DRP News Bulletin 03 April 2017 (India: Power Surplus & Exporter, With Record Solar & Wind Generation Trend, Need Not Push Destructive Hydro Projects)

Power surplus, power exporter India, with record solar& wind wind generation trend, why push more destructive hydro projects According to power ministry statement on March 29, 2017, India for the first time became NET EXPORTER OF ELECTRICITY during 2016-17, it exported 4% more power during last 11 months (April-Feb), that what it imported from Bhutan. At the same time, power plants, on a national average, are opera ting at roughly 60%, down from nearly 65% in 2014-15.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the amendments in the Mega Power Policy to push 31 GW stuck projects entailing an investment of Rs 1.5 lakh crore. The stuck projects in mega power policy include hydro projects of above 350 Mw in designated states (J&K and eight NE states) and above 500 Mw in other states.

Amid this, New and Renewable Energy Ministry has added over 5400 Mw wind energy capacity in 2016-17 against the target of 4000 Mw. This year’s achievement surpassed the previous higher capacity addition of 3.423 Mw achieved in the previous year. The leading States in the wind power capacity addition during 2016-17 are Andhra 2190 Mw, followed by Gujarat 1275 Mw and Karnataka 882 Mw.

In the last couple of years, India has not only seen record low tariffs for solar power but wind power too has seen a significant drop in tariffs. The onshore wind power potential alone is about 302 Gw. Preliminary estimates show the Gujarat coastline has the potential to generate around 106,000 Mw of offshore wind energy and Tamil Nadu about 60,000 Mw.

On the other hand, despite states not fulfilling their obligations to renewable purchase obligation (RPO), cumulative solar installations topped 10,000 Mw. If states had adhered to their RPO targets, installations would have reached 17,700 Mw by end of Financial Year 2017.

Given the prevailing scenario, India should refrain from constructing more hydro power projects. As they destroy the river systems, damage social and cultural links of dependent communities with environment and rivers, create conflicts among riparian communities. Moreover several of them are being built without proper studies in ecologically fragile terrains thus getting stalled and causing losses of crores to the Indian Govt.

Notably, recently the Power Minister Piyush Goyal himself has accepted that as many as 20 under construction Hydro projects totaling 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.

Similarly, the Comptroller Auditor General (CAG) has noted that due diligence in process for holding public consultation for hydro projects was not followed and the non-compliance of rules was maximum in case of river valley and hydro projects.

DAMS

Maharashtra Land plan for Pavana dam-hit moves ahead The Bombay HC  in its order of Feb 27, 2017 has directed the State Govt to ensure that there is no discrimination while providing compensation to the affected people. During hearing, Pune additional collector demanded two months’ time for preparing the compensation plan, which was granted during the hearing. The court had said that the state govt must give a time bound schedule for providing the 4 acre land compensation until May 15, 2017. Pavana dam is located on Pavana river in Maval taluka, around 40 km from the borders of Pimpri Chinchwad city. The construction of the dam began in 1963 and ended in 1972.  Altogether 1,203 people were affected but the govt has given 4 acre land and compensation to 340 people only. 

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Punjab Ranjit Sagar Dam project faces shortage of funds The project is battling to attain the state govt’s attention to run smoothly facilitate its staff as the project has allegedly not received its due amount of over Rs 100 crore from the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited, overdue since long. Ranjit Sagar Dam Project (earlier known as Thein Dam Project) was constructed by the Punjab govt at a cost of Rs 3,800 crore across the Ravi river, about 24 kms upstream of Madhopur Headworks. It was completed in the year 2000 and has so far generated over 25,000 million units worths Rs 9,320 crore as per official figures.

Bhakra water level plummets Water level in the Gobind Sagar reservoir at Bhakra Dam is down to just about 14% of its storage capacity. The storage at this time last year was 33 per cent. The water level at Bhakra (recorded at 1,523 feet on March 31, 2017) is down 52 feet from the last year’s corresponding figure. Relatively less snowfall and rainfall last year resulted in the water level go down to 1,656 feet compared to its maximum permissible level of 1,680 feet. The BBMB policy does not permit water level to fall below 1,507 feet to ensure reserves are available to meet the demand for irrigation and drinking water. Power cannot be generated if water level falls below 1,462 feet. The level at Pong Dam is 17 per cent of its capacity, as compared to last 10 year’s average of 28 per cent.

Rajasthan Rs 2600 crore JICA project to strengthen dams Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) has agreed to provide an assistance of Rs 2600 crore for the restoration of 137 dams and canals spread over 25 districts in the state apart from strengthening the Bhakra canal system in the state. A MoU to this effect was signed between the state govt and the JICA on March 31,2017.As per report, in the first phase the strengthening of the Bhakra Canal system in the state is being taken up at Rs 1068 crore. Besides, the project involves restoration work of 137 dams and canals spread over 25 districts.

