DRP News Bulletin 06 March 2017 (Farm Ponds In Maharashtra Causing Groundwater Decline)

SANDRP Blog Farm ponds in Maharashtra Causing Groundwater Decline Farm ponds recognized as a drought proofing measure have received a great push from the central Govt recently. On the flip side however serious concerns are being raised over implementation of the farm ponds and more importantly –their use. Civil society organizations like Watershed Organization Trust and also SANDRP have been pointing out that the use of farm ponds has long drifted from its objective of storing rainwater for protective irrigation. Most of the farm ponds are instead being used as storage tanks for pumped out groundwater exposing this underground resource to losses through evaporation, etc. In the process they are accelerating the rate of groundwater exploitation multi fold.

SANDRP carried out the study at Hiwargaon-Pawasa, a backwater village with a population of 1,500, in Ahmadnagar district’s Sangamner Taluk. The research presents a microcosmic example of how indiscriminate digging of farm ponds has accelerated the rate of groundwater extraction.

SANDRP study also revealed that none of the farm ponds in Hiwargaon had inlets and outlets or any other arrangement for excess rainwater inflow that was envisioned in the scheme. Instead of digging the ponds in a low-lying area, many of them are dug on the highest points of the farms. It further noted that soil conservation is the key to groundwater recharge, but it has been omitted in the scheme. As per concerned, the works under the Jal Yukta Shivir (JYS) scheme appeared to hold water, but would not recharge it. Another problem with the farm ponds is that they expose the groundwater to losses through evaporation, something that may not become immediately apparent.

Suggesting a course correction, water experts want the state Govt to take scientific steps to avoid drought this year. As per Amruta Pradhan, a researcher with SANDRP, majority of JYS work has been done unscientifically and hence though we can see water as of now, not necessarily groundwater recharge has taken place. Pradhan added that soil conservation is the key to groundwater recharge and this was completely ignored in JSY.

HYDRO POWER

SANDRP Report Unaddressed environmental impacts of Hydro projects To address the serious environmental impacts of hydropower projects, including numerous impacts on rivers, we need credible environment and social impact assessment, followed by an environment and social management plan. The next step in environment governance of hydropower projects is a public consultation, including public hearing at the location of the project. The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for River Valley Projects is then supposed to assess the adequacy of the EIA-EMP and public consultation. Parineeta Dandekar and Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP write about the compromised environmental governance of hydropower projects in India.

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SANDRP Blog Lahaul people write to EAC not to clear Reoli Dugli hydro project Through this submission, Save Lahaul Spiti and HIMDHARA on behalf of the affected community of Tindi, Kurched, Bhajund, Salgran, Kotad, Kian, Bharur villages ask EAC to consider the ground realities and concerns before deciding on EC to the Reoli Dugli hydro power project in Lahaul valley Himachal.

Centre Govt to bring new hydro policy next fiscal As per Power Secretary P K Pujari statement on Feb. 27, 2017, the Govt will bring out a new policy for the hydro power sector next fiscal to boost this clean source of energy. The new policy also seeks to bring large hydro projects at par with smaller ones in terms of availing various benefits.  At present, small hydro projects of up to 25MW capacities are considered as renewable energy initiatives and are eligible for various incentives by the government.

Centre India to generate 1,229 billion units of power in 2017-18 As per Central Electricity Authority (CEA) data, the Govt has set a target of generating 1,229.4 billion units in 2017-18 from thermal, hydro and nuclear sources along with imports from Bhutan. Generation from thermal sources alone stands at 1,042.1 billion units from thermal sources, a large part of which would be fueled by coal. From hydro power sources, the Govt looks to generate 141.4 billion units for 2017-18. Setting hydro power generation targets in Feb. when monsoon is still months away, seems such an unscientific exercise, but CEA does it every year, and their target have nothing to do with hydrology, it is purely based on installed capacity projections.

National Surplus power may cause Rs 8K cr loss to discoms in FY’17  According to India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra) 18 State power distribution companies (discoms) are staring at a net loss of Rs 8,000 crore in the current fiscal owing to purchase agreements in excess of power demand. According to the statement, 18 out of 36 states/UTs are expected to be power surplus in FY2016-17, as per the CEA’s Load Generation Balance Report 2016-17. These states could make a loss of Rs 8000 crores this year due to surplus power for which they may have to pay fixed charges.

