DRP News Bulletin 13 March 2017 (20 Big Hydro Projects Costing Over 30K Crore, Stalled & Stressed: Piyush Goyal)

20 hydro projects stalled or stressed  The Power Minister Piyush Goyal on March 09, 2017 in a written statement has informed the parliament that as many as 20 under construction HPPs totalling 6,329 MW are either stalled or stressed in the country and Rs 30,147.08 crore has already been spent on them. These projects include 2,000 MW Subansiri Lower of NHPC Ltd, 500 Mw Teesta VI of Lanco Teesta Hydro Power Ltd, 120 MW Rangit-IV of Jal Power Corp, 300 Mw Panan of Himagiri Hydro Energy Pvt Ltd, 850 MW Ratle of GVK Ratle HEP Pvt Ltd, 100 Mw Sorang of Himachal Sorang Power Ltd and 960 MW Polavaram of Polavaram Project Authority.

On the other hand, in its report tabled in Parliament on March 09, 2017, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has noted that due diligence in process for holding public consultation was not followed in seven sectors and the non-compliance was maximum in case of river valley and hydro electric projects. The public accounts watchdog has found “irregularites” in the mandatory public consultation process of almost every third of the nearly 200 developmental projects which got environmental clearances between 2011-2015.

As per report, CAG has also observed that commitments made by companies in Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report during public hearing were also not monitored while reservations expressed during such hearings were not included in the EIA reports. It report further revealed that due diligence process as prescribed in the EIA Notification for the conduct of public consultation was not followed in any of the seven sectors including coal mining, industry, non coal mining, construction, infrastructure, river valley and hydro electric projects and thermal power. According to CAG, the non-compliance was maximum in case of River Valley and Hydro Electric projects.  Great to see this CAG report, possibly CAG is commenting on public hearing process for the first time. It notes that maximum violations happen in public hearings of dams and hydropower projects.

HYDRO POWER PROJECTS 

Arunachal Pradesh Etalin hydel project gets green clearance During its Jan, 30, 2017 meeting the EAC panel has given the green clearance for the 3,097 Mw Etalin hydropower project (HPP) on the Dibang river basin which would be built at the cost of Rs25,296.95 in seven years. The EAC also have given green nod to the 1,856 Mw Sawalkote HPP on Chenab river in J&K. As per report, Central Govt has seriously considered overriding environmental concerns to fast-track stalled HPPs in the north-east because of strategic reasons. Experts feel that the Etalin project may spell disaster for local ecology as it involves large scale forest diversion and felling of around 280,000 trees. A total of 18 villages consisting of 285 families are expected to be affected by the proposed project.

Industry Brookfield in talks with JP’s power assets As per the report, Brookfield Asset Management is in talks with lenders of debt-laden Jaiprakash Power Ventures to acquire the firm’s three power plants. The discussions are in initial stages and there is no certainty that a transaction will take place. A deal, if it happens, could close at an equity value of Rs 4,500-5,000 crore. The group has been trying to sell assets in the past two years after intense pressure from lenders. JP’s power portfolio of 4,000 mw includes one HPP and two thermal units. It’s worth mentioning that JP’s power plants include Vishnuprayag prayag hydro power project.

Uttarakhand Pancheshwar dam to submerge 123 villages Pancheshwar dam project bears an uncanny resemblance with the Tehri dam thousands of edgy villagers dreading displacement and a threat to prominent temples of local deities. According to surveys, Pancheshwar dam will displace thousands of people living in 130 villages in three districts– Champawat, Pithoragarh and Almora. Part of the 1996 India-Nepal Mahakali Treaty, Pancheswar dam is proposed on the Kali River.

DAMS

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Maharashtra How many dam-affected yet to be compensated The Bombay High Court recently directed the Additional Collector (Rehabilitation), Pune District to place on record project-wise details of dams and affected persons, how many of the latter have been allotted alternate land or compensation, and how many are still waiting for the same. The court while hearing petitions concerning dams in Pune district, including the ones at Chaskaman, Bhama Askhed, Thitewadi and Ujani noticed that noticed that acquisition of lands pertains to 1971, when people have lost their livelihood because of land acquisition and are still waiting for alternate land.

Sardar Sarovar Project Centre ‘miserly’ in funds for SSP Recent figures related to spending on Sardar Sarovar Project show that during last three years, the Centre has allocated Rs.2572.19 crore for the Project. As per the Gujarat CM the total Rs 2,431.88 crore, Rs 3,305.99 crore and Rs 2,335.85 crore (till Dec) was spent during 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 respectively. According to the official information, 37.15% work of canal construction is yet to be done. The state govt is yet to complete 46.72% sub-minor canals and 21.83% minor canals. In case of distributaries 10.20% work is still to be done.

Meanwhile, PM Modi, on March 07, 2017 suggested a feasibility study to start boat service in Narmada river from Bharuch to Sardar Sarovar Dam. Talking about the crucial Rs 4,000 crore Bhadbhut barrage project of Gujarat govt, Modi said it would change the entire scenario of the downstream of Sardar Sarovar. State govt is learnt to have allocated Rs 1000 crore for the project.

Amid this, farmers are in jail for more than a month for opposing govt officials who wanted to stop their taking water from Narmada Canal, the Narmada Canal was supposed to be them, but since sub canals have not been built, they have to take from main canal.

This is strange that media does not even ask any questions while publishing such statements from the PM as gospel truths. First question is, how much water would be required in a year to make such navigation possible? Where will that water come from? About starting work soon on the controversial Bhadbhut Dam project, how can he talk about starting the work for a project for which there is not even credible impact assessment, in addition to the opposition by the Narmada Estuary fisherfolks and the impacts on them? Will there be more Dams on Narmada from Kevadiya to Bharuch, besides ones at Garudeshwar and Bhadbhut?

