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Baddi Family Buried in Garbage by BBNDA Gets Relief from High Court, Authorities Directed to Relocate It

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Petition in Baddi Lanfill Case

Solan- The State Government of Himachal Pradesh is a disaster if its management and disposal of solid waste are considered. The State Pollution Control Board, local civil bodies, health department and every authority responsible for environmental protection and sanitation are in deep slumber, from which even the Hon’ble High Court is not able to wake them up. Not only these state agencies show disregard to environmental laws, court orders, but also show extreme insensitivity towards the lives of the people who are affected by unscientific dumping of solid waste and pollution of rivers.

The biggest example came to light when Kenduwal village in Baddi of Solan district approached the court with their plea to save them from the Baddi Municipal Council and Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh Development Authority. They literally buried a family in the garbage by creating an illegal dumping site near their habitat. The BBNDA was supposed to construct a waste treatment plant in 2012, but instead they just created a dumping site that became a breeding ground for flies, mosquitoes, rats, etc. and it caused an alarming increase in the incident of illnesses even to people who live in the neighbouring villages like Sheetalpur, Malpur, Bhudd, and MalkhuMajra. Nearly 1200 residents had filed a complaint to the SDM, Baddi and submitted that the Baddi Municipal Council had been dumping waste near their village without developing the site.

The worst affected family, living just 30 meters from the landfill, had approached various authorities with their grievance but was not attended at all. One reason could be attributed to the fact that this family belonged to the minority community (Gujjars). After the advocate for the petitioner’s family, Deven Khanna, fought a long legal battle against the state, the family has now received some hope by getting interim relief.

On May 21, 2019, the High Court of Himachal Pradesh, while hearing the petition of the family, directed the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh Development Authority (BBNDA) to consider relocating it.

In their application submitted to the court, the family had sought adequate compensation and rehabilitation/relocation. The petitioner had told the court that even after various orders from this Hon’ble Court, the responsible authorities were continuously disregarding the Solid Waste Management Rules and also the Orders of this Hon’ble Court.  As a result of it, the house of the affected family was turned into a garbage dump.

The petition also said that the authorities never took any consent from the adjoining houses before creating the dumping site, nor proposed relocation to the inhabitants. The petitioner with his family and cattle has been forced to live in life-threatening circumstances, the application said.

It’s pertinent to mention that despite the court orders to stop dumping waste on the said site, the authority allegedly took to threatening the petitioner’s family instead of acting on the orders.

“Petitioner is being threatened in various ways, while the mandatory compliances under the statute are continuously being flouted by the Respondents,”

the family had prayed in the application to the court.

Eventually, in its order passed on May 21, 2019, the court directed the authorities to consider relocation of the petitioner’s family.

In previous hearings, the court found out that the MC and BBNDA had obtained clearance for construction an Integrated Solid Waste Management Plant at this site in 2015, but never actually constructed it. Instead, it kept dumping entire waste in open.

The dumping ground violated several rules related to the creation of landfills. According to the Schedule (I) (a), Clause (VII) (VIII) of the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016:

  1. The Landfill site shall be 100 mt away from river, 200 mt from a pond, 200 mt from highway, habitations, public parks and water-supply wells and 20 km away from airports or Airbase.
  2. The Landfill site shall not be permitted within these flood plains as recorded for the last 100 years, Zone of coastal regulation, wetland, critical habitat areas, sensitive eco-fragile areas.
  3. This landfill was created in violation of all these rules as it is located on a floodplain of Sirsa river and just 30 meters away from human habitat.

Further, this dumping site also violated the directions passed by the National Green Tribunal in its recent judgment (O.A No. 673/2018).

The directions of the Tribunal clearly mentions maintaining the environmental flow of the river, checking constructions on floodplains, setting up of regulating or stopping the industrial activity of polluting nature, checking mining activities and disposal of bio-medical and other wastes, etc.