DAMS                  

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National Work on Shahpur Kandi dam project to resume Before IWT annual meet , India has stepped up its efforts to utilise its share of waters on eastern rivers (Ravi, Beas and Sutlej) of the Indus system. As per the report, Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab Govts on Feb. 03, 2017 have reached an agreement to resume works on ambitious Shahpur Kandi Dam project. J&K has been told by MoWR that they should allow the work on Shahpur Kandi dam on Ravi river in Punjab to resume, even when the issues raised by J&K have not been resolved for years, just on the promise that MoWR will take care of J&K interests and strange that J&K has agreed.

Karnataka Cabinet approves 5,912-cr Mekedatu reservoir project The Cabinet on Feb. 23, 2017 has given in-principle approval for implementing the Mekedatu multipurpose project utilising the Cauvery river water at a cost of Rs 5,912 crore. A balancing reservoir with 66.50 tmcft capacity will be built across the river near Mekedatu in Ramanagaram district. A 400 Mw capacity hydropower unit will also come up as part of the project.  As per, Law Minister T B Jayachandra, the project will help the State utilise excess river water that, otherwise, goes waste to the sea. About 4,900 hectares of forest land have to be acquired for the project. But the Govt can implement the project only after obtaining permission from the Cauvery Supervisory Committee and the Central Water Commission. The project has failed to take off with Tamil Nadu opposing it stiffly. After Yettinahole, Upper Bhadra it is Mekedatu. Karnataka seems to be hell bent on pushing environmentally destructive projects. This one will need thousands of hectares of forest land.

Odisha Experts raise doubts over benefit of new spillway at Hirakud Dam Allocation of Rs 887 crore in the annual State budget for construction of an additional spillway in Hirakud dam has raised many eyebrows. This comes at a time when the State Govt is protesting the drastic reduction in inflow into Hirakud Dam Reservoir after Chhattisgarh Govt constructed a series of barrages to harvest water. Through additional spillway to come up at Rs 900 crores, including World Bank funds, the flood release capacity of the Hirakud Dam is planned to be increased from current 15 lakh cusecs (through 64 sluices and 32 crest gates) to 24 lakh cusecs.

OTHER WATER DISPUTES

Telangana Water disputes simmering in water dispute within State The State Govt appears to have begun witnessing sub-regional water differences as a water dispute is right now brewing between leaders of Kalwakurthy in Nagarkurnool district and those of Nalgonda district. There is a growing opposition against the state Govt’s move to divert Krishna water through the Kalwakurthy Lift Irrigation Scheme to Nalgonda via the Dindi Balancing Reservoir.

RIVERS

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SANDRP Letter Farakka Dam: What Bihar Govt urgently needs to do DURING FEB 25-26, 2017, A LANDMARK MEETING HAPPENED IN PATNA, ORGANISED BY BIHAR GOVERNMENT, UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF CHIEF MINISTER SHRI NITISH KUMAR. THE MEETING WAS ON INCESSANT GANGA WITH SUBTITLE “CAN WE ACHIEVE CLEAN GANGA WITHOUT INCESSANT GANGA?”. THIS NATIONAL-INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE WAS LANDMARK MEETING FOR A NUMBER OF REASONS, BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, SINCE A STATE GOVT WAS TAKING THE LEADERSHIP FOR THE CAUSE OF THE RIVER GANGA.

It is worth to mention that scientists and researchers from India, Bangladesh and Nepal on Feb. 26, 2017 asked the Indian Govt to put on hold the projects of National Waterways No-1 (from Haldia to Allahabad in river Ganga), until a scientific study of impact of dredging on erosion is done. In another resolution, passed at the international conference hosted by Bihar govt, the experts and policy makers from the three nations demanded a time-bound comprehensive study on cause of silting due to Farakka Barrage.

In the meeting, Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP Coordinator suggested that the gates of Farakka be opened during monsoon to mitigate the intensity of floods in Bihar, said there was an urgent need for a comprehensive study of the Farakka barrage to find out its achievements or whether the barrage fulfilled its objectives. The slogan mentioned in the report Farakka Khol Do, Bihar ko badh vibhisika se bachao was part of SANDRP coordinator’s presentation.

