DRP News Bulletin 20 Feb. 2017 (Bihar Govt Demands Decommissioning of Farakka Dam)

Bihar wants Farakka barrage to be decommissioned The Nitish Kumar govt has held the Farakka barrage in West Bengal responsible for heavy floods in Bihar and asked the Centre to decommission it to de-silt the heavily loaded upstream of Ganga River. The state has made the recommendation, observing that the dam is the “genesis of severe” flood consequences and responsible for “alarming” silt increase in the river’s upstream. According to sources, Nitish Kumar dispensation has made the demand before an experts’ committee formed by the Centre to work out guidelines for de-silting Ganga following last year’s devastating floods. 

As per the statement, decommissioning the barrage will help automatically de-silt the heavily loaded upstream, allowing silt to move to deltas before the sea thus helping  in restoration of deltas and its eco-system which is also getting adversely affected due to this barrage. To buttress its point, the state government has referred to Kolkata Port Trust’s data, which suggests that silt dredging at the port has increased from 6.40 million cubic metres annually from pre-Farakka days to four times, i.e. at 21.88 MCM annually, during 2003. The state government has also recommended the panel to come up with ‘National Silt Policy’ to address the problem. Bihar faced one of its worst floods as Ganga swelled in August last year, claiming lives of over 20 persons and affecting 20 lakh people.

Bihar Government has rightly asked for decommissioning of Farakka barrage and held it as the genesis of severe, destructive and prolonged floods that Bihar and other regions upstream from Farakka face year after year. Good to see that Bihar government has officially demanded decommissioning of the Farakka barrage before an expert committee of Ministry of Water Resources. Hope this starts the ball rolling to remove this unnecessary and giant dam on Ganga, which will also help the cause of fisheries (including Hilsa), downstream Bengal and also the river in general. The road cum rail line on the  barrage can continue to exist.

WETLANDS AND WATER BODIES

West Bengal Environment minister to decide fate of wetlands The East Kolkata Wetlands Bill, which is likely to be placed in the assembly this week, makes the state environment minister the chairperson of the East Kolkata Wetlands Development Authority. The environment minister Sovan Chatterjee, who also happens to be the state housing minister, the state fire services minister as well as the city’s mayor. His becoming the chairperson of the wetland authority has triggered alarm among Kolkata’s environmentalists, who say the amendment will vest too much of power in one person. What has prompted the outcry are Chatterjee’s recent proposals, including having Eco Park-like development on the wetlands, and his questioning the curbs that the Ramsar site imposes on the city’s eastward growth and any construction on the wetlands. He has openly said that wetlands conservation means little to the poor and wished to change the status of wetlands to take up developmental projects.

Karnataka Bengaluru’s Bellandur lake catches fire The smoke clouds are stated to be formed by burning of waste dumped surrounding the Bellandur lake. But the residents allege that toxic chemicals are being discharged in the lake causing the incident. The lake has been in the news for the last one year for spillover of froth and toxic fumes. In 2015, foam from the lake spilled over on to roads and other spaces surrounding the lake. At the time, authorities insisted that the foam was from the detergents households discharged into the lake. Other officials believe that the fire was sparked by “chemically active sludge”, but are yet to conduct tests to verify their hypothesis.

Bellandur Lake is a major water body which is located in one of the three main valleys of Bangalore. It forms a part of Ponnaiyar River catchment, and water from Bellandur flows to Varthur Lake, ultimately joining the Pennar River. Currently, most of Bengaluru’s treated and untreated sewage is let into this lake, severely polluting it, resulting in a depletion of wildlife in and around the lake.

In a straight forward opinion Pavan Srinath says that with entry into the lake and drains largely unregulated, a complex mix of human waste, microbial contamination, synthetic chemicals and more form a toxic cocktail where anything can happen. When the water evaporates in the dry season, flammable toxic residues and other solid garbage form a new mix that is evidently equally flammable. He further blames acute under-governance as the real reason behind incident.  “While the dynamic private sector has been creating jobs and wealth, Bengaluru’s govt agencies have profoundly failed in almost all of their responsibilities. Instead of effective action, they with fragmented mandates pass the problems on to each other after doing very little.

