Natural resources and Resource Distribution: news and updates


  • Interlinking of Rivers Project in India – Explained, Pointwise
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    Introduction

    The funding and implementation of the Ken-Betwa river inter-linking project, a part of national river linking project (NRLP), has been approved by the Union Cabinet at a cost of ₹44,605 crore.

    The Ken-Betwa project has the status of a national project, as the Centre will contribute 90% of the cost. It is also the first major centrally-driven river interlinking project in the country.

    The project will pave the way for more interlinking of river projects in India.

    With the process of creating the National Interlinking of Rivers Authority (NIRA) set in motion by the Centre, the topic of river interlinking merits a detailed discussion.

    First, let us know more about the Ken-Betwa project.

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    About Ken-Betwa river interlinking project

    The project involves transferring of water from the Ken river to the Betwa river through the construction of Daudhan dam and a 221-km canal linking the two rivers. Both these rivers are tributaries of river Yamuna.

    Ken-Betwa river interlinking project
    Source: Indian Express

    A Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) called Ken-Betwa Link Project Authority (KBLPA) will be set up to implement the project. The project has a deadline of eight years.

    This project also comprehensively provides for environment management and safeguards. For this purpose, a comprehensive landscape management plan is under finalization by Wildlife Institute of India.

    – For more on Ken-Betwa project: Read here

     

    What is the National River Linking Project (NRLP)?

    NRLP, formerly known as the National Perspective Plan, proposes to connect 14 Himalayan and 16 peninsular rivers with 30 canals and 3,000 reservoirs to form a gigantic South Asian Water Grid.

    The initial plan to interlink India’s rivers came in 1858 from a British irrigation engineer, Sir Arthur Thomas Cotton.

    Interlinking of rivers
    Source: NIH

    NRLP includes two components: 

    – Himalayan component: This component aims to construct storage reservoirs on the Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers, as well as their tributaries in India and Nepal. It will connect, 1) the Ganga and Brahmaputra basins to the Mahanadi basin, and 2) the Eastern tributaries of the Ganga with the Sabarmati and Chambal river systems.

    – Peninsular component: It includes 16 links that propose to connect the rivers of South India. It envisages linking, 1) the Mahanadi and Godavari to feed the Krishna, Pennar, Cauvery, and Vaigai rivers, 2) the Ken river to the Betwa, Parbati, Kalisindh, and Chambal rivers, 3) West-flowing rivers to the south of Tapi to the north of Bombay, and 4) Linking some west-flowing rivers to east-flowing rivers.

    The NRLP is managed by National Water Development Agency (NWDA) under the Ministry of Jal Shakti. NWDA was set up in 1982, to conduct surveys and see how feasible proposals for interlinking river projects are.

    Recently, it has been reported that the Centre is deliberating on creation of a National River Interlinking Authority (NIRA). It will have powers to set up SPV for individual link projects.

    What is the rationale behind interlinking of rivers?

    As per the govt, the project is needed to meet increasing water requirement in the country.

    Core idea: Overall, the NRLP envisions the transfer of water from water ‘surplus’ basins (perennial Himalayan rivers) where there is flooding to water ‘deficit’ basins (rain-fed peninsular rivers) where there is drought/scarcity, through inter-basin water transfer projects.

    Are there previous examples of river-linking in India?

    In the past, several river linking projects have been taken up. For instance,

    Under the Periyar Project, transfer of water from Periyar basin to Vaigai basin was envisaged. It was commissioned in 1895.

    Similarly, other projects such as Parambikulam Aliyar, Kurnool Cudappah Canal, Telugu Ganga Project, and Ravi-Beas-Sutlej were undertaken.

    Godavari River has also been formally interlinked with the Krishna River at Ibrahimpatnam (near Vijayawada) in Andhra Pradesh in September 2015.

    What are the advantages of Interlinking of Rivers?

    i). Hydrological Imbalance of India: India has a large-scale hydrological imbalance with an effective rainfall period of 28 to 29 days. Some regions receive very high rainfall while some face droughts. Interlinking would transfer the water from flood-prone regions to draught-prone regions.

    ii). Improve the inland navigation: Interlinking of rivers will create a network of navigation channels. Water transport is cheaper, less-polluting compare to the road and railways. Further, the interlinking of rivers can ease the pressure on railways and roads also.

    iii). The benefit of irrigation: The interlinking of rivers has the potential to irrigate 35 million hectares of land in the water-scarce western peninsula. This will help India to create employment, boost crop outputs, farm incomes. Above all, the interlinking of rivers will make India a step closer to achieving food security.

    iv). Generation of power: The interlinked rivers have the potential to generate a total power of 34 GW. This will help India to reduce coal-based power plant usage. Furthermore, It will also help to achieve India’s targets under Glasgow Climate Pact and under the Paris agreement.

    v). Other benefits: 

    – Water supply: The project envisages a supply of clean drinking water amounting to 90 billion cubic meter. It can resolve the issue of drinking water scarcity in India.

    – Similarly, interlinking of rivers has the potential to provide 64.8 billion cubic meter of water for industrial use.

    – Apart from that, interlinking can help the survival of fisheries, protect wildlife in the summer months due to water scarcity. It can also reduce forest fires occurring in India due to climatic conditions.

    – India can also explore an additional line of defence in the form of waterline defence.

    What are the issues/challenges in Interlinking of Rivers?

    The interlinking of rivers project has a variety of challenges. They are,

    i). Impact of the Climate change: Reports points out that Climate change will cause a meltdown of 1/3rd of the Hindu Kush Region’s glaciers by 2100. So, the Himalayan rivers might not have ‘surplus water’ for a long time. Also, considering this, investing billions of money in the interlinking of rivers might yield benefits only for a short time.

    ii). Human cost: This includes the challenge of loss of livelihood and displacement of people especially, the poor and tribal people located near the forests. So, the government not only needs to face challenges in displacing people but also in the rehabilitation of people.

    iii). Huge financial cost: NRLP is a highly capital-intensive project. In 2001, the total cost for linking the Himalayan and peninsular rivers was estimated at Rs 5,60,000 crore, excluding the costs of relief and rehabilitation, and other expenses. This cost is likely to be substantially higher now, and the cost-benefit ratio might no longer be favourable.

    iv). Impact on ecology and biodiversity: The ecology of every river being unique, letting the waters of rivers mix may affect biodiversity. Also, when most of the rivers in the country are polluted, this may cause mixing of a less polluted river with a more polluted one.

    v). International Challenges: Countries like Bhutan, Nepal, and Bangladesh will be impacted due to the NRLP. Bangladesh esp fears of water diversion from the Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers to India’s southern states, threatening the livelihoods as well as its environment.

    vi). Political Challenges: Water is a state subject in India. So the implementation of the NRLP primarily depends on Inter-State co-operation. Several states including Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, and Sikkim have already opposed the NRLP.

    vii). Other Challenges: The government is proposing a canal irrigation method for transmitting water from one area to the other. The maintenance of canals is also a great challenge, it includes preventing sedimentation, clearing logging of waters etc.

    Further, the government has to acquire large-scale lands for the smooth implementation of the project which is not easy.

    What is the way forward?

    – Efficient utilisation of existing resources: Integrated water resource management is the key for India. Moreover, curbing demand by efficient utilisation of existing water resources should be prioritised before making big-ticket investments in river interlinking under NRLP.

    – Groundwater management is the key: The focus of India’s water resources should be about nurturing its Groundwater system. It would include identifying and protecting groundwater recharge mechanisms, enhancing recharge where feasible, installing artificial recharge and also regulating groundwater use at aquifer level.

    – Virtual water: India should also push for the concept of virtual water. For example: Suppose when a country imports one tonne of wheat instead of producing it domestically, it is saving about 1,300 cubic meters of the local water. The local water can be saved and used for other purposes.

    – National Waterways Project (NWP): As per some experts, the govt should consider the National Waterways Project (NWP) instead of the NRLP. Under NWP, water from a flooded river will flow to the other. It acts like a water grid, similar to a power grid. It just needs 1/3rd the land required for interlinking of rivers, is open to navigation throughout the year and involves zero pumping. Furthermore, it can irrigate almost double the land  and has a 76% more power generation capacity (60 GW) compared to the interlinking of rivers project.

  • “Sardar Sarovar Dam” provides irrigation water in summer for the first time in history
    What is the News?

    Sardar Sarovar Dam usually has no water for irrigation during summers. However, for the first time in history, the dam has been filled with Narmada water.