INTER LINKING OF RIVERS

Ken-Betwa Link Work on KBL to begin by the middle of 2017 Chairing the twelfth meeting of the Special Committee for Inter–linking of river on March 08, 2017, Vijay Goel said that all most all clearances have been obtained for Ken Betwa link and work on the link would begin in the middle of this year. MoWR, Govt of India claims that Ken Betwa link has obtained “all most all clearances” and work will start in the middle of 2017 (generally middle of the year is in monsoon!). This is clearly WRONG ON FACTS. The project has neither Environment Clearance, nor forest clearance, the Wildlife clearance is before CEC and there is no interstate agreement.

Op-Ed River linking: Good on paper; impossible to implement

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INTERSTATE WATER DISPUTES

SYL Row Govt returned SYL land without Forest Ministry nod With an eye on the Assembly elections, the Punjab State Govt had gone into overdrive last year to return the land acquired for the SYL canal to the original owners without seeking clearance from the Union Forest Ministry was not sought before initiating the exercise. Consequently, this land is out of bounds for the owners. Meanwhile, reacting to INLD’s announcement to dig the SYL canal, opposition party on Feb, 24, 2017 demanded the deployment of armed forces to prevent any untoward incident.

Amid this, the Supreme Court on Feb. 23, 2017 asserted that construction of SYL canal must complete in accordance with its orders in the past and that there was no space for any “confusion and hesitancy” on part of state govts. Holding that Punjab govt cannot be allowed to defy its order, the court said that it would not accept any excuse of the state govt for not implementing its order. The court said that it would pass order on execution of its decree if warring states of Punjab and Haryana failed to come to an agreeable solution. Also see, एसवाईएल का निर्माण हर हाल में कराना ही होगा: सुप्रीम कोर्ट

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Centre Govt set up 8 tribunals to resolve water disputes According to Water statement in Lok Sabha on March 09, 2017, Central Govt has, so far, set up eight tribunals to settle water disputes among the States under the Inter-State River Water Disputes (ISRWD) Act, 1956. As per information available in CWC publication 2015 “Agreements on Inter-State Rivers”, Vol. III of Legal Instruments on Rivers in India, a number of inter-state agreements has been reached so far.  Shares of Rajasthan and Haryana in Ravi-Beas, Satluj, and Upper Yamuna basin are determined by Agreements of 1981, 1959 and 1994 reached inter-alia between the two States.

RIVERS

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SANDRP BLOG River bank failure due to sudden water flow changes Can land, trees, structures, farms, pipes, poles, pumps etc, along a river bank several kilometers downstream collapse if water flow in the river is suddenly reduced or stopped? Yes, reduced/ stopped, not increased? This kind of river bank slump or collapse or failure is not easily understood, but it does happen. Let us see how. THIS IS A NEW SUBJECT FOR US, SO PLZ SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK. Help us spread the word.

SANDRP BLOG Godavari Basin Profile The river Godavari is the largest of the peninsular rivers of India. Maharashtra is home for its early flows and Godavari for Maharashtra is no less than Ganga. Referred to as Dakshin Ganga the river holds immense spiritual and cultural significance. But today the river is fettered in many dams all along its length and across its basin which have been responsible for human sufferings, ecological impacts, livelihood struggles and conflicts. The basin is facing several major issues, but the river is also resilient. Let us hope that inhabitants of the Godavari basin are empowered and awakened to solve the problems of their river.

Maharashtra Thousands march to save Mumbai’s rivers More than ten thousand citizens across the city came together for the ‘River Utsav’ festival on Sunday to create awareness about the condition of rivers in the city. The quality of water that has been affected majorly due to pollution continues to be a cause of concern. Citizens were of the view that the need to address this issue and rejuvenate these rivers was of utmost priority. Way to go Mumbai! Hope concrete steps follow, but this enthusiasm itself is such a beautiful resource to build upon.

Kerala Black and unquiet flows the Periyar  Chemical pollution of the Periyar and the vast tracts of paddy land in the region – which even contaminated ground water – has been an issue environmental activists have been fighting for decades now. Over the decades, scientific investigation by various agencies followed by timely intervention by the now-defunct Local Area Environment Committee have led to several firms complying with the pollution norms while other companies were forced to shut shop for an interim period. But the long arm of the law hasn’t made everyone to fall in line.

Chhattisgarh Kharun river threatened by industrial pollution As per Raipur’s ‘Smart City’ proposal document observed, the Kharun river is being threatened by pollution from the industries which are on the outskirts of the city. It further mentioned that protecting the natural features like the river, natural nullah and the ponds from these (industrial effluents) eminent threats will be the city’s top priority leading to sustainable development.

Gujarat Sabarmati Water Walks  Part 2 Originating from the Aravalli ranges of Udaipur, Rajasthan, the Sabarmati flows through Ahmedabad and meets the Arabian Sea at the Gulf of Khambhat. A seasonal river, it was Ahmedabad’s primary source of water for agricultural, domestic, and other uses and many communities depended on it for centuries. Over the last five decades, the river has been dammed at a few places – the Dharoi dam in North Gujarat being the most significant of these – and the riverbed ecology and utility have changed significantly as a result.

GANGA NGT slaps Rs 50K fine on MoEF scientist Warning officials against passing the buck on matters relating to the cleaning of Ganga, the Green Tribunal on March 08, 2017 has slapped a Rs 50,000 fine on a scientist from the Environment Ministry but withdrew it later. Further, adding that it felt “very sad” on the way this important issue was being treated by the bureaucrats the cautioned that the in future any such act will follow a penalty of Rs 50,000.

The bench’s reaction came after a scientist appearing for the MoEF failed to answer its query on what would be the minimum flow required for the river. The same question regarding the minimum flow of the river was posed to the counsel appearing for the Water Ministry, he also failed to answer. Annoyed on this, the tribunal asked how was the ministry planning to control pollution in Ganga if it did not know the basics. The green court also cancelled a bailable warrant issued against Kanpur municipal commissioner after his deputy appeared before the court.

