Editorial

Water Talk Connects to Thousands

23.09.2020

Water is indispensable to almost all domestic and economic activities, including agriculture, power, industry and mining. In a country like India, water management is crucial for sustainable human health, eco system, and economic progress. Prime Minister, Narendra Modi in his 73rd Independence Day speech uttered the term Water for 22 times, which shows the focus of the Government on water. Oftentimes, the Prime Minister deliberates on water issues.

Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation (DoWRRD&GR), Ministry of Jal Shakti (MoJS), Government of India initiated a remarkable programme, “Water Talk” on the eve of World Water Day 2019. A monthly seminar series on water, a vital subject, is being organized by the National Water Mission (NWM), every month, on the 3rd Friday since 22nd March 2019.

Water Talk has become a platform of knowledge transfer and problem solving. It has successfully attracted many vibrant people of various age groups from different walks of life to participate in the event and actively share various ideas towards sustainable water management in India. In the pre-COVID time, the programme was attended by nearly 150 participants. During COVID-19 phase, the seminar series has got a new way to reach mass through digital mode. As per the proceedings of the 16th Water Talk the event has reached over 70,000 views.

Urban water supply and management, village success stories, Ground water management, irrigation systems of water stressed areas, groundwater governance, agricultural water management, technology upgradation in irrigation, hydel power, flood control, water budgeting, construction of artificial Glacier are the topics deliberated by various ground heroes and real achievers. Water Talk propagated Reduce wastage, Reuse water at least once, Recharge ground water, Recycle waste water, and Respect for water. And, such an event is attended by phenomenal number of students from schools, universities, engineering colleges, and research institutions. In the 17th Water Talk, which was focused on Bengaluru water management, a school child of 8th standard from Jammu & Kashmir raised concern about misuse of stream water, and appealed the government for befitting action. This is a clear evidence of the right connection of the government and the future heroes.

Such events are not as entertaining as the famous TV serials like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. But, has no less importance too. And NWM has definitely chose a challenge, which within a span of one year has been converted into a grand success. The speakers have a massive role. The presentation from their enormous experience and the topics are so pragmatic that viewers feel a bonding. Above all, the commitment from the top officials of the Ministry has been a major driving force in disguise. U. P. Singh, Secretary, DoWRRD&GR, MoJS; G Asok Kumar, Additional Secretary and Mission Director, National Water Mission have not only ensured to be present in every programme, but also listened, discussed and created an atmosphere that one feels to be a part of the group.

Water Talk, with its growing popularity, is definitely the new talk of the time. It seems, with such knowledge imparting programmes, days are not far that India would forget the scary reports of being water starving nation. Rather, we may create many more water heroes like Arun Krishnamurthy and Ramveer Tanwar to probably prove the old saying of Gil Scott-Heron “Man is a complex being: he makes deserts bloom - and lakes die.”

Ozone today, Oxygen tomorrow

16.09.2020

Earth without ozone is like a house without a roof. Ozone is not just a layer but a protector. The ozone layer acts as Earth's sunscreen by absorbing harmful ultraviolet radiation from incoming sunlight that can cause skin cancer and damage plants, among other harmful effects to life on Earth. Researchers at the University of Southampton have shown that an extinction event 360 million years ago, that killed much of the Earth’s plant and freshwater aquatic life, was caused by a brief breakdown of the ozone layer that shields the Earth from damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The ozone collapse occurred as the climate rapidly warmed following an intense ice age.

Science has established that ozone depletion causes global warming, and climate change. In early 2020, Dr. Kevin Rose, a researcher at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA stated that “What we’re seeing is that ozone changes have shifted temperature and precipitation patterns in the southern hemisphere, and that’s altering where the algae in the ocean are, which is altering where the fish are, and where the walruses and seals are, so we’re seeing many changes in the food web.”

Each year, ozone-depleting compounds in the upper atmosphere destroy the protective ozone layer, and in particular above Antarctica. Chemicals once used widely in refrigeration, spray cans and solvents can eat away at Earth’s ozone layer. After scientists discovered the stratospheric “ozone hole” in the 1980s, nations around the world signed the international Montreal Protocol agreement to protect the ozone layer, limiting the emission of ozone-depleting chemicals. Year 2020 marks 35 years since the Vienna Convention and Montreal Protocol, which united the world to cut out gases creating a hole in the ozone layer. The Montreal Protocol, an international agreement signed in 1987 to stop chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) destroying the ozone layer, now appears to be the first international treaty to successfully slow the rate of global warming. In the course of 35 years, the world has shifted from CFCs to Hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) to Hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs) and eliminated use of several compounds.