The Greater Bangalore City Corporation (BBMP) is notionally in charge of most city lakes, but has neither the capacity nor the resources and the desire to do anything about them. City sewerage is managed by a water agency (BWSSB) that reports not to the city, but directly to the state government. Land use is notionally governed by an absent city development authority (BDA). An independent pollution control board is toothless and sightless. The Chief Minister has to be seen caring for the entire state, and not just the prosperous capital – even if city residents form a full fifth of the state’s population. 

As per the author, 21st century government needs networked thinking and networked action and it is evident that challenges like burning Bellandur need many players to act in a concerted manner. Old paradigms of centralisation are bound to fail.

Similarly, The Hindu Editorial finds the incidents as a warning sign crashing urban environments under the weight of official indifference. It further reveals that the city has lost an estimated 79% of water bodies and 80% of its tree cover from the baseline year of 1973. Successive governments in the State have ignored the rampant encroachment of lake beds and catchment areas for commercial exploitation, and the pollution caused by sewage, industrial effluents and garbage.

The report alleges that the neglect of wetlands is deliberate, since some of the finest urban ecologists in the city have been warning that govt inaction is turning Bengaluru into an unliveable mess. More broadly, the collapse of environmental management because of multiple, disjointed agencies achieving little collectively and legal protections remaining unimplemented pose a serious threat to wetlands, environment and public health.

Meanwhile, the first status report filed before the Karnataka High Court on Bellandur Lake that it is highly polluted due to sewage flow into the lake from surrounding areas. Incidentally, the report comes a day after a fire near the same lake gave residents and commuters the jitters.

Maharashtra Govt identifies 320 wetlands in forests The state forest department has identified 320 wetlands in forest areas across 25 districts and developed brief documents detailing the demarcation, protection of wetlands through satellite imagery and submitted them in the court. The report identified the maximum wetlands in Vidarbha district with 83 in Bhandara, 40 in Gondia, 35 in Chandrapur, 32 in Nagpur, 23 in Ghadchiroli and 20 in Yavatmal. While Ratnagiri has 27 wetlands, Mumbai suburban, Pune and Thane have two, six and nine wetlands, respectively. The department produced the document by complying with orders passed by the Bombay high court (HC) in 2014 under a petition filed by NGO Vanashakti for the protection of wetlands. With this, Mahrashtra is the second such state to come out with such a document after Odisha. A total of 464 wetland sites were identified through satellite maps and submitted to the state mangrove cell in early 2016. Will this lead to any better fate of these wetlands?

Kerala Study finds Vembanad wetlands hurtling towards crisis A study conducted under Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) has reported a high level of eutrophication of the Vembanad lake, a Ramsar site and the hub of backwater tourism in Kerala. Data collected by the environmental surveillance centre at RARS indicates that the organic pollution of the lake is getting worse. The report is based on the analysis of data collected for five years on critical parameters. The riverine locations near Pampa and Manimala indicate very high levels of bacterial coliform. The tourism house boat terminals at Thannermukkom, Punnamada, Pallathuruthy, and Kumarakom revealed high pollution. The study finds that pesticide residue from rice polders and nutrient discharge from urban settlements are aggravating the pollution of the Vembanad lake, playing havoc with the fragile wetland ecosystem and jeopardising its tourism potential.

Uttar Pradesh Eco Park plan inside Surajpur wetland shelved Under pressure from the green brigade in Gautam Budh Nagar, the forest department has shelved its Eco Park project inside the Surapur wetland and forest reserve. Eco Park was proposed as a concept to attract visitors to wetlands and forest reserves. The project was allotted a ₹130-crore budget and included the construction of a cycle track and a 4km pathway, besides other facilities, inside the wetland. It was inaugurated in April 2014 by the chief minister. However, environmentalists contended that construction work and human intervention inside the wetland would affect the ecology. The wetland is spread across 325 hectares and consist a natural lake of 80 hectares. It is located on the Dadri-Surajpur-Chhalera (DSC) road in Greater Noida, 20 km from Noida. Surajpur bird sanctuary is a haven for migratory birds.

