell for India, where most of dams are aged old structures making them vulnerable to failing on event of heavy rainfall. Also, the flash floods due to failure or wrong operations of dams have become common in India.  To count a few examples of faulty dam operations, only in 2016, we have seen how inefficient management of Bansagar dam on Sone River in Madhya Pradesh and Chandil Dam on Subarnrekha River in Jharkand created an avoidable flood into a disaster in downstream areas. There have been over half dozen more similar accidents in the same year. It is right time we learn our lessons and take necessary steps to avoid the dam related disasters with better and timely preparation.

HYDRO POWER 

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Graph with clear trend line showing diminishing power generation at large hydropower projects in India from 1993-94 to 2016-17

SANDRP Blog Diminishing returns from large hydro projects SANDRP analysis shows how power generation from large hydropower projects keep showing downward trend. With surplus electricity situation, India has an opportunity to take a pause, this blog explains how. Comments are welcome, please share and help us spread the word. 

700 मेगावाट बढ़ी हाइड्रो पावर प्‍लांट की कैपेसिटी, लेकिन जनरेशन 30% कम हुआ बांधों और हाइड्रो प्रोजेक्‍ट्स पर काम कर रही संस्‍था साउथ एशिया नेटवर्क ऑन डेम्‍स, रिवर और पीपल (सेंड्रप) ने सीइए के आंकड़ों की पड़ताल करने के बाद जारी रिपोर्ट में कहा है कि हाइड्रो प्‍लांट्स की जनरेशन पिछले कई सालों से लगातार कम हो रही है। हाइड्रो प्‍लांट्स की कैपेसिटी के मुकाबले जनरेशन में काफी कमी हुई है। जनवरी 2017 में हाइड्रो प्‍लांट्स ने कैपेसिटी के मुकाबले 2.77 मिलियन यूनिट्स प्रति मेगावाट जनरेशन किया। जबकि साल 2015-16 में 2.84 मिलियन यूनिट्स प्रति मेगावाट और उससे पहले 2014-15 में 3.16 मिलियन यूनिट्स प्रति मेगावाट था। साल 1994-95 में यह सबसे अधिक 3.97 मिलियन यूनिट्स प्रति यूनिट थी, उसके बाद से जनरेशन कम ही हो रही है।   This is a report based on SANDRP analysis of diminishing performance of large hydro projects in India. 

Meanwhile Jammu & Kashmir State Power Development Corporation is unable to get buyers for its Rs 4 per unit power from 450 MW Baglihar II HEP in Kashmir, so it is selling it to PDD at Rs 3.6 per unit. This is because of the slump in the electricity market. This goes again to show how unviable such hydropower projects are. 

Also, the Plant load factor of thermal power projects of India are at the lowest for the last ten years now. It was 78.9 per cent in 2007-08, 73.32 in 2011-12, 69.93 per cent in 2012-13, 65.55 per cent in 2013-14, 64.25 per cent in 2014-15, 62.29 in 2015-16 and is now at 59.64 per cent for the first three quarters of 2016-17 with continued downward trend. Major reason is the massive power plant capacity commissioned (86565 MW from conventional sources and about 19500 MW from renewable sources added) between April 2012 and June 2016 even as demand did not keep pace. If the latest CMIE data about fresh investments is anything to go by, there is no likelihood of the demand peaking pace soon. This is yet another sign of surplus electricity. 

Arunachal Pradesh Ex-CM suicide note puts Prema Khandu in trouble  In explosive 60 page suicide not, the late CM has accused top politicians like CM Pema Khandu, his deputy Chowna Mein and other constitutional functionaries of corruption. Attacking CM Khandu, the letter reads that during his tenure, Pema Khandu and his two brothers was given an emergency fund of Rs 6 crore for hydro project maintenance. These funds had not even been touched when they sought Rs 10 crore funds in the name of flood relief. Despite the fact that Rs 10 crore was the sum marked for the entire state, they were given the largest amount of Rs 6 crore for Tawang. In the note, the ex-CM has also alleged that Pema Khandu had a hand in the Tawang firing incident on May 2, 2016 and he disallowed bail for the arrested Lama. 