In a first-ever study using ozone data collected by commercial aircraft by researchers from Cooperative Institute For Research In Environmental Sciences (CIRES) it was found that levels of the pollutant in most parts of Earth’s atmosphere have increased across the Northern Hemisphere over the past 20 years. That’s even as tighter controls on emissions of ozone precursors have lowered ground-level ozone in some places, including North America and Europe.

Nevertheless, with the above encouraging finding of healing up of ozone layer and some challenges are also found. Another new research deliberates quantifying small levels of iodine in Earth’s stratosphere could help explain why some of the planet’s protective ozone layer isn’t healing as fast as expected. The paper posits a set of connections that link air pollution near Earth’s surface to ozone destruction much higher in the atmosphere. Due to unique events in geological history, iodine is found in higher concentrations in mineral deposits in underground brines and in caliche ore. It is from these deposits that iodine is extracted for production. The global demand for iodine is on the rise and in 2016 data shows it to be above 33000 metric tons per year. Most current commercial production of iodine comes from deep well brines, sometimes associated with gas wells.

World Ozone Day is an event to create awareness related to climate change and ozone depletion. Amidst swiftly changing lifestyle among in the world, where people are opting for artificial air conditioning as well as fast and frozen foods, it is indispensable to look for ozone-friendly, HCFC free, energy-efficient appliances to minimize impacts on the Ozone layer. Your Response

NHAI’s Bharat Mala Extension Roads, Delhi: Missing Points in EIA

09.09.2020

Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) has displayed a draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report on its website, which pertains to road stretches selected of Bharat Mala Scheme. The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) appointed as Consultants have hired one EIA Consultant accredited by National Accreditation Board of Education and Trainers (NABET) to carry out to prepare the EIA report including Environmental Management Plan (EMP). The total length of the project has been reported as 75.211km that includes Road-2 (NH-344M) from design chainage Km 0.000 to Km 38.111 in the state of NCT of Delhi, Development of link toad (new NH-344P) (Km 0.000 to Km 29.600) between Bawana Industrial Area, Delhi (from Km 7.750 of UER-2) till bypass of NH-352A at Village Barwasni, Sonipat, Haryana in the state of NCT of Delhi/Haryana and Development of link road (new NH-344N) (Km 0.000 to Km 7.500), between Dichaon Kalan till Bahadurgarh Bypass/NH-10 in the state of NCT of Delhi/Haryana.

The report has informed that NHAI road project could have some impacts on several water bodies, though without changing any course. The EIA report does not deliberate on details like size and names of the water bodies. It has just highlighted that the road may pass over the water bodies, and possible impacts are only at the time of construction, for which EMP has given certain measures.

Another important aspect of the project is cutting of 17,000 trees. The EMP has deliberated 10 trees for each tree to be cut will be planted as a part of compensatory afforestation. The consultants hired by NHAI to prepare a project feasibility have failed to propose any details regarding site selection for tree plantation. Greenbelt development along proposed highway.

Delhi ranks fourth among the forty one cities of the world monitored for air pollution. 64% of pollution is by automobiles. As referred in Table 5-4 the air pollution modeling has been based on Emission Factors related to Bharat Stage – IV Vehicle, while India has entered into Bharat Stage – VI. Further, it has missed quantification of air pollution during construction phase, which may emanate from vehicles transporting the construction materials, construction and demolition, Hot Mix Plants (HMPs), diesel generator sets and so on.

A major aspect is water requirement. The expected total water requirement for 30 months of construction period of the project is nearly 2.2 billion liters. The EIA report states that majority would be sourced from Delhi Jal Board (DJB), and silent on the remaining. It also implies that DJB has not given any permission. Taking available reports into account, Delhi needs around 1,150 million gallons of water per day (MGD) and DJB is able to supply only around 900 MGD on an average. Hence, the statement cited in EIA report seems to be not factual.