MoWR De-siltation policy Written statement of Dr Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, Minister of State for Water Resources in Rajya Sabha on March 27, 2017: De-siltation of reservoirs is prime responsibility of dam owners. MoWR organised the National Conference on Sediment management in Indian rivers on March, 17, 2017. On the basis of the recommendations of the Conference, the Central Government has initiated the process of preparation a comprehensive Policy and Action Plan on Sediment Management in Indian rivers & reservoirs.

About DRIP Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Programme (DRIP) envisaging operational performance of existing 225 dams is being implemented with financial assistance from World Bank at an estimated cost of Rs. 2100 crore, in seven states of India, namely, MP, Odisha, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand. This project commenced from 18th April, 2012 and will last a period of six-years.

INTERLINKING OF RIVERS

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KBL MoWR rejects FAC recommendation to reduce Dhaudan dam height A report by a sub-committee of the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) has asked to re-examine the height of the Dhaudan dam in the interest of conserving the Panna Tiger Reserve and the recommended to reduce it by 10 meters if not at least 5 metre as a trade-off between conservation and development. The project involves building a 77-m tall and 2-km wide dam and a 230-km long canal to transfer water from the Ken river in the Bundelkhand region of UP & MP. It says going with the present plan means inundating 6,221 hectares of forest land of which 4,141 hectares is core forest. The Forest Advisory Committee recommends reducing the height of Dam in Ken Betwa link proposal, (besides taking other measures to reduce the need for forest land) but the lobbying ministry, the Ministry of Water Resources rejects it outright.

On the other hand, National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has now permitted the diversion of 40 hectares of forest from Nauradehi wildlife sanctuary, which is to be added as part of PTR in lieu of loss of core forest land. The NBWL has granted permission to divert forest from the sanctuary for the widening of National Highway-12 from its the current two-lane to four-lane, according to minutes of NBWL meeting. Ironically, even as the project falls inside the sanctuary, during the meeting, the Chief wildlife Warden of Madhya Pradesh Jitendra Agarwal said that the area does not form part of any corridor and is located south of Nauradehi sanctuary.

INTERSTATE WATER DISPUTES

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Tension in Karnataka as farmers from Maharashtra damage barrage Water is a precious commodity in a drought year, especially for farmers. So when barrages built across the Bhima in Karnataka, bordering Maharashtra, become targets for attacks, it raises their hackles. It is alleged that farmers from Maharashtra, seeking more water for their crops, broke 14 gates of the Umrani barrage in Indi taluk three (March 27 2017) days ago. This is the second such attack after 31 gates of Hingani barrage were broken in November last year in the same region. This, officials say, is being done to draw water illegally into the fields in the Maharashtra side of the border.

IRRIGATION

MoWR PMKSY status Written statement of Dr Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, Minister of State for Water Resources in Rajya Sabha on March 27, 2017: Under PMKSY-AIBP, 99 ongoing irrigation projects along with their Command Area Development & Water Management (CADWM) works have been identified in consultation with the States for completion in phases up to Dec. 2019. For completion of these projects, funding mechanism through NABARD has been approved by the Govt for both central and state share. 

Assam Irrigation Secy remanded in judicial custody Assam Irrigation Secretary Kujendra Doley, caught red-handed while accepting a bribe of Rs 15,000, was remanded in judicial custody on March 29, 2017 for five days. Doley had allegedly demanded the hefty bribe to clear nearly 300 payment files in his custody before the year end, the sleuths and contractors claimed. According to the contractor, he had proceeded to pay Rs 15,000 to the official  out of Rs 80,000 demanded by him after informing the Vigilance sleuths. Following the arrest, the sleuths recovered Rs 54 lakh cash from Doley’s office and over Rs 11 lakh in cash besides passbooks of six bank accounts, the LIC policies and several other incriminating documents during the subsequent raid at his apartment at Chachal in Guwahati.

Andhra Pradesh CAG raps govt on Pattiseema project CAG report on the economic sector for the year ended March 2016 tabled in Assembly on March 30, 2016 has observed that the relaxation of ceiling on the tender premium and award of work at higher premium without completion of the Polavaram Right Main Canal and its distributary system had resulted in avoidable additional burden of Rs. 199 crore. The CAG also observed avoidable extra expenditure of Rs. 138.18 crore due to unwarranted change in the construction methodology. CAG reported tabled on March 30, in Andhra assembly has strongly criticised the Pattiseema Lift scheme for a number of reasons, including undue costs, three year life, improper design, unwarranted expenses, etc.