Uttarakhand Parties support revival of hydro projects in ESZ This is an excellent report by Jayashree Nandi showing how both BJP and Congress candidates from Gangotri support revival of scrapped large hydro and oppose Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) notification. Both are contractors for hydropower projects. Shows true colors of both parties in area that has suffered the ill effects of such projects and continue to suffer. As one of the local persons is quoted saying, both parties fail to show how the ESZ is bad for the people, it is clear the vested interests that oppose it. 

Similarly, the Union Power Minister is advocating more destructive hydro projects in Ganga basin, when nation is facing power surplus situation, which is going to remain for foreseeable future. 

Contrary to this, advocating the need of hydro projects, another media report mentions that at state level the construction of stalled hydro projects have not been mentioned in the vision document of the opposition BJP and manifesto of the ruling Congress. It seems, some sections of media continue to report in a bit ill informed way about the hydro projects in the Himalayas.

On the other hand, raising an important issue, Matu Jan Sangathan blog finds that the real issue of displacement of people due to hydro projects, big infrastructure; mining, liquor, unemployment, people based tourism etc. are not on the agenda of political parties. It also highlights that people affected by 2013 disaster has not yet properly compensated and recovered from their losses. Instead of these, political parties pampering issues which don’t exist and do not solve day to day problems of local people life and green environment of the state. 

In fact, under eco-sensitive zone scheme notified in 2012, the “entire watershed of about 100 km” of the Bhagirathi from its origin at Gaumukh to Uttarkashi, covering 4179.59 sq km, is termed the ESZ, imposing many restrictions on projects. Ever since the notification various parties and the administration have come together to oppose the restriction on projects. The notification requires the State Govt to prepare a master plan for the zone but the assembly had passed a resolution against the notification.

DAMS 

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SSP Rehabilitation SC orders compensation for dam oustees The Supreme Court (SC) on Feb. 08, 2017 have given its nod for the distribution of compensation among the oustees of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) on river Narmada in Madhya Pradesh (MP). It ordered payment of ₹60 lakh to each of the 681 families likely to be displaced. The families will have to give an undertaking that they will vacate the land within a month, failing which the authorities will have the right to forcibly evict them. The apex court withdrew its proposal to set up a 3-member committee to look into the compensation and rehabilitation issues. The court said that monetary compensation was considered as the proposed land compensation was not feasible due to non-availability of a land bank. The order was confined to MP, as the highest numbers of oustees were from that State. As far as Maharashtra and Gujarat were concerned, the apex court said relief and rehabilitation work had to be completed within three months.

Criticizing the judgment an editorial in The Hindu Business Line writes that “the order, has gone against the promise of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam to provide land for land. Cash compensation is a step backward. The court should have satisfied itself as to the facts on the ground (the number affected and the status of rehabilitation) before issuing this order. It is bad enough that pleas to keep the height of the dam as low as possible were not entertained. The present step could lead to chaos and corruption, in the absence of information. The Sardar Sarovar project is too huge to be viably implemented. A mess and a tragedy is once again about to unfold in the Narmada valley.”

Maharashtra NCP continue to advocate for scam tainted Shai dam construction In Thane, NCP continues to push scam tainted SHAI dam to further destroy the river, the forests and displace the tribals and deprive them of their resources for questionable needs and objectives. Meanwhile the construction cost of the dam have reportedly escalated from 450 crore to 1500 crore. 

INTERLINKING OF RIVERS 

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KBL  Rs. 18,000 Crore Ken-Betwa linking project cleared As per this news report, the investment clearance committee, comprising officials from NITI Aayog and Union Water Resources Ministry, for Ken-Betwa river linking on Feb. 10, 2017 have given the approval for the Rs. 18,000-crore national project envisaged to address drinking water and irrigation requirements of the parched Bundelkhand region. Union Water Resources Secretary Amarjeet Singh, who heads the committee, confirmed the investment clearance given to the project. This is strange decision, seems more likely to be for giving a signal to the UP voters rather than anything else as the project does not have either environment or forest clearance. In another strange development Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari has proposed self certified revolutionary proposal of constructing barrage with bridges and also having navigation locks! He says he is against big dams, but his govt is doing the opposite. Uma Bharti has declared from the same platform that works on Ken Betwa link will start soon, though the project does not have either environment or forest clearances. 

