Uranium Mining > Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam
Heavy earth mining began in Andhra Pradesh in 2007 when Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL) set up operations at Tummalapalle in Kadapa district. But UCIL has been eyeing the uranium deposits around Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve (NSTR) since early 1994 when a plan was rejected due to the proposed mineâs proximity to the tiger reserve. UCIL was back in NSTR by 2003, trying to mine the Lambapur-Peddagattu villages next to Nagarjunasagar reservoir in Nalgonda district. Soon after, the authorities denotified a 1,000 sq km chunk of the tiger reserve in 2007. While public resistance continues, the UCIL website says that it is âin the process of obtaining clearances for construction of three underground and one open pit minesâŚ and a processing plant at Seripallyâ close by.
Five districts depend on the Nagarjunasagar reservoir for water. If blasting in deep shafts breaches the solid rock sheets that stand between the proposed mines and the reservoir, water will be contaminated. But the atomic energy establishment, with high stakes in a belt that holds 27 percent of the countryâs uranium deposits, is adamant. Given UCILâs dubious track record at Jharkhandâs Jaduguda, reckless enthusiasm may spell doom for the stateâs public health and ecology.
In 2005, the state sought the MOEFâs approval for a 450 sq km elephant reserve at Lemru in Korba district and got the nod. But it has maintained a strange silence since. One clue to the mystery is a February 2008 letter from the CII state chief to the Forest Department, pointing out that âthe proposed sanctuary will block at least 40 million tonne per annum of coal productionâ. The elephants are still waiting.
Iron Ore Mining > Sanguem
The monetary loss from illegal iron ore mining in the state has been pegged at anything between Rs 4,000 crore and Rs 10,000 crore. But far more damagingly, the mining belt of around 700 sq km (close to 20 percent of the stateâs area) comprising Bicholim (North Goa district) and Salcete, Sanguem and Quepem (South Goa district) has been laid waste with deforestation, land degradation, surface, groundwater and dust pollution. Dumped mine reject, pumped out muddy waters from the working pits and slime from the beneficiation plant are being carried by rainwater to the low-lying fields and streams, silting and solidifying into a hard mass. Sanguem taluka is the worst hit, with water pollution threatening the Sanguem and Usgao rivers.
Hydroelectricity > Siang Dam
The big idea is to generate 40,000 MW of electricity by building 150 dams in the state that wants to float âin hydro dollars like the Arab countries are floating in petro dollarsâ. The prime minister himself is on board. âI must say that all dams do not have adverse impact, some are rather helpful,â he assured in April.
The mother of all dams in Arunachal is being built across the Siang river, a tributary of the Brahmaputra. The dam reservoir will hold 10 billion cubic metres of water. The project will generate 10,000-12,000 MW, making it the largest hydroelectric dam in South Asia. In the bargain, more than 50,000 acres of forest will be submerged, endangering several hundred species of flora and fauna, including the red panda. More than 20 ancient tribes will be hit, including the Adis and Galos in Siang district and the Idu Mishmi of the Dibang river basin.
Protests against the 2,700 MW Lower Siang Hydroelectric Project turned violent this April during the public hearings that had to be put off. Protesters say they are being intimidated and manhandled by security forces and have, in turn, issued a diktat to the workers on the project to leave the state immediately.
The state has revived the countryâs biggest ever âinter-basin water transferâ project, which was proposed in 2001 to divert 145 TMC of water from Netravati river to feed seven districts. But with a slew of hydroelectric projects and a petrochemical hub coming up in Mangalore, water may become a scarce resource. It could ravage the Western Ghats by triggering soil erosion.
Since 2003, the 400 MW Â Tipaimukh Dam project proposed at the confluence of Tipai and Barak rivers has been a looming threat to the region. For its share of 40 MW, Manipur will have to sacrifice 25,822 hectares of forestland and 8 million trees. After getting green clearance, the state signed an MOU with the NHPC and the Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam in 2010 and ran into stiff public resistance.
Arsenic Contamination > Bhojpur
Nearly half of Bihar (16 out of 38 districts) suffers from arsenic contamination of groundwater, which also plagues the neighbouring states of Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The result is skin lesions, cancers of the skin, lung, bladder and kidney beside reproductive disorders resulting in abortions and stillbirths. There were reports too of congenital defects and babies being born blind in Bhojpur where, a decade ago, 73 villages reported arsenic levels above 50 microgram per litre.
Instead of conducting a detailed groundwater survey, the state government resorted to supplying treated surface water from the Ganga to Bhojpur in 2009-10 and subsequently extended the scheme to four other districts. The clock is ticking; there may still be time to move from prevention to cure.
Encroachment > Sonitpur
From Sonai-Rupai Wildlife Sanctuary in the east to Behali Reserve Forest in the west, a network of wildernesses made Sonitpur one of Indiaâs greenest districts. But, in the past 10 years, it has lost 37 percent of that forest cover. In actual terms, the overall forest loss here stands at 232 sq km just between 1994 and 2001.