GANGA MoWR Desiltation can improve only a rivers hydraulic performance As per Madhav Chitale-led committee, indiscriminate desiltation work can cause “more harm” to a rivers ecology. Countering the popular perception that desiltation improves rivers ecology and its e-flow, it has argued that if carried out properly, at best, it could only improve the hydraulic performance of the river. In its draft report submitted to MoWR, the committee has recommended the Govt to make institutional arrangement to appraise any proposal for desiltation works by forming a national-level technical agency. The committee was set up in July 2016 by MoWR appointing secretaries of Environment and Water Ministry and Director of Central Water and Power Research Station, as its members. Some interesting recommendations, but one needs to be a bit wary, considering it is coming from CHITALE sir and also since it recommends that GFCC can be the institution that can do it.

MoEF Study impact of coal transportation on dolphins During Feb. 14, 2017 meeting, EAC has called for a study to monitor noise levels due to coal transportation and its impact on Gangetic dolphins. EAC was discussing NTPC’s request for extension of permission for transportation of 1.5 mtpa (million tonne per annum) imported coal through National Waterway No. 1 from Sagar to Farakka along river Ganga for five years and to increase the quantity of imported coal from 1.5 mtpa to 3 mtpa. In July 2014, the environment ministry had given temporary permission for transportation of imported coal through National Waterway No.1 for a one-year period which was extended for one more year in July 2015. The permission was further extended for another six months till end of March 2017 end.

MoWR Projects worth Rs 1,050 crore cleared for Patna Under its ‘Namami Gange’ mission, the Centre has awarded projects worth Rs 1,050 crore to different private companies for setting up sewage treatment infrastructure in Patna in next 2 to 3 years. The amount will be spent for setting up 2 STPs, renovation of 1existing STP, construction of two pumping stations and laying of new underground sewage network of about 400 kilometers. The contracts also include the cost of operation and maintenance of STPs and sewage networks for a period of 10 years. Patna – spread in an area of more than 100 sqkm- is sub-divided into 6 sewerage zones – Digha, Beur, Saidpur, Kankarbagh, Pahari and Karmali Chak.

Similarly, under NMCG the Ministry on March 02, 2017 has also signed a MoU with Rotary India to undertake WASH in Schools program in 20,000 Govt Schools and communities located along the river Ganga in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Nadia District of West Bengal. The program will undertake activities and campaigns to create awareness in schools and communities about Ganga rejuvenation and thereby reducing the pollution flowing into the river. The MoU shall remain in force for 2 years.

NGT No camping within 100 meters of River Ganga Lifting the conditional ban on camping in several Ganga beaches in Rishikesh and Kaudiyala, the NGT has allowed camping on 25 sites, against the 33 beach sites recommended by State govt. In its order, the green tribunal has prohibited camping activity on beaches which fall within 100 meters from the middle of the river during lean season flow from Shivpuri to Rishikesh, a hub for eco-tourism and river rafting. The Bench relied on various studies by Uttarakhand and the Wildlife Institute of India which said that of the total 56 beaches, 33 were recommended for camping while 23 were out of bounds. What is the logic of allowing camping along the river, which was found to be damaging earlier is not clear.

Op-Ed Nobody’s Ganga The Ganga has not remained soiled for want of funds, but the will to take action against the defaulters, including industries that have been identified as violators of pollution norms. Another factor is the inter-departmental walls; these perhaps can only be brought down through judicial intervention. Allotting funds is only the first part of a mission. Imposing any environmental protection law is bound to hurt someone’s commercial interest. That requires a will that the political executive can find only if there is public (read electoral) pressure, which is something that has been found lacking on all environmental issues.

Interesting, MoWR very recently has said that it can’t clean up Ganga by 2018 as NGT is not allowing them to set up unviable and inappropriate STPs. As per report, to treat the 12,000 MLD of sewage emptying into the river only capacity worth 4,000 MLD exists and of them, only plants with 1,000 MLD capacity were working. According to another report, by putting the NGT in charge of monitoring the Ganga, the SC has highlighted the ineptitude of the Central Govt, which has failed to take major action for more than 30 years, despite the constant reproach of the judiciary. Interesting that all these reports about failure of Govt on Ganga refuses to see that the apex court has failed after dealing with the case for 32 years.