INTERSTATE WATER DISPUTES 

Cauvery Row SC to examine century old Cauvery pact The SC on Feb. 07, 2017 said it would examine if the Inter-State Water Tribunal could rely upon the agreements between the Mysore ruler and Madras Presidency to determine sharing of Cauvery river water between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka even after the Constitution came into force. The apex court says that “The question is if the agreements between Mysore ruler and Madras Presidency could be relied upon even after the (new) states came into existence by an Act of Parliament in 1956…we will decide whether Tribunal should have gone into those agreements and if those agreements still survived after the Constitution came into force,” said a bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra. “We would consider if the Tribunal’s decision was based on the principles of common sense, equity and justice,” the bench said, indicating that they would take three weeks to deliver the judgment in the pending dispute.” It is very interesting, SC is right in referring to the 1799/ 1892/ 1924 Cauvery agreements. 

Polavaram Row Polavaram project likely to cost Rs 40 K Cr The revised estimates for Polavaram project may be much higher than expected, as the Centre in its latest estimate, has reportedly pegged the project cost at Rs 40,200 crore.The original cost of the project in 2006 was Rs 10,151 crore, which was later revised to Rs 16,010 crore in 2011. The project will inundate an area of 3427.52 hectares of forest land only in Andhra. The project will also submerge 276 villages including 04 in Chhattisgarh and 08 in Odisha. All neighbouring states of Andhra have opposed it in some form or the other, with Odisha being the biggest critic of the project.

Almatti Dam Row Karnataka plans to raise height, causes worry in AP & TS Karnataka move to build for Lift Irrigation Schemes on Krishna has created a fear among downstream states. But they should have written to the MoEF when the projects were pending before the EAC and MoEF for clearance. They missed that bus and now they are protesting. They can still write to CWC not to clear the projects. However, the project for increasing the height of the Upper Krishna Dam is a separate project, it seems and is yet to get clearance. There is still opportunity for AP and Telangana to write to MoEF on those, as also Maharashtra can do the same. 

Mahanadi Row Hirakud Dam gets 33% less water in Dec last year A chief engineer report to Odisha Water Resources department has revealed that Hirakud dam has received 33 percent less water from upper catchment area of Mahanadi river in December last year as compared to the quantum of inflow into the dam in the past decade. As per the report, average 1075.59 mm rain was recorded in the upper catchment area of Mahanadi this year, while the River’s lower basin recorded 1065.47 mm rain but due to ongoing construction of Samado barrage, Sionarayan barrage, Basantpur barrage, Mironi barrage, Saradihi barrage and Kalma barrage in upper basin by Chhattisgarh govt only 0.123 million acre feet water has entered the dam in last December.  The table shows year wise amount of water coming to the dam from upper catchment since past decade 

SN Year Amount of Water entering

Hirakud Dam in Million Acre Feet (MCF)

1 2005 0.367
2 2006 0.195
3 2007 0.242
4 2008 0.172
5 2009 0.123
6 2010 0.225
7 2011 0.115
8 2012 0.129
9 2013 0.212
10 2014 0.167
11 2015 0.088
12 2016 0.123

DROUGHT 2017

Drought Impact TN shows inability to provide water to Kerala Tamil Nadu officials have shown its inability to supply the designated 19.55 TMC of water as per the Parambikulam Aliyar Project (PAP) agreement during the Inter State Water Sharing meet held between the two States at Thiruvanathapuram on Jan. 28, 2017. As per the agreement, Tamil Nadu has to provide 12.30 TMC of water from Sholyar dam and 7.25 TMC of water from Aliyar dam to Kerala every year (water year). As per officials, due to poor rainfall there is a shortfall of nearly nine TMC of water in 10 reservoirs coming under the PAP when compared to last year’s capacity. They added that only two TMC of water was available at the reservoirs, while the total storage was about 11 TMC last year. Tamil Nadu expressed inability to provide Kerala its share of water from PAP agreement projects this year due to deficit rainfall.