NCR’s largest wetland faces threat, Centre seeks report The Union Environment Ministry  has sought an action taken report from the principal chief conservator of forest, wildlife, Uttar Pradesh, on multiple threats to the natural Hasanpur wetland. Spread over 37.749 hectares, the wetland is located near Bambawad village on the border of Gautam Budh Nagar and Hapur districts. The wetland, the biggest in Delhi-NCR, is around 10 km away from Greater Noida’s Dadri. However, since it is located in two districts, its protection has been nobody’s priority. The Union ministry sought an action taken report after Vikrant Tongad lodged a complaint on the destruction of the wetland and its wildlife. The complaint added that the NHAI and Greater Noida authority also plan to construct two major roads around the wetland, which will destroy it to a large extent. This wetland needs to be protected, as Vikrant Tongad have been trying to save it.

HYDRO POWER PROJECTS

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SANDRP Article Hydropower isn’t river-friendly SANDRP article on River Speaks series being published by DNA.  There are many misconceptions about hydropower projects. They largely come from the statements of project proponents and governments who say that hydropower is a clean, green, renewable, and cheap source of power. It gives an impression that hydropower is environment-and-river-friendly. It’s not.

Arunachal Pradesh Tawang meet says no to hydro projects In an important development hundreds of monks led by the Save Mon Region Federation (SMRF), PRIs leaders, common citizens on Feb 14, 2017 have said no to the Tawang Phase I and II by the NHPC. The rejection happened during a meeting headed by the Rev Thegtse Rinpochhe which was convened by the DC Sang Phuntsok to discuss the issues related to NHPC’s Tawang Phase-I and Phase-II hydro power projects. As per Tsering Tashi, the Tawang MLA a committee will be constituted under the guidance of Rev. Tawang has witnessed severe violence as it erupted against mega power projects with Army called in on May 02, 2016.

Jammu & Kashmir PoK power project starts despite Modi threat The government in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir has begun work on a $2.4 billion hydroelectric power project on river Jhelum, which flows out from Kashmir valley. The 1,124 MW project is the largest in the territory coming up at Kolhala, about 224 km from Muzaffarabad, the capital of PoK. China Three Gorges Corp has been awarded the contract to build the dam and the powerhouse within six years. Reports from Muzaffarabad also said that the PoK govt. has launched a comprehensive plan to accelerate the pace of hydropower development. The title is misleading, but news is noteworthy: work on USD 2.4 B, 1124 MW Kolhala hydropower project on Jhelum river in Muzaffrabad district in Pok has started, to be done by Chinese company.  

Uttraakhand 5 hydro power plants to be repaired under DRIP According to UJVNL, two dams Ichhari dam over Tonk river in Dehradun and Manaeri (stage one) dam over Bhagirathi river in Uttarkashi will be repaired under the project. Besides the dams, Asan barrage in Doon valley, Dakpather barrage in Dehradun and Pashulok barrage in Rishikesh are being covered under the dam rehabilitation and improvement project (DRIP) of World Bank.  This was announced at the Dam Safety Conference, see for details.

DAMS

National 170 Dams over 100 years old now Globally India ranks third after China and the America in terms of number of large dams with a total storage capacity of about 283 billion cubic meters. Close to 80% of large dams have surpassed the age of 25 years, and many of them face the challenges of deferred maintenance. Many of these dams are considerably old (about 170 dams exceed the age of 100 years) and built in an era whose design practices and safety considerations do not match with the current design standards and the prevailing safety norms. Several of these dams may be experiencing distress and are in urgent need of attention for ensuring their structural safety as well as operational efficiency. Large dams’ failure may seriously affect the lives, property and the environment in addition to disrupting the services provided by the dam.

IRRIGATION

Gujarat Farmers’ rally over water demand, turns violent At least 7 policemen were injured on Feb. 14, 2017 in stone pelting incident when cops tried to stop a farmers’ rally near Sanand town in Gujarat. To raise the issue of water supply, farmers living in villages near Nal Sarovar had announced to take a rally till Gandhinagar, for which, police had already denied them permission. When the rally consisting of around 3,000 persons reached near Sanand, farmers tried to convince some of their leaders not to go ahead. When talks were on with leaders, some persons in the rally started throwing stones on policemen, injuring at least 7 personnel.  Water conflicts are on the increasing in Gujarat as farmers are neglected.