After the court’s interventions, on February 25, 2019, the Chief Executive Officer, BBNDA, Baddi, District Solan, H.P. had filed an affidavit-cum-status report. In this affidavit, the Chief Executive Officer had said that they would be able to establish the complete processing facility at the designated site Kenduwal within 12 months i.e. before 8th February 2020.  The affidavit further said that the work of 100% collection and transportation of Municipal Solid Waste from within the entire project area comprising 41 Gram Panchayats as well as Municipal Council, Baddi, Municipal Council, Nalagarh and Municipal Council, Parwanoo will be started by May 8, 2019.

In this order, the court had said,

“Though, as per the affidavit, BBNDA has placed 109 dumpers, 12 garbage collection tanks, 3 dumper placers, 5 tractor trolleys, and 60 labourers, yet the fact of the matter is that the entire untreated Municipal Solid Waste is not being picked up and substantial part thereof is being dumped in open.”

“We, therefore, direct the BBNDA to submit a time-bound plan for lifting the entire Municipal Solid Waste lying in open area and for that purpose if need be, let the proposal be sent to the State Government for its intervention to provide additional machinery and manpower under the Corporate Social Responsibility,”

the court order further stated.

Later, in another status report-cum-affidavit filed in the court on April 8, 2019, the Chief Executive Officer had told the court that the following steps would be taken in compliance with the orders passed by the court:

  1. Additional 33 dumpers (garbage containers) in the 33 left out Gram Panchayat will be placed by the concessionaire by 15/04/2019.
  2. The detailed project report will be submitted by the concessionaire upto 20/04/2019.
  3. The operational plan for collection and transportation of Municipal Solid Waste will be submitted by the concessionaire up to 25/04/2019.
  4. The electronic weighbridge will be installed by the concessionaire at the designated site Kenduwal upto 30/04/2019.
  5. The CCTV cameras will be installed by the concessionaire at the designated site Kenduwal upto 30/04/2019.
  6. The work of 100% collection and transportation of Municipal Solid Waste from within the entire project area by deploying about 180 number of employees will be started by the concessionaire by 08/05/2019.

Currently, some of the solid waste was still being dumped on the same site while remaining was being sent to a treatment plant in Chandigarh. The work of construction of a waste treatment plant is also underway.

Further, in his elaborated petition filed in 2018, the advocate for the petitioners had urged the court to consider the lack of solid waste management and treatment facility in the entire state, which leads to environmental degradation on a large scale. In their petition, petitioners through Advocate Deven Khanna had requested the court to pass following directions:

General direction to the local bodies to strictly impose a heavy fine on the violators of the law.

  1. Ordering absolute Strictness with regards to throwing garbage in water bodies (rivers, nallahs). He suggested that the fine collected should be used for the restoration of the damaged places.
  2. Officers in charge should be made personally liable if flagrant violations are found in their jurisdictions
  3. Secretary, Town Planning should be directed to ensure that the Master Plan of every city in the State has the provision for setting up of solid waste processing and disposal facilities
  4. Secretary, Urban Development of the State of Himachal and Secretary Panchayats/Rural Development should be directed to prepare the State policy and strategy on solid waste management for the entire State in consultation with the stakeholders.
  5. District Magistrates in the State in coordination with the Secretary, Urban Development, should be directed to ensure identification and allocation of suitable land
  6. Pollution Control Board should be directed to ensure due compliance of the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 as per Rule 16 of the Rules.
  7. Direction should be passed to the local authorities i.e. Municipalities, Municipal Corporations, and Panchayat Raj Institutions not to dump the garbage in the river streams/rivulets and forest areas forthwith.
  8. All the Municipalities, Municipal Corporations, Panchayats and other statutory authorities, throughout the State, should be directed to regularly publish the names of concerned Superintendents of Sanitation, Medical Officers and Sanitary Officers and such equivalent officers who are responsible for cleaning the State who can be approached for any complaint/grievance by the citizens of the State.

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 9 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 the world around him in his DSLR lens.