Karnataka Bengaluru to face severe water crisis The Bengaluru, Mysuru and Mandya regions may soon face severe water shortage as the water levels in the Krishnaraja Sagar dam and the Kabini reservoir have dropped drastically. The water level on Feb. 07 2017, stood at 78.96 ft, while the maximum capacity of the dam is 124.8 ft. As per report, the live storage level of the dam is 1.955 TMC ft, after which the govt will have to ask the irrigation officials to draw water from the dead storage. On the other hand, as per a study Bengaluru has about 9.15 lakh water connections. An estimated 1.4 lakh consumers should have installed rainwater harvesting systems but only 62,000 have done so. Its not even mid Feb and Bangalore is already talking about taking water from dead storage of reservoirs. 

IRRIGATION 

National Getting a handle on water for agriculture use  In Budget 2017-18, a sum of Rs 7,377 crore has been allocated to the PMKSY, a 42 per cent jump over the revised estimates for FY17. Also, FM Arun Jaitley provided Rs 20,000 crore for a Long Term Irrigation Fund to bring 7.6 million hectares (mh) under irrigation, by fast-tracking the completion of 99 prioritized projects in four years. A dedicated Micro Irrigation Fund with an initial corpus of Rs 5,000 crore has been created through NABARD. Even within the direct budgetary allocation for PMKSY, Rs 3,400 crore or 46 per cent has been set aside for the micro-irrigation component, an increase of 71 per cent over 2016-17. Micro-irrigation has expanded to 8.73 mh area in 2016-17. But this is just 13 per cent of the total coverage potential of 69.5 mh. This article seems to suggest that micro irrigation is the solution to all ills about water in agriculture and even Marathwada can continue to have sugarcane only if micro irrigation is adopted! Nothing can be farther from the reality. The article has several errors too. 

RIVERS 

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SANDRP Blog  Maharashtra EPA sits over destruction of rivers  Analysis by Amruta Pradhan of SANDRP of functioning of State Environment Appraisal Committee for 2016 shows how callous they are about rivers as well as governance aspects. 

Maharashtra NEERI asked to study river pollution one more time The Bombay high court has appointed National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) yet again to study and suggest long-term and immediate solutions to tide over the pollution of Godavari after Kumbh Mela. It directed the state govt to take a final decision on India Bulls with respect to lifting of treated water from STP before December 11, 2017 and  no further extension would be granted. Observing that that there was a letter dated September 5 addressed by the executive engineer, irrigation division to the district collector requesting him to release water from Gangapur dam for the purpose of cleaning and washing away the dirt created by Kumbh Mela in River Godavari, the court noted that a lot of dirt must have been created during the religious congregation. 

Pune village keeps its water clean Sangrun village in Pune is unique not just for its location but also for the bold step the village has taken to make itself garbage and plastic free and keep its water resources free of pollution and waste. This bold step is indeed commendable at a time when both the Mutha river that flows from Sangrun to Pune and the Mula that joins it from the opposite direction to flow with it are polluted and unusable, both individually and at their confluence. Sangrun village at the confluence of Mose, Ambit and Mutha rivers has an interesting story, including how people fish in the rivers. 

GANGA NGT Not a drop of the Ganga has been cleaned: NGT Noting that govt agencies were only wasting public money in the name of cleaning the river the NGT said on Feb. 06, 2017 that not a single drop of the Ganga has been cleaned so far.  “It is the fault of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and other govt agencies, who are not doing their job properly. Had you (authorities) done your job properly, you would not be standing here (before the court)… You have done nothing. It is a waste of public money… Everyone says they are doing a lot to clean the Ganga, but not a single drop of the river has been cleaned,” the NGT Bench said. The tribunal also asked the govt agencies about how they were executing PM’s ambitious ‘Namami Gange project’, adding that it did not want the “drama” regarding complaints between the Centre and Uttar Pradesh (UP) to go on. Further, the tribunal also warned 14 industrial units operating in the Bijnor and Amroha districts, along the banks of the Ganga, to be ready to be shut down while asking them to justify why they should not face action.