INTERSTATE WATER DISPUTES

Krishna & Godavari 2 water sharing options mooted The 5 member expert committee meeting on sharing of Krishana and Godavari rivers water has taken place on Feb. 16, 2017. During the meeting Telangana CM K. Chandrasekhar Rao has suggested implementation of two different schemes for utilisation of river waters by riparian States. One scheme is sharing the Godavari and Krishna waters, when there is adequate rainfall which also causes flood to the States. The other scheme is sharing the rivers water when rainfall is insufficient leading to poor water availability in the rivers. Mr. Rao has also emphasised to the committee that he is in favour of a mutual understanding between AP and Telangana rather than moving courts demanding their share in river water.

Tamil Nadu & Kerala Bhavani check dam protest committee to launch stir  Tamil Nadu’s Bhavani check dam protest committee to launch stir against Kerala  Bhavani check dam protest committee will stage a protest at KG Chavadi, on the Kerala border, on March 12 against the Kerala govt’s move to construct six check dams across Bhavani river. The decision was taken at the committee meeting held at the Dravidar Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) DMK party office in North Coimbatore on Feb. 19, 2017. The Committee officials allege that the Kerala government started the check dam construction work across the Bhavani at Thaekkuvattai in Palakkad district a few months ago. The committee is comprised of members from all political parties, except those from AIADMK and BJP.

Meanwhile, DMK deputy general secretary has hinted at the necessity to launch a mass awareness drive on the issue. In the wake of Supreme Court’s dismissal of the petition, members of the Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam (TPDK), DMK and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) from Coimbatore, Tirupur and Erode have decided to file a petition in Supreme Court on behalf of the protest committee. Amid this political turmoil, water crisis continued to affect Coimbatore residents with water being supplied to some places once in 15 to 17 days. The city is facing its worst water crisis after a gap of six decades.

RIVERS

Cauvery The mind’s river This is a poignant and beautiful piece written by biologist Nisrag Prakash based on his memory of Cauvery River. Do read it.

Kerala Meeting on Muvattupuzha river pollution Amidst growing concerns over pollution in Muvattupuzha river, district administration has convened a meeting of various local bodies on Feb 23, 2017 after Piravom Municipality sought the intervention of District Collector to clean the river. Dumping of wastes including plastic bottles, beer bottles, used diapers and sacks full of slaughterhouse remains has polluted the river especially, the Piravom stretch. The fact that the Piravom stretch of the river is the source for four major drinking water projects supplying water to over 10 lakh people in central Kerala highlights the gravity of the issue. These projects cater to over 10 lakh people in central Kerala. It is worth to mention that the state govt on Feb. 13, 2017 has signalled its intentions to zero in on agents of pollution in water resources as Kerala is getting ready to pronounce itself Open Defecation Free (ODF) by March 31, 2017.

GANGA NGT Will subject entire cleaning project to CBI Irked over wastage of funds for cleaning of Ganga in western UP, the NGT on Feb. 16, 2017 warned it could order a CBI enquiry into all projects relating to the rejuvenation of the river.  The observations came as NGT was dealing with monitoring of the setting up of 2 STPs at Garhmukteshwar and Brijghat for treating effluents from Garh drain, which joins Ganga. The green panel said it would mainly deal with the issue of establishment of STPs with respect to 30 drains joining Ganga in segment B of phase-I, which may resolve the problem of industrial pollution at Kanpur and Unnao and waste emananting from textile, tannery, paper, distillery units.

The tribunal also issued non-bailable warrants (NBW) against an Executive Officer of the Garhmukteshwar Nagar Palika Parishad for failing to appear before it and not providing ht-gangainformation on industries in the area. The NBW was later cancelled after the officer appeared before it and apologised before the bench. On the last date of hearing, it had earlier set up a committee to inspect the status of 2 STPs in Garhmukteshwar and Brijghat.

