Water Talk

15th January 2020


Can you imagine your life without water? No? True, water is the essence of life. Wikipedia describes water as a ‘substance’ composed of the chemical elements hydrogen and oxygen. Wateris an inorganic, transparent, tasteless, odourless, and nearly colourless chemical substance, which is the main constituent of Earth's hydrosphere, and the fluids of most living organisms. It is vital for all known forms of life, even though it provides no calories or organic nutrients. However, the taste of water is better known to a thirsty life. 

Where from water comes to us? How much water do we need in a day? In a year? With the copiousness of water, usually these questions are ignored. But the fact is, for a country like India that has 18% of the world’s population but only 4% of the world’s renewable water resources - water needs to be taken seriously. It is more evident from Hiware Bazar story. "Living in the rain shadow area with less than 400 mm of rainfall per annum has its blessings only when you know how to manage water," says Popatrao Pawar, Sarpanch, Hiware Bazar. Hiware Bazar was a water stress village in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra that turned itself around into one of the most prosperous villages of the country, in less than a decade. Popatrao Pawar delivered a very inspiring Water Talk that was thoroughly absorbing. One can understand why “Water Budgeting” is important. 

The Government of India, realizing the importance of the subject, initiated several programmes like Jal Shakti Abhiyan, Jal Jeevan Mission, Atal Bhujal Yojana, and so on. The Ministry of Jal Shakti (MoJS), the erstwhile, Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation has also initiated a remarkable programme, “Water Talk”. A monthly seminar on water, the momentous subject, is being organized by the National Water Mission, every month, on the 3rdFriday. The event aims to stimulate awareness, build capacities of stakeholders and encourage people to become active participants to sustain life by saving water on earth. So far, 10 remarkable talks have taken place. The talks have been focused and consistent. The regularity is not merely about the event. It is about the commitment of the top cadre officials, including Shri U P Singh, Secretary, DoWR, RD & GR. 

The programme provides an opportunity to learn many new things and broadening perspective through sharing of knowledge and experience. Padma Shri Anil Prakash Joshi, an acclaimed green activist, social worker, Botanist and the founder of Dehradun-based Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organization (HESCO), orated on his experience on rejuvenation of rivers through harnessing of rainwater. Umakant Umrao, IAS, deliberated that more than 4 crore people drilled bore wells in India. During the last 30 years, Rs. 8 to 10 Lakh Crore must have been spent in bore well drilling. If this amount could have been spent in rainwater harvesting? We can think, today’s scenario could have been entirely different. He explained how India is a water surplus country. 75% of groundwater has been exhausted within the last 30 years, which was created naturally in lakhs of years. And the remaining 25% could help us sustain for barely another 10 to 15 years. Recently, Dr. Mihir Shah emphasized on considering water as an infrastructure. 

Water Talk has become a platform of knowledge transfer and problem solving. It has successfully attracted many vibrant people from different walks of life to participate in the event and actively share various ideas towards sustainable water management in India. It has been quite effective in enhancing knowledge through consistent dissemination of information. Water Talk needs to be replicated in States, districts, panchayats, villages and communities. It will prove to be instrumental in building capacities for excellent water management, thereby leading way to India’s water security. 

An Uncommon Environmental Leadership

8th January 2020 

Mollie Beattie’s quote  “In the long term, the economy and the environment are the same thing. If it's unenvironmental it is uneconomical. That is the rule of nature” has a wider meaning. Newmont is the world’s leading gold company and a producer of copper, silver, zinc, and lead, recently completed 100 years. On this occasion, Tom Palmer, President and CEO at Newmont Goldcorp Corporation said, “We successfully completed two historic transactions in 2019, which have transformed Newmont into a truly international organization with an unmatched portfolio of assets and prospects in top-tier jurisdictions around the world.” Palmer also added, “As this company has done many times in the past, Newmont has demonstrated its ability to adapt to change, which is truly a hallmark of our success over the last 100 years. Updating our brand represents a natural step as we approach the next 100 years in Newmont’s long and proud legacy of operating discipline, profitable growth, environmental stewardship, and developing the industry’s best talent.”

Corporates play pivotal role in progress of society. Still, it is a common perception, haply through experiences, that business leaders’ statements grossly differ from actual performance in environmental conservation. DLF is reckoned as an influential brand, at least in north India. DLF Foundation in its website mentions “In face of ever-increasing urbanization, DLF has always been alive to environmental concerns. It is our intention to give back as much, if not more, as is being taken through the rigorous development process. The landscaping and greening of the area around all development projects is indicative of our endeavors in this regard. A total of over 1.2 lakh trees have been planted by DLF in Gurgaon itself. Out of this 17,000 trees were planted and maintained by the DLF Foundation during the present financial year at a cost of over Rs. 25 lakhs. This is in addition to the 20,000 trees planted by the DLF Arboriculture Department as part of its routine activities.”

