West Bengal

West Bengal

  • Dam Constructed over Alaknanda River at Shrinagar garhwal

    The Planning Commission has considered hydropower power as the best source of energy in its integrated energy policy report since it does not emit gas than the energy generated by coal.

  • NGT has given a judgment that the boundaries of the Ganga will be demarcated. Under this decision, any of the construction work (bridge, building, mining etc.) will not be done within the 200 meter of the Ganga. And no pollution will be spread in the area of 500 meters.

    Buildings submerged in floods
  •  

    Nitin Gadkari Becomes the New Minister of the Ganga Rejuvenation Ministry

     

    Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has entrusted the responsibility of the Ganga Rejuvenation Ministry to Mr Nitin Gadkari. The country is hopeful that Shri Gadkari will clean up the Ganga with the same effectiveness as he has improved the road network of the country.

  •  

    Sand Mining in River Ganga (Photo By: Rudolph A furtado)

     

    Uttarakhand High Court has lifted the ban on mining along the River Ganga. Mining work in the river is also necessary as the silt continues to flow in the river continuously.

  •  

    Godess Ganga Temple at Gangotri (Photo By: GNU Docs. wikimedia)

     

    “His Holinesses welcomes the declaration of Government of India to name Holy Ganga as the National River” – By Jagadguru Sri Nischalanandji, Shankaracharya of Goverdhan Mutt,Puri

  • Namami Gange is the Mission launched by the Indian Government in October 2016 for revival and Rejuvenation of our National of River Ganga. According to mission, Namami Gange has focused on River Surface Cleaning, Crematoria modernization, Ghat repair, Rural Sanitation, Municipal Sewage Management, and Afforestation (see here)

  • Methane emissions being monitored by NEERI scientists (photo by: NEERI)

     Major Causes of Pollution in Ganga River

    The dead animals, trees, plants and other organic material flow with the river and settle down in the reservoirs made by hydropower projects. They begin to ferment. Initially they use up the oxygen available in the water and emit carbon dioxide (CO2). But when the oxygen supply is finished, they decompose into Methane (CH4) gas which is more harmful than carbon dioxide.

  •  
    Photo By: IIT-Consortium

    Beneath the heavily silted waters of our Himalayan Rivers dwells a strange creature, discovered in Calcutta in 1801, now known to science as Platanista gangeticaor the Ganges river dolphin. This river dolphin is truly an odd animal to behold. This relatively ancient cetacean has almost lost its visual powers, as eyesight in a sediment-rich river is quite a costly sense to have. Since sight is compromised in sediment-rich rivers like the Ganga, the animals have evolved to rely exclusively on sound in order to navigate and forage.

    After my first sighting of the river dolphin in Calcutta, I was truly surprised for I had never imagined this relic of an animal to still live within the city because of the current state of the river. Apart from being a carrier of sewage, plastic, oil and chemicals, the Hoogly River is also one of the busiest waterways in the entire country. There are numerous ghats along the river. A motorised boat with a capacity of at least 100 people sets off from one ghat to another at an average frequency of once every 10 minutes. In addition to this, gigantic vessels carrying shipping containers and barges carrying coal are scattered all over the river with sooty smoke steaming forth from their funnels.

    This heavy vessel traffic on the Hoogly River unfortunately creates a lot of noise underwater. Since the Ganges River dolphins rely on sound for their daily functioning, continuous interference and unwanted noise in the Hoogly River can surely affect them. A stark contrast to the Hooghly River in Calcutta is the Ganga River in Bihar, where the sounds of shrimps, fishes and dolphins fill up the entire water column, and an occasional whirring motor boat drowns the sound produced by these animals. Imagining a scenario where the Ganga River is transformed into a channel with high vessel traffic is truly terrifying.

    Without well designed studies, one may never know how this noise pollution in our rivers is affecting the Ganges River dolphins. An indication of the possible effects can be found in the Yangtze River in China, which was once home to the Chinese river dolphin. Increasing noise in the river is considered to be one of the causes for the extinction of their river dolphin. Could it be that our river dolphins will suffer the same fate as the Chinese river dolphin because of the extent of modifications planned on our rivers?

    The Ganges River dolphin breaching for a breath of air in the Ganga, Bihar

    The fact that the Ganges River dolphins are still managing in the Hooghly River cannot be an indication that waterways have no impact on our river dolphins. We do not know the extent of damage continuous noise in the Hooghly has had on the Ganges river dolphins. Unlike the Ganga, where dolphins are fairly easy to spot, one needs to spend hours searching frantically and straining the eye in hopes of seeing a dull brown animal emerging from the depths of the river to breathe. In fact, the dolphins are just one small measure of the health of the river, and one must involve studies on the responses of other biological taxa to the rapid and rampant modification of our rivers. Only then, can we holistically understand the condition of most of our rivers, both ‘urban’ and ‘wild’, and those that are, or once were, home to river dolphins.