The tribunal on Feb. 07, 2017 again pulled up on National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) for wasting time and resources in the name of the cleaning the river. “There is total lack of communication between various govt agencies. Why isn’t there a proper plan to deal with all kind of polluting industries? Why allow loopholes?” asked the Tribunal. A Bench asked the UP Govt gencies to work together for the cause, saying, “The Prime Minister has given you a goal, take it as a national project.” NGT has now asked UP Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) and NMCG to give data on how many drains in Kanpur discharge into Ganga and how many have sewage treatment plants also what will be done about treatment of discharge from industries.

The court on Feb 08, 2017 asked the MoWR and the NMCG to file an affidavit listing the actions taken in pursuance of its previous orders to clean the Yamuna river.  The bench, asked the Director General of NMCG (Namami Gange) to submit the affidavit detailing the actions taken on its previous orders since 2015. During its daily hearing on the pollution of the Ganga, the tribunal was on informed about 30 major drains which flow into the river.

The difference in data presented by various authorities and the petitioner on the number of industries in UP between Haridwar and Unnao near Kanpur also reflected on the complete lack of planning to clean the river. While the CPCB kept the number of industries at over 700 (35 distilleries, 442 tanneries, 63 textile mills, 67 pulp and paper plants, and 28 chemical industries), UPPPCB put it at 6,385, and petitioner M.C. Mehta said the number was 1.82 lakh. Since Feb 6, 2017, when the SC forwarded the matter of pollution of the river to the NGT, the tribunal is hearing the case on a daily basis.

Meanwhile in a separate case, MoEF on Feb. 11, 2017 has informed NGT that Union Water Ministry had issued a notification on Oct 7, 2016 aiming to protect flood plain of Ganga river, their demarcation and along with mentioning the activities to be permissible in ESZ areas. According to the notification, the bank of river Ganga and its flood plain “shall be construction free zone to reduce pollution sources, pressures and to maintain its natural ground water recharge functions”.  Taking note of the submissions, NGT has disposed of the plea claiming construction of concrete farmhouses, plots, colonies and commercial setups in the riverbed of Ganga. 

MoWR Panel formed to expedite implementation of Clean Ganga mission The The ministry of water resources (MoWR), on Feb. 08, 2017 has formed a committee comprising the secretaries of three ministries to expedite the implementation of its ambitious Namami Gange programme under which it plans to free the Ganga river of waste by next year.  The secretaries of ministries of Water Resources, Environment and Forest, and Drinking Water and Sanitation will be members of the panel, which will meet at least once every fortnight. As per MoWR data presently 42 sewage infrastructure projects are under execution that envisages creating 327.93 MLD treatment capacity. Till December 2016, 253.50 MLD sewage treatment capacity has been created.  Meanwhile, experts say that just spending money on STPs will not clean the Ganga river; what is needed is a comprehensive plan to stop sewage from entering the river.

West Bengal State sees dwindling hilsha catch after Farraka According to the govt estimates the hilsa catch has come down from 33,102 tonnes in 2000-01 to 9,269 tonnes in 2014-15, a decline of close to 72 per cent.  Concerned at the decline in availability of hilsha, scientists from Jadavpur University in Kolkata are developing a model to predict how much hilsa would reach the Bengali platter every year.  As per the report, before the Farakka barrage was built on the Ganges, hilsa was found in Hardwar too. Like Bangladesh govt, West Bengal is also planning to bring in strict legislation to protect hilsa.

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Yamuna SANDRP Blog Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan: A decade in the service of River Yamuna On this 07 February 2017, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan campaign has completed 10 years of its untiring efforts dedicated for the protection of floodplains in the national capital and overall rejuvenation of the India’s widely worshipped river. Over the last a decade YJA, working with a missionary zeal has also achieved several milestones making it a live, meaningful, distinct and remarkable River campaign of contemporary time. The report has a brief note on the some of achievements of the YJA campaign so far.  

NGT Tribunal calls compliance details from govt The Green Tribunal on Feb 09, 2017 asked the Ministry of Water Resources and the NMCG to file an affidavit listing the actions taken in pursuance of its previous orders to clean the Yamuna river.  The bench, asked the Director General of NMCG (Namami Gange) to submit the affidavit detailing the actions taken on its previous orders since 2015. In January 2015, the NGT through its over 100-page judgement had directed taking up cleaning of the Yamuna river under “Maily Se Nirmal Yamuna Revitalization Plan, 2017”.