Environment

Over 500 Forest Fire Cases Reported in Himachal, Forest And Fire Deptts Remain Irresponsive, Allege Locals

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Forest Fires in Himachal Pradesh in 2019

Shimla-Over 500 forest fire cases have been reported from Himachal Pradesh affecting an area of over 2600 hectare of forests in the state. These forest fire incidents in the state have caused huge financial loss, which is expected to rise in days to come as forest fire incidents are increasing each day.

The forest fire incidents in and around Shimla town are also increasing each day. The local residents in Totu, Chakkar, Tara Devi, Shogi, Bhatakufer and Mehli areas say they are facing troubles due to the forest fire.

Locals allege that neither forest department nor any fire department responds to their information of fire in the region.

“We called the fire services yet no fire brigade or firemen came to our rescue. The administration also did not help us nor take any information regarding the forest fire.Ultimately we had to douse the fire with whatever water we had collected on our own,”

Praveen, a local of Chakkar area of Shimla told ANI.

 

Locals in Chakkar and Totu on Monday and Tuesday had to collectively save the forests from fire and also had narrow escape by saving their houses from the forest fire.

They alleged that the forest and fire departments spend a huge amount of money to constitute fire fighting teams but they all have failed to control the incidents of the forest fire. They also said that the forest department’s claims of helicopters being deputed to control the forest fire are just fake claims.

“We left everything and started dousing the fire as soon as we got to know that the forest fire is reaching our homes. The government claims to have to spend a lot on controlling the forest fires but nobody in the administration responded to our calls for help. Either the information has not reached the officials or they are not doing anything about it,”

Anay Kant, another resident told ANI.

Locals say they hired labourers to control the forest fire. Dev Raj, one of the local labourers told the agency:

“We reach the spot and try to douse the fire as soon as possible. We don’t know about the help from the administration as we were busy in our work.”

The forest minister of the state, Govind Singh said that despite all efforts to sensitize the people about the forest they could not stop these incidents.

He said that the department has announced money rewards for those informing about those responsible for fire in the forests.-ANI

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Hydropower Projects in Himachal Not ‘Eco-Friendly, Govt Keeps People in Dark Through Biased Environment Impact Assessment Reports

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Himachal's Hydropower Projects Are not eco-friendly

Shimla- The Himachal Pradesh Government, as witnessed on several occasions, favours hydropower companies over the environmental impacts and affected people. It believes that these projects would boost the economic growth of the state and that there are hardly any environmental hazards linked to the construction of excess hydropower projects. There is a long list of pending projects that the government wants to get constructed.

In its environmental assessment reports,  the government preach that hydropower is eco-friendly. However, as a bitter reality, it does not appear to be true. There are severe environmental hazards linked to the construction of these projects, which the government is not ready to admit. As a result of this deliberate neglection, the villagers, rivers, local water sources, farming lands, local wildlife etc. are suffering. Houses of people were destroyed due to seepage of water from tunnels of hydropower projects and they are forced to evacuate. Let’s take a look at a new report compiled by an environmental group explaining why hydropower projects in the Himalayas are not eco-friendly.  

In the month of the ‘World Environment Day’, Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective released their report titled “The Hidden Cost of Hydropower” to highlight the risks associated with hydropower construction, especially in Himalayan regions like Himachal Pradesh.  Over the last few years, increasing evidence has emerged that hydropower production may not be so ‘clean and green’ after all. This document compiles primary and secondary pieces of evidence of the impacts triggered by underground construction for the run of the river (ROR) hydropower projects highlighting the issues of environmental hazards and risks involved.

Echoing the fragility of the Himalayan region due to geological instability and climate change-related disasters like flash floods and cloud bursts, the report highlights the role of construction activities that accentuate this fragility.

 “A report of the state’s own disaster management cell says that around 10 Mega hydropower stations are located in the medium and high-risk landslide area,”

states the document.