Before this, the Green Tribunal on Feb. 07, 2017 issued bailable warrant against Kanpur municipal commissioner for non-appearance in a matter related to the cleaning of river Ganga. While issuing warrant of Rs 25,000, the bench warned that if the departments do not stop giving illusionary answers, it may pass some strict order. The bench had earlier slapped a fine of Rs 25,000 each on officers of the Water Ministry and UP Jal Nigam for filing incorrect information on 30 drains joining the river Ganga in Garhmukteshwar area of Uttar Pradesh. In February, the bench had ordered a CBI probe into the execution of the Ganga cleaning project after it noted that Rs 31.82 crore was spent on two STPs and a 58-km long sewerage line project without due analysis and verification of the actual pollution load in the Garh drain and Brijghat drain. NGT had slammed the state’s Jal Nigam for building the STPs on the drains joining Ganga without any survey and said it had wasted Rs 1500 crore since 1987 and still not cleaned “even a single drop” of the river.

While NGT rightly imposed the fine on the MoEF official and have threatened such action in future on other officials or counsels, the threat is not likely to have any bite if there are no real consequences. It is indeed shocking that the govt has slogan of aviral Ganga, but they have no clue what it means. Only goes to show how serious they are.  

Bihar Govt to move court against barrage construction in Ganga The state govt will challenge in the court the Centre’s decision to construct barrages in the Ganga between Haldia and Allahabad via Bihar for national waterways (NW)-1 as it would obstruct the river water flow. The Centre is developing NW-1 under the Jal Marg Vikas Project with assistance from the World Bank at an estimated cost of Rs4,200 crore. The project envisages development of fairway, multi-modal terminals at Varanasi, Haldia and Sahebganj, strengthening of river navigation system, conservancy works, modern river information system, digital global positioning system and night navigation facilities, among others.

Centre Ganga Rejuvenation Status In a written reply in Lok Sabha on March 09, 2017 Vijay Goel, Minister of State for Water Resources has stated that Govt  of India has released Rs. 4321.05 crore till date i.e. 28.02.2017 to National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) out of which NMCG has spent Rs. 1984.49 crore. NGRBA has resolved that by year 2020 no untreated municipal sewage and industrial effluent will be discharged into River Ganga.  The minister also stated that a report on the six Hydel Projects on Upper Ganga has been submitted to the MoEF by the Expert Body (EB) on Oct 19, 2015 and MoEF has submitted the report to the apex court in Nov. 2015.

The details of the funds allocated in the last three Financial Years from 2013-14 to 2015-16 (till 28.02.2017) are given below:- 

National Mission for Clean Ganga

Funds allocated in the FY from, 2013-14 to 2015-16(Rs. In crore)

FY

BE RE

2013-14

355.00

309.00

2014-15 2,137.00

2,053.00

2015-16 2,750.00

1,650.00

As per data available from Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the total sewage generation in Ganga basin states from all the Class-I and Class-II cities is 11386.60 Million Liters per Day (MLD).

The total industrial effluent generation discharging into river Ganga is 501 MLD. Industry wise effluent generation is tabulated below:-

Sector specific industrial wastewater generation

(Type of Industry

Total Units Wastewater Generation (MLD)

Chemical

27 97.8

Distillery

35 37.0

Food, Dairy & Beverage

22 6.5

Pulp & Paper

67 201.4
Sugar 67

96.0

Textile, Bleaching & Dyeing 63

11.4

Tannery 442

22.1

Others 41

28.6

Total 764

501

Govt launches survey to ascertain Gangetic dolphin numbers The survey will create a baseline scientific data for the government to take suitable measures to improve quality of the river water.  Govt of India launched survey of aquatic life in Ganga all along the river from March 1, 2017, including that of Dolphins, Turtles, Ghariyals and other aquatic species, the survey by WII will last till Oct 2017.

गंगा निर्मल नहीं हुई तो दे दूंगी प्राण: उमा भारती  केन्द्रीय मंत्री उमा भारती ने Feb. 22, 2017 को गंगा सफाई पर कहा- ‘अगर गंगा समय पर निर्मल नहीं हुई तो मैं प्राण दें दूंगी।’ उमा भारती ने आगे कहा- ‘बुंदेलखंड के हालात बेहद खराब हैं। अखि‍लेश के चुनाव हारने के बाद मैं उनको अपने हवाई जहाज में ले जाकर बुंदेलखंड का सच दिखाउंगी और उन्हें बताउंगी कि अफसर उन्हें विकास की गलत तस्वीर दिखाते हैं। केंद्र सरकार की तरफ से जो राशि यूपी को दी गई उसमें से 40 प्रतिशत का भी इस्तेमाल नहीं किया गया। उस धनराशि का सही इस्तेमाल होता तो बुंदेलखंड में किसानों की सिंचाई की समस्या कबकी दूर हो जाती।’ Also see, Sand mining rampant in Ganga: Uma Bharati

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Op-Ed Fishing in Ganga’s troubled water River animals and river people have a complicated relationship. There is no particular harmony of any sort, but there is no inexorable animosity either. If anything, there is a deep visceral connection between them, one that connects their tissues to river sediment—through fish. The act of fishing, for river animals and river fishermen, is an expression of their love, which is, quite paradoxically, realised only through deception, ambush, and killing. In Bihar’s Gangetic floodplains, where the ‘law of the fishes’ prevails, the act of fishing is also one that can lead to murder, threat, and harassment. Nachiket Kelkar writes in such captivating style.

Uttarakhand Gangotri glacier’s rate of receding slows, but base thinning: Experts The rate of retreat of Gangotri glacier has slowed down to 11 metres since 2008 from the maximum of 35 metres recorded in 1974, according to experts at the Almora-based GB Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment and Sustainable Development who conducted a study of the glacier located in Uttarkashi from 2008 till 2016. While the slowing down of the rate of recession is good news, since it means that the glacier is not melting at a rate fast enough, scientists said that the worrying part is that the base of the 30-km long glacier is thinning and has become more fragile.

