El Salvador mining ban could establish a vital water security precedent


El Salvador‘s battle to protect its water by becoming the first country to ban metal mining could have a wide-ranging resonance

MDG : El Salvador : protest against Canadian mining corporation Pacific Rim

No drying up … with their water supply threatened, Salvadorans are hitting back at mining companies such as Pacific Rim. Photograph: Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images

Five hundred scientists meeting in Bonn last month warned that 9 billion people would face the consequences of severe water shortages within a generation or two, but did not point the finger at industries devastating fresh water supplies.

Meanwhile, a battle against a metal mining industry that has ravaged freshwater supplies in El Salvador shows just how difficult it is for a developing country to build economic alternatives for a water-secure future.

Two mining companies are dragging El Salvador through a costly legal challenge at an international trade tribunal for attempting to protect limited water supplies by refusing permits for their operations.

With 90% of its surface water heavily contaminated and a quarter of its rural population lacking access to safe drinking water, El Salvador is embroiled in a clean water crisis. More than two-thirds of the population rely on the Lempa river basin for drinking water – the same number that would be threatened by water-intensive and water-contaminating metal mining projects were El Salvador to reopen its doors to the industry.

In 2008, after strong public pressure to protect water from mining, Antonio Saca, El Salvador’s president at the time, declared he would not issue any new mining permits. There are no active metal-mining operations in the mineral-rich country, which a majority of Salvadorans would like to become the first in the world to prohibit metal mining permanently. A bill to ban the industry has the support of more than 62% of the population and was initially backed by the ruling FMLN party.

The canton of San Sebastián stands as an emblem of a past where mining companies were given free rein to mine, resulting in the contamination of fresh water. Milwaukee-based Commerce Group ran a gold mining operation in the area until 1999. The community has nothing to show for decades of gold extraction but the famous bright orange waters of the San Sebastián river, a classic sign of acid mine drainage from large-scale gold mining. The Salvadoran environment and natural resources ministry tested the water in 2012 and found nine times the accepted levels of cyanide and 1,000 times the accepted levels of iron.

Without a clean water supply, local subsistence activities have been devastated. Residents are forced to buy bottled water, but continue to use the highly toxic water from the river for feeding livestock, bathing, and doing dishes.

Experiences like that of San Sebastián have galvanised people in other parts of the country. In the northern department of Cabañas, neighbourhood associations, church groups and environmental groups have organised a strong campaign against a cyanide leach gold mine proposed by Vancouver-based Pacific Rim. With the help of a Spanish NGO, Asociación Catalana de Ingeniería Sin Fronteras, a community organisation in Cabañas has armed itself with an extensive baseline study of its water and started implementing measures to improve water quality. Local groups have also led the national campaign for a permanent ban on metal mining, and were initially backed by the broad-based civil society coalition called La Mesa Nacional Frente a la la Minería Metálica.

As Manuel Perez-Rocha of the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies observed during a recent fact-finding mission to El Salvador involving 45 international delegates from 12 different countries: “The contrast between the communities exposes the myths of mega mining. Rather than generate wealth for the communities, decades of mining have left the people impoverished in San Sebastián, whereas the communities of Cabañas are well organised and are exploring their own vision for development.”

Salvadorans are simultaneously trying to pave the way for a clean water future through an ambitious new water bill currently being debated at the national assembly. The proposed bill would engage 25 different government agencies in a series of measures ranging from universalaccess to water and sanitation to protecting source water and prohibiting activities that would destroy watersheds. It would establish a hierarchy of water use that would prioritise clean water for human consumption and food production.

Meanwhile, both Commerce Group and Pacific Rim are using a World Bank trade tribunal to circumvent community consent and state regulation. They are suing the Salvadoran government for more than $400m through the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Dispute (ICSID), whose mandate is to protect investment rights.

The legal challenge appears to have have had a chilling effect politically. Negotiations around policies that would be unfavourable to the mining industry have become gridlocked, and civil society actors fear the ruling party may make concessions to the pro-mining opposition. If ICSID forces El Salvador to pay the companies, it would make goals such as universal access to water and sanitation impossible.

As scientists and world leaders deliberate on how to fix the global water crisis, there should be greater international support for communities and countries attempting to forge new paths away from water-destructive economies. If El Salvador overcomes the odds and becomes the first country in the world to ban metal mining, it could serve as a model for a world grappling with the

the threat of an imminent water crisis.

