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‘Dried and Dusted’, Rivers of Himachal seek rescue : Report

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Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective compiled an extensive report titled “ State of the Rivers Report- Himachal Pradesh 2016” on the state of all five rivers and dire need to provide them protection from ecological destruction being carried out in the name of blind development.

Shimla: How much do you know about the rivers that owe their origin to Himalayan glaciers? How much do you know about the river basins in Himachal Pradesh? 

A person with an average level general knowledge can tell that the state has five major river basins Satluj, Ravi, Beas, Chenab, and Yamuna.

The Giri and Tons are  Yamuna’s tributaries originating in Himachal,  which form a part of the Ganga river basin flowing westward.

The other four rivers are major tributaries of the eastward flowing Indus River – one of the longest in world (2000 miles or 3200 kilometres) with a flow twice the size of the Nile.

The Indus becomes a much larger river once it is joined by what is known as the ‘Punjab’ (literally meaning 5 rivers – Satluj, Ravi, Beas, Chenab, and Jhelum).

But how much we know what is happening to these rivers as they are now dammed, stressed out, tampered with and tunneled due to human activity or development. We have not cared about the rivers while harnessing it as a resource for our developmental activities. 

These rivers are in a desperate need of rescue from clutches of ignorant humans. They need protection from a human activity known as “development”.  Development is inevitable but we can make it more sustainable. 

Along with fragmentation of the habitats, the diversion of the river flow to facilitate the hydropower projects, illegal and unscientific sand mining in excess, industrial pollution, unregulated construction etc. create a huge impact on the other life-forms that depend on these rivers, rare and endangered plants, and the livelihood of the local communities.

Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective has compiled an extensive report titled “ State of the Rivers Report- Himachal Pradesh 2016” on the state of all five rivers and dire need to provide them protection from ecological destruction being carried out in the name of blind development.

The organization said it is a preliminary document for the India Rivers Week. It provides some basic information on Himachal’s rivers and the threats they face.

The report has assessed that the surrounding ecology and livelihood of a local population is today most threatened by 41 big hydro and dam projects and 91 small and micro HEPs.

Distribution of assessed and harnassed potential of Himachal's rivers

: Distribution of Assessed and Harnessed Potential in Himachal Pradesh’s river basins (Govt. of HP, 2015-16)

As per the report of the Cumulative Impacts (Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education, 2015), in case of Himachal a total of 11665.346 ha have been diverted for different development activities after 1980. Out of it, 62% of the forest land has been diverted for construction of hydro electric projects and transmission lines. 

Satluj basin has highest hydropower potential at 13,332 MW.

Already 9 large hydro projects are in operational stage with a total installed capacity of 5780 MW, which is more than 50% of total hydropower generation of the state.

The biggest hydropower projects of the country after Bhakra was the i.e. Nathpa Jhakri 1500 MW in the public sector and Karcham Wangtoo 1000 MW in the private sector built by Jaypee group which also constructed Baspa II of 300 MW.

Forest land diversion for development in Himachal pradesh

Forest Area diverted in Himachal Pradesh for non-forest purposes (Forest Department, 2015)

So from Karchham onwards the river has been reduced to a trickle as Satluj is diverted in a 17 km long tunnel. Further downstream is Nathpa Jhakri, followed by the 412 MW Rampur project which was commissioned recently. Next was the 750 MW Luhri dam which is now in the doldrums following local opposition. After this comes the 800 MW Kol Dam which located in Bilaspur district Kol Dam has an installed capacity of 800 MW and got commissioned in 2015.

Next was the 750 MW Luhri dam which is now in the doldrums following local opposition. After this comes the 800 MW Kol Dam, located in Bilaspur district.  Kol Dam has an installed capacity of 800 MW and got commissioned in 2015.

Threat projection for river satluj

Threat projection for river Satluj

The number of lakes in the Satluj basin rose from a mere 38 in 1994 to 390 in 2014 due to glacial melting, says a 2014 report of the HP State Centre on Climate Change, State Council for Science Technology & Environment. The lakes poses potential threat of flashfloods.  

Although the number of lakes has remained stagnant during the last two years, this region has some of the biggest lakes. There are 10 lakes with areas more than 10 hectares and 45 with an area between five to 10 hectares, the report said.

Threat projection for river ravi

Threat projection for river Ravi

According to the report, the Beas, Satluj, Yamuna and Ravi are the most threatened river basins.

Based on its report, Himdhara has urged the government to design an effective River Protection Plan. Chenab and Spiti should be allowed to flow freely like Tirthan.

In this report we have focused on highlighting the key information about Himachal’s rivers, pointing out the threats that these rivers are facing. We compare the health of these rivers based on the extent of threat that they face, 

said Himdhara activist.

The identified key threats include developments which are interfering with river flows, hampering riverine ecology and changing the nature of the river and dependencies around it, said the report.

Threat projection for river chenab

Threat projection for river Chenab

These include hydropower development, Sand Mining, Pollution due to tourism, urbanisation, industrialisation and climatic changes.