Uttar Pradesh  Sonbhadra’s polluted air, water finds no mention in campaign The issue of air and water pollution caused by tonnes of ash generated from thermal power plants in Sonbhadra did not find a mention in the UP polls campaigning despite the residents seeking a solution for it. Pradushan Mukti Vahini claimed that they had met a number of political parties to include these issues in their election manifestos but unfortunately none of the leaders bothered to raise them. Jagat Narayan Vishwakarma, who had moved the National Green Tribunal in 2014 over the issue, said that because of the continuous depletion of quality of air and water, the general health of the local population has also seen a decline. Sonbhadra, also in the same holy Ganga basin, is one of the most polluted place, but it does not find any mention in the elections, nor does the Ganga even. Also see, Ganga Boatmen now want jobs, education

YAMUNA Uattar Pradesh Riverfront development yet to start in Noida There has been no progress in Noida au thority’s riverfront development plan since it was approved in May 2013 and a budget of Rs100 crore was allotted. The project was proposed with a view to protect 5,000 acres of floodplains of the Hindon and the Yamuna in Noida and Greater Noida.  In January 2016, the Noida authority had decided to replicate the model of Gujarat’s Sabarmati riverfront development to rejuvenate the 27km stretch of the Hindon in its jurisdiction. The authority had planned to acquire floodplains from farmers and landowners to develop a thick forest area, golf courses, polo ground and parks and also planned to build two motorable roads along the river to ease traffic congestion in Noida and Greater Noida.

Haryana CM hints at diverting Yamuna water to Saraswati CM Manohar Lal Khattar has told the Assembly on March 03, 2017 that it may divert parts of Yamuna canal water to revive the Saraswati River. The state govt had in August 2016 pumped water into a largely dry channel that is said to be the route of the Saraswati and made claims of “reviving the river”. The opposition has been blaming the BJP govt for trying to exploit people’s sentiments over emotional issues. The Yamuna Canal is one of the oldest of renowned canals in erstwhile undivided Punjab province. It was utilised as a canal in one of the river creeks since 1356 AD. The Haryana govt has a long-term plan to increase the capacity of the canal system connected with the Western Yamuna Canal to 4,500 cusecs from the current 2,000 cusecs.

SAND MINING

Madhya Pradesh Lady Official attacked by sand mafia No let up in incidents of attacks on govt officials by sand mafia. In this incident, during a raid to check illegal sand mining, this lady Tahsildar was the target of the attackers but the driver intervened and got seriously injured while protecting her from the attack. This also shows despite repeated claim by CM Shivraj Chauhan illegal sand mining is happening unabated.

Goa 3 held for illegal sand mining Six canoes were seized, while three labourers involved in sand extraction, were arrested in a joint raid conducted in Chapora river at Colvale at Colvale on March 08, 2017. Sources said that all canoes involved in the extraction activity had valid licences, but the raid was conducted since the ban on sand extraction has been enforced following the NGT order. Mapusa police booked and arrested the accused Satya Narayan Ram and Santosh Khairol, both natives of Uttar Pradesh and Prakash Lamani, native of Karnataka, under Goa Minor Mineral Concession Rules Act.

Maharashtra Leases of five sand mines cancelled in Gadchiroli Over a month after The Indian Express exposed violations in sand-mining operations on the beds of the Godavari and Pranhita rivers in Sironcha in Gadchiroli district, the district administration has finally cancelled the leases of five of the 10 sand mines. Additional Collector Mahesh Awhad took the decision to cancel the leases after studying the responses of the six lease owners to the showcause notices issued to them. Earlier March 06, 2017, the Gadchiroli police made the first big arrest in connection with the illegal sand mining on Godavari riverbed, nabbing Venkatesh Yanganti, contractor of the Wadadham site. Yanganti was produced before an Aheri court that granted him bail. The police already arrested 27 truck drivers two days ago for their alleged involvement in illegally transporting sand from Wadadham and Nagaram mines.

Karela Survey planned for deep sea sand- mining Pointing out serious crisis owing to the scarcity of building materials in construction sector, the State Govt is considering a proposal for a survey to identify the offshore locations with the potential for deep sea sand-mining. As per Industries Minister a survey in this regard will be conducted following which, reputed institute would be asked to take up an impact assessment study. As per the report, the project would be taken up only after assessing its impact on the marine ecology and the livelihood of fishermen.  

Karnataka Govt to formulate separate coastal sand mining policy On March, 06, 2017, after hearing a Dakshina Kannada leader delegation led by state environment minister, CM Siddaramaiah has reportedly agreed to formulate a separate sand mining policy for the coastal districts of the state. Impressing on the CM about differences prevalent in sand mining practiced in the coast and other parts of Karnataka, the minister told that the coastal areas were facing repeated problems on account of sand mining and its supply and  administration was facing pressure from the common man.

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Tamil Nadu HC asks Govt to take action on illegal mining The Madras High Court has disposed of a PIL seeking a direction to the State govt to ban sand quarrying in the State and to mandate use of manufactured sand as an alternative to river sand in construction activities. The court directed the State govt to take action on the representation made by the petitioner in accordance with law. Attributing the situation to illegal sand quarrying in the water bodies across the State, the petitioner submitted that pursuant to a recommendation by a high-level committee to regulate sand quarrying, the State government issued a Govt Order dated Oct 1, 2003 making the then existing licences ineffective and restricted the licences. He alleged that despite the restrictions, private contractors were exploiting the riverbed.