With a recent poll showing a close race between the ruling party and the pro-mining opposition for the 2014 presidential election, the window for change may be closing.

 

source- http://www.guardian.co.uk/

A regulatory black hole- The liquid Gold


 Gargi Parsai, The Hindu

Companies that use the natural resource for profit pay no charge or royalty for the raw water they use — only a nominal ‘cess’ varying from State to State (a few paise per kilolitre).

There are no credible data available in the country on the quantum of the groundwater, surface or spring water that is being extracted and used by the bottled water and beverages industry, even in the authorised sector.

Companies that use the natural resource for profit pay no charge or royalty for the raw water they use — only a nominal ‘cess’ varying from State to State (a few paise per kilolitre).

Officials admit to proliferation of unauthorised manufacturers who are selling “just about any water — be it rainwater, river or nallah water” as ‘treated’ bottled water under different brand names.

The Water Resources Ministry puts the onus of ensuring quality (including display of composition of the packaged natural mineral or drinking water) and quantity on the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), which comes the Department of Consumer Affairs. Sources in the Ministry also point out that although “municipal water is cheapest and assured in quality” water pipelines cannot be laid in all nooks and corners of the country. Places devoid of municipal water supply are increasingly getting dependent on water tankers or bottled water for drinking purposes. The situation worsens during drought months.

Of the 5,842 blocks assessed in the country in 2009, 802 were over-exploited for groundwater; 169 blocks were critical; 523 were semi-critical; and 4,277 were safe.

Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) Chairman Sushil Gupta says the Board does not give permission for groundwater extraction in over-exploited zones. In critical areas, permission is given for extracting 50 per cent of the water the company can recharge; in semi-critical, excavation can be done equivalent to 100 per cent rechargeable water; and in safe zones 200 per cent of rechargeable water can be extracted.

The BIS has to ensure that any company or individual seeking quality certification for using groundwater as raw material has a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the CGWB. It also has to ensure compliance with physical, chemical and microbiological standards. But there is no systematic monitoring to ensure that excess quantities are not extracted and standards are being maintained as is obvious from the numerous brand names flooding the markets. The BIS could not be reached for comment.

The 14 States that have adopted the Central Model Ground Water Regulation Bill are free to give permission to beverages and bottled water companies for extraction of groundwater and more often than not, with little monitoring. For the States that do not have the Act in place, permission is taken from the Centre. Again, no permission is required or taken for drawing river, canal or natural spring water for bottling or use in soft drinks.

Union Secretary for Water Resources S.K. Sarkar feels the problem should have a long-term solution like mapping of aquifers to set limits on how much water can be extracted, at what place, with what recharge, at what distance between wells and at what depth.

The 12th Five-Year Plan will see three-dimensional aquifer mapping and participatory management to decide how much water can be allocated to various users, including industry.

 

Greenpeace slams Maharashtra for diverting water


MUMBAI, May 31, 2013

The Hindu

Despite the drought in Maharashtra, the State government diverted water to thermal power plants in scarcity regions, said Greenpeace on Thursday. Releasing data on water diversions from dams, Jai Krishna, a Greenpeace campaigner, said that an analysis of water consumption by coal-fired thermal power plants during the worst drought in 40 years has exposed instances of wrong prioritisation.

Four State-owned power plants — Bhusawal in Jalgaon district, Parli in Beed district, Paras in Akola, and one in Nasik with an installed capacity of 3,680 MW — are in drought-affected districts. While the Parli plant has been shut from February 15 this year, the government had approved in December 2012 a provision of 5,000 million litres of water from the Mudgal barrage in Parbhani, which had reported zero storage in December 2012, said Mr. Krishna.

The Bhusawal and Paras thermal plants used 10,350 million litres from January to March 2013.

Two reservoirs in the region, Jayakwadi and Majalgaon, were nearing dead storage levels. While the Bhusawal plant gets water from Hatnur dam, Paras is supplied water from private barrages on the Mun river. Eight talukas in Jalgaon suffer acute water scarcity and even Jalgaon city has no water as two dams are completely dry, Greenpeace said.

In view of acute scarcity of water, the government resolved in January that water from big, small and medium projects would only be used for drinking purposes.