It is high time that NABET ensures the EIA reports are data based. For instance, if the project fails to get water supply from DJB, the report does not specify any available alternatives. The EIA report should also deliberate on the both positive and negative impacts on competing users. The air pollution modeling is based on obsolete emission factors and incomplete as it misses HMP and DG emissions. Further, tree cutting is a grave matter as the city has thin tree population. Hence, the EIA report should offer details with expected time for tree growth, list of species for scientific development of greenbelt, propose ideal plantation sites and urban forest to curb air pollution, maintain water cycle and also soil pollution. A clear composition of greenbelt development along the proposed highway should be suggested because tree felling is envisaged with expansion of highways within a very short span. Moreover, NHAI should hire the EIA consultants for qualitative report. Your View

Plastic Waste Management & Role of NGT

02.09.2020

Currently, roughly 11 million metric tons of plastic make their way into the oceans each year, causing incalculable damage to wildlife habitats and harm to humans and animals. An enlightening article dated 23rd July 2020 by Leslie Kaufman on Bloomberg Green deliberates that if no action is taken, the amount of plastic litter will grow to 29 million metric tons per year by 2040. Although some hydrocarbon-based plastics break down into tiny particles known as microplastics, which are themselves harmful to humans and animals, they don’t biodegrade, meaning that the cumulative amount of plastic in the ocean could reach 600 million tons in 20 years. It is estimated that around 25,940 Tonne of plastic waste per day is generated in India. The range of plastic waste in the municipal solid waste varies from 3.10% in Chandigarh to 12.47% in Surat. The fight against Covid-19 might make the challenge even harder since the pandemic has increased single-use plastic consumption.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has been playing a pivotal role to ensure appropriate management of plastic waste. The Principal Bench of NGT has served 29 orders to various States and Union Territories in India during January 2019 to July 2020. 27% of these orders were issued in favour of Union of India identifying the sources of plastic waste such as use of PVC and chlorinated plastics including banners, hoarding and similar materials used for promotion and advertising during election campaign. Unchecked use of packaging materials, single use plastic pens, are among the articles causing growing problems in implementing the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 and the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) issued by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Plastic waste disposal in NCT of Delhi was reported by 23% of NGT orders issued to plastic recycling units in residential areas, running of a PVC unit in Industrial area, plastic polythene bags being used by certain shopkeepers and burning of plastic. 17% NGT orders for preventing illegal use of polythene begs and burning of Plastics. Union Territory of Andaman & Nicobar was reported by 14% of NGT orders issued for implementation of Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, implementation of ‘50μm’ thickness norms for carry bags manufacturing and closing of unregistered plastic manufacturing and recycling of plastic carry bags and granules units. Haryana State was reported by issues of Plastic waste disposal to the extent of 7% of NGT intervention whereas 3% of issues on Plastic waste disposal were reported in the state of Maharashtra, which included remedial action against the air pollution on account of melting of plastic in the process of manufacturing recycled plastic granules for use of plastic pipes. PVC is a popular building material and also used in medical devices and equipment but, it emits chemical vapours which can be harmful for health.

With pursuance of the NGT, CPCB has framed Environmental Compensation regime for improper Plastic Waste Management, and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has brought out a guideline document “Uniform Framework for Extended Producers Responsibility” under Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. The document has given details of online registration and record keeping of producers, recyclers and manufacturers and deliberated on various models of Extend Producers Responsibility (EPR), such as; Fee based model, PRO based model and Plastic Credit Model, and audited certification based funding mechanisms.

As India has set a deadline to go single-use plastic free by 2022, it is important to work proactively to strengthen legal frameworks and ensure strict compliance to those. Leslie Kaufman’s article also cites that the volume of plastic waste cut by ~80% is attainable through actions to reduce the growth of virgin plastic production, improve waste collection systems across the globe, and invest in the creation of plastic materials that are easier to recycle. Your View

Choose Right Crop to Save Water

26.08.2020

Water is a critical input for agricultural production and plays an important role in food security. Studies and World Bank report states that irrigated agriculture is, on average, at least twice as productive per unit of land as rainfed agriculture. Irrigated agriculture represents 20% of the total cultivated land and contributes 40% of the total food produced worldwide.