     About Sardar Sarovar Dam:
    • Sardar Sarovar Narmada Dam is a terminal dam built on the Narmada river at Kevadia in Gujarat’s Narmada district. The dam is called the ‘lifeline of Gujarat’.
    • Indian States: The four Indian states namely Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan receive water and electricity supply from the dam. They share the water as per the ratio stipulated by the 1979 award of the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal.
    • Construction of the Dam:
      • The foundation stone of the dam was laid out by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1961.
      • However, the construction of the dam was stopped by the Supreme Court of India in 1995 over concerns of displacement of people.
      • In 2000–01, the project was again revived but with a lower height under directions from SC. But its height was later again increased to 139 metres in 2017.
      • The dam was then inaugurated in 2017 by the present Prime minister.
    Water Management Initiatives that helped to harness water for the Dam:
    • During the monsoon, the Sardar Sarovar Dam operation is well synchronised with the rain forecast in the catchment area. The government ensures minimum water flows downstream into the sea and maximum water is used during the dam overflow period. This help in maximizing the annual allocation of a water share.
    • However, in the non-monsoon months, the measures for efficient use of the allocated water share typically includes:
      • Minimising the conventional and operational losses.
      • Avoiding water wastage
      • Restricting water-intensive perennial crops
      • Adoption of Underground Pipelines(UGPL);
      • Proper maintenance of canals and structures and
      • Operation of canals on a rotational basis.

    Read Also :-Accident and Biological disaster : news and updates 

    Source: Indian Express

  • “Mekedatu Project” – A Panel to investigate charges of illegal construction

    What is the News?

    The National Green Tribunal(NGT) has formed a committee to investigate the alleged violation of norms in the construction of the Mekedatu project across the Cauvery river. The NGT has also directed the panel to submit a report on or before July 5.

    About Mekedatu Project:

    • Mekedatu project is a balancing reservoir and drinking water project. It is to be built at the confluence of the Cauvery and Arkavathi rivers by the Karnataka Government.
    • Purpose: The project aims to solve the drinking water problems of the Bengaluru and Ramanagara district. It would also generate 400 MW of hydroelectric power.
    • Dispute: The Tamil Nadu Government has objected to the project saying Karnataka had not sought prior permission for the project.
      • Tamil Nadu has also filed a petition in the Supreme Court in 2018 seeking a stay on the project.

     Objections by Tamil Nadu Government:

    • Firstly, the Mekedatu project would affect the flow of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu.
    • Secondly, Karnataka has no right to construct any reservoir on an inter-state river without the consent of the lower riparian state i.e. Tamil Nadu in this case.
      • The project is also against the final order of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT). During that, the SC held that no state can claim exclusive ownership or assert rights to deprive other states of the waters of inter-state rivers.
    • Thirdly, The CWDT and the SC have found that the existing storage facilities available in the Cauvery basin were adequate for storing and distributing water. So, the Tamil Nadu Government is demanding outright rejection of the project.

    Other concerns with the project:

    • Almost 63% of the forest area of the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary will be submerged in the project.

    Source: The Hindu

     

  • High Mercury level Found in Rivers linked to Greenland’s Glacial Meltwaters
    What is the News?

    According to a study published in Nature Geoscience, Greenland’s glacial meltwaters have unusually high levels of mercury.

    About the study:
    • Researchers from the Florida State University have analyzed the meltwater rivers. These rivers receive substantial amounts of water from the Greenland ice sheet.
    • The samples were filtered to remove any sediment and kept safe from contamination. Then the researchers analysed the mercury concentration in each one.
    Key Findings of the study:
    • Firstly, researchers found high concentrations of mercury in the water bodies fed by the Greenland Ice Sheet.
    • Secondly, the mercury level was almost ten times the volume of mercury found in normal rivers.
    • Thirdly, the mercury level was also similar to that found in the polluted inland rivers of China.
    How did mercury reach the water bodies of Greenland?
    • Mercury is a naturally occurring metal found in some rocks. As glaciers slowly flow downhill, the meltwater grinds up the underlying rocks. It results in mixing mercury into the meltwater.
    • Hence, the mercury did not end up in the meltwaters from industries or other anthropogenic activities, as is the case with most contaminants.
    Significance of this study:
    • The findings will change the perception that glaciers have little or no influence on the Earth’s geochemical and biological processes.
    • Moreover, there is a concern that large volumes of mercury can reach the coastal food webs through bioaccumulation. It will impact the Arctic ecosystem.
      • Bioaccumulation: It refers to the process by which pollutants enter a food chain. Bioaccumulation occurs when an organism absorbs a toxic substance at a rate greater than that at which there is elimination of the substance.

    Source: Down To Earth

     

  • Impact of Groundwater Depletion on Cropping Intensity



    Sypnosis:
    An International team conducted a study to understand the impact of Groundwater depletion on Cropping Intensity in India.

    About the study:
    • The International team studied the impact of groundwater depletion on cropping intensity in India.
    • It analysed India’s three main irrigation types of winter cropped areas: dug wells, tube wells, canals. It also analyzed the groundwater data from the Central Ground Water Board.

    Key Findings:

    Impact on Cropping Intensity:
    • India is the world’s largest consumer of groundwater. India is also the second-largest producer of wheat in the world with over 30 million hectares in the country dedicated to producing this crop.
    • But with severe groundwater depletion, the cropping intensity or the amount of land planted in winter may decrease by up to 20% by 2025.

    Most Impacted Region:

    • The study found that 13% of the villages in which farmers plant a winter crop are located in critically water-depleted regions.
    • These villages may lose 68% of their cropped area in the future if access to all groundwater irrigation is lost. The losses will largely occur in northwest and central India.
    Alternative Sources of Irrigation:
    • The study analysed whether irrigation canals that divert surface water from lakes and rivers can make up for groundwater depletion.
    • It found that switching to irrigation canal would favour farms close to canals, leading to unequal access.
    • Further, even if all regions that are currently using depleted groundwater for irrigation will switch to using canal irrigation, cropping intensity may decline by 7% nationally.
    • Hence, the study suggests the adoption of water-saving technologies. For instance, sprinkler, drip irrigation. Also, switching to less water-intensive crops may help use the limited groundwater resources more effectively.
    Reasons for Groundwater Depletion in India:
    • The Green Revolution enabled the cropping of water-intensive crops like rice in water deficit regions such as Haryana and Punjab. It was ecologically less suitable for rice cultivation due to predominantly light soils.
      • This led to unsustainable groundwater use for irrigation and in turn groundwater scarcity.
    • Increased demand for water for domestic, industrial, and agricultural needs together with limited surface water led to the over-exploitation of groundwater resources.
    • Frequent pumping of water from the ground without waiting for its replenishment leads to quick depletion.
    • Subsidies on electricity and high Minimum Support Price(MSP) for water intensive crops.
    • Inadequate regulation of groundwater laws encourages the exhaustion of groundwater resources without any penalty.
    • Post harvest burning of crops, deforestation, unscientific methods of agriculture, chemical effluents from industries. It also led to pollution of groundwater making it unusable.
    Way Forward:
    • There are enough groundwater resources with higher monsoon rainfall in eastern Indian states like Bihar.
    • But due to lack of enough irrigation infrastructure, farmers are not able to make use of natural resources there.
    • Hence, we need better policies in eastern India to expand irrigation and thus increase agriculture productivity. This will also release some pressure from northwestern Indian states.

    Source: The Hindu

     

  • Concerns Associated to Ken-Betwa Link project

    Synopsis –The Ken-Betwa link project raised serious concerns about the project’s benefits and the massive environmental impact it would have. 

    Introduction-
    • On World Water Day (March 22nd), MP and UP signed a tripartite agreement with the Centre to introduce the Ken-Betwa link Project (KBLP).
    • But the project will have a significant environmental impact, and its benefits are uncertain.
    • The project would be wasting significant sums of public funds. Whereas the project will do little to address Bundelkhand’s water shortages.
    What is KEN-Betwa Project?

    The Ken-Betwa Link Project (KBLP) aims to transfer surplus water from the Ken river in MP to Betwa in UP. It will provide water to irrigate the drought-prone Bundelkhand area, which is spread across two states’ districts.