  The report explains that the magnitude of the underground component of the civil work in hydropower projects involving blasting and dynamiting exacerbate existing vulnerabilities. These impacts are yet to be adequately studied and understood.

Visuals and testimonies of affected people from project sites in Kinnaur, Kullu and Chamba falling in the Satluj, Beas and Ravi basin collected over the years have been used to show the impacts. Case studies like that of the Parbati II, Karccham Wangtoo, Kashang and Bajoli Holi projects illustrate how landslides, drying up of springs, damages to houses, farms and forests have made difficult the lives and livelihoods of the people in the project area.

Landslide in Jhakri village of shimla due to hydropower project

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The report finds that the existing studies available on these impacts are inadequate or biased in favour of the hydropower producers, with economics as the main concern. Environment Impact Assessment reports of hydro-power projects gloss over the geological & seismic vulnerability of the project sites, with an explanation that the ‘hurdles’, ‘surprises’ and ‘incompetencies’ of the mountain geology would be handled at a later stage, if and when they occur. ‘Scientific’ linkages become difficult to establish later, and during EIAs, the concentration is to only rush through the studies to get ‘clearances’.

“They say there is no scientific evidence that the landslides are because of project activities and so we cannot claim compensation in case of cracks in the houses or damage to fields”,

according to Ramanand Negi of Urni Village located in the affected area of the Karchham Wangtoo project and now sitting on a huge landslide. 

The report also refers to the Audit reports of the Comptroller Auditor General to show how the costs of these ‘surprises’ are borne by the affected people or transferred to the public exchequer. The costs that producers have been forced to bear have led to financial losses, bad loans, and cumulatively a slump in the hydropower sector over the last few years. 

According to the report,

“The contribution of hydropower sector today to the country’s total electricity production has halved from 25% to 13% in the last decade. Where this state of hydropower industries was an opportunity to review hydropower policy and the sector’s viability, the report of Parliamentary standing committee on energy that reviewed the performance of hydro projects in 2018 turned a blind eye to environmental impacts and safety norms”.

 

Based on the committee’s recommendations the Ministry of Power issued an order in March 2019 recognizing hydropower projects with a capacity of more than 25 MW as ‘renewable’ source of energy, thus eligible for further subsidies. Himdhara’s report, however, brings out that hydro projects do not deserve the ‘green’ tag and the government should stop further subsiding the sector, especially large projects.

Water Sources drying due to hydropower projects

Water sources drying in himachal due to hydro projects

 

The report also identifies the institutional failures of the Central Water Commission, the Central Electricity Authority that are supposed to assess the Detailed Project Reports and give techno-economic clearances, monitor the progress, and reasons for the delay in projects.

This list also includes the Ministry of Environment that has blindly granted environment and forest clearances overlooking the above impacts and non-compliance; the State Directorate of Energy and State Disaster Management Authority, who have failed to fulfil their regulatory roles and ensure that there is no negligence.

The environmental group demanded that an independent scientific review of the immediate or long-term implications of construction work for hydropower development in the Himalayas should be commissioned. Citizens’ engagement, public consent mechanisms need to be strengthened, and a grievance redressal process needs to be put in place.

 

Loos of wildlife in himachal due to hydropower projects

 

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India to Face Water and Food Security Risks by 2030, 21 Major Cities to Run Out of Groundwater by 2020: Report

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Water crisis in India by 20310

India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and millions of lives and livelihoods are under threat. Currently, 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress and about two lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water. The crisis is only going to get worse. By 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people and an eventual 6% loss in the country’s GDP.

No Water in India by 2030

As per the report of National Commission for Integrated Water Resource Development of MoWR, the water requirement by 2050 in high use scenario is likely to be a milder 1,180 BCM, whereas the present-day availability is 695 BCM. The total availability of water possible in the country is still lower than this projected demand, at 1,137 BCM. Thus, there is an imminent need to deepen our understanding of our water resources and usage and put in place interventions that make our water use efficient and sustainable.