In Indian economy, due to high growth rates of the industrial and services sectors, agriculture’s share has progressively declined to less than 15%. Still agriculture holds an importance in India’s economic and social fabric. India is a global agricultural powerhouse. It is the world’s largest producer of milk, pulses, and spices, and has the world’s largest cattle herd (buffaloes), as well as the largest area under wheat, rice and cotton. It is the second largest producer of rice, wheat, cotton, sugarcane, farmed fish, sheep & goat meat, fruit, vegetables and tea. The country has some 195 million hectare under cultivation of which some 63% are rainfed, while 37% irrigated.

There is also a need to manage the overexploitation of groundwater. In many parts of India, over-pumping of water for agricultural use is leading to falling groundwater levels. Conversely, water-logging is leading to the build-up of salts in the soils of some irrigated areas, which is not good for water and soil quality. In rain-fed areas on the other hand, where the majority of the rural population live, agricultural practices need adapting to reduce soil erosion and increase the absorption of rainfall.

Agriculture is India’s largest user of water. More than 80% of water usage is for agricultural purposes. With growing urban and other demands, less water is likely to be available for irrigation. Hence, any amount of saving of water in the field of agricultural activities may have a significant positive impact in water environment. According to a Financial Express article on 10th May 2016; the water requirement per kg of sugar is around 1,500-2,000 litres, whereas the water required for producing 1kg of rice is 2,500-3,400 litres, and that for groundnut in shell form is 3,100 litres. Similarly, the water required for producing 1kg of cotton is as high as 10,000 litres. This needs radical enhancement in the productivity of irrigation “more crop per drop”. Keeping this in eyes, the Government of India launched a campaign “Sahi Fasal”, which means Right Crop. The campaign was driven by the National Water Mission, Ministry of Jal Shakti to encourage the farmers in the water stressed areas to grow less water intensive crops, and also efficient use of water. The programme targets selection of appropriate low water demanding crops, micro-irrigation, soil moisture conservation, and so on. It also focused to shift farmers choice from water intensive crops like paddy, sugarcane to crops like corn, maize etc., which require less water.

Right implementation of Sahi Fasal campaign with right spirit by promoting befitting crops would be vital for water reserves of the nation. Your View

Carrying Capacity & EIA for Smart Cities

19.08.2020

Raindrops have been talking. Water roaring in some smart cities. Unavoidable havocs over and above the pandemic. In such a situation, it becomes relevant to look into the natural drainage. EIA reports need a case specific study on topography and hydrology of project area. Many Environmental Clearances (EC) specify a condition that the project proponent will not change the natural slope. As very well described in Sidharth Mishra’s article “Gurgaon Flooding: How Dying Rivers of National Capital Region (NCR) Are Having Their Revenge” on news18.com, some people mischievously change natural course for their greed. Gurgaon, now renamed as Gurugram is a glaring example. Akin to other cities, every monsoon, Gurgaon faces flooding situation. This year being inflicted by a pandemic, flooding may worsen the post lockdown situation. City administrative set up had merely shared any plans beforehand, except for some cleaning of drainage and rainwater harvesting structures. The moot point us whether the administration had a flood disaster management plan? If yes, was it implemented and made public? Now, moving forward, is there any quantification and characterization of flood water mixed with biomedical waste (BMW), untreated and treated sewage, solid waste leachate, and contamination due to hazardous wastes bearing waste oil and heavy metals?

Sidharth Mishra has nicely deliberated on the impact of riverine land of Sabi river due to topographical changes. The river originates from Aravalli hills in Alwar, Rajasthan and flowed through Rewari and Gurgaon districts of Haryana, and finally join Yamuna through Nazafgarh canal. One can think about contaminated flood water entering rivers, and underground aquifers. Some experts believe that primary reason of flooding situation is design flaw. No doubt. In addition, there were some age-old bunds destroyed in Gurgaon, those meant for the of holding rainwater.

Development of cities with a short vision and growing pockets in like the NCR and other promising urban areas without taking into account the impacts has been a practice. These places also crave for water, and water budgeting is also myopic. Therefore, first and foremost, it is important to put a stop on irrgularised development and constructions. It is not beyond reach. A dedicated website containing information should also be provided so that no unbeknown buying takes place. At the same time, a befitting drive, on the line of demonetization, must be carried out against encroachments. This will help to remove the blockages in drainage and water flow pattern.