No more sand mining in ravaged Palar riverbed Officially bringing the curtains down on sand mining in Vellore, the district administration on March 05, 2017 has declared the closure of eight sand quarries. The eight quarries that were shut include the PWD owned Poondi-Santhapakkam quarry, which is among the largest sand quarries in the State. Their closure came after the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority did not give them approval to function. In fact, all the sand quarries were directed to shut down immediately and none were given any further approval this year.

WETLANDS & WATER BODIES

Andhra Pradesh NBWL panel rejects move to shrink Kolleru Sanctuary The Working Group constituted by the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has rejected the “drastic reduction” in Kolleru Wildlife Sanctuary (KWLS) from Contour as per the State Assembly Resolution. Submitting its report to the NBWL recently, the team said that there should be “no compromise with the ecological balance (of the lake) by drastic reduction in sanctuary areas. The working group also recommended the removal from KWLS nearly 13,673 acres of private lands located within its north-eastern boundary.

Rajasthan State losing lake wealth 3 of State most popular lakes Jal Mahal, Jaisamand, and Udaisagar are among the most severely polluted water bodies in the country. Almost all water bodies of Udaipur, popularly called the ‘City of Lakes’, are highly polluted and encroached upon. The condition of Pichola Lake is symptomatic of the ills that plague the lakes and rivers of the city. Once used for potable water, the lake today is surrounded by 55 raw sewage inlet points. This is inspite of the fact that the state govt has earmarked a budgetary support of Rs. 157.61 crore for water harvesting and plantation in 17 districts. Water resource projects worth over Rs. 12,000 crore, too, are in the pipeline.

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Karnataka Leachate let into Somasundarapalya lake again Residents of HSR Layout were surprised on Feb. 09, 2017 to see Somasundarapalya lake in the neighbourhood frothing at the point where the drain of a compost plant meets its shores. To their horror, they realised that leachate from Karnataka Compost Development Corporation plant was flowing into the lake from the drain, which had been closed barely a fortnight ago. As people began to protest, the drain from the plant to the lake was sealed again before more damage could be done.

Study EKW only hope for flood-prone Kolkata The SAFE-IWMI study pointed out that in a decade -from 2005 to 2015 -Kolkata has lost 53% of its peri-urban wetlands and currently 86% of the stretch of Adi Ganga flows below the average environmental flow volume. Heavy siltation in peri-urban wetlands and land-use changes due to rapid urbanization has decreased the flood-resilience efficacy of the wetlands by 65%, the study reveals. Taking all these into account, about 17.3% of total population of the city are in high flood risk zone and areas wards 111to 115 and again from 122 to 126 are very prone to inundation from sea level rise in southern Kolkata.  With the given conditions, in the next five years, the city’s natural flood resiliene system will succumb to a mere 48 hours of torrential rain and will flood the entire city with more than 2000 million litres of raw sewerage, which will stop flowing due to water logging.

West Bengal Govt to frame ‘wise use’ plan for EKW  As per sources, following the visit of an official of the Ramsar secretariat, the State Govt has decided to come up with a “wise use” plan on how to best manage the ecologically fragile East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW) in the future. The move comes in the wake of reports that the state govt is attempting to “legalise illegal constructions” in the fast-shrinking wetlands, a designated Ramsar site. This has prompted concerned citizens to start an online petition as well.

Meanwhile, activists have indicated legal action against the govt following Environment Minister Sovan Chatterjee’s comments. Mr. Chatterjee, who is also the Kolkata Mayor, had recently stressed on the need to “properly utilise” the vast lands lying vacant in the EKW. The environmentalists expressed apprehension that his comment was an attempt to “legalise illegal constructions” in the EKW, which is shrinking fast. They also alleged that a large section of the wetlands has already been encroached upon.

Maharashtra No check on dumping of debris in wetlands Construction debris is being dumped right under the nose of forest and civic officials along the 2.5-km mangrove stretch of an abandoned Palm Beach extension road that skirts through Thane creek line between Koparkhairane and Ghansoli. The dumping goes on unchecked and the agencies responsible for safeguarding the green cover are passing the buck. Meanwhile, the land mafia is suspected to have grabbed a patch, where an illegal temple, shops and nurseries have come up recently.

Gujarat Gosabara wetland now a BNHS IBA site During a tow days workshop on March 2-3, 2017, The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) has declared 96 sq km coastal wetland area of Gosabara-Mokarsagar in Porbandar, as Important Bird Area (IBA) site. There are around 544 IBAs in India and 18 in Gujarat. Experts say that thought IBA does not have any legal status but it helps environmentalists to raise alarm if the site faces any threats and press for its conservation. In 2001, Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology (SACON) conducted a country-wide survey for important ‘Inland Wetlands of India’ and Gosabara-Mokarsagar wetland was one the 50 important wetlands of the country.

Punjab State sees 10% drop in winged guests The short winter season saw the number of migratory birds at Punjab wetlands decrease by around 10 per cent when compared with the last season. Ask wildlife experts and they say the variation is normal. Last season, around 1.40 lakh winged guests were recorded at the wetlands. This year, the number is around 1.25 lakh. The state has 42 small wetlands and 11 important ones that include three of international importance Harike, Kanjli and Ropar (Ramsar sites). And two are of national importance Nangal and Ranjit Sagar. The birds come from Western Himalayas, Central Asia and Siberia. Also see, Fewer migratory water birds sighted at Ropar

WATER OPTIONS

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Karnataka-Kerala  On border, harmony flows with water In a rare display of bonhomie, the villagers belonging to Manila in Karnataka and Puttige in Kerala join hands to build a katta (temporary barrage) across the Shiriya River to face the summer. River Shiriya which acts as the border between two States has its origin near Kolthige village in the Puttur taluk of Karnataka. The practice has been on for about 30 years. The water stored in the barrage helps irrigate about 300 acres of land comprising area nut gardens and paddy fields of both the States. It recharges the groundwater in the region. The 50-metre long barrage is built using boulders, sandbags and plantain trunks. But now the Manila panchayat had been urging the Karnataka government to build a permanent barrage. Interesting report, showing how community driven water conservation efforts is way forward. The sad part is that the villagers have started demanding construction of permanent barrage.