We have studied each of these developments for the five river basins and made a threat projection – Critical, moderate or low,

said a Himdhara activist.

The Chenab as of now and Upper Satluj, with Spiti as the main tributary along with parts of Beas, like the Tirthan are the only wild and free-flowing rivers in the State.

There are streams and rivers in small stretches that are pristine but small hydro projects are have been planned around most of them.

Threat projection for river beas

Threat projection for river Beas

Parts of the Tons and Giri tributaries, known for their Mahaseer fish, are under threat due to the dams.

The report recommends that the blue or wild rivers need to be protected from the threats and a plan of action needs to be prepared and executed for the same.

Threat projection for river yamuna

Threat projection for river Yamuna

At the same time, the areas where there is a moderate threat, extensive efforts are required from the regulatory agencies – the Forest Department, Pollution Control Board and the State Environment Department.

A thorough ‘State of the Rivers Report’ should assess the social, cultural, economic values of these rivers and how they have changed historically, carrying out a detailed study based on primary data as well as secondary research from a variety of sources,

said Himdhara activist.

Moreover, it is the communities which depend on these rivers, therefore, they could best describe the changes that have occurred over time. Any assessment would be incomplete without a people’s voice in it.

Most textbooks and articles largely highlight the magnitude of the Himalayan river systems and move on to speak about it anthropocentrically like the energy generation and irrigation potential, to harness them as a source to pursue the never-ending process of development. 

People rarely see them as riverine ecosystems that are already providing services and supporting the living beings.

Himdhara expects the report to generate interest and a debate amongst communities as well as policymakers and researchers about the urgency to protect the Himalayan rivers. 

Today, we speak of interlinking these rivers but fail to see the existing natural inter-linkages not just between the rivers but also among all life forms, the benefits of which are being drawn by humans.

The Himalayan rivers are older than or as young as the Himalayas themselves. And yet, despite being so powerful and revered,  all the life they support, these rivers are vulnerable.

This vulnerability is rarely spoken of. The slightest variation and changes in temperature, flow, course, and composition of the rivers impact their surroundings. 

 

Madan has studied English Literature and Journalism from HP University and lives in Shimla. He is an amateur photographer and has been writing on topics ranging from environmental, socio-economic, development programs, education, eco-tourism, eco-friendly lifestyle and to green technologies for over 7 years now. He has an inclination for all things green, wonderful and loves to live in solitude. When not writing, he can be seen wandering, trying to capture world around him in his DSLR lens.

Environment

Freshwater Pollutants To Become Major Cause of Deaths by 2050, warns UN Study

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Millions to die in india due to pollution by 2050

The most comprehensive and rigorous assessment on the state of the environment completed by the UN in the last five years was published today. The report, which was produced by 250 scientists and experts from more than 70 countries, says that either we drastically scale up environmental protections, or cities and regions in Asia, the Middle East and Africa could see millions of premature deaths by mid-century.

Pollutants in our freshwater systems will see anti-microbial resistance become a major cause of death by 2050 and endocrine disruptors impact male and female fertility, as well as child neurodevelopment”

the study warned.

The science is clear. The health and prosperity of humanity are directly tied to the state of our environment. This report is an outlook for humanity. We are at a crossroads. Do we continue on our current path, which will lead to a bleak future for humankind, or do we pivot to a more sustainable development pathway? That is the choice our political leaders must make, now,

said Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director of UN Environment.

Innovative Policy Options

The projection of a future healthy planet with healthy people is based on a new way of thinking where the ‘grow now, clean up after’ model is changed to a near-zero-waste economy by 2050. According to the Outlook, green investment of 2 per cent of countries’ GDP would deliver long-term growth as high as we presently projected but with fewer impacts from climate change, water scarcity and loss of ecosystems.

At present, the world is not on track to meet the SDGs by 2030 or 2050. Urgent action is required now as any delay in climate action increases the cost of achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement, or reversing our progress and at some point, will make them impossible.

The report advises adopting less-meat intensive diets, and reducing food waste in both developed and developing countries, would reduce the need to increase food production by 50% to feed the projected 9-10 billion people on the planet in 2050. At present, 33 per cent of global edible food is wasted, and 56 per cent of waste happens in industrialized countries, the report states.

While urbanization is happening at an unprecedented level globally, the report says it can present an opportunity to increase citizens’ well-being while decreasing their environmental footprint through improved governance, land-use planning and green infrastructure. Furthermore, strategic investment in rural areas would reduce pressure for people to migrate.

The report calls for action to curb the flow of the 8 million tons of plastic pollution going into oceans each year. While the issue has received increased attention in recent years, there is still no global agreement to tackle marine litter.

The scientists note advancements in collecting environmental statistics, particularly geospatial data, and highlight there is huge potential for advancing knowledge using big data and stronger data collection collaborations between public and private partners.

Policy interventions that address entire systems – such as energy, food, and waste – rather than individual issues, such as water pollution, can be much more effective, according to the authors.  For example, a stable climate and clean air are interlinked; the climate mitigation actions for achieving the Paris Agreement targets would cost about US$ 22 trillion, but the combined health benefits from reduced air pollution could amount to an additional US$ 54 trillion.