Secondly, the bunds, nalas, and water bodies; as cited in the Geographical Survey of India, must be traced, re-established and rejuvenated.

And, when there is so much of a change in EIA structure proposed, it would be worthy to ponder on removing individual construction projects from the shackles of EIA and EC. It should rather be the city development authorities, like Delhi Development Authority (DDA), GMDA, GDA, etc. which obtain EIA based on Comprehensive Environmental Performance Index (CEPI) and also Comprehensive Water Availability Index (CWAI). The districts, and states have already created an environmental policy. Individual projects can be controlled based on the city’s environmental clearance and planning. This will not cause any difficulty in the ease of doing business. Moreover, local residents and public should be a taken as a part of the decision making process, as there were provisions in the pre-2006 EIA notification. This could bring the era of Ram Rajya in true sense of good governance. Having said so, more EIA is required for cities to make them smart in reality. Environmental Clearance to cities should be accorded only by the Union Government on the basis of carrying capacity. Your response

Indian Fishery & Sustainability

11.08.2020

India is among the top 7 fish producing countries in the world. For centuries, India has had a traditional practice of fish culture in small ponds. Many parts of this culturally and traditionally diverse country depends on fish as a complete main course of food. Fish is rich in lean protein and vitamins, besides being a primary source of heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids.

According to the State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture Abandoned, 2020 published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, The top seven producing countries of global capture fisheries accounted for almost 50% of total captures, with China producing 15% of the total, followed by Indonesia and Peru 7% each, India 6%. In 2018, about 156 million tonnes, which is ~88% of world fish production was utilized for direct human consumption. The remaining 12 % was used for non-food purposes, of which 82% was used to produce fishmeal and fish oil. Globally, the proportion of fish used for direct human consumption has increased significantly from 67 percent in the 1960s.

India is second Inland water capture producers with 1.7 million tonnes live weight. Since 2017, India has become the fourth major exporter, boosted by a steep increase in farmed shrimp production. However, after peaking at USD 7.2 billion in 2017, the value of India’s exports declined by 3% in 2018 and by a further 1% in 2019, driven primarily by a decline in shrimp prices. However, as per the FAO report, the fish production in India is projected to grow by a whopping 42% by 2030, as compared to 2018, and fish trade for human consumption is envisaged to grow by above 95%.

The fisheries and aquaculture sector has much to contribute towards conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. This also includes targets to reduce marine pollution, protect aquatic ecosystems, minimize ocean acidification, develop scientific capacity relevant to fisheries, and improve the implementation of international law pertinent to the sustainable use of oceans.

According to the State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture Abandoned, 2020 published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG), also called “ghost gear”, constitutes a significant part of marine plastic pollution in the world’s oceans and seas. It threatens marine life – 46 % of the species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species have been impacted by ALDFG, and challenges biodiversity.

The FAO document has prepared a composite map intended to provide a visual and quantifiable indication of the relative levels of threat to the potential of the waterbody to support inland fisheries or aquatic biodiversity within a basin and its sub-basins. The threat map has considered factors of major threat as (1) Population-related, Population density; gross domestic product; road accessibility (2) Loss of connectivity due to dams; barrages, weirs, dykes and other barriers; channelization; dredging (3) Land use in terms of Deforestation, land degradation; mining; sedimentation; nitrogen runoff; phosphorous runoff, agricultural land use (4) Climate variability with respect to temperature variability; precipitation variability; predicted extreme climate events (5) Water use for irrigation, agriculture; industry; urban and human consumption and (6) Pollution emanating from pesticides, other chemical runoff; plastics, pharmaceuticals, other pollution; aquaculture effluents; urban sewage. Most parts of India have gained a high threat score ranging from 8 – 10. This needs attention of government, policy makers, researchers, and entrepreneurs, so that the water and land resources are conserved, and chances of negative health impact on human and aquatic lives is mitigated.

Biofuels, Biofertilizers for India’s self-reliance

There are some challenges to biofuels and bio-energy plants. One is limited supply of biomass, which could be attained by balancing the food, fodder, fertilizer and fuel. Another constraint is the project requires huge land area. For detailed article email