RIVERBED MINING 

Bihar 14 top officials face action over involvement in illegal mining Fourteen SHOs and four DSPs are in the firing line of the police higher authorities, for their alleged involvement in illegal stone quarrying/sand mining and transportation that has robbed Bihar of huge sums of money in revenue. A crackdown on the quarrying/mining mafia in Rohtas, Kaimur, Aurangabad and Gaya districts of Bihar, has led to confiscation of over 780 trucks carrying illegally mined stone chips and sand, and recovery of Rs 2.5 crore as fine, in the last seven days. According to sources, the racket has been running with the alleged connivance of police and officials in the mining, forests, transport and commercial taxes departments.

On Feb. 12, 2017, Bhagalpur SSP Manoj Kumar has suspended two SHOs for their failure to check illegal mining under their respective jurisdictions. The suspended SHOs – Praveen Kumar of Jagdishpur police station and Amar Kumar of Sajour police station – have been asked to report to police line while Ajit Kumar Singh and Rajendra Prasad have been made new SHOs of the two police stations, respectively. A police team led by DSP (law and order) conducted a joint raid along with mining officials on Feb. 10, 2017 had seized several sand-laden trucks, tractors, mechanised excavators and JCBs from dry riverbeds under Jagdishpur and Sajour police station areas. 

Madhya Pradesh Crackdown on illegal mining, 440 vehicles seized A day after Sehore district collector told NGT bench of Bhopal that illegal sand mining takes place at some places in the district, the district administration on Feb. 7, 2017  in a massive crackdown on mining mafia in Bundelkhand, confiscated 440 tractor trollies carrying illegally mined sand.  Last week, a group of people at Hinota village of Chhatarpur held a demonstration on the dry bed of river Ken. The villagers demanded to demolish an illegal bridge constructed by the mafia the way it was done in neighbouring Panna where a bridge was constructed on the same river. The villagers also complained of entry of large number of heavy vehicles from across Uttar Pradesh carrying illegal mining whole night which had led to enormous noise and air pollution in and around the village.

Maharashtra Govt to act against illegal sand mining in Raigad After environment NGO Awaaz Foundation said that sand was being illegally mined from creeks and rivers in Raigad district, the Konkan divisional commissioners’ office said that they were preparing an action plan with the help of district collectors to stop it. It has also alleged that about 25 trees have been uprooted by alleged mechanical dredging at Nandgaon beach, located 130 km south of Mumbai city. In May last year that sand mining at Kihim had led to a 70% decline and 10-feet drop in sand at the beach.

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4 JCBs, 70 trucks seized after raids on Sironcha mines After revelations of massive illegal sand-mining on Godavari bed at Sironcha in Gadchiroli district, the district authorities and the local police have carried out raids on Feb. 11, 2017, seizing four earth-movers (JCBs) and about 70 trucks involved in the illegal operation. The three mines are among nine leases granted in Sep 2016 to various contractors in what is being seen as the biggest sand mining business going on anywhere in the state. While the 10th mine was yet to be auctioned, the total area being plundered for mine comes to 45 hectares, mostly in the Godavari bed. One of the mines, however, is in the adjoining Pranhita river. As per report, rules are being flouted with impunity at all the mines. As against the stipulation of only manual extraction, the entire mining was being done using JCBs. 

Uttar Pradesh 2 sand filled trucks caught in Noida Under their operation ‘dhar-pakad’ (raid and seize), the Greater Noida police seized two tractors that were being used to carry sand mined illegally from Yamuna banks in Kambakshpur village on Feb.04. Police seized the two tractors with sand and filed a case against the owners of the tractors. However, the police were unable to catch the tractor drivers, who fled into the nearby forests.