    We can read detail story by Mayukh Dey here.Mayukh Dey:

    Mayukh Dey is part of the current MSc Wildlife Biology and Conservation cohort of the National Center of Biological Sciences, Bangalore. Having previously worked on projects involving crocodiles, otters and the Ganges River dolphin, he has been affiliated with freshwater systems for the past three years. Here, he writes about his concerns for the river dolphin that lives in India's noisy waterways.


     

  • NGT is taking care about pollution by banning the burning of paddy straw, but ignoring the daily harmful emission from Hydropower projects

    People of Delhi are suffering from smog which is leading to health problems and road accidents. The Governments of Punjab and Haryana have therefore banned the burning of paddy straw. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has also given the similar orders. However, the problem cannot be solved by such superficial measures.

    Let us appreciate the fact that Punjab produces only 2 million tons of paddy straw whereas West Bengal produces 3.6 million tons. Yet, no paddy straw is burnt in West Bengal because labour is available easily. It is economic for farmers to supply paddy straw to paper mills or to use as animal feed. But In Punjab, labour is expensive and in short supply. Also, the time available for harvesting of paddy straw and sowing of wheat is 15 days. The farmers do not get labour in this short time and they prefer to burn the paddy straw. The farmers are burning straw because they do not have any other option of disposing of the straw.

    No option to destroy Paddy Straw

    It is good that the Government is concerned about the problem. But the policies made to resolve this problem are going to fail because the farmers have no alternatives for disposing the straw. The solution is for the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to announce a minimum support price for baled paddy straw, just like they have minimum support price for wheat and paddy so that the contractors will buy the paddy straw from the farmers, bale it and supply it to the FCI. The FCI can in turn supply this straw to Maharashtra and other deficit areas where the farmers need fodder for their animals or to the paper factories. The loss incurred by the FCI should be bound by the Government. The nation will be benefitted in many ways.  We will get rid of smog; because farmers will no longer burn straw and they will have earnings by selling the same. It is necessary that Government makes a more constructive policy rather than just simply banning the burning of paddy straw.

     

    Excessive emission of Carbon and Methane

    A bigger problem is that the burning of straw is a small part of the air pollution. We are consuming large amount of electricity, which leads to burning of large amount of fossil fuels like coal, which is emitting a large amount of carbon and methane adding to global warming. We are building large Hydropower projects which emit more carbon dioxide and methane per unit of the electricity produce than even in coal plants. See report from the International Rivers on this point.

    Similarly a report from National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) states that: 

    The emission of carbon dioxide from the reservoir of Tehri Dam is 2550 mg per m2, whereas methane emission is 24 mg per m2 per day. This is more dangerous than transient pollution of transpiration. (Report is available here page 15, para 5). For more details on harmful emission, we can read our earlier post here.

    Therefore we must wake up. On the one hand we are too much concerned with the short term problem of smog from burning of straw. On the other hand, we are silent on our high consumption of electricity, which adds much more to global warming. We have to realize that, unending consumption of electricity is burden on this earth and we have to also change our lifestyles to make it more environmental friendly. It will be futile for the Government to stop the burning of paddy straw, while we want to continue to have more electricity consumption, more coal burning for electricity generation, and more hydropower reservoirs.

  • Post By: Dr. Bharat Jhunjhunwala on Hindustan Times

    The stretch of the Ganga near Bhagalpur has been declared a wildlife sanctuary for the conservation of the Ganges Dolphin. This animal does not have eyes. It navigates and catches its prey by the sound environment of other aquatic creatures.

    On January 3, Centre approved the Rs 5,369 crore Jal Vikas Marg Project (JVMP) for enhanced navigation on the Haldia – Varanasi stretch of the National Waterway – 1 (NW-1). The project is expected to be completed by 2023. And the Centre claims will provide an alternative mode of transport that is supposed to be environment friendly and cost effective. This assessment, however, only takes into account the direct costs incurred by transporters: the cost of running the barges and maintaining the terminals. It does not account for the monetary value of the environmental costs that are imposed upon society.

    The river Ganga meanders across the landscape and spreads over its riverbed making pools and shallow areas. Fish and turtles lay eggs in these shallow areas. But thanks to dredging, which is already being done in the Ganga under the NW-1 project, the river is now channelized in one deep channel. The river no longer meanders and no longer has pools and shallow areas, destroying the habitat of fish and turtles.  The stretch of the Ganga near Varanasi has been declared as a turtle sanctuary and studies in other countries indicate that large numbers get hit by fast moving tourist boats because turtles move slowly.