Water crisis in India by 2030

Classification according to Composite Water Index Scores (FY 16-17)

India is undergoing the worst water crisis in its history. Already, more than 600 million people are facing acute water shortages. Critical groundwater resources – which account for 40% of our water supply – are being depleted at unsustainable rates.

Droughts are becoming more frequent, creating severe problems for India’s rain-dependent farmers (53% of agriculture in India is rainfed). When water is available, it is likely to be contaminated (up to 70% of our water supply), resulting in nearly 200,000 deaths each year. Interstate disagreements are on the rise, with seven major disputes currently raging, pointing to the fact that limited frameworks and institutions are in place for national water governance.

Indeed, if nothing changes, and fast, things will get much worse: best estimates indicate that India’s water demand will exceed supply by a factor of two by 2030, with severe water scarcity on the horizon for hundreds of millions.

Water Index scores vary widely across states, but most states have achieved a score below 50% and could significantly improve their water resource management practices. The Water Index scores for FY 16-17 vary from 76 (Gujarat) to 26 (Meghalaya), with the median score being 49 for Non-Himalayan states and 31 for North-Eastern and Himalayan states. Gujarat is the highest performer, closely followed by other High performers such as Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. Seven states have scores between 50-65 (including two North-Eastern and Himalayan states) and have been classified as Medium performers.

Water crisis in India by 2030 2

Ranking of states according to Composite Water Index Scores (FY 16-17)

Alarmingly, 60% of states (14 out of 24) have achieved scores below 50 and have been classified as Low performers. Low performers are concentrated across the populous agricultural belts of North and East India and among the North-Eastern and Himalayan states.

Most states have achieved less than 50% of the total score in the augmentation of groundwater resources, highlighting the growing national crisis—54% of India’s groundwater wells are declining, and 21 major cities are expected to run out of groundwater as soon as 2020, affecting 100 million people. Further, 70% of states have also achieved scores of less than 50% on managing on-farm water effectively. Given the fact that agriculture accounts for 80% of all water use, this underperformance, as discussed in the analysis of low performers above, poses significant water and food security risks for the country.

Finally, states have also performed averagely on providing safe drinking water to rural areas. With 800 million people or 70% of the country’s population, living in rural areas, and about two lakh people in the country dying each year due to a lack of access to safe water, this is one of the most critical service delivery challenges in the world.

Encouragingly, several water-scarce states are the leaders in Index performance. Several of the high and medium performers—Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana— are states that have suffered from severe droughts in recent years.

Overall, there is large inter-state variation in Water Index scores, but most states have achieved a score below 50 (out of 100) and need to significantly improve their water resource management practices. The Water Index scores for FY 16-17 vary from ~76 (Gujarat) to ~26 (Meghalaya), with the median score being ~49 for Non-Himalayan states and ~31 for North-Eastern and Himalayan states. Gujarat is the highest performer, closely followed by other high performers such as Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. Most other states are clustered around the 40-60 band. Seven states have scores between 50- 65 (including two North-Eastern and Himalayan states) and have been classified as Medium performers.

This data was compiled and collected from 24 states. The data was collected for two years—the base year of FY 15-16, and FY 16-17—thereby enabling not only a benchmarking of the current water performance of states but also the study of the evolution of this performance across the last two years.

However, 60% of states (14 out of 24) have achieved scores below 50 and have been classified as Low performers. Most North-Eastern and Himalayan states are the lowest performers on the Index, but a few have scores that are comparable to or better than most of the larger states. Assam, Nagaland, Uttarakhand, and Meghalaya have the lowest Index scores (in FY 16-17) out of all states, ranging from 26 to 31. This low performance involves low scores across almost all indicator themes, with several states scoring zeroes or not submitting data for as many as seven indicators (out of 28).

On the other hand, Tripura and Himachal Pradesh have high scores, with both performing well in supply-side management (irrigation and watershed development) and water-supply provision (rural and urban).

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