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YAMUNA Uttar Pradesh Heritage dies on Vrindavan’s ghats The 48 ghats of Vrindavan, built by Raja Himmat Bahadur 600 years ago in the classical Braj-Rajasthani tradition on the Yamuna river front, are under siege from the State Govt and a slew of builders. Given the size of the onslaught, the future of these ghats and their unique Braj culture seems precarious. Rather than work with conservationists and architects to restore and preserve the unique heritage, the State Govt. proposes to demolish the old structures and build a new set of cement ghats. If that weren’t bad enough, it has also come up with a proposal to build an interceptor canal to carry the sewage of the neighbouring city of Kosi Kalan and dump it into the Yamuna at Vrindavan. The article shows what is going on in Vrindavan, related to Yamuna, some very interesting facets.

Gujarat Thousands to run for pollution-free Tapi More than 30,000 people are likely to participate in the ‘Run for Tapi’ to be held in the city on March 5 by Surat Future Foundation with the help of Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) to create an awareness on the need to make River Tapi pollution-free.  As per race director, there would also be 3km run for fun and also a 10km run. Around 4,000 runners would be timed as they will be competing for top three prizes in men and women categories worth Rs21 lakh. The runners would be provided with water, energy drinks and given chocolates all along the route. There would also be 12 live bands to cheer up the participants and the people who will throng the routes.

Tamil Nadu HC allows Coke, Pepsi to use Tamiraparani river water Reversing its Nov 2016 order, the Madras High Court on March 01, 2017 has allowed Coca Cola and Pepsi to use water from the river Tamiraparani river.  Notably, in 2015, several people were injured in clashes during protests over the use of the river water by the companies. In 2005, the Tamil Nadu Govt had granted companies linked to Coca-Cola permission to draw nine lakh litres of water every day and later doubled it. The companies, the petition said, are charged only Rs. 37.50 for every thousand litres. The court order comes in the middle of another protest involving the Colas in which more than a million traders in India are boycotting fizzy drinks including Coca-Cola and Pepsi after claims from two Indian trade associations that foreign firms are exploiting the country’s water resources. Clearly, the boycotts may only be the beginning of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo’s woes as they try to expand in India. Similarly, the Indian Govt has dropped hints that it may introduce a “sin tax” on sugary drinks, which could further hit growth figures. Sad to see this HC order, but hope people of TN and elsewhere will stop consuming these unhealthy drinks.

SAND MINING

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National How to steal a river The sand acts as an aquifer, regulating the river’s flow. But sand is also a crucial ingredient in concrete, and India is urbanizing at a speed and scale virtually unmatched by any country in history. Apartment towers, highways, bridges, skyscrapers, metros, dams: Each of them swallows unimaginable helpings of sand. It could line the rivers, or it could form the cities that were rising everywhere alongside them, but it could not do both at once. This is a very perceptive piece indeed.  

Uttar Pradesh 11 held for illegally mining sand from Yamuna The Gautam Budh Nagar district administration and the police, in a joint operation on Feb. 24, 2017, arrested 11 persons on charges of illegally mining sand from the Yamuna floodplains in Murshadpur, Jaganpur and Atta Gujran village areas. The joint operation was conducted following a WhatsApp complaint filed by a youth. NGT on Nov 2, 2015, banned mining on the Yamuna in the district. To enforce the ban, the district administration is conducting meetings with villagers seeking their support in stopping the illegal activity. After such meetings many young boys in villages on the banks of the Yamuna are helping authorities in catching illegal sand miners. They are using messaging service WhatsApp to communicate with officials. Interesting village youths are using Social Media technology to curb illegal sand mining.

Karnataka NGT orders against sand mining in CRZ Contrary to people’s expectation, the Chennai bench of  Green Tribunal in its recent order has disallowed sand extraction in the name of clearing sand dunes in coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) is not allowed. The court, in this connection, has quashed all the licences issued by the district administration here for sand extraction. It observed that the district administration has not properly followed the guidelines contained in the notification issued by the department of environment and forests when issuing these licences.

