Livelihoods, Ecology and Climate Change, 4th August 2018

31st July was World Rangers Day

Tourist magnet Ladakh facing water scarcity

For 75-year-old Tsering Angdo, today’s Ladakh is entirely different from the world of his childhood in the cold Himalayan desert. Earlier, according to Angdo and his fellow Ladakhis, water from the melting snow and glaciers would be enough to cater to the needs of the locals. But, with lower snowfall and warmer summers, some of the glaciers have vanished altogether, while others are melting faster than before. This is happening at a time when the region has become extremely popular with Indian tourists, thanks to some recent Bollywood movies.

“Now, we get a lot of domestic tourists. And the number of tourists is increasing every year. There has to be a limit,” Angdo observes though he doesn’t know what the limit could be. “We have started facing severe water scarcity in Leh because this place gets flooded with tourists”. “The government and the experts should determine how many tourists should come to Leh.” Angdo hopes Ladakh will not be spoiled like other tourist places in the Himalayas, such as Manali and Shimla.

Opinion: Focus on small hydropower in Jammu and Kashmir

The Indus River has immense hydropower potential which has mostly remained untapped. The geographic location of the state of Jammu and Kashmir gives it a unique advantage to harness hydropower from the three major rivers of the Indus.

The primary reason why the state has been unable to use its water resources for bridging its energy deficit is lack of finances.

Any water infrastructure development on the Indus River in the state is guided by the Indus Waters Treaty signed between India and Pakistan in 1960 with the World Bank as the guarantor. The treaty reserves the western rivers; the Jhelum, Chenab, and Indus for Pakistan except for specific use by India for various purposes including irrigation, domestic use, run-of-river hydropower generation and other non-consumptive uses subject to the conditions of design, water storage and other features clearly set out in the treaty

Usually established by the community, micro-hydropower projects (MHPs) work more or less like the big power corporations that supply power to cities. Like them, the MHPs come with their own power generation source and operate autonomously.

They can typically generate between five to 100 kilowatts (KW) of power. Most MHPs have a shelf life of up to 20 years. This can be extended if they are properly serviced, maintained and operated.

MHPs low cost, near-zero emissions, and ability to be dispatched quickly to meet peak electricity demand have made them a valuable renewable energy source worldwide.

But installing an MHP is far easier than ensuring its smooth running. Firstly, as water flows decrease in winter so does electricity generation, finally coming to a complete halt during the peak winter. Secondly, repairing broken MHP means downtime because of transporting heavy parts to workshops elsewhere. The third down side of the MHPs is their vulnerability to extreme weather events like floods.

Walk along the Ken river to find a world you didn’t know was there


This is based on 600 km long KEN YATRA in three different phases by the two authors from South Asian Network of Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) and Veditum (another NGO) respectively.

We tried tracing the river on a map using satellite data for cues, moving upstream from an established point of identity: Chilla ghat, the confluence of the Ken with the Yamuna in Uttar Pradesh. However, this exercise proved difficult and led us astray multiple times, especially in the upper catchment area. It was only later, when walking along the river, did we realise that this was because almost all of Ken’s tributaries have a larger discharge than the Ken itself.

Everyday conversations often miss out on the important role of tributaries and groundwater as vital components of a river’s health.

This has assumed significance when the Government of India was trying to expedite the construction of multiple small and large dams in the Ganga basin, including the proposed Daudhan dam on the Ken, a part of the Ken-Betwa river interlinking project.

Our walk in the upper regions of the river were largely through dried stretches, where we would regularly come across bridges and check dams with no water to be found. We also noticed the sudden appearance of pools of water in the same dry channel, sometimes so large as to be confusing. Although we couldn’t understand how the pools had come to be, the locals were familiar with them as well as had names.

These pools are called dabradabri or dabran, depending on their size and number. We were told that these pools were filled by underground springs, a phenomenon we had only read about until then. This was river science in action, the relationship between groundwater and rivers playing out in front of our eyes. Captured surface water that had filtered through layers of earth over time was now feeding the river, sustaining life when people were thinking about the imminent summer.

In some places, these springs were venerated, protected to the extent that their water could be used only if it overflowed. In other places, the pools had tens of pipes jutting out like tentacles, sucking out all that the ground could provide. Changing cropping patterns (from millets to relatively water-intensive crops like wheat and paddy) and the demand for higher acreage under cultivation (i.e. cutting down of old forests and occupying scrub lands) makes this an alarming situation because it will further stress aquifers that seem to have already reached their breaking point.

However, the same people who had had multiple points of view about protecting the river didn’t know nearly enough about the proposed Ken-Betwa river-linking project, which if approved would have a drastic effect on riparian communities.

The world’s drinking water quantity

If you could create a giant cube and pack into it all the drinking water in the world, that cube would fit nicely into the city of Bangalore. All of the waters in the world’s rivers, lakes, and wetlands are only a fraction of that, fitting inside a cube with a side of only 13 km.

(Credit: )

Village youth in Western Ghats enrich sacred grove

A bunch of passionate young men are saving big trees uprooted in the Sahyadri Mountains by transplanting them at their village’s sacred grove. And that’s just one part of their conservation work…

Online shopping means cutting billions of trees

In a developed country, according to their environment protection agency, e-commerce packaging accounts for 30% of solid waste generated. India is…, read more at:

Climate change feedback loop in action

As temperatures rise, Earth’s soil is ‘breathing’ more heavily. This ‘soil respiration’ process releases 5 times more CO2 than human activity and is up 1.2% between 1990 and 2014, further warming the planet.

While that may not seem like a big change, such an increase on a global scale, in a relatively short period of time in Earth history, is massive.

Wilderness is rare in Earth’s oceans

Just a sliver of ocean classed as wild is within marine protected areas.

Only 13% of the oceans now classified as wilderness, that is, free from pollution, fishing and commercial shipping.

 European Union and China Ocean Partnership

On 16th  July, the European Union has signed a unique ocean partnership agreement with China. Two of the world’s largest ocean economies will work together to improve the international governance of the oceans in all its aspects, including by combating illegal fishing and promoting a sustainable blue economy.

Chile enacts historic ban on plastic bags

Chile enacts historic ban on commercial use of plastic bags, first in the Americas, because a plastic bag takes seconds to make; is used for less than half an hour, and then takes 400 years to biodegrade.

Recycling won’t solve plastic pollution

NATGEO facts on plastic pollution

Droughts, heatwaves and floods: How to tell when climate change is to blame

Germany’s national weather agency is preparing to be first in the world to offer rapid assessments of global warming’s connection to particular meteorological events.

2nd to 7th December 2018. Namati Legal Empowerment Leadership Course, 2018 at Budapest Hungary

The drum beats of rural India

10th August is International Youth Day.




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