    • Ken-Betwa Link Project is the first project under the National Perspective Plan for the interlinking of rivers.
    • The central government has proposed a 90:10 funding pattern for the Ken Betwa Interlinking Project. The centre bearing 90 percent of the total estimated cost.
    Advantage of Interlining of Ken-Betwa Rivers-
    1. First, Irrigation – The project will provide sustainable means of irrigation water to the Bundelkhand region in U.P. and M.P. It will reduce excessive dependence on groundwater.
      • The to-be-built Daudhan dam will irrigate nearly 6,00,000 hectares in four districts in M.P. and 2,51,000 hectares in four districts in U.P.
    2. Second, Disaster mitigation- The river linking project will be a solution to recurring droughts in the Bundelkhand region.
    3. Third, Electricity Production- The project will generate 103 MW of hydropower and provide drinking water to 62 lakh people.
    Concern related to the project
    • First, Environmental concern-
        • The 12,500 hectares of land will submerge by the project.
        • The project would harm Panna tiger reserve. It will cause irreversible damage to around 40% of the tiger reserve’s area.
        • Disrupting ecosystems – Approximately 7.2 lakh trees will cut down. This will have an impact on the rainfall of the region.
    • Second, The project is not economically viable-
        • In the past few years, the river did not always flow in a steady stream.
        • There is a significant financial expense associated with project implementation and maintenance. It is increasing as a result of project delays.
        • Another challenge would be that the Ken River flows 60-70 feet lower than the Betwa River. It requires at least 30% of the 103 MW produced power to pump the water up.
    • Third, Clearance issue- The Supreme Court’s Central Empowered Committee, which had raised questions about the Ken-Betwa project, did not issue a clearance.
    Way forward-

    The sustainable and cost-effective alternatives to the Ken-Betwa project have not been considered.

    • Government should consider multiple water-harvesting and water-conservation methods. It could adequately store and efficiently make use of rainfall the region receives annually, without the need for building a reservoir and dam.

    Source – The Hindu


    Interlinking of Rivers Project in India – Explained, Pointwise

  • “Chilika Lake” was a part of the Bay of Bengal: Study
    What is the News?

    According to a study by the National Institute of Oceanography(NIO), Chilika lake was once a part of the Bay of Bengal.

    About Chilika Lake:
    • Chilika Lake is Asia’s largest brackish water lake located in the State of Odisha. A narrow spit separates it from the Bay of Bengal.

    Click Here to Read more about Chilika Lake

     Evidence that Chilika Lake was once a part of Bay of Bengal:
    • Archeological Studies: The marine archaeological studies clearly show that the Chilika once was a safe harbour for cargo ships going to Southeast Asia and other parts of the world.
    • Palur Port: Greek geographer Claudius Ptolemy(150 CE) described Palur as an important port of Kalinga and referred to it as ‘Paloura’. This port was situated close to Chilika lake from where ships used to sail directly to Southeast Asia.
    • Stone anchors and hero stones (memorial stones commemorating ancient heroes) from Manikapatna, Palur and the adjoining onshore regions of the Chilika lake also suggest the same.
    • Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang (7th century CE) recorded ‘Che-li-ta-lo-Ching’ as a flourishing port. This port was located at Chhatargarh on the banks of the Chilika.
    • The Brahmanda Purana (10th century CE approximately) says the Chilika was an important centre of trade and commerce with ships sailing to Java, Malaya and Ceylon.

    Then how did Chilika Lake get separated from the Bay of Bengal?

    • The process of the formation of the Chilika began around 20,000 years ago.
    • India’s peninsular river Mahanadi carried a heavy load of silt and dumped part of it at its delta. As the sediment-laden river met the Bay of Bengal, sandbars were formed near its mouth.
    • It created a backflow of the seawater into the sluggish fresh water at the estuary. It resulted in the huge brackish water Chilika Lake.

    Note: Some studies also reveal that some tectonic movements saperated Chilika lake from the Bay of Bengal. It was due to the creation of a barrier split near Palur around 4,000 years ago.

    Source: Down To Earth

  • Water conservation is must for preventing another pandemic

    Synopsis: NITI Aayog has expressed concerns over the poor water quality in India. This gives a conducive environment for the spread of another pandemic through the water. Thus, it requires an effective mechanism for water conservation.

    Background:
    • NITI Aayog, Water Aid, and others have found that over 70% of India’s surface and groundwater is contaminated by human and other waste.
    • The contaminated water can be a breeding ground for numerous viruses causing another Pandemic. 
    How the virus spreads through contaminated water?

    Dangerous viruses can spread from animals to humans through the consumption of their meat. The closeness creates an artificial environment that can give birth to mutations in erstwhile dormant viruses.

    • After infecting a human, the virus can easily proliferate in wastewater.
      • For instance, several wastewater samples were tested and were found to carry traces of SARS-CoV-2 in England, Wales and Scotland
      • Traces of the virus have also been detected in raw sewage across Sydney.
    • Astrovirus, hepatitis A and norovirus are some water-transmitted viral pathogens.
    Need for water conservation in India
    • Firstly, the wastewater gets discharged into the river. Thus, it becomes a very generous host for viruses by carrying human waste, sewage, and toxic waste. This breeds more proliferation.
    • Further, a huge population is dependent on polluted water sources for meeting their drinking requirements thereby enhancing the vulnerability. There is also a concern of growing demand in the future due to the rising population. 
    • Thirdly, the success of schemes like Nal se Jal demands the conservation of water.
      • The scheme aims to provide drinking water connections to every rural household by 2024. 
    • Fourthly, the techniques used for water purification like RO (reverse osmosis) are very costly and unaffordable for the majority population. Further, they extract the essential minerals from the water along with containments.
    • Lastly, destruction of natural resources is happening at a rapid pace as our development model focuses on building artificial infrastructure. This involves the creation of highways, industrial plants, high-rise structures, etc. at the cost of natural infrastructure.
    Is there any clean source of water left?
    • There are two unpolluted freshwater sources left in the country – 
      • Water lying below our forest
      • Aquifers below the river floodplain
    • Both provide natural underground storage and are annually recharged by rain water.
    • The modest drinking requirement (2-3 litres) can be met with water below our forests.
    • Similarly, river floodplains are a great source of water for cities.
      • The Delhi Government is already using water from Yamuna floodplains to meet the requirement of million people.
    Way Forward:
    • We must focus on conservation techniques for solving the water problem like: 
      • Using only a fraction of the annual recharge of water bodies and aquifers.
      • Declaring Forests and floodplains as water sanctuaries.
    • There is no technological substitute for living natural resources like pristine natural water and soil. The focus should be shifted from artificial infrastructure to natural infrastructure.

    Source THE HINDU 

  • What is the “Ken-Betwa Link Project”?
    What is the News?

    Chief Ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh signed a memorandum of agreement to implement the Ken Betwa Link Project(KBLP).

    About Ken-Betwa Link Project:
    • Ken-Betwa Link Project is the first project under the National Perspective Plan for the interlinking of rivers.
    • Under this project, water from the Ken River will be transferred to the Betwa river. Both these rivers are tributaries of the river Yamuna.

    Bundelkhand region comprises 13 districts covering states Uttar Pradesh

    • This project will spread across the districts of MP and UP i.e. Tikamgarh, Panna and Chhatarpur districts of MP and in UP; Jhansi, Banda, Lalitpur and Mahoba districts.

    Source: Indian Express

    Phases under the Project: The Ken-Betwa Link Project has two phases.

    1. Under Phase-I,  Daudhan dam complex and Ken-Betwa link canal and Powerhouses — will be completed.
    2. Under Phase-II, three components — Lower Orr dam, Bina complex project, and Kotha barrage — will be constructed.

    Benefits of the Ken-Betwa Project:

    • The project will be of immense benefit to the water-starved region of Bundelkhand spread across Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
    • It will boost irrigation and provide drinking water supply to 62 lakh people. It’ll also generate 103 MW of hydropower and 27 MW of solar power.
    • It is also expected to boost socio-economic prosperity in the backward Bundelkhand region on account of increased agricultural activities and employment generation. It would also help in arresting distress migration from this region.
    Concerns:
    • Biodiversity Concerns: The project might affect the Panna Tiger Reserve. Out of the 6,017 ha of forest area coming under the Daudhan dam of Ken Betwa Link Project, 4,206 ha of the area lies within the core tiger habitat of Panna Tiger Reserve.
    • The Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh also could not agree on how water would be shared, particularly in the non-monsoonal months. They reached an agreement in March 2021.
    • Moreover, the claims of Ken having surplus water may be unrealistic as the river is not perennial as in the past sometimes, it has slowed to a trickle.
    • Another difficulty will be that the Ken flows 60-70 feet lower than the Betwa and at least 30% of the 103 MW power generated will be used for pumping the water up.
    • A challenge to the environmental clearance given to the Ken-Betwa project is pending before the National Green Tribunal.
    • Further, the environmental impact assessment of the project, based on which the project was given environmental clearance in 2017, has been tagged as inadequate with factual errors by a number of official agencies, including the Forest Advisory Committee within the environment ministry.
    About National River Linking Project(NRLP):
    • National River Linking Project (NRLP) also known as the National Perspective Plan aims to link Indian rivers by a network of reservoirs and canals.
    • Objective: The main objective is to transfer water from water ‘surplus’ basins suffering from floods to water ‘deficit’ basins suffering from drought/scarcity.
    • Prepared by: The then Ministry of Irrigation prepared this plan in August 1980.
    • Managed by: The NRLP is managed by National Water Development Agency (NWDA) under the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
    • Components: The plan proposes 30 river links to connect 37 rivers across India under two components:
      • Himalayan Rivers Development Component: Under this, 14 river links have been identified.
      • Peninsular Rivers Development Component or the Southern Water Grid: It includes 16 river links. Ken Betwa Link Project is one among them.