Bihar 6 hurt in clash over sand mining on Nepal border Villagers on either side of the India-Nepal border clashed over sand mining at Oriya Khola in Sikta police station area of West Champaran district on Feb. 24, 2017. Nepal citizens allege that deep sand mining along the Indian border was changing the course of the river, affecting their habitations. Due to this border pillars had also been obliterated, thus presenting difficulty in ascertaining the boundaries between the two nations at this point. A similar incident was reported on Sep 13, 2016 at the same site after armed police force of Nepal, backed by people of the Himalayan nation stopped sand miners.

WETLANDS & WATER BODIES

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Kerala State wetlands face multiple threats A book titled “Biodiversity Richness of Kerala” says that riverine ecosystem of Kerala are subjected to human pressures in form of deforestation, land use change, construction of dams, roads, encroachments and mining affecting their water holding capacity of the catchments and leading to drying up the rivers and wetlands. As per the book, Kerala constitutes only 1.18 per cent of India’s geographical area but it accommodates 25.69 per cent of the flowering plants in the country. In 2004, Kerala had around 328,402 hectares of wetlands. Currently, this has fallen to 160,590 hectares- a dramatic 49 per cent decrease.

Similarly, a study conducted under Kerala Agricultural University has reported a high level of eutrophication of Vembanad lake, a Ramsar site and the hub of backwater tourism in Kerala. As per the study, pesticide residue from rice polders and nutrient discharge from urban settlements are aggravating the pollution of Vembanad Lake, thus playing havoc with the fragile wetland ecosystem and jeopardising its tourism potential.

Meanwhile, another report has found that Lake Protection Forums (LPF) created by fishermen dependent on Vembanad lake has been putting significant efforts to protect the wetland. As per the report, the 1.5 million people supported by Vembanad were facing decline in yields as half the wetland’s 150 fish species have been wiped out since the Thanneermukkom barrage was built in 1975. Great to see this, include mention of community conserved fish sanctuaries.

WATER OPTIONS

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PUDUCHERRY, 02/08/2015: A view of the sedimentation tank and water hyacinth plants at the wastewater treatment plant set up near the coast at Chinna Kalapet by a team from Pondicherry University. Photo: S.S. Kumar

Puducherry Low-cost technology, helping villagers treat wastewater  Perfected over a period of 12 years, SHEFROL is an eco-friendly technology that may hold the answer to rural India’s wastewater management concerns. Based on an innovative technology designed by Professor S.A. Abbasi from Pondicherry University, Chinna Kalapet’s low-cost wastewater treatment plant (called SHEFROL bioreactor) uses aquatic plants to absorb chemicals, pathogens and microorganisms from wastewater, making it fit for irrigation purposes.

GROUND WATER

Uttar Pradesh Greater Noida to hire agency for groundwater conservation The decision comes a year after the NGT had ordered the authority to take effective steps to stop groundwater depletion and prepare a roadmap for its conservation. Greater Noida West falls in Bisrakh block that is categorised as ‘over exploited’. It means no groundwater can be extracted for any purpose and there is immediate need to improve the groundwater situation and ensure sustainability of groundwater resources. The area has around three to four lakh under-construction flats in various projects. According to the CGWA’s 2015 report, in Bisrakh block groundwater was 8.16 metres below surface level and there was zero recharge of the water table in 2013 monsoon.

Kerala People resent overdrawing of groundwater by Pepsico Continuing inaction on the part of State Govt in ending the over-exploitation of groundwater by Pepsico India’s bottling plant at Kanjikode near here has caused widespread resentment among the water-starved local community in drought hit Pudussery-Malampuzha belt. The company is also accused of operating ten bore wells of over six inches in diameter for exploiting groundwater. Though the panchayat has issued a stop memo, the company refused to heed it. Villagers allege that the Pepsi plant, in 53 acres, uses nearly 48.5 per cent of the available groundwater in the region.

Punjab Farmers don’t believe in saving each drop As per a draft report submitted last year to the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), despite being aware of falling water table, majority of farmers in Punjab are not doing enough to conserve water. In the report, ‘Water Use Efficiency in Punjab: The Issue of Sustainability’, for which researchers interviewed 300 farmers living in 30 villages spread across 10 districts, it was found that about 89% farmers were neither harvesting rainwater nor conserving water. The findings are a cause of concern because a separate report by the Indian Institute of Soil and Water Conservation Research Centre, Chandigarh, had said that ground water in Punjab was declining at an average rate of 20-30 cm per year.