National Ganga needs a road map not only money is worth to mention that, the Modi govt had promised the country a clean Ganga by 2020. In his first year, Modi launched the Namami Gange programme with a whopping budget of 20,000 crore for a five-year period ending 2020. This was at least 20 times more than what had been spent on Ganga rejuvenation projects since 1985. However, as his govt nears the three-year mark, it is becoming increasingly clear that lack of funds was never the problem. An RTI reply from the PMO last year revealed that about 20% of the Rs 3,700-crore funds allocated in the first two years of the programme was not utilised.

Meanwhile, according to the estimates of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), only 1,000 MLD of the total 3,000 MLD sewerage is treated (every day) before it falls into Ganga. Moreover 12000 MLD sewerages go into the Ganga river basin of which only 4,000 million litres is treated. The human settlements, hotels and industries located along the river also play a big role in polluting Ganga as many of them don’t have STPs. The NGRBA is currently working on 57 projects of STPs with combined capacity to treat 470.53 million litres of sewerage per day. Of these, 15 projects are in Uttarakhand, seven in Uttar Pradesh, five in Bihar and 27 in West Bengal.

Uttar Pradesh Proposed cruise service a threat to turtle sanctuary The Banaras tourism department is set to introduce a 40-seater cruise service between Assi ghat and Rajghat within this year. According to department, under the project of Rs 20-22 crore proposed in 2017-18, two units of 40-seater cruise will be operated in first phase. The department officials have sought clearance of forest department as a tortoise sanctuary exists in the stretch of the river from Rajghat to Ramnagar. This 7-km stretch of Ganga was declared tortoise sanctuary on December 21, 1989 under the Ganga Action Plan launched in 1986. It is looked after by the Kashi Wildlife Division, Ramnagar.

SAND MINING 

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Sand mining on the banks of the Ken river in Kartal village, Bandha (Photo:HT) 

 

Uttar Pradesh & Madhya Pradesh Illegal mining continues in Ken River Despite the NGT banning unauthorised sand mining in the Bundelkhand region way back in 2013, sand stealing has continued unabated. The district magistrates of Banda (UP) and Chhattarpur (MP) have failed to comply with NGT’s order despite giving an undertaking that sand mining will not be allowed in the area. NGT had in Jan 2017 issued notices to the Union environment ministry and the UP govt seeking reply in two weeks. The case is coming up before NGT on March 7, 2017.  

As per Saroj Kumar, Banda district magistrate, administration is aware of the illegal sand mining along the50-60 km long stretch of Ken that passes through Banda but because of resource crunch is unable to maintain round-the-clock vigil. The DM also says that mining department is short staffed and because of elections the security staffs also has their hands full, despite that they were taking actions on complaints. The villagers, however, allege that the district administration is fully in the know but has deliberately turned a blind eye. They also say that sand mining activities was damaging their crops and has also resulted in the river changing its course, causing floods in neighbouring villages.

Maharashtra Show cause notices to 6 sand mines in Sironcha The Gadchiroli administration has issued showcause notices to six sand mines in Sironcha asking why their leases should not be cancelled in the wake of the violations that have come to fore during the raids on Feb. 11, 2017.  The raids were conducted jointly by Revenue and police officials following media reports. Meanwhile, CCTV cameras have been installed at the spot to check illicit activities.

Bihar DIG Shalin to probe irregularities in sand mining leases The Patna High Court on Feb. 17, 2017 appointed DIG (central range) Shalin as officer of the court for conducting probe into different aspects of sand mining in Bihar, especially Patna and Bhojpur districts, which form a significant part of the sand mining belt. DIG Shalin has claimed to make a thorough probe into the irregularities and corruption in settlement of sand mining leases in the state.

Sand mining, mostly illegal, is rampant at various places along the bank of the Ganga, including Maner, Danapur, Digha, Alamganj and several ghats in Patna City like Kali Ghat, Damriyahi Ghat and Mahavir Ghat. Illegal sand mining has lately started at the sandbar in the Ganga behind Patna University as well. Hundreds of tractors laden with sand dug from the banks as well as the main course of the Ganga from such places provide daily supply for the construction sector in and around Patna. The sand mining at these places is at times done at night hours and under the supervision of henchmen of ganglords. Local miners are excavating the sand even from the middle of the river using country made boats and buckets.