WETLANDS AND WATER BODIES 

National SC directs Centre to preserve over 2 lakh wetlands In a major direction to preserve ecologically crucial wetlands threatened by encroachment in many parts of the country, the SC on Feb 08, 2017 has directed the Centre to frame a policy to protect wetlands by June 30, 2017. The Centre has been asked to draw up a phased plan of action to conserve the water bodies. Emphasizing the important role of wetlands in maintaining ecological balance, a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Prafulla C Pant directed the Centre to notify all 2,01,503 wetlands and asked the states to provide details too. The bench set a deadline of June 30, 2017 to frame policy for preservation of wetlands.

MoEF CWRA to get extension beyond Feb. 13 The Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority (CWRA) is likely to get three years extension beyond February 13. As per a official sources, the environment ministry has already taken the decision in this regard and sought the law ministry’s opinion before going ahead with its notification and a final call is likely to be taken before February 13 when the tenure of the present body expires. Asked why the Centre has so far not notified all wetlands under the Wetlands Rules, 2010 the MoEF official explained that the ministry has been reviewing many provisions of the 2010 rules in the context of the ongoing task of boundary demarcation of these wetlands by different states based on their revenue records. 

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Maharashtra HC seeks Google maps to find out wetland damage The Bombay high court on Feb. 07, 2017 said the state govt must equally take care of citizens’ interests as it does of builders and ruthlessly stop destruction of wetlands near Mumbai. The court has sought old and latest Google maps “to compare the extent of damage to the environment by virtue of damage to wetlands and in the future to ensure it can be restored to its original state”. The judges said it remains to be seen what steps the authorities and corporations take to restore the wetlands. The court has passed orders banning construction on and reclamation of wetlands.  Noting that the state has submitted a brief document in respect of wetlands in forest areas, it directed it to submit the document of non-forest areas within four weeks.

HC asks Govt to replace mangroves’ panel member Bombay high court on Jan. 27, 2017 directed the state govt to reconstitute a committee that was set up to protect and preserve mangroves in Navi Mumbai, by replacing the senior forest officer, its ex-officio member secretary. The court reportedly was miffed that while the committee, constituted under an HC order, was doing an excellent job, its member secretary, Milind Panditrao, a divisional forest officer (mangrove cell), suggested at its Jan. 10, 2017 meeting that there were committees headed by collectors at the district level to receive complaints, and there was no need for them to be referred to Navi Mumbai Mangroves’ Protection Committee (NMMPC), and the HC should be made aware of it. Defending the official, the govt advocate said it was only Panditrao’s suggestion and not a committee decision but the bench noted from the meeting’s minutes that the committee decided to take legal opinion on it.

Kerala Mining posing threat to mangrove forests The district environment committee of the Kerala Sastra Sahithya Parishad (KSSP) has alleged that the mineral sand-mining activity carried out by the public-sector Indian Rare Earths (IRE) along Vellanathurutu in Alapad panchayat was causing widespread damage to the naturally growing mangrove forests in the area. Calling for immediate ban on mining activity the committee alleged that a destructive mechanical process was being applied in the area instead of applying the more eco-friendly beach washing method of mining.  According to committee the activity had already destroyed more than two hectares of mangrove forests at estuary where the Pallikkal River met the sea. As per report, at least 12 mangrove species, some of them threatened or endangered, were growing in the region.

Uttarakhand WWF report finds over 70% wetlands in ‘degraded’ condition In a shocking revelation, a WWF report has noted that more than 60 (nearly 70%) wetlands out of the total 85 have “degraded due to sheer neglect”. WWF officials, who conducted research on the all 85 wetlands, said the degraded wetlands include Jhilmil in Haridwar, Dodital in Uttarkashi as well as Garudtal in Kumaon. WWF says 70% of the 85 wetlands they surveyed in Uttarakhand were in neglected condition. However, according to National Wetlands Atlas, there are supposed to be 994 wetlands in Uttarakhand. Not clear what were the criteria for the 85 studied by WWF.

WATER OPTIONS 

Sikkim Ice towers could turn deadly lake into water bank EXCELLENT report on how scientists in Sikkim are trying to deal with the risks of GLOF. They plan to “to turn the excess water into towers of ice for farmers to use in the warmer months. 

