Summer of 2016 saw thirteen Indian states grappling with severest drought greatly fueling the ongoing depletion of aquifers. Then the supposedly surplus southwest monsoon also fell short by 3 per cent further stressing the falling groundwater table. At the same time the pollution of surface water sources, which function as recharge point for ground water, went uninterrupted.
All through the year, Central and many State Governments unveiled several new plans and projects targeting the sustainable consumption of groundwater. The judiciary made various orders to reign in illegal extraction of the finite resource. However, the situation continued to deteriorate.
As per the latest power generation figures released by the Central Electricity Authority, the hydropower generation during the current Financial Year 2016-17 is likely to be lower than the previous year’s generation even though the installed capacity has gone up. Average generation per MW of hydro capacity in India in 2016-17 is likely to be about 30% less power than what our average generation was in 1994-95. More worryingly, the hydropower generated per MW installed capacity continues its downward slide, the downward slide has been going on for now over two decades. Read More
Maharashtra SPCB cuts 40% water supply to Taloja industries After the pollution board identified that chemical effluents from common effluent treatment plant (CETP) at Taloja were polluting the Kasadi river, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) have directed to Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) to cut 40 per cent of the water supply to industrial plants from February 1.
According to the letter issued to the industrial plants, earlier they were receiving 24-hour water supply but after MPCB’s directive, the plants would not receive water from 12am to 8am, effective from February 1.
Last year fishermen from the local Koli community had complained of decline in 90 per cent of fish catch from Kasadi river due to pollution. They had also alleged of inaction by authorities despite several complaints.
To highlight their plight, the fishermen then collected water samples in August 2016 from the Taloja CETP pipeline areas discharging treated waste and samples from the banks of the Kasadi river, and submitted them for a water quality test at Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation’s (NMMC) environmental laboratory.
The samples were found failing several crucial parameters and having high levels of chloride , which is toxic to aquatic life and impacts vegetation and wildlife. Several reports had also mentioned that the pumping of industrial waste into the river had raised pollution levels 13 times higher than the safe limit.
Taking cognizance of the complaints, MPCB issued a notice to MIDC highlighting the pollution problem on Jan. 31 2017 and informing the MIDC that until the Taloja industrial area does not start online pollution monitoring, adequate water supply would not be provided to them. The plants have two months to comply or else further action would be taken.
Featured image showing 36 Wetlands in India requiring urgent attention as per a 2014 petition filed in apex court (Image Source: Live Mint)
In the third part of Wetlands Review 2016, SANDRP presents an account of major decisions taken by respective Courts for the protection of Wetlands in India.
In a significant development in April 2016, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed all State Governments to submit a complete list of Wetlands under their jurisdiction. The green court was hearing a plea alleging commercial conversion and resultant destruction of several large ecologically important Wetland areas across the country in absence identification and notification by respective State Governments.
The court also asked the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to submit the list of States that had approached it with Wetlands conservation plans.
The World Wetlands Day, celebrated around the world on 2nd February each year, marks the adoption of Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in Iran in 1972. The Convention came into force in India since 1982. The theme for this year’s World Wetlands Day is “Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction.”[i]
During floods, wetlands can act as natural sponges and absorb intense runoff and discharge, holding more water than most soil types.[ii] This role of wetlands has been demonstrated most powerfully in India in the past few years. Chennai deluge in Nov-Dec 2015 highlighted what happens when wetlands in a city reduce by 2/3rds in just 20 years. Similarly, Kashmir valley lost 50% of its riverine wetlands in just over 30 years, which was one of the main reasons behind the extensive losses during the Sept 2014 Jhelum floods, as corroborated by Dr Asam Rahmani of Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS)[iii]. In 40 years, Bangalore has lost 79% of its wetlands, similar is the case with Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and New Delhi. Bhopal, a city of relatively sloping profile, faced floods twice in 2016, and wetlands, including the rivers in the city are facing existential risks in terms of encroachments[iv].
People walking on the bank of Ganga in Allahabad
SC transfers PIL on cleaning Ganga to NGT In a major development, after monitoring Ganga cleaning work for last 31 years and without achieving any cleaner river, the Supreme Court on January 24, 2017 wrapped up a PIL on cleaning of river Ganga and sent it to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for more effective adjudication. The apex court had been monitoring the issue for 31 years. A bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice N V Ramana said that since issues relating to municipal solid waste and industrial waste were already being heard by the NGT on a day-to-day basis, all other issues relating to sources of polluting the river should also be heard by the NGT.
The bench said that the tribunal will be required to submit an interim report to it every six months, only to give an idea about the progress made and difficulties, if any. It also granted liberty to the petitioner, environmentalist M C Mehta, to approach the court if he had any grievances in consonance with the law.
During last week hearing (January 17, 2017), the SC bench has directed the government to file a report on the construction and functioning of STPs alongside the river, which runs through five States.
It has been almost two years after the SC has voiced scepticism about the government’s self-proclaimed promise to clean up the Ganga River. Before this, in 2014, the apex court had voiced its reservations about the various efforts over the decades to return the Ganga to its pristine self, once even saying that it “does not expect Ganga to be cleaned up even after 200 years.”