The report shows that policies and technologies already exist to fashion new development pathways that will avoid these risks and lead to health and prosperity for all people,

said Joyeeta Gupta and Paul Ekins, co-chairs of the GEO-6 process.

What is currently lacking is the political will to implement policies and technologies at a sufficient speed and scale,

they added.

The sixth Global Environmental Outlook has been released while environmental ministers from around the world are in Nairobi to participate in the world’s highest-level environmental forum. Negotiations at the Fourth UN Environment Assembly are expected to tackle critical issues such as stopping food waste, promoting the spread of electric mobility, and tackling the crisis of plastic pollution in our oceans, among many other pressing challenges.

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Environment

Total 332 Bird Species Located in Himachal Pradesh

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Bird Species Count in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla-As per the Great Backyard Bird Count (7th Indian edition), the number of bird species in Himachal Pradesh was 332 in 2018, a spokesman of State Forest Department informed on February 21, 2019.  

PCCF (WL) Dr. Savita said that among the Indian States, Himachal Pradesh shared the topmost position with Uttrakhand where the highest number of species was recorded.  

Birding locations included wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, conservation reserves, villages and urban areas. She said that more than 150 bird species were recorded in Mandi, Shimla, Kangra and Sirmaur districts.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is a citizen science initiative intended to encourage both amateur and professional bird-watchers to contribute towards the understanding bird and their biology in a better way.

The Department said that amateur birders from across the state contributed in the count in addition to 287 checklists that were uploaded into e-Bird by 55 participants.

 Participation in the event involved a minimum of 15 minutes bird watching during which all the bird species seen were counted and listed.  It involved bird watching sessions with school teachers and students, birding involving local villagers and panchayat representatives and training of frontline staff of the forest department in bird identification.

The Department said a detailed report is in preparation and will be circulated by the first week of March

This initiative was coordinated by Joint Secretary (Forests) Sat Pal Dhiman, Chief Conservator Forest (HQR) Nagesh Guleria, Chief Conservator Forest (WL) South Sushil Kapta, DFO (Hqr) N.P.S. Dhaulta along with other senior officers of the department.

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Campus Watch

Watch: IIT Mandi Researchers Use ‘Pollutant Diesel Emissions’ For Water Treatment

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IIT mandi uses diesel soot sponge for water treatment

Mandi- Researchers at Indian Institute of Technology Mandi have used the soot emitted by diesel engines to mop up oil and other organic pollutants from water. Their work has been recently published in the journal – Environmental Science and Pollution Research.

Although diesel engines are known to be superior to other internal combustion engines in terms of lower fuel consumption and better energy release efficiencies, they are associated with significant amounts of particulate emissions.

 The particulates largely comprise soot, which is formed in the fuel rich regions of the burning diesel jets. Increasing environmental concerns and stringent emission standards require the development of both conventional and unconventional means for reducing soot.

 Studies in this area have focused on improving the engine design and incorporating special filters and treatment units at the exhaust end of the vehicle.

Dr. Rahul Vaish, Associate Professor, School of Engineering at IIT Mandi and his research students Vishvendra Pratap Singh and Moolchand Sharma have looked at this problem from a different perspective.

They rationalized that while it is impossible to bring down soot emissions to zero, it is possible to find a use for the soot produced.

 Carbon species such as carbon nanotubes, graphene, and candle soot have shown their potential in many fields,

says Dr. Vaish,

so why not automobile soot?

It is known that carbon species can absorb various organic pollutants in water. Carbon nanotubes, filter paper, mesh films, and graphene have been used for removing oil from water. Given that the typical carbon content of soot is between 90 and 98%, the team explored the possibility of using this pollutant as an adsorbent of oil and organic contaminants in water.

 There is a rapid increase in oil and chemical leakages from oil tankers or ships and industrial accidents with expansion in oil production and transportation in the last few decades,

the authors write in their recently published paper, justifying the need for new materials to mop up oil and prevent catastrophic environmental outcomes.

 In an earlier study, Dr. Vaish used candle soot to successfully remove two cationic dyes, rhodamine B and methylene blue from water, thereby showing the possibility of organic from water thereby showing the possibility of organic chemical removal by soot. Extending this earlier work, the research team incorporated diesel exhaust soot into polymer sponges to study their capability to adsorb oil and other organic materials from water. This hydrophobic sponge showed high absorption capacity for various oils, without the need for complex pretreatments.

The researchers found that the highest oil absorption capacity was 39 g/g for engine oil. An interesting observation was that the sponges were recyclable and retained 95% efficiency even after 10 cycles.

The diesel soot impregnated sponge could also absorb pollutants like methylene blue, ciprofloxacin, and detergent from the water. This has practical implications.

Apart from oil spills, organic pollutants such as traces of dyes and detergent coming from industries and households are a major contributor to water pollution,

says Dr. Vaish.

The soot impregnated sponge can help in developing cost-effective remediation processes for common domestic and industrial pollutants. Such a development would additionally serve to repurpose automobile waste.

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