Maharashtra Water worried no more The effort made by a few residents of Yavatmal and Prayas to revive Nilona has so far been successful in terms of mobilising students, residents of Yavatmal, the NGOs in the region and the govt departments for conserving water and environment. This initiative was also successful in bridging the gap between the govt departments and the people. The MDN initiative is inspiring the residents of the neighbouring districts to take their problems in their hands and work towards solving them. Well, that’s definitely a step in the right direction. This is an excellent report about a great collective effort by the people of Yavatmal to desilt the Nilona reservoir, over the last two years and still ongoing.

Also see, Villages beat drought with water harvesting techniques One sad development this article highlights is that Ralegaon Siddhi also needs tanker water supply due to over exploitation of groundwater. Anna has closed some bore wells and imposed fines, it says. This only goes to highlight how important is the management of created resource.

GROUND WATER

SANDRP BLOG Ground Water: Plethora of petitions but no effective action In spite of so many petitions, we see complete lack of progress in any effective regulation of groundwater. Only goes to show ineffectiveness of the judiciary in ensuring effective, democratic governance and regulation of groundwater.

Maharashtra NGT tells three to stop drawing groundwater Restraining 3 residents of Pandya Mansion in Dhobi Talao from drawing water from two bore wells in C Ward without obtaining permissions from the BMC, the Central Ground Water Authority and the State Ground Water Authority, the Green Tribunal has warned the public against illegal extraction, use and supply of groundwater in the city. The residents were asked to pay compensation to the complainant.

Uttar Pradesh NGT fined bottle water company in Noida

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 Kerala Govt Plans to restrict use of groundwater by Pepsico In the view of intense drought that has gripped all 14 districts of Kerala, the State Govt has planned to further restrict the use of groundwater by soft drink company Pepsico. The latest figures of water use show that the company extracts 1.5 lakh litres of groundwater daily. In 2015, it was 5.5 lakh litres, and before that the daily extraction was 6.5 lakh litres. As per water resources minister Mathew T Thomas, the 6 domestic wells near the plant that are being constantly monitored have shown a marked decline in water level. The water level in these wells has dropped by 1.7 to 1.86 metres over the years. Rejecting the allegation, Pepsico has said that the company has been granted permission by the Kerala High Court to draw up to 6 lakh litres of water per day. Meanwhile, after Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, Kerala Vyapari Vyavasai Ekopana Samiti traders have decided to boycott the sale of Coca Cola and Pepsi as a mark of protest against alleged exploitation of groundwater by the soft drinks majors. A final decision in this regard would be taken on March 14, 2017.

Also see, India Resource Centre PR: Water Restrictions Force Pepsi to Cease Production US based PepsiCo has been forced to cease operations at its bottling plant in Kanjikode, in the south Indian state of Kerala because of water shortages, the India Resource Center can confirm.

MoWR Pilot Project for improving Water Table As per Central Water Ministry statement in Lok Sabha on March 09, 2017, a pilot scheme, the National Groundwater Management Improvement Scheme (NGMIS), supported by the World Bank, is under active consideration of the Govt. The Scheme envisages sustainable ground water management through suitable supply/demand side interventions with stakeholder participation in identified priority areas of seven States viz. Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.  The estimated cost of the Scheme is Rs. 6,000 crore and it will be implemented over a period of six years. Also see, Govt plans to deal with arsenic in groundwater

Haryana NABARD okays Rs 185-cr drinking water scheme The govt has decided to implement a scheme for augmentation of drinking water supply in 84 villages of two blocks in Palwal district and one block in Faridabad district by constructing a Ranney well and deep tubewells in Mohna village. The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) has approved a financial assistance of Rs 185 crore, 85 per cent of the project cost, for its implementation. The project aimed at tackling the problem of salinity, excess fluoride and non-availability of sufficient groundwater in Palwal, Ballabgarh and Faridabad would supply water to 4.70 lakh people and would be completed within three years.

WATER

Tamil Nadu How S Ranganayaki brought water to an entire village Story of a woman who ensured, through her own initiative that a canal was desilted and water flow to the village that was blocked for decades was restarted in Cuddalore district.

Maharashtra MJP strike can be a big blow to drinking water supply Water supply will take a big hit with Maharashtra Jeevan Pradhikaran (MJP) planning to go on a strike from March 06, 2017, if the state govt does not agree to the salary and pension demands of its staff as govt employees. MJP has been in-charge of the daily supply of drinking water operations across 25 urban and 27 rural areas in the State. Many govt agencies, town planning bodies and municipal corporations such as Cidco, Panvel City Municipal Corporation, JNPT and Central railway largely rely on MJP for their daily supply. This is sad. MJP is the backbone of many a village drinking water supply schemes.

Punjab Civic bodies fail to curb misuse of potable water The state’s civic bodies have failed to check the misuse of potable water for construction work despite directions by the Punjab and Haryana High Court about four years ago. Following the court order, the Local Bodies Department had, in May 2013, directed that only surface water sources or treated water from STPs be used for construction purposes. The order specified the use of bore wells and tube wells in municipal areas only for drinking and domestic use. However, the order is being openly defied not only by individuals but also construction companies engaged in raising housing colonies, commercial buildings and shopping malls. The builders are expected to hire tankers that fetch water for the construction sites from the treatment plants.

Madhya Pradesh दुपट्टे के सहारे 17 फीट गहरे कुएं में उतरता है छात्र

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DELHI WATER

DJB’s interceptor drain project to take another year The project, promoted as the “only” workable solution to clean the river, was initially promised before the 2010 Commonwealth Games that would ensure a sparkling Yamuna for the hundreds of visitors expected during the event. However, work was commissioned only in 2011 with a deadline of three years and there is already a delay of four years. About 85% of work had been completed, but the project had stalled about a year back due to a Green Tribunal order which prohibited any expenditure on drainage projects, an official said.