    The stretch of the Ganga near Bhagalpur has been declared a wildlife sanctuary of the Conversation of the Ganga Dolphin. This animal does not have eyes. It navigates and catches its prey by the sound made by the movement of other aquatic creatures. The plying of large barges will create a high level of sound make it difficult for them to survive. The paint on ships and barges with also pollute the water. The carbon dioxide released by the ships will be is absorbed more by the water because of its proximity and this to pollute the river.

     A Report by the US-based Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy that transport of cargo by barges on the Mississippi waterway is economical only because it is not taxed while user fees are charged from rail and road transport. The NW-1 will be no different. The small direct benefit from cheaper transportation will indeed accrue to the people so will the large environmental costs.

     

     

    please write to Prime Minister Shree Narendra Modi for this issue.

  • "Namami Gange" is program of Indian Government, which has three main points. First is cleaning of polluted water by installing Sewage Treatment Plant (STP). Second, ensuring environmental flow in the river. And third, reducing the demand of water by improving water use efficiency in agriculture. Parallel to this, the "Rally for Rivers" is talking about conservation of rivers by tree plantation. We welcome these programs. But the solutions proposed by them will not solve the problem, instead they will distract from the true solutions. (See here manifesto of Namami Gange and Rally for rivers).

    Ganga river problems

    The first problem is of pollution in the river. According to "Namami Gange", sewage treatment plants will be handled with the participation of private parties. But the problem is that the STPs are currently not running properly because the municipalities are not interested to run them. If new STPs will be installed, municipalities will still not be interested to run them. The right way is that the Central Government should purchase clean water released from the STP and made it available to the farmers for irrigation. Then private parties will have an interest in running the STPs. Just as private parties are supplying power to electricity boards by installing thermal power plants, similarly they will supply clean water to the state irrigation departments. As Namami Gange and Rally for Rivers do not have a plan that will make the STPs run, hence they will fail.

    The second point of "Namami Gange" is that old industries which are increasing pollution, will be closed and a new policy will be made for new industries. But the policy is not clear yet. In Ganga Basin Management Plan made by IITs, it has been suggested that the industries must be asked to adopt "Zero Liquid Discharge" Policy. They should be forced to clean up the waste water repeatedly until it is finished. They should not even drain out a drop of water. But "Namami Gange" and Rally for Rivers are silent on Zero Liquid Discharge. Therefore, industries will continue to discharge the effluents and the old story will continue.

     

    "Rally for rivers" says that planting of trees will improve the quality of water. This is true. The program is to plant trees for one kilometer on both sides of the river. We estimate that in the Ganga Basin, plantation will take place on about 15,000 square kilometers. But it will be like a drop in the ocean. The total area of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal is 484,000 square kilometers. Therefore only 3% of the total area will be forested. This will lead to very little improvement in flow of the river.

    In normal situation, water in the nearby lands seeps into the river and recharge it. This will happen only when the nearby lands are full of ground water. But heavy pumping of ground water is depleting this ground water. Therefore, this forestation will provide more water for the irrigation pumps; and very little water for the river. But "Namami Gange" and "Rally for Rivers" will create an illusion that the rivers will be rejuvenated.

    "Namami Gange" has also said that environmental flows will be ensured. But four years of the NDA Government have passed and despite the order given by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the Government has not taken any steps to provide the environmental flows. Thus this is mere empty talk.

    "Namami Gange" has said that the work of improving the efficiency of irrigation will be done. This effort is absolutely right. But this will increase the area of ​​irrigation and not lead to decrease in the demand for water. If 10,000 hectares are being irrigated today, 12,000 hectares will be irrigated with the same water. But water use will remain as earlier.

    "Namami Gange" and "Rally for Rivers" both are silent on the two points. With the construction of hydropower projects on rivers in the mountainous areas, the movement of fish has blocked. This is affecting our biodiversity. It is necessary that hydropower projects should be redesigned and ensure continuous flow of one stream of the river.

    Both programs are also silent on Farakka Barrage due to which water and silt imbalance is occurring. Hoogly is getting half water but low silt whereas Bangladesh is getting half water but more silt. Erosion of Sundarbans is taking place due to low silt. Increasing silt in Bangladesh is causing more floods. Both programs are silent on this problem. The solution may be that the Farakka barrage may be redesigned so that there will be equal distribution of silt along with water. (Read here our last post in this context).

    We believe that "Namami Gange" and "Rally for Rivers" will fail. Their intention is to make the public feel that the Government is trying to revive the Ganga. They are distracting attention of the people form the true problems of the Ganga.