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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dust storms hit air quality of Himachal, no health advisory issued from Govt
Shimla: Himachal Pradesh along with other North India states like Haryana and Delhi-NCR is affected by the dust storms due to strong-anti cyclonic winds, blowing from Rajasthan.
All major towns remained covered in a blanket of haze for the second day on Friday. The air quality has dropped in the capital Shimla. The amount of suspended particulate matter was reported to above 300 µg/m³ from 80-85 µg/m³ on normal days.
As per the Meteorological Department, the haze is worsened by higher humidity levels.
The tourist activity may also be effected in tourist towns like Shimla during the peak season as flights from airports in Himachal were also grounded for the second day due to the low visibility. The heli-taxi service from Shimla to Chandigarh was also suspended.
The State Pollution Control Board or the State Government has not issued any health advisory to the public so far. Some media reports said the PCB was not even aware of the exact levels of suspended particulate matter during past two days.
The haze could cause several problems from respiratory to allergic reactions including wheezing, cough, chest discomfort and shortness of breath.
For people suffering from asthma, it could prove to be fatal.
The reports suggested that a number of asthma patients visiting the Indira Gandhi Medical Hosptial saw a rise during last two days.
Children and elderly persons, who have smaller lung-reserve, can also face breathing problems. Therefore, remaining indoor to avoid long exposure to haze is advisable for vulnerable individuals.
It is a mixture of dust particles, gases, and other pollutants already floating in the breathable air.
The dust particles become a platform for deadly PM 10 and PM 2.5 particulate matter to cling on.
Previous studies have also confirmed the presence of chemcical pollutants in the haze of the Delhi-NCR.
Moreover, dust is a respiratory irritant even if it is not accompanied by toxic particles.
During such conditions, wearing a simple mask is advisable to minimize the damage.
Other than the health issues, the dust is settling on everything from clothes to edibles.
The Met Department had predicted rain with thunderstorm and gusty winds in all part of Himachal on Saturday and Sunday. The rain could bring relief from both humidity and dust storm.
The situation is alarming in the Delhi-NCR. So far, the dust storms have reportedly killed about 15 people in Uttar Pradesh. It may worsen as the storm is predicted to last for next two days.
HP Govt’s failure in implementing FRA Act turning habitants into encroachers
The right to claim titles in “Forest” areas occupied prior to December 13, 2005, is clearly provided in the FRA for the individuals regarded as “encroachers” under the previous legal framework.
Shimla: About 1500 people participated in a rally and public meeting held on June 7, 2018, at Reckong Peo, Kinnaur, to raise their voice against on-going eviction drive that is terming a large number of occupants of forestland as illegal encroachers in complete violation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
The people protested against HP Government’s poor implementation of the FRA, in their district as well as in the entire state.
The rally and public meeting were organized jointly by the Him Lok Jagriti Manch, Zilla Van Adhikar Mancha, a Kinnaur-based platform, Himachal Van Adhikar Manch, Himdhara Collective, and Himalaya Niti Abhiyan.
A memorandum was submitted to the Deputy Commissioner with a demand to immediately start processing the claims under FRA from Kinnaur district.
The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act, or Recognition of Forest Rights Act – commonly known as the Forest Rights Act (FRA)- was passed by Parliament in 2006 to address historical injustices and exclusion meted out to a large community of forest dwellers in India. Rights over forestlands were taken away since notification of forests under colonial Indian Forest Act (1927).
While in Himachal, there was a Forest Settlement in the 1970s that settled people’s access to forestlands, for the community, these remained privileges that could be taken away any time, the activists of organizing groups said.
Since then, a process of alienation of forest-dwelling communities has intensified in the name of development, wildlife conservation, forest management, and development, shrinking survival spaces of the forest-dependent people each time, they said.
It is only logical to assume that this piece of legislation is extremely relevant for Himachal Pradesh, where 67 percent of the total land area is under the jurisdiction of the Forest Department, the activists said.
In the initial phase, the State government had implemented the Act only in the Schedule – V (Tribal regions) areas of the State. As a result of this, the process of implementation in the State faced a long delay.