Gujarat SAUNI Yojana taken up without ‘ensuring water availability’ As per CAG report tabled in Assembly, work for the Rs 10,000-crore Saurashtra Narmada Avtaran Irrigation (SAUNI) Yojana — which was meant to divert one million acre feet (MAF) of surplus flood waters of river Narmada to the Saurashtra region was taken up in Gujarat without ensuring actual water availability. The CAG also pointed out that “comprehensive planning” on the Goma Sukhbhadhar Lift Pipeline project could have resulted in savings on almost Rs 75 crore. This project (a part of SAUNI yojana) was meant to lift 8.33 cumecs water from Botad Branch Canal and fill water bodies of Goma, Kaniyad, Sukhbhadar and Krishnasagar. The auditor also pointed out that an additional Rs 4.54 crore per annum expense incurred on electricity for lifting water could also have been avoided. The CAG report has now raised a number of objections about the SAUNI project in Gujarat, including non availability of water.

RIVERS

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SANDRP Blog Maharashtra River Profile Major Issues faced by Rivers of Maharashtra include complete lack of governance geared towards protecting rivers as ecological systems, unjustifiable dam projects blocking most of the rivers of the state without even comparable benefits, increasing water conflicts, depleting groundwater levels which affect base flow of the rivers, catchment degradation, climate change induced changes in river hydrology, repeated droughts and increasing levels of pollution.

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Rajasthan CAG pulls up pollution board over river pollution Raising its concerns over pollution of rivers, the CAG has pulled up the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) for not preparing comprehensive plan for establishing common effluent treatment plants (CETP) in the industrial hubs. The CAG report has singled out three districts Alwar, Bikaner and Hanumangarh where objective of prevention, control and abatement of water pollution suffered due to non-establishment of CETPs. The report further stated that about 12.3 million litres of effluents per day were being discharged by these units on open land and in Dravyawati river without any treatment. The CAG also noted that treated water discharged by CETPs into Bandi river failed to achieve the outlet parameters thereby causing risk of deterioration in quality of river water.

Maharashtra HC asks govt to submit affidavit on river revival The Bombay High Court (HC) while hearing affidavits of various govt offices on March 30, 2017 said it was the state govt’s constitutional duty to conserve River Godavari. The high court said all responsibility has been imposed on Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) for making the river pollution-free and conserving it. “Funds were not given for cleanliness and rejuvenation of the river. The chief secretary should submit an affidavit in this regard on April 18,” said the court. The high court has asked the state govt to mention if they were interested in river conservation. After their reply, the court would take a decision. As per latest report NMC has set up a special cell to check the rising pollution levels of river Godavari. The NMC will soon put up instruction boards on the ghats and appoint 50 security guards to prevent people from throwing waste in the river. This sounds far from effective or useful, more like a box to be ticked possibly since High Court demanded some action.

Kerala KSHRC orders probe into river pollution The State Human Rights Commission (KSHRC) has directed the Thrikkakara municipality, State Pollution Control Board, and the Ernakulam district administration to investigate allegations that the Infopark-based Nita Gelatin was discharging chemical effluents into the Chitrapuzha and Kadaprayar rivers. It issued the notices based on a complaint filed by M.N. Giri alleging that the effluents from the plant were contaminating the river, making life difficult for the residents along the banks and exposing residents to the risk of cancer caused by contamination of the river water.

Himachal Pollution board to monitor 27 more sites Following CPCB instruction, the SPCB has increased its monitoring locations from the earlier 104 sites across the state to 131. The report also says that with no staff enhancement in the four laboratories of the board which was operating at Parwanoo, Jasur, Sundernagar and Paonta Sahib, the staff will face an added challenge of analysing water samples from 31 new locations. Despite the CPCB having directed the SPCB to upgrade its Parwanoo lab within 90 days in October 2015, it is yet to meet these standards.

GANGA Uttarakhand HC declares Gangotri and Yamunotri as living entities High Court Nainital on March 31, 2017 declared the glaciers from where the two rivers originate, Gangotri and Yamunotri respectively, as legal entities as well. The order delivered by Justices Rajiv Sharma and Alok Singh, who had also passed the order on the two rivers on March 20, 2017 said that the glaciers will have “the status of a legal person, with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.”

In a significant step towards ensuring that communities living along the banks of the river also have a say in safeguarding the river, the court asked the state chief secretary to “co-opt as many as seven public representatives from all the cities, towns and villages in the state in order to give representation to the communities living on the banks of the rivers and near the glaciers.”

The court on March 30, 2017 ordered the SPCB to “close down all hotels, ashrams and industries which are polluting the Ganga by strictly enforcing the court’s orders passed earlier in this regard.” The HC made the observations while commenting that the administration exhibited laxity in shutting down the polluting units. This is the third time in the past four months that the court has stressed on the need to close establishments polluting Ganga and pulled up those responsible for enforcing it.

MoWR PRESS RELEASES ON GANGA CLEANING

Rejuvenation of River Ganga Under Namami Gange Programme schemes taken up to clean Ganga may be categorized into core and non-core schemes.