    Source: Indian Express

  • Initiatives under ‘Namami Gange Programme’
    What is the News?

    The Government of India is currently implementing several initiatives under the Namami Gange Programme to clean the polluted rivers of Ganga.

    Namami Gange Programme:
    • Launched in: The Programme was launched in 2014. It is an Integrated Conservation Mission under the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
    • Aim: To achieve effective abatement of pollution, conservation and rejuvenation of the National River(Ganga).
    • Main Pillars of the Programme:
      • Sewerage Treatment Infrastructure,
      • River-Surface Cleaning,
      • Afforestation,
      • Industrial Effluent Monitoring,
      • River-Front Development,
      • Biodiversity
      • Public Awareness among others.
    • Implementation: National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) is the implementing agency of the Namami Gange Programme at the national level.
      • National Mission for Clean Ganga(NMCG): It is a statutory authority. It is established under the National Council for River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Act, 2016.
    • Projects under the programme: Presently, sewerage infrastructure works for pollution abatement is under execution on 13 tributaries of river Ganga. These include Yamuna, Kosi, Saryu, Ramganga, Kali(West), Kali (East), Gomti, Kharkari, Burhi Gandak, Banka, Damodar, Rispana-Bindal and Chambal.

    Source: PIB

  • Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill 2021- Explained, Pointwise
    Introduction

    The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha passed the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) (MMDR) Amendment Bill,2021. The MMDR Bill 2021 seeks to amend the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957. This bill is expected to be the watershed moment in the development of mines and minerals in India.  In this article, we will analyze the MMDR Bill 2021.

    Types of Mines in India

    At present, there are two types of mines in India. They are:

    1. Captive Mines: Captive industries own these mines. The coal or mineral produced from these mines is for the exclusive use of the owner company of the mines. The company cannot sell coal or mineral outside. Some electricity generation companies used to have captive mines.
      For Example, If an iron ore mine is allowed to a captive industry(iron and steel plant). Then that iron and steel plant can use the iron ore only for producing steel for their company. They cannot sell the ore to any outsider.
    2. Non- Captive Mines: In Non-captive mines, the minerals obtained by a company can be sold in the market.

    Note: Specified minerals include minerals other than coal, lignite, and atomic minerals.

    About the MMDR Bill 2021
    1. There are two important Acts that govern the mines and minerals in India. They are,
      1. The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 (MMDR Act)
      2. The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015 (CMSP Act).
    2. The MMDR Act regulates the overall mining sector in India. Further, the MMDR Act empowers the central government to reserve any mine for the particular end-use(Captive mines).
    3. Similarly, the CMSP Act provides for the auction and allocation of mines.
    4. The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) (MMDR) Amendment Bill,2021 amends both the MMDR Act and CMSP Act. Further, it aims to provide holistic development of mines and minerals in India.
    5.  An Ordinance with similar MMDR bill provisions was also promulgated in January 2020.
    Salient provisions of the MMDR Bill 2021
    1. Removes distinction between captive and non-captive mines:
      • The Bill removes the distinction between captive and non-captive mines. It will not reserve any mine for a particular end-use. All mines will now be able to sell their extra minerals.
    2. Sale of minerals by captive mines: The MMDR Bill 2021 provides that captive mines (other than atomic minerals) may sell up to 50% of their annual mineral production in the open market after meeting their own needs. But they need to pay the royalty to the central government.
    3. National Mineral Exploration Trust (NMET): The Bill provides for the constitution of a Statutory body named the National Mineral Exploration Trust (NMET). It will see the overall functioning of the mining sector.
    4. National Mineral Index(NMI): The Bill proposes to introduce an index-based mechanism by developing a National Mineral Index(NMI). Various statutory payments and future auctions can use the National Mineral Index in the future.
    5. Transfer of statutory clearances:
      • Presently, an auction is conducted to determine the fresh mining leases after the expiration of a mineral lease.
      • The auctioned person(new lessee) needs to obtain statutory clearances before starting mining operations.
      • The MMDR Bill 2021 changes this provision. It makes the transferred statutory clearances valid throughout the lease period of the new lessee.
    6. Auction by the central government in certain cases: The Bill provides that if the State Government is not able to complete the auction process within a specified time, the Central Government may take over and conduct such an auction.
    Concerns with the MMDR Bill 2021
    1. The bill is seen by various state governments as the restriction of their revenue generation and indulgence of the central government in the State mineral policy. The reasons are,
      • Fixing the royalty to States: The bill mentions fixing royalty payments to the states for the mining leases provided to Central PSUs. This might reduce the amount of revenue to the state government.
      • Vesting the ultimate power with the Centre: The bill provides for auction by the central government in certain casesState governments see this as the central government supremacy in the State mining lease policy.
      • Centre’s direction to District Mineral Fund(DMF): Under the MMDR Bill 2021, the centre can direct the spending of DMF. The States on the ground have to perform the actions directed by the Centre. States see this as the Centralization of DMF.
        District Mineral Fund: The District Mineral Fund is established based on the contribution of major or minor mineral exploring companies in a district. The fund is utilised in the interest of the persons and areas affected by mining-related operations.
    2. Environment concerns with the MMDR bill 2021: As the mining is liberalised under the MMDR Bill 2021, there are higher chances of degrading the environment, restricting tribal rights, threatening the biodiversity of the area etc.
    Advantages of the MMDR Bill 2021
    1. Exploration of India’s mineral potential: India has the same mineral potential similar to Australia, South Africa. Further, India is producing 95 minerals. But India still imports minerals worth more than Rs. 2.5 lakh crore a year. The MMDR Bill 2021 facilitates to explore better mining of minerals. This will improve the commercial mining capability of India.
    2. Effective mining and creates huge employment benefits: More exploration of mines will lead to effective and profitable mining in India. Further, the mines and minerals located in the Indian hinterland will create local employment at an enormous level.
    3. Transparency in the mining process: The MMDR Bill 2021 aims to infuse transparency in the mining sector. Further, it will also reduce the red-tapism as the bill provides for the transfer of statutory clearances, new NMI index etc.
    4. Variety of benefits: The relaxation of mining restriction on Captive mines and the transfer of statutory clearances have few significant advantages, like,
      • More investment into the mining sector: This will facilitate more internal investments, FDI and increase Forex reserves. Apart from that, this will bring more new technology into the mining sector.
      • Since the captive mines can sell their minerals commercially to other industries, It will spur the growth of other industries. Further, this will reduce the import of raw materials. This is in line with creating Atmanirbhar Bharat.
      • Companies can create additional revenue by selling minerals to other Industries and intermediaries.
    Suggestions
    1. Protect the Environment: Both the Centre and State government should ensure the protection of the environment. Further, the relaxation of mining to the companies should not violate the provisions of the environment. To ensure that, the government have to create a proper and periodic environmental auditing mechanism.
    2. Creating other safeguards in long run: The implementation of the MMDR Bill 2021 have to monitor closely for enhancing the contribution of the mining sector to 2.5% of Indian GDP(at present it is 1.75%). The implementation of the MMDR Bill 2021 depends upon various organs of the state and private sector. So, the issues in the implementation have to identify and rectified either Judicially or legislatively or administratively or in other ways.
    3. Creating adequate infrastructure in other sectors: The development of mines and minerals depend on India’s logistical capability, development of ports, railways etc. So to create an adequate export capacity of Mines and minerals, India needs to develop adequate infrastructure in other sectors.
    4. India needs to reduce the cost of the value addition of minerals: The government has to reduce the losses associated with the value addition of minerals. Or else, India can face challenges in sustaining the industry.
      For example, China imports iron ores from India. But due to efficient value addition, China produces steel at a low cost. Further, China also exports them to India and disrupt the domestic steel industry.
    Conclusion

    Overall the MMDR Bill 2021 might provide a strategic push in the mining sector. Over a period of time, India can fulfil its mineral needs, create employment, ensure the growth of industries, etc. Thus, the proper implementation MMDR Bill will make India a global supplier of minerals to the whole world.

     

  • 116th meeting of the “Permanent Indus Commission(PIC)”
    What is the News?

    India and Pakistan will hold the 116th meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission(PIC) in New Delhi. They will discuss water sharing issues and address each other’s concerns with the Indus Water Treaty.

