Govt’s Ganga min­i­mum flow or­der in­ad­e­quate, say ex­perts

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - NATION - Jayashree Nandi let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

DIS­AGREE­MENT Move may not help aquatic life or the river’s free move­ment, say sci­en­tists

NEW DELHI: Sci­en­tists and wa­ter ex­perts have called the re­cent Ganga en­vi­ron­men­tal flow (e-flow) no­ti­fi­ca­tion “half­hearted” and in­ad­e­quate in en­sur­ing the river has life in all its stretches. The no­ti­fi­ca­tion was is­sued on Oc­to­ber 10, a day be­fore en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist, GD Agar­wal died af­ter fast­ing for 111 days for an avi­ral (con­tin­u­ous, un­ob­structed flow) Ganga.

E-flow is a regime of flow in a river that mim­ics the nat­u­ral pat­tern. It refers to the qual­ity, quan­tity and tim­ing of wa­ter flows re­quired to main­tain the com­po­nents, func­tions, pro­cesses and re­silience of aquatic ecosys­tems that pro­vide goods and ser­vices to peo­ple.

How­ever, sci­en­tists as­so­ci­ated with stud­ies on e-flow say Agar­wal wouldn’t have ac­cepted the no­ti­fi­ca­tion. While some ex­perts say that the flow stip­u­lated in the no­ti­fi­ca­tion is in­ad­e­quate, they be­lieve that it would not be able to achieve the main pur­pose to en­sure aquatic life thriv­ing and the rivers free move­ment.

The min­istry of wa­ter re­sources had con­sti­tuted a three mem­ber com­mit­tee in 2015 which in­cluded Pro­fes­sor Vinod Tare of Iit-kan­pur, Shashi Shekhar, spe­cial sec­re­tary, wa­ter re­sources and Amar­jeet Singh, addi- tional sec­re­tary, wa­ter re­sources to an­a­lyse re­ports sub­mit­ted by an IIT con­sor­tium (con­sti­tuted by Cen­tre in 2010 for pre­par­ing Ganga river basin man­age­ment plan) and come out with e-flow rec­om­men­da­tions.

“The ad­e­quacy of these e-flows de­ter­mined by the min­istry of wa­ter re­sources is now ques­tion­able but more than that its im­por­tant to see how these val­ues have been ar­rived at. We had sub­mit­ted a de­tailed re­port on e-flows which was site spe­cific and was es­sen­tially a per­cent­age of the min­i­mum flow avail­able,” said pro­fes­sor Vinod Tare of IIT-KAN­pur, one of the three e-flow com­mit­tee mem­bers. “We had also said that for mi­gra­tion of aquatic life, mod­i­fi­ca­tion in de­sign of hy­dro­elec­tric projects and dams was needed to en­sure wa­ter flowed con­tin­u­ously which in sci- en­tific terms is called lon­gi­tu­di­nal con­nec­tiv­ity. But I don’t find these plans in the no­ti­fi­ca­tion,” Tare added. The Tare com­mit­tee re­port was never for­mally re­leased be­cause one au­thor— Amar­jeet Singh who was in the wa­ter re­sources min­istry didn’t agree with its find­ings.

One of the meth­ods that Tare com­mit­tee had sug­gested was to iden­tify the key­stone species in the river such as Mah­seer or Snow Trout de­pend­ing on the stretch should de­ter­mine the min­i­mum depth of flow. An­other im­por­tant fac­tor that the com­mit­tee sug­gested was to fac­tor in lon­gi­tu­di­nal con­nec­tiv­ity in all sea­sons and lat­eral con­nec­tiv­ity with the flood­plains dur­ing mon­soon. “We are shocked to see that the cur­rent no­ti­fi­ca­tion is not based on these re­quire­ments. Have they ar­rived at ar­bi­trary fig­ures?,” asked Hi­man­shu Thakkar, co­or­di­na­tor of South Asia Net­work on Dams, Rivers and Peo­ple (SANDRP).

Manoj Mishra, Ya­muna ac­tivist who has been study­ing Cen­ter’s poli­cies on Ganga said, “I think the pur­pose of this no­ti­fi­ca­tion is to clear more dams. The flows given are too less and not go­ing to help Ganga in any­way. Why was there no con­sul­ta­tion be­fore no­ti­fy­ing this?” The flows rec­om­mended by Tare com­mit­tee where site spe­cific and so can­not be com­pared with the cur­rent draft. Ab­hi­jit Mukher­jee of IITKharag­pur’s Ge­ol­ogy and Geo­physics depart­ment said “it may be a good be­gin­ning but there is no back­ground or ref­er­ence ma­te­rial in the draft to un­der­stand what the no­ti­fi­ca­tion means for the river.”

UP Singh, sec­re­tary, Union min­istry of wa­ter re­sources said, “There are a num­ber of dif­fer­ent com­mit­tees that have looked at e-flows and have adopted dif­fer­ent method­olo­gies. The Cen­tral Wa­ter Com­mis­sion and Na­tional In­sti­tute of Hy­drol­ogy an­a­lysed these re­ports and came out with the num­bers we no­ti­fied. Some peo­ple have told us the river needs 50% e-flow. But we have to look at the other side too. We will face power losses even with the cur­rent e-flow num­bers but we de­cided to still go ahead be­cause life in the river is im­por­tant.”

HT FILE

Some ex­perts say that the flow stip­u­lated in the no­ti­fi­ca­tion is in­ad­e­quate.

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