Karnataka Contaminated groundwater poses health risks Information contained in reports prepared by the Central Ground Water Board pertaining to chemical concentration in groundwater in the state, indicate that concentration of harmful chemicals such as nitrate, fluoride, arsenic is beyond permissible limits in 22 of Karnataka’s 30 districts, including Bengaluru Urban and Bengaluru Rural. Concentration of nitrate, fluoride and iron was found to be above permissible limits in as many as 16 districts. Content of arsenic, one of the most dangerous elements, was found be excessive in two districts, Raichur and Yadgir.

DROUGHT 2017

Tamil Nadu South India braces for more water wars As South India faces second worst drought in recorded history, this report has groundwater depletion data from TN.

AGRICULTURE

Chhattisgarh Farmers turn to organic farming, reap benefits Good to see this positive story from the troubled area. This not only includes organic farming, but also System of Rice Intensification.

RENEWABLE ENERGY 

National Drama unfolds in wind In the first ever wind bidding by state-run Solar Energy Corp. of India (SECI) for 1000 MW bidders were allowed to locate projects in the state of their choice at tariffs as low as Rs 3.46. Surprisingly, only a few months back majority of wind developers were fighting to improve the tariff of Rs 4.19 with regulators in Gujarat, which was ‘then’ considered quite low, not to mention that 50 paisa GBI was available over and above this tariff. Another interesting twist in this drama is that some turbine manufacturers themselves have also bid for quite low tariffs. First ever bidding for wind projects have led to record low tariffs.

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Op-Ed Wind and solar disrupting electricity system Green energy has a dirty secret. The more it is deployed, the more it lowers the price of power from any source. That makes it hard to manage the transition to a carbon-free future, during which many generating technologies, clean and dirty, need to remain profitable if the lights are to stay on. Unless the market is fixed, subsidies to the industry will only grow. However, the solution is not less wind and solar. It is to rethink how the world prices clean energy in order to make better use of it. At its heart, the problem is that government-supported renewable energy has been imposed on a market designed in a different era. For much of the 20th century, electricity was made and moved by vertically integrated, state-controlled monopolies. Yet everywhere the pressure to decarbonise power supply has brought the state creeping back into markets. This is disruptive for three reasons. The first is the subsidy system itself. The other two are inherent to the nature of wind and solar: their intermittency and their very low running costs. All three help explain why power prices are low and public subsidies are addictive. This is pretty insightful.

SOUTH ASIA

IWT India, Pakistan to resume talks by month-end India and Pakistan are set to revive the dialogue for implementation of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) at the end of this month by holding a meeting in Pakistan, after it was suspended by India in the wake of the terrorist attack on the army camp in Uri. The upcoming meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission, the 113th since it was established 56 years ago, will see both sides pick up from where they left at the last meeting in 2016. According to Article VIII of the IWT, the commission must meet once a year, alternately in India and Pakistan. Earlier this month, a UNDP report had blamed Pakistan for neglecting to resolve trans-border water issues and delaying presentation of cases of dispute with India to the commission. The report nonetheless hailed the IWT as an outstanding example of conflict resolution. Meanwhile, the World Bank has suggested unspecified options for resolving the ongoing pending Indus basin disputes related to Kishanganga and Ratel HEPs of India.

Indo-Nepal Pancheshwar dam project set to gather pace Proposed in 1981 but proceeded at a slow pace following Maoists’ anti-India tirade in Nepal, the work on the Indo-Nepal project at Pancheshwar in Champawat district is likely to be sped up. Nepal had rejected the DPR complied by Water and Power Consultancy Services, New Delhi on the construction of the project. Meanwhile, the regional political outfit Uttarkhand Kranti Dal (UKD) said it would oppose the construction of the Pancheshwar project and chalk out a strategy to oppose the dam after the counting of votes in the state. The UKD plans to get in touch with activists in Nepal and start a protest. It said the project will not only harm the environment but will also submerge the “river valley culture” of both the countries. According to sources, over 30,000 population of 24 villages in India and 11 villages in Nepal will be hit by the project. Over 2.7 lakh hectares of land in India and 1.7 lakh hectares land in Nepal will be submerged under the project water. Misleading headline notwithstanding, the report says that UKD is opposing the project and Nepal has rejected the DPR.