    About Permanent Indus Commission(PIC):
    • The Permanent Indus Commission is a bilateral commission of officials from India and Pakistan. It is created to implement and manage the goals of the Indus Water Treaty, 1960.
    • Meeting: The Commission according to the treaty must meet regularly at least once a year. The PIC will hold the meeting alternately in India and Pakistan.
    • Functions of the Permanent Indus Commission:
      1. To establish and promote cooperative arrangements for the Treaty implementation;
      2. Furnishing or exchange of information or data provided in the Treaty;
      3. Promote cooperation between the Parties in the development of the waters of the Indus system
      4. Examine and resolve any question in the agreement that arises between the parties.
    • Last Meeting: The last meeting of the PIC was held in Pakistan in 2018. The Commission had to meet in 2020, but it got cancelled in view of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Key Focus of the 116th Permanent Indus Commission(PIC) meeting:

    • India’s Projects on Indus River: The PIC will discuss Pakistan’s objections about two Indian projects:
      1. Pakal Dul Hydro Electric Project(1,000 MW): India is building the project on river Marusudar, a tributary of the Chenab. The project is located in Kishtwar district of J&K.
      2. Lower Kalnai Hydro Electric Project: India is developing it on the River Chenab.
    • Further, routine issues such as flood data exchange mechanisms are also expected to be discussed during the meeting.
    About Indus Water Treaty:
    • Firstly, the Indus Water Treaty,1960 is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan.
    • Secondly, according to the treaty, waters of the eastern rivers — Sutlej, Beas and Ravi had been allocated to India for unrestricted use. Similarly, the western rivers — the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab were allocated to Pakistan.
    • Thirdly, India has been given the right to generate hydroelectricity through a run of the river projects on the western rivers subject to specific criteria for design and operation.
    • And lastly, Pakistan also has the right to raise concerns on the design of Indian hydroelectric projects on western rivers.

    Source: Indian Express

  • PM launched Jal Shakti Abhiyan: ‘Catch the Rain’ campaign
    What is the News?

    The Prime Minister has launched the Jal Shakti Abhiyan: Catch the Rain campaign on World Water Day.

    About Catch the Rain Campaign:
    • Catch the Rain is a Jan Andolan campaign. It aims to take water conservation at the grass-roots level through people’s participation. The campaign intends to accelerate water conservation across the country.
    • Aim: To encourage all stakeholders to create rainwater harvesting structures(RWHS). As it is suitable for the climatic conditions and subsoil strata. These structures will ensure the proper storage of rainwater.
    • Tag line: Catch the rain, where it falls, when it falls.
    • Implementation: The campaign will be implemented by the National Water Mission(NWM), Ministry of Jal Shakti.
    • Coverage: The campaign will take place across the country, in both rural and urban areas. It will be implemented from March 22 to November 30 (the pre-monsoon and monsoon period) in the country.
    Key activities under the Catch the Rain Campaign:

    The Catch the Rain Campaign will include certain key activities like,

    • Firstly, removal of encroachments and desilting of tanks. This will increase rainwater storage capacity.
    • Secondly, the campaign includes drives to make water harvesting pits, rooftop RWHS and check dams.
    • Thirdly, removal of obstructions in the channels bringing water from the catchment areas.
    • Fourthly, repairs to traditional Water Harvesting Systems(WHS) like step-wells. Further, using defunct bore-wells and old wells to put the water back to aquifers.
    • Finally, states have been requested to open Rain Centers in each district. These Rain Centres will act as a technical guidance centre in RWHS.
    About World Water Day:
    • World Water Day is being observed on 22 March by the United Nations (UN).
    • Aim: To raise awareness about people living without access to safe water and tackle the global water crisis.
    • Theme of world water day 2021: “Valuing Water”

    Source: PIB

  • The emerging “Helium” crisis in India
    What is the News?

    India imports the majority of helium for its domestic needs. However, the U.S appears to cut off exports of helium from 2021. Hence, the Indian industry may have to find an alternative.

    About Helium:
    • Helium is a chemical element with the symbol He and atomic number 2.
    • It is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, first in the noble gas group in the periodic table. Its boiling point is the lowest among all the elements.
    • Helium is the second lightest and second most abundant element in the observable universe (hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant).
    • The liquified Helium is obtained by cooling the gas to -270 degrees Celsius.
    Applications of Helium:
    • Cryogenics: Helium is used as a super coolant for cryogenic applications. It is used in applications such as Magnet Resonance Imaging (MRI), particle accelerator, in rockets, and in nuclear reactors.
    • Aerostatics: The density of helium is lighter than air. Therefore, helium is used as lift gas for balloons, meteorological balloons and airships.
    • Leak Detection: Helium is used for leak detection because helium has the smallest molecular size. It is a monatomic molecule, therefore, helium passes easily through the smallest leaks.
      Monatomic gases: Mono means single. So Monatomic means “Single-atom”. These gases are not bound to each other and are non-reactive in nature. Noble gases are monatomic gases.
    • Semiconductors Manufacturing: Helium is used as the preferred protective gas due to its chemical inertness. Helium is used as cooling gas due to its very high specific heat and thermal conductivity in semiconductor manufacturing.
    Helium Exporting Countries:
    • The US became the most important exporter of helium across the world. Large quantities of helium were discovered under the American Great Plains.
    • Qatar is also a possible exporter of Helium. But acute political and diplomatic wrangles have made Qatar unreliable.
    India’s Helium Imports:
    • India imports helium for its needs. Every year, India imports helium worth Rs 55,000 crores from the U.S. to meet its needs.
    • However, the US is now planning to switch off the export of helium from 2021. Hence, the Indian Industry needs to find an alternative source of Helium.

    Way Forward:

    • India’s Rajmahal volcanic basin in Jharkhand is the storehouse of helium trapped for billions of years.
    • At present, India is mapping the Rajmahal basin extensively for future exploration and harnessing of helium.

    Source: The Hindu

    All about Greenhouse gases and Effect

  • Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) (MMDR) Amendment Act, 2021
    Introduced: The Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on 15.03.2021 as a Government Bill (Ministry of Mines).
    Present Status: The Bill was passed in both the Houses and received President’s assent on 28.03.2021.

    The Act seeks to amend the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957. This act regulates the mining sector in India.

    Salient provisions of the Amendment Act
    1. Firstly, removes distinction between captive and non-captive mines:
      • The Act empowered the central government to reserve any mine (other than coal, lignite, and atomic minerals) for particular end-use. Such mines are known as captive mines.
      • The Bill removes the distinction between captive and non-captive mines. It will not reserve any mine for particular end-use. All mines will now be able to sell their extra minerals.
    2. Secondly, the sale of minerals by captive mines: The Bill provides that captive mines (other than atomic minerals) may sell up to 50% of their annual mineral production in the open market after meeting their own needs.
    3. Thirdly, National Mineral Exploration Trust (NMET): The bill provides for the constitution of a Statutory body named the National Mineral Exploration Trust (NMET). It will see the functioning of the mining sector.
    4. Fourthly, National Mineral Index(NMI): The bill proposes to introduce an index-based mechanism by developing a National Mineral Index(NMI). It will be used for various statutory payments and for future auctions.
    5. Fifthly, transfer of statutory clearances: Presently, upon expiry of mining lease and transfer of the lease to a new lessee, the statutory clearances issued to the previous lessee are transferred for a period of two years. The new lessee needs to obtain fresh clearances within the two years.
      • The Bill changes this provision. It makes the transferred statutory clearances valid throughout the lease period of the new lessee.
    6. Sixthly, inclusion of Private Sector: The bill allows the participation of private players in mining operations with enhanced technology.
    7. Seventhly, auction by the central government in certain cases: The Bill provides that if the State Government is not able to complete the auction process within a specified time, the Central Government may take over and conduct such an auction.
    8. Lastly, allocation of mines with expired leases: The Bill says that mines (other than coal, lignite, and atomic minerals) whose lease has expired, may be allocated to a government company in certain cases.
  • SC orders Info. on Rule Curve for “Mullaperiyar Dam”
    What is the News?

    The Supreme Court orders the Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary to give information on the ‘rule curve’ for the Mullaperiyar dam. It also directed the Supervisory Committee to issue directions or take steps to address the three core safety issues.

    What is Rule Curve?

    The ‘rule curve’ in a dam decides the fluctuating storage levels in a reservoir. The gate opening schedule of a dam is based on the ‘rule curve’. It is part of the “core safety” mechanism in a dam. Rules curves are used to guarantee the safety of the reservoir as well as water security.