Under Core-Area Scheme: The treatment capacities sanctioned/created so far for river Ganga are given below:

  • Under GAP-I and GAP-II 1098.31 Million liter per day (MLD) treatment capacity created.
  • Under Namami Gange Programme till 20thMarch 2017, 145 projects are sanctioned at an estimated cost of Rs 10,730.71 Crores. Out of these 72 projects are sanctioned for creation of 932.84 MLD new Sewage Treatment Plant (STP), rehabilitation of 1091.00 MLD of STP and laying/rehabilitation of 4031.41 km sewer network for abatement of pollution in river Ganga and Yamuna. Till date 13 projects are completed which has created 198.13 MLD STP capacity (153.1 MLD for river Ganga and 45 MLD for Yamuna river) and laid 1147.75 km of sewerage network.

Under Non-Core Area Scheme: 

  • Crematoria and Bathing Ghats: Total 34 projects having 296 Bathing Ghats and Crematoria (180 Bathing Ghats + 116 Crematoria) have been sanctioned at an estimated cost of Rs. 1132.90 Crores and these projects are under various stage of implementation. River front development projects at Chandighat Haridwar, Assi Ghat Varanasi and Patna are also under implementation.
  • River Surface Cleaning:Surface skimmers machines for 11 cities, i.e. Rishikesh, Haridwar, Garh mukteshwar, Kanpur, Varanasi, Allahabad, Mathura-Vrindavan, Patna, Sahibganj, Nababdeep and Kolkata have been sanctioned, out of which machines at 3 locations i.e. Allahabad, Patna and Sahibganj are under operation.
  • An amount of Rs. 1039.79 crore has been spent on cleaning of river Ganga during the last three years.  

The summary of Water Quality as Minimum & Maximum values for criteria parameters putting together all the locations (63 locations) for River Ganga is provided below: 

YEAR TEM. ºC D.O. (mg/l) pH CONDUCTIVITY (µmhos/cm) B.O.D. (mg/l) FECAL COLIFORM (MPN/100ml) TOTAL COLIFORM (MPN/100ml)
  Min Max Min Max Min Max Min Max Min Max Min Max Min Max
2014 13 35 2.8 11.1 6.3 8.9 42 6320 0 12 370 1300000 4 5000000
2015 12 40 2.9 11.6 6.7 9.3 153 6250 0.4 16 370 700000 0 1400000
2016  5 36 2.5 10.6 6.3 8.7 98 13370 0.0 12.2 220 300000 21 500000

 STPs Under GAP Under Namami Gange Programme till 20th March 2017, 145 projects are sanctioned at an estimated cost of Rs 10,730.71 Crores. Out of these 72 projects are sanctioned for creation of 932.84 MLD new STP and rehabilitation of 1091.00 MLD of STP and laying/rehabilitation of 4031.41 km sewer network for abatement of pollution in river Ganga and Yamuna. Till date 13 projects are completed which has created 198.13 MLD STP capacity (153.1 MLD for river Ganga and 45 MLD for Yamuna River) and laid 1147.75 km of sewerage network.

Under Ganga Action Plan (GAP-I) and GAP-II, 1098.31 MLD sewage treatment capacity has been created. 261 projects were approved at an estimated cost of Rs. 462.04 Crore. GAP-I was completed in 2000 at a total expenditure of Rs. 455.73 Crore. All schemes under GAP – 1 have been completed. Under GAP-II, 314 projects were approved at an estimated cost of Rs 591.05 Crore. Total fund released by Government of India was Rs. 522.11 Crore. Later GAP scheme was merged with National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) in 1996.

Industries Polluting Ganga River CPCB has identified a total of 764 Grossly Polluting Industries (industry discharging more than pollution load of BOD 100kg per day) along the entire stretch of river Ganga and its tributaries. From December 2015 to Jan 2017, 573 inspections have been carried out by CPCB covering 302 GPIs. 141 units were found to be complying with stipulated norms, 96 were found non-complying and 65 were found closed. Closure directions were issued to 45 non-complying units, show cause notices to 37 and letters to 14 non-complying units.

According to The Indian Express report dated 02 April 2017, the govt’s push for additional resources to clean the Ganga seems to have had a limited impact. Mentioning RTI findinds it says that until the end of Feb 2017, the Clean Ganga Fund, set up in Sept 2014, had received Rs 137.6 crore in donations. More than 82% came from public sector companies, and just about 10% a little over Rs 14 crore from private companies. The remaining 7.35% Fund value Rs 10.12 crore came from individuals, including NRIs.