In 2013, after a High Court order and repeated instructions from the Centre, the government decided to implement the Act in non-tribal areas also. Despite the formation of more than 17503 Forest Right Committees (FRCs), which would file the claims, the process is not taking off in most areas.
Local administration and government officials have a partial understanding of the act and several misgivings. As a result of it, the process is just not moving forward.
The activists informed that it is extremely unfortunate that despite the formation of FRCs in 99.82% of revenue villages, only 53 individuals and 7 community titles have been issued under the Act in Himachal in past five years.
Further, on April 6, 2015, the Himachal Pradesh High Court ordered the removal of encroachments on “forest land” in the state within six months. It has triggered an eviction drive by the Forest Department.
This includes serving notices for removal of encroachments, disconnecting electricity and water supply provided to all “illegal” structures raised over encroached land and legal action in case of non-compliance.
In upper Shimla, the Forest Department went to the extent of felling apple trees from orchards on “forest land.” In Kinnaur, 98 such notices have been served to so-called “encroachers”.
Fearing further action, the people of Kinnaur, earlier on July 25, 2015, organised a huge rally at District headquarters, Rekong Peo, questioning the manner in which the Forest Department is implementing the orders of the High Court.
The activists emphasized on the importance of understanding the right to claim titles in “Forest” areas occupied prior to December 13, 2005, is clearly provided in the FRA for the individuals regarded as “encroachers” under the previous legal framework.
The provisions of this Act are applicable for Scheduled Tribes and other forest-dwelling communities, which mean almost the entire state. This is a special Act that supersedes all other previous acts related to forests like the Indian Forest Act 1927 or the Forest Conservation Act 1980.
It is a matter of concern that the state government failed to bring the issue of this non-implementation of the FRA Act to the attention of the High Court, the activists said.
As per the Section 5(4) of Chapter III of the FRA,
No member of a forest dwelling Scheduled Tribe or other traditional forest dwellers shall be evicted or removed from forest land under his occupation till the recognition and verification procedure is complete.
According to the 2011 Census, of the total workforce in Himachal, around 62 percents are cultivators and agricultural labourers. This means that a majority of the population dependent completely on farming and forests (livestock rearing) as a livelihood is not a beneficiary in the state budget allocations, the activists said.
Further, the falling number of jobs in the private sector has added to the crises between communities, which could ultimately lead to distress migration, visible in states like Uttarakhand, they said expressing concern.
Undertake research on ways to reduce dependence on plastic, say Nauni varsity scientists
Solan: The scientists and students of the Environment Science Department at Dr. YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Nauni celebrated the World Environment Day with the students of Government Senior Secondary School, Kothi Deora. The students, staff, villagers and Dangri Gram Panchayat representatives took part in the celebrations.
Speaking at the occasion, Dr. SK Bhardwaj, Head Department of Environment Science said that the theme of this year’s celebrations was ‘Beating Plastic Pollution’.
The scientists and research scholars Apoorva Sharma, Shivani, Lal Rinzuali and health specialist Dr. Ajay Singh took part in the event and apprised the students about the various kinds of pollution and their impact.
Addressing the gathering, Apoorva explained the need to curtail the use of plastic products, as they were one of the main pollutants.
She urged everyone to look for environmentally friendly alternatives and undertake research on the ways to reduce the dependence on plastic. Another speaker, Shivani highlighted the pollution of water sources and the importance of water for humans.
She called for collective efforts to conserve water by building small tanks and by proper disposal of soapless water from kitchens and bathrooms in the soil.
School Principal Dr. Narender Sharma also shared effective techniques of environmental conservation with the students. The eco club of the school also administered the oath for the protection and conservation of the environment.
In addition, the Dangri Panchayat also organized a Workshop on Air Quality and TB at its premises. The university scientists set up Respirable Dust Sampler machine, which will help to ascertain the air quality of the area within the next one month.
The panchayat has already taken steps to fight pollution and has distributed plants like a spider plant, snake plant, aloe vera etc., which were provided to them by the university.
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