    About Mullaperiyar Dam:
    • The Mullaperiyar dam is located on the confluence of the Mullayar and Periyar rivers in Kerala’s Idukki district. The dam is located on the Cardamom Hills of the Western Ghats.
    • Operated by: The dam is located in Kerala but is operated and maintained by the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu.
    • Why Tamil Nadu operates the dam? The dam is operated by Tamil Nadu following an 1886 lease agreement for 999 years. It was signed between the Maharaja of Travancore and the Secretary of State for India during British Rule.
    • Lease Agreement Renewed: In the 1970s, the lease agreement was renewed by Tamil Nadu and Kerala. It gave the former, rights to the water from the dam, besides the authority to develop hydropower projects at the site. In return, Kerala receives rent from Tamil Nadu.
    Why Controversy over Mullaperiyar dam then?
    • In 1979, problems erupted over the safety of the Mullaperiyar dam. It was claimed that a minor earthquake had resulted in the cracks in the dam.
    • Consequently, the Central Water Commission decided that water level in the dam be brought down from the full reservoir level of 152 ft to 136 ft. It will enable Tamil Nadu to carry out dam strengthening works.
    • By the 1990s, Tamil Nadu started demanding restoration of the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam as it completed the task assigned to it. When no consensus was reached through negotiations, the Supreme Court was approached.
    • In 2014 as per directions of the Supreme Court, the Ministry of Jal Shakti constituted a three-member Supervisory Committee.
    • The committee has been asked to address the three core safety issues
      • Monitoring and performance of the instrumentation of the dam,
      • Finalising the ‘rule curve’ and
      • Fixing the gate operating schedule — and submit a compliance report in four weeks.

    Source: The Hindu

  • Centre reconstitutes “Committee on Saraswati river”


    What is the news?

    The Central Government reconstitutes an advisory committee for studying the mythical Saraswati river for the next two years. The earlier panel’s term ended in 2019.

    About the Advisory Committee on Saraswati River:
    1. The Archaeological Survey of India(ASI) had first set up the Advisory Committee for the Study of the River Saraswati in 2017 for two years. The committee has now been reconstituted.
    2. Purpose: To study the mythical Saraswati river and draw up a plan to identify its basin and define its path.
    3. Chaired by: The committee is chaired by the Culture Minister.
    4. Members: It includes officials from
      • The Ministry of Culture, Tourism, Water Resources, Environment and Forest, Housing and Urban Affairs;
      • Representatives of ISRO;
      • Governments officials of Gujarat, Haryana, and Rajasthan and
      • An ASI official.
    About Saraswati River:
    • Sarasvati River is a mystical river mentioned in the Rig Veda and later Vedic and post-Vedic texts. The river played an important role in the Vedic religion appearing in all but the fourth book of the Rigveda.
    About Archaeological Survey of India(ASI):
    • ASI is the premier organization for the archaeological research, scientific analysis, excavation of archaeological sites, conservation, and preservation of protected monuments.
    • Nodal Ministry: It is an attached office under the Department of Culture, Ministry of Culture.
    • Founded in: It was founded in 1861 by Alexander Cunningham. He was the first Director-General of ASI.

    Source: The Hindu

     

  • China’s plans for new dams on Brahmaputra River- Explained, Pointwise
    Introduction

    The Chinese government’s new five-year plan(2021-2025) is about to approve the construction of dams in the lower stretch of the Brahmaputra River (Yarlung Zangbo in China). It is a matter of serious concern for the lower riparian states namely India and Bangladesh. The move is expected to give China an edge in International diplomacy as it would gain substantial bargaining power post dam construction. 

    About the China’s plan for dams 
    1. China’s draft five-year plan (2021-25) and long-range objectives till 2035 mention the building of hydropower bases on the lower reaches of the Brahmaputra river
      • The lower reaches refer to the sections of the river in Tibet before it flows into India.
    2. The dam proposal is among the priority energy projects undertaken by the Chinese government in the next five years. Other projects under the draft five-year plan include “clean energy bases” in the upper and lower reaches of the Jinsha River. (the upper course of the Yangtze River in western China).
    3. It would be the first time that the lower stretch will witness such development of dams, marking a radical change in river water exploitation.
    4. China had earlier built dams on upper stretches of the river including Zangmu Dam in 2015. Three more dams at Dagu, Jiacha and Jeixu are currently under construction
    Why is China developing dams on the Brahmaputra?
    1. The construction would help the country develop clean energy and curb the rising pollution levels. This would improve citizens’ health and augment water security.
    2. The dam would also allow it to fulfill its international climate commitments under multilateral agreements like the Paris Agreement
    3. China’s location of the upper riparian state would allow it to control water flow towards the lower riparian states (India and Brahmaputra). This will give greater bargaining power to China in international relations. 
    4. Further, the project in the lower stretch is part of the country’s significant planned investments in infrastructure for serving national interests
    About Brahmaputra river
    1. It is one of the longest rivers in the world that flows from Tibet to India (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam) and further into Bangladesh. The river finally drains out in the Bay of Bengal.
    2. The river flows for about 1,625 kilometres in Tibet, parallel to the main range of the Himalayas. After that, it enters India in Arunachal Pradesh where it is called Siang
    3. The Siang flows down the Himalayas, enters the Assam valley. Here two other major tributaries, Dibang and Lohit will join the Siang river. The culmination of all finally becomes the Brahmaputra.
    Importance of Brahmaputra to India
    1. The river Brahmaputra and its tributaries carry more than 30 percent of the total water resource potential of India. 
    2. The residents of 22 districts in the Indian state of Assam rely on the Brahmaputra and its tributaries for their livelihood. The river system supports the subsistence agriculture of 66 million people. 
    3. The river is also extremely important for the transportation of people and materials.
    4. This region is home to several species of flora and fauna that are unique to this part of the world. For example, The Kaziranga National Park houses 15 mammalian species that are listed as threatened in the IUCN conservation list.
    Rules or statutes governing Brahmaputra water sharing
    1. There is a lack of a cooperative framework for managing river systems in South Asia. There are no binding agreements between India and China on Brahmaputra water sharing.
    2. India and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2002 for the sharing of hydrological data.
      • Under this China agreed to share information about the discharge of water at three stations from June 1 to October 15 each year. This would improve planning and flood control in India during the monsoon region.
    3. The two countries have even signed an MoU in 2013 regarding the sharing of water flow data. 
    4. A unilateral stoppage in data sharing was seen from the Chinese side during the 2017 Doklam Standoff but data sharing resumed in 2018.
    Impacts of China’s Dams on India
    1. China could use dams as a water weapon during the war and in peacetime. By building dams China can disrupt the lower riparian states by following ways,
      • First, China could alter the water level in lower riparian states by changing the storage/ discharge capacity of the dam.
      • Second, China’s large run-off from river dams can be easily converted into storage dams in the future. This can deprive water to India in dry seasons or flood it with water during the monsoon.
      • The Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) has also highlighted this vulnerability. 
    2. The ecological character of the river in lower courses gets deteriorated. This is proved by the Siang river (Brahmaputra’s name in Arunachal). After the reduction in water level, the river turned black with pollutants. This impacted the drinking water availability for the locals.
    3. It may also negatively impact the food security and livelihood of people residing across the river. Experts have pointed out that dam construction could cause the river to lose its silt and lead to a reduction in agriculture productivity.
    4. Dam construction by upper riparian states enhances the disaster’s magnitude in lower riparian states. For instance, a US government-funded study showed that a series of new dams built by China on the Mekong River had worsened the drought  conditions in downstream countries.
    5. Further Himalayan region is highly sensitive to construction. Due to this, the probability of disasters will get enhanced if big dams are created by China. This was proved by the recent Uttarakhand floods and the 2015 Nepal earthquake.
    6. It could open a new front of conflict along the Arunachal Pradesh region as Brahmaputra enters India through this stretch. Managing this would be a complex task for India as it is already struggling to counter China along the eastern ladakh region.
    7. China may decide to stop the flow of the river as a means of retaliation to make India submit to China’s demands.
    Challenges in bilateral Cooperation on dam construction
    1. Rising mistrust between the countries: The mistrust reached a new peak especially after the nine-month-long military stand-off along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Further, China was reluctant to share the correct information with India under the 2002 MoU.
      Further, China in the past has rejected the claim of building Zangmu Dam on the Brahmaputra till 2010. But in 2010 China not only admitted the construction of the Zangmu Dam but also completed it in a much rapid phase.
    2. The growing closeness of Indo-U.S relations and enhanced resentment of Sino- U.S relations can act as a barrier in concluding a favorable water-sharing agreement.
    3. Emerging risks like climate change, extreme events, landslides, forest fires, and many other environmental threats pose new governance challenges.
    4. China tries to encircle India using its neighbors. It charges approximately $125,000 for the data it provides to India. On the other hand, it sends similar data to Bangladesh for free.
    Suggestions for India
    • The construction of a multi-purpose reservoir in Arunachal Pradesh to offset the impact of the Chinese Dam should be done promptly. The proposed 9.2 BCM ‘Upper Siang’ project on the Siang river in Arunachal Pradesh will be able to take the excess load of water discharge. Further, it can even store water in case of any deficit.
    • As water is a state subject, the riparian states in India should be encouraged to use Brahmaputra’s water in a rational way to minimize future shortages.
    • The focus of integrated river basin management should be based on hydrological boundaries and not on administrative state boundaries.
    • India needs to restrengthen its relationship with Bangladesh. India needs to finalise the Teesta river agreement and restore its image as a responsible upper riparian. By doing that, Bangladesh may also cooperate with India against China.
    • The country should engage in bilateral talks and enter into a water-sharing agreement with China similar to the Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan. The new China-India water-sharing agreement should include provisions like,
      • The treaty should regulate the amount of water to be released, preserve the quality of the water and the aquatic life. 
      • It should have a mechanism for water-sharing during times of droughts and abnormal weather. 
      • If necessary, the international community should also be involved.
    Conclusion