None of the big names of Indian industry figures in the list of companies that have contributed to the Fund. Most of the contributors are small and medium enterprises. Bank of America is the single largest contributor among private companies, having given Rs 4.67 crore in two installments. That alone accounts for a third of all contributions from the private sector. While the average contribution from each public sector donor is Rs 1.8 crore, each private company has given only Rs 16.9 lakh on average. The single biggest contributor to the Fund has been General Insurance Corporation of India, which has given Rs 25 crore in two installments. So far, the Fund has received 1,313 individual donations, some as small as Rs 10. A total 142 individuals have donated Rs 100, the most popular value of contribution.

Cleaning of Ganga River The four stretches of river Ganga where Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) levels are more than permissible limits, as monitored by CPCB, is given in table below. 

State Stretch Identified Length stretch (km) BOD range/ max value (mg/l)
Uttarakhand Haridwar to SultanpurAdampur 10 4.2-5.8
Uttar Pradesh Kannauj to Varanasi 450 3.8-16.9
Bihar Buxar to Bhagalpur 40 7.8-27
West Bengal Tribeni to Diamond Harbour 50 3.1-5.8

Bihar CM urges Centre to address issue of siltation in Ganga river CM Nitish Kumar on April 01, 2017 has asked the Centre to give a serious look on the grave issue of siltation in river Ganga before finalising projects for the National Waterways-1 (Haldia to Allahabad) under the Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP). He said the Centre’s ambitious JMVP would not succeed, unless and until projects are prepared with a comprehensive outlook keeping in mind the issue of siltation and continuous decrease in ‘functional width’ of the river. Advocating formulation of a national silt management policy to ensure uninterrupted flow of water in Ganga, the CM said the ‘functional width’ of Ganga in the part of Bihar was decreasing due to regular silt deposit in its bed apparently because of the barrage near Farakka.

Uttar Pradesh CM wants Gomti project linked to Namami Gange As per report, CM Yogi Adityanath has directed officials to explore ways to link the Rs 1,500-crore Gomti Riverfront Development Project with the Namami Gange programme. Although the state government has already spent about Rs 1,430 crore, there has been a demand of another Rs 1,500 crore for the project, said an official, who did not wish to be identified. Gomti Riverfront Development Project, launched by the previous Govt, is scheduled to be completed by May 2017. The CM expressed unhappiness that despite the lapse of two years and an expenditure of over Rs. 1,427 crore, the work was only 60 per cent complete, an official release said.

Study Fossil fuel to devastate Ganga basin The study suggests that burning of fossil fuels is making Ganga basin more prone to droughts and floods.

YAMUNA Delhi New project launched to save Yamuna  This brief piece and interview of Inaki Alday, Quesada professor of architecture at UVA and director of the Yamuna River project (Re-centering Delhi Project) say nothing about river governance, lack of flow in the river and treatment of sewage without which this project like many others completed and undergoing are bound to be a failure.

Meanwhile, the Haryana urban development authority has laid a separate 15-km underground water line from the Basai water treatment plant to connect local areas. As per officials the separate line has been laid, because Gurgaon water demand increases every year and the additional 15 to 20 MGD water in addition to the 70 MGD water supplied will be enough to meet the rising demand. The source of the water is Western Yamuna Canal which off takes from Hathini Kund Barrage in Yamuna Nagar.

SAND MINING

Uttarakhand HC bans river mining across state for four months The HC Nainital on March 28, 2017 has banned mining across the state for four months while directing State Govt to form a “high level committee” to recommend guidelines to stop illegal mining and reclaim mined areas. The order would stop mining in interstate rivers such as Ganga, Yamuna, Gaula, Kosi, Dabka and Kali and also nearly 100 seasonal rivers and rivulets on foothills of the state apart from forest areas. The court has given the State Govt 4 weeks to submit the report and banned ongoing mining operations till then. Directing the committee to prepare a comprehensive action plan for mining in the state, the HC said the ‘committee’ will “prepare the blueprint for next 50 years taking into consideration the environment limits vis-à-vis the mining operation” in the state.

The court’s order comes after a Pahalwan Singh, a Beat Watcher in the forest department was allegedly killed by illegal miners near Corbett National Park on March 24, 2017 while he tried to stop a tractor trolley that was smuggling mined sand from Kosi river. Following this, the opposition party on March 27, 2014 has also accused State Govt of giving political protection to the mining mafia.

Haryana Mining firm builds ‘bridge’ on Yamuna The Irrigation Department is finding itself helpless to remove an illegal bridge on the Yamuna bed constructed by a mining company in Sonepat in disregard of ecology and threat of change of the course of the river. Sources said that the influence of a powerful functionary of the RSS, who is said to have interests in the company, was stopping the department to act and it was rather resorting to the game of passing of the buck with the Mining and Geology Department. As per latest reports, the Haryana Irrigation Department has demolished the illegal bridge made on the Yamuna riverbed in Sonepat district. Anurag Rastogi, Principal Secretary in the Irrigation Department, confirmed that the illegal bridge had been razed.