WATER 

Center 11 % increased in budget allocation for Water Ministry In this year, budget, the allocation for the Union Water Ministry has been raised by more than 11 percent. The allocation for the Ministry in the year 2016-17 was Rs. 6201 crore which has been increased to Rs. 6887 crore. The allocation for Namami Gange programme has also been increased from Rs. 2150 crore to Rs. 2250 crore. The corpus of Long Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF) instituted in NABARD as part of PMKSY has been doubled from Rs. 20000 crore to 40000 crore. The govt had made a budgetary provision of Rs. 12,517 crore for the fund in the Union budget of 2016-17. This happened under budget on Feb 1, but still noteworthy.

GROUND WATER

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SANDRP Blog Ground Water 2016: India’s water lifeline continues to bleed Summer of 2016 saw thirteen Indian states grappling with severest drought greatly fueling the ongoing depletion of aquifers. Then the supposedly surplus southwest monsoon also fell short by 3 per cent further stressing the falling groundwater table. At the same time the pollution of surface water sources, which function as recharge point for ground water, went uninterrupted. All through the year, Central and many State Governments unveiled several new plans and projects targeting the sustainable consumption of groundwater. 

National Rajasthan tops in use of groundwater for industry As per a statement in Lok Sabha, the Centre has allowed Rajasthan to use maximum groundwater in the country for industrial purposes in the last five years. The Central Groundwater Authority (CGWA) issued no-objection certificates for utilisation of more than 4.04 crore cubic metres of groundwater in Rajasthan — the volume used in the state every year is 37% more than what is recharged. After Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh used 3.44 crore cubic meters (CM) of groundwater for industry, followed by Chhattisgarh (3.31 crore CM) and Odisha (2.27 crore CM). As per a CGWA report around 10.82 billion cubic metres of groundwater is available in Rajasthan every year after recharge but around 13.13 billion cubic metres is exploited for irrigation and 1.70 billion cubic metres for domestic and industrial purposes.

Maharashtra Govt to start digital measurement of groundwater levels Maharashtra houses about 4.70 lakh wells, spread across 25,500 villages located in 33 districts. Groundwater levels were found to have hit the bottom of the table, at some places over 5 metres. Lowest levels were reported from Marathwada and Vidrabha regions, following poor monsoon during two consecutive years (2014 and 2015). At present, the groundwater surveys are mainly taken four times a year — January, March, May and October. The groundwater levels are dropping and they are not dropping because we don’t know that they are dropping! They are dropping even when we know they are dropping, because the authorities are unable to take any action, have shown no will. So this digital measurement will only mean we may get the information faster, but to say that this will help manage groundwater is just day dreaming or worse. 

SOUTH ASIA 

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India, Bangladesh and Myanmar face big quake threat A monster earthquake of possibly magnitude 8.2 to 9 is brewing beneath Bangladesh, Myanmar and Northeast India, imperilling 140 million people within 99 km of its potential epicentre, according to a new paper in the journal Nature Geoscience. When that might happen is unclear. It could be 500 years from now or it could be tomorrow, but the researchers said an earthquake is inevitable.  This is about six months old, but still VERY MUCH relevant, the mega earthquake remains relevant in the region, warning against major interventions in the North East India. 

ENVIRONMENT 

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Study Stubble burning in 2016 highest in 3 years in Haryana  A new study has found that stubble burning in Haryana was higher in 2016 compared to the previous two years, a new study has found. This has set alarm bells ringing for anti-pollution officials in the state because of its serious implications for air quality in the entire region, including the national capital. The study covered crop burning over four years — from 2013 to 2016. As per the study, paddy stubble was burnt over an area of 202.3 thousand hectares in 2016, 163 thousand hectares in 2015, 168.9 thousand hectares in 2014 and 208.3 thousand hectares in 2013. The area across which stubble was burnt saw a fall in 2014 and 2015. But 2016’s data shows a sharp jump of 24.1 per cent. 

Jammu & Kashmir Behind the Valley’s snow peak Kashmir this year has already received 23 cm of snow fall, when 26 cm is considered normal. The article explains a number of things, including the significance and blessing of chillai kalan, a 40 day cold period and how the snow fall this year is coming after 26 years.

You may also like to see DRP News Bulletin 06 Feb. 2017 & DRP News Bulletin 30 Jan. 2017

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