    We need a new integrated river basin management. This should address all the emerging challenges of water security and sustainability. Further, it should go beyond mere political cooperation of State government and involving the local people. Instead, it should focus on India’s water needs and its management.

  • China Approves Dam Building on “Brahmaputra River”
    What is the news?

    Chinese Government approves dam-building on Brahmaputra river under its draft of the New Five year plan (2021-2025).

    What does the five-year plan provide?
    • The New Five-year plan approves the dams to be built on the lower reaches of the Brahmaputra river. The river is also known as Yarlung Zangbo in Tibet.
      • The lower reaches refer to the sections of the Brahmaputra river in Tibet before it flows into India.
    • The plan also calls for building a hydropower base on the lower reaches of the Brahmaputra river. Clean energy bases in the upper and lower reaches of the Jinsha River are also under the proposal (the upper course of the Yangtze River in western China).
    About Brahmaputra River:
    1. Brahmaputra River also called Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibet, Siang/ Dihang River in Arunachal Pradesh. It is a trans-boundary river that flows through Tibet, India, and Bangladesh.
    2. Origin: The river rises in the Chemayungdung Glacier in the Kailash Range in Tibet. It descends rapidly from Tibet forming a Grand Canyon and then flows eastward and reaches Namche Barwa. It then takes a U-turn and enters India in Arunachal Pradesh and known as dihang.
    3. Important Tributaries of River Brahmaputra:
      • Major left bank tributaries: Burhi Dihing, Dhansari (South), Kailang, Lohit, Dibang
      • Major right bank tributaries: Subansiri, Kameng, Manas, Sankosh, Teesta.
    4. Perennial River: the Brahmaputra is a perennial river. It has several peculiar characteristics due to its geography and prevailing climatic conditions.
      • Perennial Rivers can be defined as the river with the continuous flow throughout the year, such as the rivers Ganges and Brahmaputra.
    5. Significance: Most rivers on the Indian subcontinent have female names. But this river has a rare male name that literally translates as ‘Son of Brahma’. The river is also revered by Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists.
    6. Biodiversity: The rich rainforests of this basin is home to many species of flora and fauna. It hosts National Parks like the Kaziranga, Manas, and Kanchanjunga.
    7. Importance of Brahmaputra River for India:
      • The Brahmaputra River and its tributaries carry more than 30% of the total water resource potential of India.
      • The Brahmaputra River is also extremely important for livelihood and for transportation of people and materials in North East India.

    Source: The Hindu

  • “M-Sand Policy” a policy to promote manufactured sand

    Why in News?
    The Rajasthan government has brought a policy on manufactured sand (M-sand). It will provide an industry status to the units producing manufactured sand for construction work.

    It will reduce the dependence on riverbed sand.

    Facts:

    What is Manufactured Sand(M-Sand)?

    • Manufactured sand (M-Sand) is a substitute of river sand for concrete construction. It is produced by crushed hard granite stone.
    • The crushed sand is of cubical shape with rounded edges, washed and graded to as a construction material. The size of manufactured sand (M-Sand) is less than 4.75mm.

    Usage of Manufactured Sand

    • Due to the fast-growing construction industry, the demand for sand has increased tremendously causing deficiency of suitable river sand in most parts of the world.
    • Hence, to avoid the depletion of good quality river sand for the use of construction, the use of manufactured sand has been increased.

    Benefits of M-Sand:

    • It is easily available and has less transportation cost.
    • It does not contain organic and soluble compounds that affect the setting time and properties of cement, thus the required strength of concrete can be maintained.
    • M-Sand does not have the presence of impurities such as clay, dust and silt coatings which help in producing better quality concrete.
    • Furthermore, it can be dust-free and the sizes of m-sand can be controlled easily so that it meets the required grading for the given construction.
    • It eliminates the environmental impact that occurred due to the lifting of natural sand from the river bed.

    Source: The Hindu

  • SC appointed Central Empowered Committee(CEC) report on Sand mining in Rajasthan 

    Why in News? 

    SC has appointed a Central Empowered Committee(CEC) to look into sand mining in Rajasthan. The panel has submitted its report. 

     Facts: 

    • Background: In February 2020, Central Empowered Committee(CEC) was appointed by SC. Its mandate was to look into illegal sand mining in Rajasthan and submit a report suggesting measures to deal with it. 

     What are the recommendations given by the committee? 

    • It has recommended imposing a fine of Rs 10 lakh per vehicle and Rs 5 lakh per cubic meter of sand seized. 
    • It has been said that no unregistered tractor shoulbe used as a commercial vehicle to transport sand from the mining site to the transit depot. 
    • It has also recommended   
      • Termination of all the khatedari leases located within 5 km from the riverbank, where violations are detected. 
      • The scrapping of the excess royalty collection contract system. 

     Addition Facts: 

    • Sand Mining: It is an activity referring to the process of the actual removal of sand from the foreshore including rivers, streams and lakes. 
    • Regulation of Sand Mining: 
      • Sand is a minor mineral, as defined under section 3 of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act,1957 (MMDR Act).  
      • Section 15 of the MMDR Act empowers state governments to make rules for regulating the grant of mineral concessions in respect of minor minerals and for purposes connected therewith. 
      • Section 23C of the Act  empowers state governments to frame rules to prevent illegal mining, transportation and storage of minerals and for purposes connected therewith. 
      • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has issued Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines, 2016 which inter-alia, addresses the issues relating to the regulation of sand mining. 

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    Myths of IAS – How to Prepare IAS ?

  • Ensuring Intergenerational Equity in Mining in India 

    Synopsis:  For ensuring Intergenerational Equity, it is important to ensure availability of resources for future generation. For this, sustainable mining should be ensured.  

    Introduction  

    India’s National Mineral Policy 2019 states that “natural resources, including minerals, are a shared inheritance where the state is the trustee on behalf of the people to make sure that future generations receive the benefit of inheritance.” 

    But Present trend of mining as much as possible, is not according to the role of trustee acquired by the government in its policyThe extraction of oil, gas and minerals is effectively the sale of this inheritance.  

    What are the issues in mining trends at present? 

    • First, governments without their role of trustee in mind, end up with a mineral price that is considerably lesser than what they are worth.  
      • For example, it is projected from the yearly reports of Vedanta that from 2004 to 2012, Goa lost more than 95% of the value of its minerals. They sold mineral wealth worth 100 rupees for 5 rupees. 
    • Second, extractors try to extract as much as possible and move on quickly to reduce their cost and maximize their profits from an area 
    • Third, the government also allows the hasty extraction, as it perceives more mining equals more government revenue.  

    What are the steps to be taken? 

    The Government Accounting Standards Advisory Board needs to correct this error in the standards for public sector accounting and reporting for mineral wealth. 

    • There should be legal safeguards against unregulated mining and minerals should be considered as a shared inheritance.  
    • The state as trustee of mineral wealth must collect the full economic rent i.e., sale price minus the cost of extraction and cost including profit for the extractor. The full value of the extracted minerals should be received by the state, according to India’s national mineral policy 2019. 
    • India can also maintain the entire mineral sale profits in a Future Generations Fund like Norway did. This Fund could be submissively financed through the National Pension Scheme framework. 
    • The Supreme Court gave a judgement in Goa Foundation vs UOI & Ors and ordered the creation of a Goa Iron Ore Permanent Fund in 2014, which already has an amount of ₹500 crores.  
    • This may be distributed as a citizens’ dividend, equally to all the owners and future generations would benefit from the dividend in their turn. 