Goa Sand extraction damaged river bank It is not a study but an official site inspection visit on the impact of illegal sand mining in Tiracol river in Pernem region Goa.

WATER OPTIONS

Karnataka Saving Bengaluru from a water crisis  Rainwater Harvesting and Wastewater Treatment can provide potable water (@140 lpcd) to 15 million people in Bengaluru that too without exploiting ground and depending on remote water sources explains hydrologists  K.C. Subhash Chandra and G.V. Hegde who have jointly authored a new book titled Bengaluru Water Resource Management – Challenges and Remedies’

Some noteworthy points………

* The cumulative effects of unplanned urbanisation, encroachment and pollution of lakes and rivers have results in wasting nearly 170 Million Cubic Metre (Mm 3) water.

* By the year 2020, the population is expected to cross 9.5 million and the basic water requirement at 140 lpcd would grow upto 485 (Mm 3) per year.

* There are strong reports of unaccounted loss of nearly 40 per cent of the water so tapped which includes leakage, transmission loss and illegal connections.

* The number of bore wells is said to be more than 4 lakh in Bengaluru. The continued excessive exploitation of groundwater resources over years and successive drought condition for 2 years now has brought in a condition of the city aquifers almost becoming dry.

* If only 70 per cent of the 1100 mld sewage generated in the city is treated to secondary level and 60 per cent of that treat water is further purified to tertiary level (potable quality) it could meet the requirement of nearly 33 lakh people of the city.

* Around 500,000 houses in Bengaluru have an average roof area of 100 sq. m with 800 mm of normal rainfall, about 40 Mm 3 of water per year through roof-top rainwater harvesting can be conserved and 70 per cent of such a resource is properly protected and stored, it can meet the requirement of about 600,000 people.

GROUND WATER

NGT Tribunal raps Central Govt over depleting ground water The NGT on Feb. 14, 2017 has issued notices to the central ground water authority (CGWA) and ministry of water resources, Irrigation department UP over depleting ground water table in UP. The notices were issued on a petition highlighting the gradual decline in water table across the State. The plea has claimed that assessment of ground water level had been done thrice (in 2000, 2004 and 2011) in the last 17 years, and during this period the number of over exploited areas had increased substantially, but the authorities concerned had not taken any action. It further claimed that the CGWA failed in its duty to implement the water resources ministry’s order of conducting assessment of ground water level every two years. Notably a recent statement by Union Water Minister in Rajya Sabha has revealed that 34 out of 75 districts of Uttar Pradesh are “overexploited” for groundwater.

Rajasthan Groundwater report rings fluoride alarm According to a union drinking water and sanitation ministry report, Rajasthan has the highest number of habitations where groundwater contains fluoride. Of the 13,334 habitations affected by fluoride in the country, Rajasthan has 6,589 where more than 45 lakh people live. The report, with data updated till January 2017, was tabled in parliament on Feb. 09, 2017. After Rajasthan, 1,041 habitations were affected by fluoride in Telangana, and 1,039 in West Bengal.

Notably, the Centre allowed Rajasthan to use maximum groundwater in the country for industrial purposes in the last five years, the government has said in the Lok Sabha. The 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).

The board report says 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. As per state groundwater department 2014 report, the groundwater level has dipped 15 metres in Nagaur, Jhunjunu, Jalore, Jaipur and Sikar districts because of overexploitation in last 30 years. Alwar and Dausa districts registered 10-15 meters decline in ground water level. The level is under five meters in Ajmer, Baswara, Baran, Bharatpur, Bhilwara, Bundi, Dholpur, Dungarpur, Kota, Sawai Madhopur, Tonk and Udaipur districts.

National Experts raise concern over exploitation of groundwater During a national workshop on ‘Coastal Salinity Management Strategies’ at Junagadh Agricultural University (JAU), experts have raised concern rampant exploitation of groundwater for irration and irrational incentives for power supply in many states that is increasing inland salinity. As per Tushar Shah, senior fellow at International Water Management Institute (IWMI) 90 percent of salinity problems are man-made across the world and we must find out solutions by judicious use of ground water in preventing coastal salinity as well as inland salinity.