Bangladesh Waiting for India’s OK on Ganges dam project Bangladesh wants to construct a dam on Ganga, about 200 km downstream of Farakka Dam. Apparently, west Bengal is opposed to it since it fears parts of it could be flooded because of the dam. India’s CWC officials have reportedly assessed it and are ok with it, though Govt of India has not put anything in public domain or sought to hold any public consultations.

THE REST OF THE WORLD

International Rivers Resettlement guide for dam affected people This animation video of resettlement guide to people affected by development may be of interest.

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US Aging dams in need of repairing As per Bob Irvin, the president of American Rivers, the very fact that you are blocking a river and allowing a reservoir to fill up with millions of gallons of water presents a risk,” said. The group has partnered with the State of Maryland to remove the Bloede Dam, built in 1907, where several people have drowned over the years. According to American Rivers Nationwide, 1,384 dams had been removed from 1912 through 2016. A majority of those dams were removed within the last two decades, with 72 removed in 2016. Also see, Move to ease the pressures on aging dams This discusses how dams and embankments are likely to respond to changing climate in California (USA) and how institutions and society needs to respond in turn.

World Bank Dams are critical for water and energy security As per the statement of William Rex, Global Lead for Hydro power and Dams at the World Bank, there are concerns around increasingly variable rainfall and run-off, a trend which will be exacerbated by climate change over the long term. Govts, especially in developing countries, need to increase their capacity for water storage, and dams are one important element of this. Thinking about the role of hydro power within water security is therefore important, in particular around multi-purpose dams. World Bank joins hands with hydro power lobby.

Bulgaria Austria puts Bulgarian hydro project on hold Austrian energy company EVN has put on hold plans to build a 350 million euro Bulgarian hydropower project close to the border with Turkey. Bulgarian energy experts say that low electricity prices as well as the unwillingness of the Balkan country to ensure long-term contracts for the purchase of the electricity from the project were the likely reasons for the company’s decision. Hydropower is on hold in Bulgaria for lack of sufficient demand of electricity.

Study Lippe River restoration doubles fish populations A newly published study shows the restoration management has led to a doubling of both fish species richness and abundance found in Lippe river in Germany. Both fish abundance and richness broadly stabilised around seven years after restoration at more than double the pre-restoration levels. There are two environmental management insights here: first, that fish communities may take at least seven years to recover post-restoration and; second, that ongoing monitoring strategies are necessary to assess the impact of restoration strategies, as single sampling efforts may be skewed by annual variations. This is very interesting.

Research Groundwater influences Europe’s surface waters Because of its importance for many streams and its link with management practises, further research on the groundwater contribution to streams is done by Deltares within the MARS Regge and Dinkel Case Study. This study will help us gain better understanding how groundwater transports and influences stressors, how groundwater is linked with aquatic ecology and how groundwater can be conserved and protected through European management practices.  In practice there are diverse linkages between groundwater and streams, because a complicated system of groundwater-surface water interactions exists in which groundwater input and output is variable both in time and space.

Global Sand mining a global environmental crisis From Cambodia to California, industrial-scale sand mining is causing wildlife to die, local trade to wither and bridges to collapse. And booming urbanisation means the demand for this increasingly valuable resource is unlikely to let up. The problem is that the supply of sand that can be mined sustainably is finite – but as the great urbanisation boom is proving, the demand for it is anything but. Also see, the second part of the report, Mining ‘mafias’ killing each other to build cities Rapid urbanisation has made an ordinary commodity suddenly precious: sand. As cities continue to voraciously need concrete, glass and asphalt, illegal sand mining has sparked a global wave of gang violence.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Study Global warming shrinking Colorado river A study published in the journal Water Resources Research concluded that global warming is already shrinking the Colorado River, the most important waterway in the American Southwest, and it could reduce the flow by more than a third by the end of the century. The study also says the rest of the decline is due to a warming atmosphere induced by climate change, which is drawing more moisture out of the Colorado River Basin’s waterways, snow banks, plants and soil by evaporation and other means. As per the research, the river’s volume has dropped more than 19 percent during a drought gripping the region since 2000, and a shortage of rain and snow can account for only about two-thirds of that decline.