However, the government proposed power plants with a capacity of 13,120 MW in these drought-affected areas and water for them was granted by a high-powered committee. In Vidarbha too, power plants with a capacity of 55,000 MW have been proposed. Greenpeace listed eight plants with a total capacity of 9,440 MW in water-scarce districts. Water supply from dams had been approved for these plants.

Mr. Krishna said that to generate one MW of coal-based power, 4,000 to 5,000 litres of water are needed per hour.

Greenpeace has called for a cumulative water impact assessment in the river basins, halt to diversion of water, and an energy policy which is less water-intensive.

“No wastage”

However, a spokesperson for Mahagenco, the State’s power-producing utility, clarified that water for drinking was the first priority, and all seven of its power plants had their own recycling plants and did not waste water.

In Parli, the situation is such that there cannot be any more water supply from other sources.

He also said power too was essential in the State and the utility could not shut down plants across the board.

 

#India – Irked by dalit’s buffalo, man kills girl #Vaw #WTFnews


HISAR, TNN : Infuriated over a dalit’s buffalo rubbing its back against the wall of his house and dirtying it, a man allegedly drowned a 12-year-old girl in a pond at Banbhori village in Hisar district on Wednesday. The police registered a case of murder against the accused and arrested him.

According to the police complaint lodged by the girl’s grandfather, Ram Kumar, she was pushed into the pond by Rakesh Kumar alias Raka, a 24-year-old Jat.

“My granddaughter had gone to the pond where the buffalo was drinking water on Monday,” Ram Kumar said in the FIR. “Rakesh told her not to bring cattle near the pond or he would push her into the water.” Rakesh’s house is located on the way to the pond

According to DSP Barwala Jai Prakash, the complainant said his buffalo, which his granddaughter Munni took to the pond every evening, habitually rubbed its back against the wall of Rakesh’s house. On Wednesday, the animal instinctively repeated the act. When Rakesh saw the wall had been dirtied, he allegedly pushed Munni into the pond.

“When Munni did not return home till late evening, I told my neighbours about it and started searching for her,” Ram Kumar said. “When we reached the pond, we saw her body floating.”

“A case under Section 320 of the IPC and the SC/ST Act has been registered against the accused,” said Rahul Sharma, superintendent of police, Hisar. “Police teams have arrested the accused. They will produce him in court and demand his remand.”

Prakash said the police were recording the statements of the girl’s family and probing the matter.

Village sarpanch Chandi Ram claimed the two parties held a three-hour meeting on Thursday and struck a compromise. “The girl’s father will submit an affidavit to the police and the court regarding the compromise,” he said. “It seemed unlikely the youth had drowned the girl.”

 

 

#India – Lead in drinking water stunts kids’ growth


DC |
Bengaluru: With the city facing a shortage of clean drinking water, the National Referral Centre for Lead Projects in India (NRCLPI), based at St John’s Hospital, Bengaluru, is engaged in a project to evaluate polluted rivers around the city that are major source of lead poisoning.
The NRCLPI is working on the project in association with undergraduate students across six cities — Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, Lucknow, Dehradun and Karad. The three-month project is expected to be completed by June 2013, prior to the onset of the monsoon.
The data collected after analysis will be submitted to government bodies and policy makers, says Dr Thuppil Venkatesh, principal adviser, Quality Council of India (QCI) and NRCLPI.
Lead affects the growth and development of cognitive function among children and reduces their IQ. Among adults it affects the kidneys, bones, muscles and also blood pressure.
With the help of NRCLPI experts, the student volunteers will collect samples for analysis using the latest technology. The samples will be evaluated for lead content in soil, in agricultural products and in drinking water within 500 metres of the flowing and highly contaminated rivers and water bodies in these six cities of study. The data will be used to correlate with the health status and Blood Lead Levels (BLL) of the people living in and around the places taken up for the study.
“Rivers in these six cities are now highly polluted, especially with contaminating lead due to increasing industrial activities, mainly from lead-based industries,” says Dr Venkatesh.
“Cattle drink this water. Water from these highly contaminated rivers is used for agricultural purposes and it also recharges the nearby ground water.”
NRCLPI has conducted similar studies on lead contamination, one of which resulted in unleaded gasoline being used across the country. NRCLPI also played a major role in bringing down the content of lead in paints.
If it can rid river water of lead contamination it will go a long way in preventing many illnesses. If this project is successful, it can be extrapolated to other rivers in other cities where a similar situation is seen, Dr Venkatesh said.