WATER

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Residents of Chittur collecting water at a well,  the study finds that most areas in Eastern Palakkad are far below in the world’s water poverty index.

Study Water poverty to be a challenge for Palakkad households According to a survey conducted by the Department of Geography, Govt College, Chittur, Palakkad stands top among the districts in Kerala on many counts in the Water Poverty Index (WPI). The study says that with the fast drying up of water resources and alarming depletion of groundwater, water poverty would soon become the major challenge for households in Palakkad district. As per the study families will have to spend a lot of money in sourcing water if the situation continues unabated. A large number of bore-wells dug in recent years have turned defunct across the district owing to groundwater depletion. As per WPI yardsticks, Palakkad is in the 61st position, though it is yet to be confirmed officially. The study finds deficiency in average rainfall as the most worrying issue. In the last monsoon, the deficit was of 34%.

Kerala Water theft on the rise in Kochi As per officials about 40% of water distributed in the city and suburbs through piped connections of the Kerala Water Authority provides no revenue. Officials at the Non-Revenue Water Management (NRWM) said that unattended leakages make one of the major losses as also faulty meters. According to official the ownership of the land had been found to be a major problem among the people for not taking a proper connection and resorting to water theft. However, the official said that KWA provides water connection on the basis of the Aadhar number of a person.

West Bengal People struggle to access safe drinking water According to estimates available with the Union ministry of drinking water and sanitation, around 411 lakh villagers in India, which is around 4.5% of the country’s rural population, do not have access to safe and clean drinking water. Out of this 411 lakh population around 19% or 78 lakh villagers are from West Bengal. West Bengal has the second highest number of villagers who do not have access to safe drinking water in India, second only to Rajasthan. In Rajasthan around 82 lakh villagers do have access to safe drinking water. This means that around one out of every five persons in rural India, who do not have access to clean drinking water, is from West Bengal.

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India is among the top 10 countries in the world with the largest number of people living without access to safe water (Photo HT)

Around 84% of the rural population in Bengal has to depend on ground water sources. But in nearly 83 blocks are affected with arsenic problem in the state, around 43 blocks have fluoride in drinking water above the permissible limit. Apart from this, there are several other problems such as high doses of iron and salinity in several other blocks. The data also reveals that only around 56% families living in urban areas in West Bengal have access to safe drinking water, which is far less than the national average of 70.6%. An annual per-capita water availability of less than 17 lakh cubic metres is considered a water stressed condition, whereas annual per-capita water availability below 1000 cubic metres is considered as a water scarcity condition.

As per officials from State Govt, the average annual per capita water availability in 2001 was around 18.2 lakh litres. This dropped to 15.4 lakh litres in the year 2011, suggesting that we are already reeling under a water stressed condition. It may further drop to 13.4 lakh litres in 2025 and to 11.4 lakh litres by 2050. India is listed by Water Aid among the top 10 countries in the world with the largest number of people living without access to clean water.

Andhra Pradesh Liquor available 24×7, but no water to drink Canal water muddy and unreliable, ground water contaminated, bottled water too costly but Govt has made 24X7 liquor supply available in Kappaladoddi a famous weavers’ village in Machilipatnam. The village with a population of 3,200 has 11 belt (unlicensed) shops against the Excise Department’s rule of one licensed liquor shop for a population of 5,000.The village with a population of 3,200 has 11 belt (unlicensed) shops against the Excise Department’s rule of one licensed liquor shop for a population of 5,000. Taking advantage of the scarcity, some entrepreneurs from the neighbouring Aakulamannadu village have dug up a bore well, solely to sell water to the villagers.

SOUTH ASIA

India-Nepal 4th meet on power cooperation held Discussing the progress of various hydro power projects (HPP), concern was expressed regarding delays in acquisition of forest land for Arun-III and Upper Karnali projects which have led to delays in works and economic viability of the projects. The Nepalese side conveyed that these issues would be resolved within two months. As per the report the installed capacity for export of power to Nepal will increase to 120 MW by the end of Feb 2017 which would further go up to almost 700 MW by the middle of 2017 with the completion of several transmission line being built now. The Indian side has conveyed its willingness to supply additional electricity to Nepal on the existing and new transmission lines. The two sides also discussed construction of new transmission lines, keeping in view the power projects that are being developed.