On the contrary, according to EC bearing F. No. 21-111/2017-1A-III dated 11.10. 2019 accorded by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to DLF for expansion of the “Group Housing” construction project at SIEL Complex, Shivaji Marg, New Delhi - the greenbelt area has been reduced by nearly 13% from 33427.752 SQM to 29213.88 SQM, whereas, the built-up area increased by almost 132%. The document also reflects another disappointing note that in 10 years of the existing project, DLF developed only 3023 SQM (less than 10%) of green area as compared to proposed 33427.752 SQM.

Not only this. The expansion project of ‘DLF Cyber Park’ in Udyog Vihar, Gurugram, Haryana by M/s DLF Cyber City Developers Ltd. could be another example. This project has also got approval from the MoEF&CC, where there is a reduction in greenbelt area from 10,799.32 SQM to 8,392.95 SQM, by more than 22%. And, according to the company Haryana Urban Development Authority has consistently over the last 7 years awarded DLF with the “Excellence in Horticulture Preservation” award. It is evident that what is said differs from what is actually done. And therefore, environmental activism.

A widely known environmentalist, Ms. Sunita Narain, Padma Shri awarded Director General of Center for Science and Environment (CSE) and Editor of the fortnightly magazine, Down To Earth, also awarded with the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize, and Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament, and Development for 2018 – in the process of her phenomenal fighting against air pollution, food and water safety, was painted as anti-corporate. In longer terms, people have understood and accepted her as a climate leader. The conviction is furthered on her being the ‘National Climate Leader’ from India for 2019 in the first National Climate Leader Awards published in the Global Spotlight Report #22 released by Climate Scorecard. Many Congratulations to her.  

Pollution Control Bodies to Inspect Industries, Frequently

1st January 2020


In the pursuit of achieving industrial growth, as many as 19 State governments, like Haryana made enormous changes in their Consent Management Policy. The policy decisions were too lenient and weak to protect the air and water environment. The Inspection Policy of the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) was limited to once in 3 years for the ‘highly polluting 17 category’, once in 5 years for the ‘red’, and once in 7 years for the ‘orange’ category industries. Though industrial development in a sustainable manner is necessary, it can’t take place at the cost of air and water quality, which are the essence of life, and has a huge significance in the National Capital Region (NCR). NCR has been reeling under the threat of water and air pollution. One can rightly argue that the contribution of industrial pollution to Delhi-NCR air pollution is hardly around 18%. Still, it has a wider impact, when not inspected in a disciplined manner. Further, water consumption and water pollution is a colossal problem in the area. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) found that there is a need for further reduction of the period of inspections and increase in frequency with regard to ‘highly polluting 17 category’, ‘red category’ and ‘orange category’. Vigilance is also required on ‘green category’ to verify that ‘green’ status is being genuinely used. 

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) was directed by the NGT to ensure apt revision of such policies in all the States having regard to the data of air and water quality, CEPI, non-attainment cities and polluted water stretches, etc. in said States. The policy should cover inspections with reference to the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 as well as the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. 

Now, according to the directions issued by the NGT, the CPCB has further directed all SPCBs and Pollution Control Committees (PCCs) to ensure that for environmental surveillance, the industries are inspected preferably at the frequency once in 3 months for the ‘highly polluting 17 categories’, once in 6 months for the ‘red’, once in 1 year for the ‘orange’ category, once in 2 years for the ‘green’ category, and once in 3 months to the Common Biomedical waste, hazardous waste facilities and CETPs and STPs. The CPCB has also sought an action plan from the SPCBs and PCCs. The action plans of the SPCBs and PCCs should also be worked out on the basis of the number of industries in various categories. The action plans should also deliberate on various measures required to resolve the existing complex issues pertaining to consent management.

It is not going to be easy for the SPCBs and PCCs to meet this frequency unless the infrastructure and manpower resources are appropriately upgraded. Having said this, there is a huge scope of improvement envisaged in the structural reforms of the SPCBs and PCCs. And, this could bring positive results in the part of business and governance, both. There is no need to change the validity period consent. So, the officials will have enough time to monitor the projects in terms of requisite compliance. A similar schedule is required for monitoring of compliance with Environmental Clearance Conditions, which is executed by the regional offices of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC). Several projects remain uninspected for years, mostly due to paucity in manpower. This leads to complicacy at the time of project expansion or modernization, due to various non-compliance at the end of the project proponent. This further results in a delay in project execution, therefore, costing. Alternatively, MoEF&CC may empower the SPCBs and PCCs to conduct regular surveillance monitoring to ensure effective compliance. 

Wish you all a glorious, gleeful & green New Year 2020