Despite the advanced state of the project, it is only trapping 90 MGD of sewage against the approximately 250 MGD it is supposed to trap. This, said sources, was because several small works that would provide the last point connectivity to the drains were still pending. The Rs 2,000 crore project will, even when it is completed, treat only about 75% of the total sewage released into Yamuna.

AGRICULTURE

Study SRI impact on rice yields and household income IIM-A’bad study on System of Rice Intensification concludes positively for SRI based on study in two districts, each in three states of Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha. As far as the policy implications are concerned, the results suggest that even the partial adoption of SRI principles can have an impact on rice yield. The impact of SRI adoption on income was mixed.

However the results indicate that the SRI adoption can improve the household income provided the government intervenes in reducing the cost involved in the adoption of some of practices/components of SRI. For example, supply of mechanical weeders can ensure more efficient weeding and thereby full realisation of the benefits. Similarly, skill oriented training to agricultural labourers can also help in reducing the transaction costs involved in the adoption of SRI practices.

There is an urgent need for extension services to be scaled up by making these services more effective. Small farmers were found to be more enthusiastic in adopting SRI than large farmers. Given the limited amount of resources that the small and marginal farmers possess, there is an urgent need for government to intervene to make extension services more effective and thereby to make a positive impact of NFSM on the adoption of SRI. Briefly, adoption of different practices/combinations of SRI can boost yield and household income with appropriate policy interventions.

National Farmers are in trouble despite high pulse procurement Given the likely 22 million tonne production of pulses this year, up more than a third compared to last year, it is not surprising prices have crashed. In the case of tur, for instance, retail prices are down from R118 per kg in Delhi on October 1, 2016 to R89 on March 1. As a result of the surge in pulses inflation last year, rabi sowing increased by more than 11%. While it is not clear what will happen next year, if it goes the boom-bust way of many other crops, production will slow and prices will rise again. It was to try and stop this cycle, and to incentivise production that, last year, apart from hiking procurement prices, the government had decided to hike its procurement to 1 million tonnes. Prices of pulses are running 20-30% below Minimum Support Prices declared by the government as government is not able to procure much. This is such a pity when farmers need the support for pulses production, else many of them will be discouraged from taking up pluses in future. Society needs to do something urgently. Media, Judiciary needs to wake up.

Study 80% of farm suicides by cotton growers With the rural indebtedness in Punjab’s predominant agrarian economy touching Rs 80,000 crore, each rural household in the state is under a debt of an average Rs8 lakh. Or simply put, 89 per cent of the 10.53 lakh households in Punjab are under debt. This also shows how rural indebtedness in the state has more than doubled over the years. It was around Rs35,000 crore in 2009-10. These are some of the grim findings of a survey conducted by the state’s three premier universities — Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana; Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar; and, Punjabi University, Patiala to study the incidence of farmer suicides between April 2010 and March 2013, across Punjab.

Himachal  Youth promoting organic farming This is the story of Arjun Suri Story of how a young man from agri chemical business family in Solan in Himachal Pradesh is pushing organic farming and has so far succeeded in convincing some 2000 farmers.  

SOUTH ASIA

Report Farakka Barrage is hurting Bangladesh and India It is heartening to see that Indian politicians and river experts themselves are now asking for the demolition of the Farakka barrage. The govt of Bangladesh should formally raise the demand for demolition with the Indian govt. In fact, it should also ask for the demolition of the Gajoldoba barrage and other river intervening and diversionary structures. The failure of Farakka is an example of the inappropriateness of structural interventions in rivers in general. These interventions, promoted by a commercial approach to rivers, ultimately prove to be counter-productive. It is also important for Bangladesh to take lessons from the Farakka experience in deciding about the proposed Ganges barrage to be built inside Bangladesh. Good to see the author advocates ecological approach to rivers, signing of the 1997 UN Convention, and opposition to the proposed Ganga Barrage of Bangladesh, in addition to decommissioning of Farakka barrage.  

Bhutan Hydro projects facing uncertain delays In a development that would cause the government to revise revenue estimates and recalculate its expenditure for the next five years, both the 1,200 MW Punatsangchu I (P I) and 1,020 MW Punatsangchu II (P II) projects are expected to undergo huge additional delays. From the current completion date of July 2019 the P 1 project would now be done only by Dec 2022. In the case of P II project from the current completion date of Dec 2018 the delay would be till September 2019. A government official said that given the scale of problems in P 1 even the 2022 date currently looks optimistic. A situation like this coupled with Bhutan’s Joint Venture Projects not going too well raises questions on Bhutan’s strategy of putting all its eggs in the hydro power basket. This is especially on the back of the huge loans taken for these projects. Meanwhile another article says that the govt needs to ignore the sensitiveness and ego of Indian organisations like CWC and WAPCOS and get a third party review done. Bhutan under construction hydropower projects are facing multitude of problems. Geological issues, cost over runs, time over runs, accidents, uncertainties and callous consultants like CWC and WAPCOS.

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Pakistan Chinese firm awarded Dasu dam contracts The Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) on March 08, 2017 have awarded Rs180 billion worth of two contracts to China Gezhouba Group Company for carrying out main civil works in the first stage of the Dasu hydro power project. Signing the contract WAPDA said that the first phase of project would generate 2,160 MW of electricity and would be completed in 2021. The 4,320 MW Dasu hydro power project is being constructed on the River Indus upstream of Dasu town in Kohistan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The project will be completed in two stages each stage having a generation capacity of 2,160 MW. The World Bank is partially providing funds for the construction of stage-I of the project, while a major chunk of the finances are being arranged by WAPDA from its own resources and with the sovereign guarantee of the govt of Pakistan.