India-Bhutan CDCL unveils first set of hydropower equipment The Construction Development Corporation Ltd. (CDCL) has on Feb 13 unveiled HPP equipments worth Nu 214 million (M) at Hosethangkhag in Wangdue. This purchase was the first phase of the procurement plan for HPP construction under department of hydro power, CDCL. The equipment was for Khorlongchu-hydro project, where CDCL is expected to get few km of Head Race Tunnel construction. They are yet to get the work, and the two govts of Bhutan and India were still discussing on the scope of the work. CDCL would be the first Bhutanese construction company to take up HPP construction works. As of now, expect for few minor works all major works at the HPP constructions within the country are carried out by Indian companies.

THE REST OF THE WORLD

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Google Earth Map of Oroville Dam

Oroville Dam Disaster California crews rush to relieve dam before new storms hit The risk has finally materialized, as also warned by SANDRP blog. Here is a video of water flowing from emergency spillway mixing with the water from damaged spillway. Almost 200,000 people were under evacuation orders in northern California on Feb. 13, 2017 after damage authorities have raised fears the spillway could collapse. California governor Jerry Brown asked the federal emergency management agency on Feb. 10, 2017 to declare a major disaster due to flooding and mudslides brought on by the storms.

This is the first time in the dam’s history that water has flowed above the overflow channel. The structure is expected to face further strain in the coming months as northern California faces its wettest ever winter on record as precipitation in the region is running at more than twice the average level for the season. As per another report, Oroville isn’t the only dam with a structural integrity problem. Like much of America’s infrastructure, American dams are aging to the point of dangerousness. (By 2020, nearly 30,000 dams will be between 50 and 70 years old — officially overage — and thousands more will be older than that).

Meanwhile experts say that climate change is leading to more extreme rainfalls that can overwhelm infrastructure. They also say that climate models show California likely will swing between devastating droughts and extreme storms. They believe that climate impacts are happening faster than models predicted they would occur.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Gujarat Are Govt’s climate change actions ‘superficial’? Touted as one of the most economically prolific states, Gujarat is also known to prioritise good governance and transparency. Therefore, it is surprising to find conflicting views on the status of implementation of the state’s action plan on climate change, with state government officials touting their commitment for implementing climate action and a prominent civil society representative saying that the claims are false and most of the climate actions in the state are business-as-usual.

Green Land Massive glacier melting video This is a powerful video showing a massive glacier melting in Greenland in an hour and falling into the ocean.  Hopefully, this video will help convince more people of how serious the situation is, so that together we can help to reverse the trend! No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. Please share!

ENVIRONMENT

Op-Ed Protecting Sundarbans from increasing salinity Bangladesh and India can do a lot to stave off the aggression of saline water in the Sundarbans. Since a part of the Sundarban covers a part of Paschimbongo, India has genuine reasons to be concerned about the increased salinity problem. The two countries should make efforts to augment downstream flow of the common rivers to help keep saline waters at bay.

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Heaps of hexavalent chromium waste has been lying on the premises of the TCCL at an industrial estate in Ranipet for nearly two decades (Photo: The Hindu)

Tamil Nadu 2 decades of Ranipet industrial disaster The detailed report covers ongoing severe impact on environment (groundwater, rivers, lakes, soil, air pollution) and its cumulative impact health and livelihoods of villagers due to 2.27 lakh tonnes toxic chromium dumping on 2 hectares compound of Tamil Nadu Chromates and Chemicals Limited (TCCL) factory in Ranipet.  In 1995, the factory in Vellore district shut shop leaving behind a legacy of contaminated soil and water. Two decades later, agriculture remains unviable and people continue to flock to hospitals with health issues.  This reminds one of Bhopal Union Carbide industrial disaster.

You may also like to visit DRP News Bulletin 13 Feb. 2017 & DRP News Bulletin 06 Feb. 2017

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