Since the beginning of insurgency in the late 1980s, the Bodo leadership encouraged its people from all over Assam to move to the proposed Bodoland to ensure a Bodo majority. Soon, the migrants tore down the forests in the Bodo heartland of Sonitpur, not so much to free land for homestead or agriculture, but simply to monetise timber.
Gradually, the migrants claimed ownership of the open forestland. A fresh surge of encroachment began in 2007 after the legislation of the Forest Rights Act. With tacit political support and under militancyâs shadow, this loot of the forest is being silently perpetuated. Out of the 60,000 claims filed under the Forest Rights Act in Assam, 30,000 came from Sonitpur alone.
But encroachment has become pandemic in Assam with even Manas and Nameri national parks losing forest cover. Other seriously-affected districts include Karbi Anglong, Kokrajhar, Darrang, North Cachar Hills and Barpeta.
In 2011, a survey revealed an investment rush in properties in the hills, with buyers flocking from Delhi. So the Kumaon hills are paying the price for their proximity to the capital. Trade insiders claim that every inhabitable acre has been sold or is up for grabs. As crammed and palatial properties are replacing hamlets and wildernesses, natural resources are being stretched to the limits.
Since April, the Palamu Tiger Reserve is out of bounds not only to tourists but also the forest staff. A CRPF team is carrying out phase two of Operation Octopus against the Maoists. The forces have occupied the entire forest infrastructure and even detained a few tiger trackers for venturing into the reserve. The former field director resisted the takeover and was swiftly transferred.
The $120 million Kaladan Multi- Modal Transport project will connect the Northeast to Myanmarâs Sittwe port with a sea and road link through Mizoram. But the 62 km road will have to be carved through an earthquake-prone terrain. The sea route will require dredging of the Kaladan river, causing saltwater ingress. Add to this two hydroelectric projects planned on two tributaries of the Kaladan river.
On 10 May, the Gujarat HC closed down Electrothermâs steel plant for lack of green clearance. Earlier, the HC stopped construction at Adani SEZ and the National Green Tribunal sought action against OPG Power for violating conditions. But a slew of other projects, thanks to hastily signed MOUs at Vibrant Gujarat summits, continues in Kutch and can devastate the unique Rann ecology.
Power Tunnels > Sutlej
The state wants 648 small and big dams, no less. Already, its power revenue has shot up from Rs 29.6 crore in 2003-04 to Rs 1,050 crore in 2011-12. The hydropower projects already in motion have a total capacity of 12,798 MW and will earn the state Rs 4,393 crore at the current rate by 2022.
The mighty Sutlej, however, will pay the maximum price with more than 30 hydropower projects planned on it. From the Chinese border (Shipke la) to Koldam, the river will be tunnelled for 135 km and reservoirs will span another 70 km. The same grim future awaits Ravi (3,011 MW), Chenab (3,132 MW) and Pabbar (887 MW) rivers. The power rush has all but written off the fragility of the high-altitude alpine zone or the ecological imperative of maintaining a minimum riparian distance of 5 km between two projects. After the completion of the 1,500 MW Nathpa Jhakri and 1,200 MW Karcham Wangtu, Sutlej has already become a seasonal river. The result is soil erosion, landslides and changed climatic conditions. With aquifers disrupted, natural springs catering to drinking water and irrigation are drying up. Owners of apple orchards in Kinnaur are already up in arms.
Groundwater > Rice Belt
Haryana uses more groundwater than its annual availability for irrigation alone. Green Revolution technologies practised in Haryana increased foodgrain production from 2.6 million tonnes (MT) in 1966-67 to 16.6 MT during 2010-11. Increases in wheat and rice production were 11 and 16 folds, respectively. Today, water-intensive paddy is the kharif crop and Haryana (with Punjab) is the largest exporter of basmati rice in India.
But the cost is proving suicidal. According to NASA, water table is declining at the rate of 1 metre per year in Indiaâs northwestern states. In Haryanaâs rice-wheat belt, the picture is scarier. Groundwater resources in the entire districts of Sirsa, Karnal, Rewari, Panipat, Yamunanagar, Sonepat, Kurukshetra, Fatehabad, Kaithal and Bhiwani are over-exploited while several are semi-critical. Even Gurgaon is feeling the thirst.
Tourism Mess > Munnar
The once pristine hills are now scarred by plastic, sparkling rivers too polluted to throw up trout, and lush greens mutilated by concrete invasion and plantation. Even the Eravikulam National Park, home to the endangered Nilgiri Tahr, has become a garbage bin. Tourism that put Munnar on the world map has become its curse.
The encroachment and cultivation of soft crops has blocked the traditional paths of the wild elephants, triggering acute conflict. Chinnakanal, the ground zero of encroachment, is where most elephant attacks are reported. In 2007, the Left Front government launched the first crackdown. In 2011, the Congress-led government âreclaimedâ some 2,009 acres. Within six months, encroachers were back in business.
Road Construction > Ladakh