 

#RIP- Mahant Veer Bhadra Mishra, Sankat Mochan Mandir Kashi-Benaras


 

A deeply spiritual man, who has ensured Benaras-Kashi remained peaceful and calm after the ghastly attack on the Sankat Mochan Mandir(7.3.2006), Mahant Veer Bhadra Mishra passed away yesterday
Deeply Committed to India s syncretic ethos, opposing the politics of division and the demolition of the Babri Masjid Mahantji s dream of a clean Ganga Mata remains a distant dream

We deeply mourn his loss

He had been part of CJP-MSD s meeting in Mumbai on 27.7.2006 after the ghastly train bombings in Mumbai appealing for peace and cal, emphasising that no Faith sanctions Terror and Violence

 

 

 

Professor Veer Bhadra Mishra was an engineer and Hindu priest who has dedicated his life to clean up his beloved River Ganges. “I am a part of Ganga and Ganga is a part of me,” he used to say. “I want not a single drop of sewage going into the river.” Besides an activist campaign that has educated millions about problems facing rivers around the world. Mishra, a former professor of hydraulics, has launched practical projects. One of these now provides clean drinking water through new wells to six neighboring villages whose residents were getting sick on Ganges water. He was also working hard with University of California scientists on plans for an alternative technology system. It is powered by gravity rather than electrical power, uses bacteria and algae to eliminate pollutants, and not only purifies river water but can be used to irrigate farmland and grow fish. In 1999 Dr. Mishra was nominated by Time Magazine as “hero of the planet” for bringing the plight of the Ganga to the world’s attention, inspiring other “riverkeepers” around the world.

CJP

 

Maharashtra faces worst drought in 40 years #wakeup


By, TNN | Mar 9, 2013,

Maharashtra faces worst drought in 40 years
A high-ranking bureaucrat said situation in five districts—Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Jalna, Beed and Osmanbad—is so bad that the existing drinking water will last only till the end of this month.
MUMBAI: Summer may still be a couple of months away but in 3,905 villages in 12 districts of Marathwada and western Maharashtra, faced with one of the worst droughts since 1972, people have started migrating to Mumbai and neighbouring Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

A high-ranking bureaucrat said situation in five districts—Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Jalna, Beed and Osmanbad—is so bad that the existing drinking water will last only till the end of this month. “For the state political leadership and bureaucracy, it will be a real testing time. After March, we will have to transport water to these areas either from neighbouring districts or even by trains from Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh,” he said.

But the official said that unlike 1972, when the state had to face shortage of foodgrains and unemployment too, this time around it is only water that is in scarcity.

“We have adequate foodgrains stock. In 1972, 30 lakh villagers had reported for work under the employment guarantee scheme. Now, against the availability of 20 lakh jobs, only 2 lakh villagers have sought work. We are providing work to all,” he said.

But he admitted that the available water in dams is grim. In the badly-affected Marathwada region, on Thursday, only 9% water was left in the dams compared with 30 per cent last year. In western Maharashtra, the stock is 32 per cent against 40 per cent last year. Significantly, situation in Vidarbha, north Maharashtra and Konkan appears to be better.

On the financial assistance from the Centre, the bureaucrat said, under the National Disaster Response Fund, against the demand of Rs 1,800 crore, the state has so far received Rs 778 crore and now a fresh proposal for financial assistance of Rs 2,200 crore has been submitted. “A central team was here last week. We have argued our case. We expect the empowered group of ministers will come to our rescue,” he said.

The bureaucrat pointed out that the state was facing such a situation owing to extreme exploitation of ground water. “Look at the history of the state. Once in a decade, we are facing drought, but we have not learnt lessons. We are overdrawing underground water. We have concentration of sugar factories in Solapur and Osmanabad, as a result, there was highest consumption of water in these districts,” he said.

 

#India- Well got robbed in Amravati #WTFnews


 

By Jai Maharashtra News | 23 Feb Sat, 2013 |

Amravati: In a very strange case here at Amravati, a village named Kovala Jateshwar, which is almost 50 km away from Amravati, the local villagers are facing a unique problem.

The locals have complained that the well in their village has gone missing. They claimed that their well has been stolen.

Under the National Drinking water policy, two years ago, the village was granted Rs 36 lakh to avail the supply of drinking water.