Uttar Pradesh 12 trucks seized with illegal sand Twelve trucks laden with sand were seized and the drivers arrested during a drive against illegal mining on the Yamuna riverbed in Shamli district by sub-divisional magistrate M P Singh team from Titli and Ahmad Ghar. Seven trucks were seized from Titli and five from Ahmad Ghar. The drivers were later released on bail. The drive was carried out after the Yogi Adityanath govt issued direction to the authorities to check illegal mining on the Yamuna riverbed.

Punjab 5 booked for illegal sand mining in Sangrur village The police on March 25, 2017 booked five people for illegal mining at Moonak and seized two tractors and a JBC machine from the spot. All the accused, along with one unidentified person, have been booked under 379 (punishment for theft) and the Minerals Act 1957 at Moonak police station. Meanwhile, deputy commissioner Amar Partap Singh Virk has formed special teams and directed all sub-divisional magistrates (SDMs) and deputy superintendents of police (DSPs) to work jointly with these teams to check on illegal mining in the district.

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Maharashtra Illegal sand mining continues in Raigad district Unabated illegal sand mining continues in Raigad district, according to environment group Awaaz Foundation, which filed its fourth complaint this year. Awaaz has images that show sand being carted away by bullock carts along a permanent access road that has been constructed from Awas to Kihim Beach, near Alibaug.

Kerala High-level panel to regulate sand-mining The State Govt has constituted a high-level committee for riverbank protection and regulation of sand mining.

WETLANDS & WATER BODIES

West Bengal Another feather in Kolkata’s wetlands cap The secretary-general of Ramsar Convention, Martha Rojas-Urrego, has recognised East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW) among two of world’s most precious natural resources for waste water treatment and a desired model for optimum reuse of water to combat global water crisis. The other site is Nakivubo Swamp in Kampala, Uganda. The recognition of EKW is significant as the wetlands has recently been confronted with existential threat following doubts on its utility. Hope State Govt wake up to the priceless ecological and livelihood services availed free of cost by EKW and proactively take steps to protect wetland area.

Tamil Nadu The ornamental plant that grew to ravage water bodies As per experts, the invasive plants named Ipomea carnea, has done to water bodies what seemai karuvelam (Prosopis juliflora) did to lands. Ipomea carnea, also known as Neyveli kattamanakku has clogged every water body in the State and proved detrimental to its aquatic ecosystems. Such species were either introduced as ornamental plants or entered India inadvertently. They say that it is highly adaptive plant and thrives both in inundated as well as dry conditions. It has the capacity to turn a river into soil, invite other plants and in the process create islands in water bodies affecting the flow of water.

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Maharashtra Children riding their bicycles in the dried up Sonegaon lake in Nagpur.

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Haryana Mass fish death A large number of fish have died in a lake at the Blue Bird tourist complex in the town in the past two days reportedly due to dirty water. Officials at the tourist complex say about 100 quintals of fish have died in the past two days. The Fisheries Department has started an inquiry in this connection. Tourism Department officials have blamed the Haryana Land Reclamation and Development Corporation for stopping water supply to the lake last year, and as a result the lake was drying up gradually.

WATER OPTIONS

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Karnataka Bengaluru scientist harvesting rain for last 22 years The family of AR Shivakumar a senior scientist in Bengaluru is doing without a water connection for last two decades. It is using treated rainwater not just for bathing and washing, but also for drinking. The senior scientist has built a water harvesting system that yields more than 400 litres of water daily. The water harvesting system is simple – water from the sloping roof is collected n underground tanks, where the purification process happens.

Expert Speak Tackling detergents in water bodies The excessive presence of detergents in waste water and leaving it without treating causes foam in water bodies. A well functioning STP followed by a constructed wetland can completely eliminate the phosphates and foam. Each and every one of our lakes should have a small well-functioning waste-water treatment plant followed by a wetland so that the waters stay alive and clean. It is a very educative piece by S. Viishwanath highlighting this common but important problem causing havoc on water sources. He also lists possible remedial steps that can be taken at individuals, communities and govt levels to undo the harmful impacts of detergents.

GROUND WATER

MoWR Status of Aquifer Mapping Written statement of Dr Sanjeev Kumar Balyan,  Minister of State for Water Resources in Rajya Sabha on March 27, 2017: Against a target of 8.89 lakh km2 for the entire XII plan period, so far aquifer maps and management plans have already been prepared for an area of around 5.20 lakh km2. Steps taken by the Govt for conservation of surface and groundwater are available at the following URL http://mowr.gov.in/writereaddata/GW_Depletion.pdf.