ENVIRONMENT

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MoEF Centre dithers on Western Ghats issue The Environment Ministry has dithered, for the second time in three years, from bringing into force a law that will make about 56,825 sqkm of the ecologically-rich Western Ghats out of bounds for industrial development. On Feb 27, 2017, the Govt resuscitated a draft notification that was first published in March 2014 that specified how much land in various coastal States encompassing the Western Ghats would be earmarked as practically-inviolate. Meanwhile, contrary to the central committee’s identification of 97 villages as eco-sensitive areas (ESA) in the Western Ghats, the Goa Govt has proposed just 32 villagess in the zone. Centre continues to NOT protect Western Ghats, now a fresh notification further opens the diluted norms of Kasturirangan committee, which themselves were hugely diluted from earlier Madhav Gadgil recommendations, states have also pushed for continued dilution.

Tamil Nadu A small village in could derail Modi’s energy project On Feb. 15, 2017, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs gave its approval for all the hydrocarbon projects as a part of the Centre’s 2015 Discovered Small Fields policy. Out of the 31 hydrocarbon areas, nine fields are located in Assam, six in Mumbai offshore, five in Gujarat, four in Andhra Pradesh, while there was only one in Tamil Nadu’s Neduvasal and one in Puducherry’s Karaikal. Soon enough, protests have been raging in Pudukkottai district for several days now as over the hydrocarbon project. The protesters allege that about 70 villages in a 25-km area will be adversely affected by the project. Protesters cry foul citing environmental consequences and the loss of agricultural land. Farmers were first to voice their opposition stating that the project would have an adverse impact on agriculture besides depleting and contaminating groundwater in the area.  

Assam Dilemmas of contemporary conservation Plans to double the size of Kaziranga means villagers are being displaced with little due process and there are documented cases of violence and even death. This is a violent “green grab”, where land is usurped for ostensibly progressive environmental objectives, but which results in the dispossession of some of the most vulnerable people on this planet. Kaziranga illustrates the dilemmas of contemporary conservation. If it is to be successful, environmentalism in India must be seen as part of the changing social and economic context, and not set itself up in opposition to these wider trends. Conservation needs to recognise the need to build bridges, sometimes with its fiercest critics. 

Summer 2017 Hotter-than-normal summer in weather outlook As per Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), India is expected to experience a hotter-than-normal summer this year. In its summer outlook for this year, the IMD said that minimum, maximum as well as the mean temperatures are likely to be “above normal” till June in every meteorological sub-division of the country. It further says that northwest India and the plains near the Himalayas are likely to face particularly warmer summer. According to forecast, HP, Uttarakhand, J&K States are expected to be particularly hot with predicted temperatures, on average, likely to be well above 1 degree C above their normal summer temperatures.

It also says that Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, UP, Gujarat, MP, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha and Telangana are other States that are likely to see significantly warmer temperatures. The average minimum temperatures in Orissa, Chhattisgarh, south interior Karnataka and Rayalseema may, however, be above-normal by less than 0.5 degree C, and by 0.5 degrees C to 1 degree C in the other subdivisions. The core heat wave region also includes Marathwada, Central Maharashtra and Vidarbha regions of Maharashtra and coastal state of Andhra Pradesh.

Starting this summer, IMD will be releasing extended forecasts and five-day averaged forecasts for the next 15 days of heat wave conditions. Last year, more than 1,600 people died due to extreme climate conditions. Of them, 700 died due to heatwave. A bulk of the deaths over 400 were reported from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

Monsoon 2017 Met predicts normal monsoon this year IMD has clarified that even if El Niño emerges in Sept, if other parameters remain as they are now, the country may get a normal monsoon. However, if the next forecast indicates possibility of an early development of El Niño by July or August then there could be concerns. Contrary to this, judging strictly by historical patterns, private forecaster Skymet has opined that there could be 80% chance of below normal rainfall and 60% chance of drought but there is a zero chance of excess rainfall this year. India faced back-to-back droughts in 2014 and 2015, which was followed by a normal monsoon in 2016. But some areas of the country were declared drought affected in 2016, including parts of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.  

You may also like to see, DRP News Bulletin 27 Feb. 2017 & DRP News Bulletin 20 Feb. 2017

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