Under this policy a water hole and water tank was build. But in fact one cannot see any of these in the village. Later the villagers found out that the well showed by the Grampanchayat actually belonged to a peasant.

Apparently the locals are wondering where the well actually went.

According to the sources, the documents have record stating that the work of the water hole and water tank is completed. But the fact is, until now no well is built in this village, only a pit is formed to build the well. The process to build water tank has not even started.

The village has only one drinking water pool through which the local villagers use to fill water. The local people are blaming the Grampanchayat for this situation.

When the state is severely hit by the drought, one cannot believe the fact that funds raised from the government policies are being misused.

 

Tata Steel – spending gallons of water to keep golf course green, while 76 slums without drinking water


 

JVM protests at JAMSHEDPUR Jusco office

SATURDAY, 22 SEPTEMBER 2012 , Jamsehdpur
PNS

More than 3,000 residents of slum areas and JVM activists led by Jamshedpur MP Ajoy Kumar staged massive demonstration at Jusco office for nearly three hours on Friday over failure of the company in providing power and water in 76 urban slums near Tata Steel command areas.

Leading the demonstration Ajoy Kumar said that they were forced to take such an agitation for the benefit of nearly seven lakhs urban slum-dwellers after Tata Steel and Jusco officials failed to heed to their demands.

“Though we had several meetings with officials of Tata Steel and Jusco over the issues of providing power and drinking water to the urban slum dwellers but nothing has been done so far. This has been laid down in the clause of the lease agreement between Tata Steel and State Government that they would have to provide civic amenities to slums near company township. But unfortunately, nothing happened forcing us to take up agitation,” said the MP.

The MP said that the Jusco was requested to atleast provide community taps in such urban slums and the cost of which would be borne by MP fund.

The MP accompanied by JVM central secretary Abhay Singh and other leaders threatened that they would chalk out strategy if Tata Steel does not take up any efforts in providing civic amenities in the slums within 10 days.

“We might even lock up Jusco gate if they fail to address the issue. They should provide basic amenities to urban slums in accordance with the lease agreement clause,” he noted. Jusco general manager town services Dhananjay Mishra refused to comment on the issue.

The JVM leader said, that on the one hand, the company is spending thousands of gallons of water for keeping the golf course green, but it is doing nothing to meet the need of drinking water to the slums surrounding it.

Meanwhile, the JVM functionaries declared that they would carry out similar protest every weekend unless the basic civic facilities are not extended to all the slums surrounding the company

Independence Day, Gram Sabha Meeting, Goons & Chemplast Sanmar #blackday15august


 

Piyush Manush, in Salem , 15/8/2012


Chemplast Sanmar has dumped huge quantities of Chemicals & Heavy Metals which is constantly polluting our drinking water source the Kaveri and has killed 500 odd wells by turning the water toxic. It has made lives difficult people in its vicinity by severe air, water & soil pollution it has caused.
Sreela, a campaigner from Chennai working on the Mettur issue has been mobilizing people to attend the Gram Sabha meeting slated to be held on the Independence day. Sreela along with Madesh & Ganesh anna from GWADU, Gonur West Agriculturists Union were having tea before proceeding to the Gram Sabha meeting, were intercepted by 15 goons led by kalai kovan,a ruling party functionary. They used very slang & filthy language against Sreela outraging all modesty and went on to threaten her with murder if they found her working on pollution in mettur.

The activists were stopped from going to the Gram Sabha Meeting and were warned of severe consequences if they went on to attend the meeting. For two days notices were printed on behalf of the union and were distributed in the villages asking them to attend the Gram Sabha Meeting. The people gathered in quite sizeable numbers for the meet. Madesh & Ganesh anna refused to be intimidated by the threats and went ahead to attend the meeting and also presented demands on behalf of the union and the pollution affected communities.The Company goons had threatened about any campaign against the PVC manufacturer Chemplast Sanmar. The company has been using all tactics to quite any murmur of protest. Sreela has launched a complaint against Kalai Kovan and his goons. A CSR has been issued by the karmalaikoodal police station. It is proposed to be present in large numbers tomorrow to force the SP to act against the Goons and to get to the people who had planned the attack.

I will seek an appointment with the SP tomorrow and would request all those who have read this to be present. The Pollution & loot needs to be tackled as it is our & our children lives which are at stake.

 

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