The minister further stated that upto 67% of funds provided to the States under National Rural Drinking Water Programme can be utilized for coverage and tackling water quality problems with priority to Arsenic and Fluoride affected habitations. According to minister, on the recommendations of NITI Aayog, Ministry of Finance has released Rs. 800.00 Crore during the financial year 2015-16 as a one-time 100% Central assistance to the States affected with water quality from Arsenic and Fluoride in the Country. 

The minister also said that as per CGWB 2011 report, out of 6607 assessment units in the country, 1071 assessment units in 15 States and 3 UTs are categorized as ‘Over-exploited’. Reasons for depletion of ground water resources are mainly due to growing population, urbanization and industrialization. In view of growing population, the per capita water availability in India is reducing progressively.  The average annual per capita water availability in the years 2001 and 2011 was assessed as 1820 cubic meters and 1545 cubic meters respectively, which may reduce further to 1341 and 1140 in the years 2025 and 2050 respectively.

Tamil Nadu Groundwater dips 20 cm per year in Chennai Central Ground Water Board  study has found that Chennai’s groundwater resources are over exploited, with water below the surface being extracted at a rate of 185%. According to it, the groundwater table in Chennai is depleting between 10cm and 20cm per year. As per the study Chennai Aquifer System that spread across 6,288 sqkm covering Chennai and Tiruvallur districts is the crucial source of groundwater for about 1 crore people but now more than 40% of the system is either over exploited or critical. The study based on the groundwater situation in 2013 has found that groundwater in the industrial belts of Ambattur, Chromepet and Manali, besides dumpyards in Pallikaranai and Kodungaiyur, have been contaminated with heavy metals.

Illegal tapping of groundwater irks villagers Residents of Vellakalpatti village on the city outskirts demanded action against the illegal exploitation of groundwater for commercial use in their area. In their petition to the Collector V. Sampath on March 27, 2017, they said that when acute shortage of drinking water is causing hardship to the residents, many had drilled bore wells in their area and were drawing water for commercial use and selling in lorries and other vehicles.

Villagers protest against private firm ‘polluting’ groundwater People of the coastal Panaikulam panchayat took out a rally and staged a demonstration at Panaikulam on March 25, 2017, demanding the closure of ‘South Ganga’ a private firm which, they alleged, polluted groundwater. Carrying the “polluted water” in pots, a large number of women participated in the protest, alleging that the private firm, which had been functioning at Krishnapuram village for about 12 years, completely spoiled groundwater by letting out ‘chemical effluents’ along the coast and water bodies.

DROUGHT 2017

Centre Drought relief to Tamil Nadu and Karnataka Based on the approval of the High Level Committee (HLC), the Central Government has sanctioned Rs.1793.63 crore to State of Tamil Nadu and Rs.1,782.44 crore to State of Karnataka for drought relief from NDRF. Based on the above sanctions, a sum of Rs.1447.99 crore has been released to the State of Tamil Nadu by the Central Government from NDRF after adjusting Rs.345.64 crore available with the State as balance in the State Disaster Response Fund.

SUMMER 2017

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IMD States warned of heath waves IMD has suggested some drastic steps to state govts of 50-odd districts seen highly vulnerable to heatwaves and prolonged dry weather. The highly vulnerable districts are in Vidarbha, Telangana, north interior Karnataka, Marathwada, MP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Rayalaseema. It also says by May, many parts of central, western and northern India could experience maximum temperatures over 42 degrees for most days.

Meanwhile, Bhira town in Maharashtra recorded a searing 46.5 degrees on March 28, 2017 -quite unheard of. Other places in Maharashtra were blazing as well. The State Govt confirmed two people had died of heat in the state. Officials were forced to transport water in trains to towns and villages in the west earlier this month amid reports of children collapsing in the heat while fetching water, and of armed men guarding wells and ponds to stop farmers from stealing water.

As per reports, the maximum temperature surges were recorded in hill-station favourites Kullu in Himachal and Mukteshwar in Uttarakhand. Akola in Maharashtra, recorded 44.1 degree Celsius, Barmer in Rajasthan recorded a high of 43.4 degrees Celsius while Narnaul in Haryana sizzled at 42 degrees Celsius, nine degrees above normal. Ludhiana in Punjab recorded seven degrees above normal 36.7 degrees. The high temperatures also renew fears of another drought that is likely to sap rural demand, gut agriculture.

Data shows that there has been an increasing trend of heat waves in India over the past several years. Heat wave killed about 3,000 people in 1998 and more than 2000 in 2002. It caused over 2,000 deaths in 1998 in Odisha and more than 1,200 deaths in 2002 in southern India. More than 2,400 people died in the heat wave of 2015. Notably, until 1990, India had experienced less than 500 heat waves. In 1991-2000, the number rose to 580. Between 2,000 and 2,010, around 670 such waves hit the country.