    Way forward  

    • The principle of fair mining in return of its real value is fully constitutional, promoting justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity. The reduction in losses would also limit corruption, crony capitalism and growing inequality.
  • India finds a small deposits of lithium in Karnataka

    News: Preliminary surveys by the Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research(AMD) are learnt to have shown the presence of 1,600 tonnes of lithium resources in the igneous rocks of the Margalla-Allapatna region of Karnataka’s Mandya district.

    Facts:

    • Lithium: It is a chemical element with the symbol Li and atomic number 3. It is a soft, silvery-white alkali metal.
    • Characteristics: Under standard conditions, Lithium is the lightest metal and the lightest solid element. Like all alkali metals, lithium is highly reactive and flammable. It never occurs freely in nature due to its high reactivity.
    • Extraction of Lithium: Lithium can be extracted in different ways, depending on the type of the deposit – it is generally done either through solar evaporation of large brine pools or by hard-rock extraction of the ore.
    • Uses of Lithium:
      • Lithium and its compounds have several industrial applications, including heat-resistant glass and ceramics, flux additives for iron, steel and aluminum production, lithium batteries and lithium-ion batteries.
      • Lithium is also present in biological systems in trace amounts; its functions are uncertain.
      • Lithium salts have proven to be useful as a mood-stabilizing drug in the treatment of bipolar disorder in humans.
    • Largest Producers of Lithium: In 2019, the largest producer of the lithium was Australia followed by Chile and China.

    Lithium in India:

    • India currently imports all its lithium needs. Over 165 crore lithium batteries are estimated to have been imported into India between 2016-17 and 2019-20 at an estimated import bill of upwards of $3.3 billion.
    • Lithium Exploration in India:
      • India is currently going for the domestic exploration push which also includes exploratory work to extract lithium from the brine pools of Rajasthan and Gujarat and the mica belts of Odisha and Chhattisgarh.
      • The Margalla-Allapatna area along the Nagamangala Schist Belt, which exposes mineralised complex pegmatites (igneous rocks) is seen as among the most promising geological domains for potential exploration for lithium and other rare metals.
      • There is also some potential for recovering lithium from the brines of Sambhar and Pachpadra in Rajasthan and Rann of Kachchh in Gujarat.
      • The major mica belts in Rajasthan, Bihar, and Andhra Pradesh, and the pegmatite belts in Odisha and Chhattisgarh apart from Karnataka are the other potential geological domains.
    • Challenges:
      • Firstly, the newly found lithium in India in Margalla-Allapatna is categorised as “inferred”, one of the three categories into which mineral resources are subdivided in order of increasing geological confidence.
      • Secondly, the lithium find is comparatively small, considering the size of the proven reserves in Bolivia (21 million tonnes), Argentina (17 million tonnes), Australia (6.3 million tonnes), and China (4.5 million tonnes).
      • Thirdly, India is also seen as a late mover in attempts to enter the lithium value chain, coming at a time when Electric Vehicles(EVs) are predicted to be a sector ripe for disruption.
    • Initiatives taken by India: In 2020, Khanij Bidesh India Ltd had signed an agreement with an Argentinian firm to jointly prospect lithium in the South American country that has the third largest reserves of the metal in the world.
      • Khanij Bidesh India Ltd: It was incorporated in 2019 by three state-owned companies, NALCO, Hindustan Copper, and Mineral Exploration Ltd, with the specific mandate to acquire strategic mineral assets such as lithium and cobalt abroad.The company is learnt to be also exploring options in Chile and Bolivia.

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  • Arunachal harbours a Vanadium source

    News: Geological Survey of India(GSI) has found concentrations of vanadium in the palaeo-proterozoic carbonaceous phyllite rocks in the Depo and Tamang areas of Papum Pare district in Arunachal Pradesh. This was the first report of a primary deposit of vanadium in India.

    Facts:

    • Vanadium: It is a chemical element with the symbol V and atomic number 23. It is a hard, silvery-grey, malleable transition metal. The elemental metal is rarely found in nature and is electrically conductive and thermally insulating.
    • Found in: Vanadium occurs naturally in about 65 minerals and in fossil fuel deposits. It is recovered as a by-product from the slag collected from the processing of vanadiferous magnetite ores (iron ore).
    • Uses of Vanadium:
      • Vanadium is mainly used to produce specialty steel alloys such as high-speed tool steels, and some aluminum alloys.
      • Vanadium alloys are used in nuclear reactors because of vanadium’s low neutron-absorbing properties
      • Vanadium pentoxide is used as a catalyst for the production of sulfuric acid.
      • The vanadium redox battery for energy storage may be an important application in the future.
      • Large amounts of vanadium ions are found in a few organisms, possibly as a toxin. Particularly in the ocean, vanadium is used by some life forms as an active center of enzymes, such as the vanadium Bromo peroxidase of some ocean algae.
    • Largest Deposits: The largest deposits of vanadium of the world are in China, followed by Russia and South Africa. China, which produces 57% of the world’s vanadium consumed 44% of the metal in 2017.
    • India: India is a significant consumer of vanadium, but is not a primary producer of the strategic metal. India consumed 4% of about 84,000 tonnes of vanadium produced across the globe in 2017.
    • Vanadium in Arunachal Pradesh: Vanadium found in Arunachal Pradesh is geologically similar to the stone coal vanadium deposits of China hosted in carbonaceous shale. This high vanadium content is associated with graphite, with a fixed carbon content of up to 16%.

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  • 30 Indian cities will face ‘water risk’ by 2050: Water Risk Filter analysis report

    News: World Wildlife Fund(WWF) has released the Water Risk Filter analysis report.

    Facts:

    • Water Risk Filter: It is an online tool co-developed by the WWF that helps evaluate the severity of risk places faced by graphically illustrating various factors that can contribute to water risk.

    Key Takeaways:

    • Water Risk: 100 cities that hold importance in national as well as global economies and are home to 350 million people are set to face the greatest rise in water risks by 2050.
    • Global List: Egypt’s Alexandria tops the list and is followed by Mecca in Saudi Arabia, China’s Tangshan, Saudi Arabia’s Dammam, and Riyadh. China accounts for almost half the cities.
    • Indian Cities: India has 30 cities on the list. Jaipur(45th) topped the list of Indian cities followed by Indore(75th) and Thane. Mumbai, Kolkata, and Delhi also featured on the list.

    Recommendations:

    • Multi-Stakeholder engagement and ownership involving local communities could be the key to creating and conserving sustainable water infrastructure and rejuvenating urban freshwater systems.
    • Urban planning and wetland conservation need to be integrated to ensure zero loss of freshwater systems in urban areas.
    • Improving urban water infrastructure and cutting water consumption will help reduce water risks
    • Nature-based solutions including restoring degraded watersheds, reconnecting rivers to their floodplains, and restoring or creating urban wetlands are critical.

    Additional Facts:

    • WWF: It is an international non-governmental organization founded in 1961 to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.
    • Headquarters: Gland, Switzerland.
  • Scientists excavate ‘Ancient River’ in Uttar Pradesh

    News: The Jal Shakti Ministry has excavated an old, dried-up river in Prayagraj (formerly Allahabad) that linked the Ganga and Yamuna rivers.

    Facts:

    About the river:

    • The “ancient buried river” is around 4 km wide, 45 km long, consisted of a 15metre-thick layer buried under soil.
    • It joins the Yamuna River at Durgapur village, about 26 km south of the current Ganga-Yamuna confluence at Prayagraj.

    Significance of the Discovery: It can be developed as a potential groundwater recharge source

    Additional Information:

    Paleochannel:

    • A channel that is no longer part of an active river system and has ceased to be a conduit of water is commonly referred to as a palaeochannel.
    • Some of the channels lie buried under the cover of younger sediments.
    • They are parts of misfit rivers and streams representing channels abandoned by migrating rivers as they shift their courses and cut new ones.
    • Palaeochannels are commonly occurring landforms in alluvial landscapes.
    • Economic significance:
      • use in the exploration for freshwater resources, artificial recharge and storage of ground water;
      • they are of importance in the location and assessment of mineral deposits such as uraniferous ores, gold, silver and other placer deposits hosted in them

    Paleochannels in India:

    • The erstwhile Ministry of Water Resources had constituted a seven-member committee, headed by Professor K.S. Valdiya of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR).
    • The Committee submitted the “Report on Palaeo Channel of North West India: Review & Assessment” in 2016. The major findings were:
      • The banks of one of the misfit rivers, the Ghaggar-Hakra-Saraswati-Drishadvati, is associated with multiplicity of palaeochannels.
      • Evidence from palaeochannels suggest that the mythological Saraswati River did indeed exist. River Saraswati originated from Adibadri in Himalaya to culminate in the Arabian Sea through the Runn of Kutch. It was approximately 4000 km in length.