Nepal Buri-Gandaki dams vulnerable to earthquakes The proposed Burhi-Gandaki dam will be in one of the most seismically active areas of the world. The dam site is very close to the epicenter of very recent Gorkha earthquake measured 7.9 in Richter scale. This type of dams is highly sensitive to earthquakes. Everyone knows that the proposed Burhi-Gandaki dam is located in an area prone to big landslides, which frequently block the river resulting in impoundment of entire river flow. This is a warning about High Dams in Nepal, following the Oroville Dam disaster in US.

Another landslide associated with a hydro project  Various media outlets have reported a landslide near to Righa in Baglung district, which briefly blocked the Daram River (although the blockage has now cleared).  This landslide appears to have claimed the life of a local woman. A landslide due to under construction Dharamkhola Hydropower project blocks the river, and the flood resulting from release of water from the landslide dam kills a person.

Bangladesh Ban on fishing in Padma, Meghna begins A two-month ban on catching, selling and transportation of all types of fish from the Padma and Meghna rivers began on March 01, 2017 to ensure safe spawning and protect fish resources. The ban will remain in force till April 30. This is indeed a HUGE step Bangladesh has been taking, coupled with provision of foodgrains to fisherfolk. While there must be practical problems, they deserve applause and support for this brave step.

THE REST OF THE WORLD

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SANDRP BLOG Oroville accident raises several question Many of the questions raised in this and previous report about Oroville episode may be answered in days to come. There is a lot to learn in this episode for California, USA and rest of the world. In India, with already huge stock of old stock of dams, and our far from confidence inspiring legal or institutional situation in dealing with such events, we have a lot to to learn quickly. Climate change makes learning necessary lessons even more urgent. It is doubtful though if any of that would happen easily. Also see, Is Oroville dam safe for California residents

New Zealand Special report on river pollution Kiwis feel passionate about the health of their waterways, and rightly so, but sometimes the real facts behind what is polluting them can be buried behind hyperbole and over-zealous views. In a special report into the state of NZ’s waterways, Newshub has interviewed and gathered resources from several independent freshwater scientists, the dairy farming industry, (including farmers and scientists) and NIWA, to give you the full picture on the health of New Zealand’s rivers.

Australia Pollution in Blue Mountains could be world’s worst According to researchers from Western Sydney University, some of the worst environmental pollution in the world has been discovered among the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains.

ENVIRONMENT

Op-Ed Not foreign firms, Centre averse to NGOs Last month, Environment Minister Madhav Dave, while addressing members from the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the ministry, reminded them to be wary of the NGOs supported by foreign interests and funding and to ensure that projects are not delayed due to new environmental studies. Dave told them to keep the overall goal of ‘ease of doing business’ in mind. Earlier, the EAC on River Valley Projects recorded in its minutes of meeting that it will not entertain representations from the civil society groups. This is an excellent piece by Ritwick Dutta.

Interview IMD to focus on agriculture advisories From state-level agromet advisories on two days a week, we have moved to district-level advisories for five days a week. Many places still don’t have district-level coverage and now demand is coming to further zoom down to block level because there might be weather variations even within the district. First, we are planning to have 660 district agromet field units (DAMU) and then reach the block level by 2019. Secondly, all over India, we have 19 million farmers getting our agro advisories through SMS on their cell phones. Our target is to reach 90 million farmers by 2020. This means we have to take new technological initiatives like a voice-based service we are developing with IIT, Kanpur. Digital radio can be a game changer when it comes to disaster management in a complex orography of the Himalayas. This is a statement by Anand Sharma the Regional Coordinator of the Agromet Advisory Service Division, Delhi.

Himachal Video of massive landslide in Chamba A really impressive set of the three videos has been posted to You tube showing a landslide at Chamba. The landslide apparently occurred on March 06, 2017 on the road that links Chamba with Saroo.

MoEF Web portal for obtaining CRZ Clearances Terming it as a good example of ‘Ease of Doing Business’, Anil Madhav Dave, the  Environment Minister on March 08, 2017 has launched the web portal for obtaining Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearances. As per the Minister, the web-based portal system will enable the Project proponents and the concerned State/Union Territory bodies like the State Coastal Zone Management Authorities (SCZMAs) and Municipal/Town Planning agencies in tracking the status of their proposals.  The system is based on web architecture, similar to the existing systems in place for according environmental and forest clearances. The CRZ clearances can be accessed at http://environmentclearance.nic.in/

Summer 2016 AP-TN heat wave repeat ten times more likely The heat wave that killed around 2,500 people in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in the last week of May 2015 is directly attributable to climate change. Global warming has increased the likelihood of such a heat wave in the region from being a once-in-100-years event to a once-in-10-years event, a tenfold increase in probability. If the pollutants that blanket the sky above Hyderabad and much of the region were removed, such a heat wave may occur once every two years. These are the three main conclusions of an analysis of the 2015 heat wave carried out by a group of researchers in India and abroad. This article warns that this summer we may have heat waves and deaths therefrom, like what happened in 2015. Will the authorities wake, considering the already prevailing drought situation across south India?

Monsoon 2016 Early signs of El Nino, warn forecasters After national, international weather agencies have begun predicting an El Nino event in the second half of 2017. The latest update, from US state agency NOAA have given a 50-55% chance of an El Nino forming from July onwards. Similarly, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology had in a report dated February 28 upgraded its outlook to El Nino ‘watch’, putting the likelihood of El Nino forming in 2017 at approximately 50%. IMD’s El Nino-La Nina update last month had given a more than 65% probability of neutral conditions continuing in the Pacific till around July. The last four El Nino events – in 2015, 2009, 2004 and 2002 – had led to poor monsoons and drought in the country.  

You may also like to see DRP News Bulletin 06 March 2017 & DRP News Bulletin 27 Feb. 2017

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