IMD summer forecast is in line with a generally warm trend over previous months; 2016 was the warmest year in a century. The summer months of March-May last year were 1.36°C higher than the historical average, making it the second warmest since 1901. The higher temperatures coincide with three, consecutive years of weak monsoons.

MONSOON 2017

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Sky Met Below normal monsoon in 2017 As per Skymet the upcoming Southwest Monsoon 2017 is likely to be below normal at 95% of the long period average of 887 mm for the four-month period from June to Sept. It also says that, there is 25% chance of below normal rains and 15% chance of drought. Most of the weather models are indicating towards 60% chance of El Niño coming into existence during the second half of the Monsoon. However, presence of positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) and heating of land mass of Central India would also influence the Monsoon rains. There has been only one incidence in the history when despite the presence of strong El Niño, Monsoon rains in 1997 were above normal on account of a positive IOD.

FLOOD 2017

Manipur Panel to deal with floods The state cabinet on March 31 2017 constituted a committee headed by Irrigation and Flood Control Minister Leppao Haokip to deal with the floods caused by torrential rains in the past two days. Two persons have died in rain-related incidents. Officials said landslides on national highways had affected transportation of goods.

RENEWABLE ENERGY

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National Poor demand, weak utilities expose challenges As per the report 25 states (including Union territories) are lagging on their solar renewable purchase obligation (RPO) targets for the current fiscal year. States have to procure a certain portion of their power requirement from renewable sources. Despite states not fulfilling their obligations, the central govt’s push has ensured that cumulative solar installations topped 10,000Mw. If states had adhered to their RPO targets, installations would have reached 17,700Mw by end of FY17. Bridge to India, a consulting firm, warns that rapid renewable capacity additions without concurrent reforms in demand and supply management can prove detrimental for both conventional and green energy sectors.

Similarly, there are several problems plaguing the wind power sector. For instance, the government has been concerned about squatters blocking good wind potential sites, inordinate delays in signing of power purchase agreements, timely payments and distribution firms shying away from procuring electricity generated from wind energy projects. In January 2017, the renewable ministry held a meeting with the states to sort out these issues.

SOUTH ASIA

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Nepal Activists braving threats and State apathy to save a river A group of 15 has been defending the Trishuli river from exploitation by sand miners, but with little success, over the last 15 years. They have eschewed fund-raising, focussing on the core work of activism. Despite this, a few of their friends have bargained with the sand miners and are now shareholders. Although riverbed mining has been banned in Nepal since 1991, the ban exists only on paper. Despite a barrage of complaints from the locals, the authorities are either silent, or take little action. With the destruction of the river, the fish population has declined severely. Story of Trishuli Bachao Abhiyaan in Nepal, now going on for 15 years, the river originating in Tibet. Also see, Ill designed rural roads causing landslides

THE REST OF ASIA

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Study 11% of disappearing groundwater used to grow traded food This new study shows that 11% of the global non-renewable groundwater drawn up for irrigation goes to produce crops that are then traded on the international market. Additionally, two-thirds of the exported crops that depend on non-renewable groundwater are produced in Pakistan (29%), the United States (27%), and India (12%). The amounts of various exported crops produced using unsustainable groundwater rose significantly between 2000 and 2010. India saw its exports of groundwater-depleting crops double in that period, while Pakistan’s rose by 70% and the US’s rose by 57%.  Wheat, rice, sugar, cotton and maize are among the essential internationally traded crops in the global economy.

ENVIRONMENT

Karnataka Probe 2 Ex-CMs in mining scam: SC Six years after a Lokayukta report indicted two ex-CMs N Dharam Singh and HD Kumaraswamy, the Supreme Court (SC) on March 29, 2017 ordered a probe into the role played by the two politicians in a mining scam. The probe, to be conducted by the state’s special investigation team, will have to report its findings to the court within three months. The allegations against them included conniving with several bureaucrats and others in de-reserving of 11,797 sqkm of forest in Bellary district, leading to large-scale illegal iron ore mining.

Madhya Pradesh Bhopal: 28 years of ‘toxic’ neglect In 22 settlements near the epic centre of the disaster people are still forced to drink water contaminated by hazardous chemical waste left behind by Union Carbide. At Bhopal Memorial Hospital & Research Centre, the department of pulmonary medicine continues to be non-functional even though lung infection and respiratory disorder is the most common ailment among the patients it was built to heal. And 350 metric tonnes of packaged toxic waste plus ‘unpackaged’ waste five times that quantity wait, to this day, to be incinerated. Also see, AAP alleges Rs50K cr power scam This report talks about possible Rs 50,000 crore power scam in Madhya Pradesh, including signing PPAs in fraudulent way for power that would possibly never be purchased.

You may also like to see DRP News Bulletin 27 March 2017 & DRP News Bulletin 20 March 2017

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