News Wrap


Raichur in Northern Karnataka, is located between two rivers, the Krishna and Tungabhadra. The land is cracked and a dust bowl. Janakiramnagar camp has three water tanks or ponds, with muddywater. The muddy brown water is used for drinking. Multiple studies have found arsenic contamination of ground water in the region. Karnataka lost the share of funds it received, as part of the National Rural Drinking Water Program (NRDWP), because of mismanagement and not spending the money allocated to it. The central government stipulations are that states must maintain two accounts for managing funds disbursed for the various projects under NRDWP. But between 2010 and 2017, Karnataka was found to be operating 108 accounts. Citing inflated bills and unauthorized parking of funds, the allotted money was sent back to the central treasury. From 2013, the NR DWP program used R. 81,168 crores in five years to improve rural water supply. But only an additional 5.5% of rural habitations have been benefited. Between 1971 and 2018. Raichur has had deficit rainfall. The Krishna river water has been a subject of conflict amongst Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. A 100 kms downstream is the Gugal barrage in Raichur. The parched land soaks up the water. The thirst for water remains unquenched for the 150 families in Raichur.

Mangroves Destroyed To Build Helipads
The West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) is neglecting the massive destruction of mangroves in the Ganga Sagar area (South 24 Parganas District, West Bengal) since mid Mar 2019. Complaints from the Gangasagar Bakkhali Development Authority (GBDA), formed in 2013, under the state urban development and Municipal affairs (UDMA) department, point to state PWD authorities using soil from "Dheusagar", a mangrove preserve zone, to set up a helipad at Gangasagar for ministers and political leaders, during administrative and election programs, on the island. More than 150 mangroves that help in stabilizing the coast lines, and preventing embankment erosions, due to waves and storms have been destroyed for setting up of the helipad project. Coastal damage from hurricanes and typhoons is more severe, in areas where mangroves have been cleared. By filtering out sediments, the forest also protects coral reefs and seagrass meadows, from being smothered in sediments. The trees help reduce the impact of Natural disasters, including Tsunamis.

Manas River Basin
The Manas river basin is the largest in Bhutan, flowing North to South for 272 kms in Bhutan, and 104 kms in Assam, before joining the Brahmaputra, and eventually falling in the Bay of Bengal. The river system services an extremely rich diversity of eco systems and key wildlife species, including tigers and elephants. There are two critical national parks in Bhutan - the Royal Manas National Park (108, 370 hectares), and the Manas wild life sanctuary (391,000 hectares), which is also a world heritage site. The overall catchment area spans 41,350 sq. kms, in eastern Bhutan, and in Northeast India. The US- based Global Environmental Facility had cleared theconcept in 2018, for the project, and funding to the tune of $ 8.9 million was also committed. Bhutan has rejected the Manas integrated river basin Management plan, aimed at addressing transboundary flood risks to life and livelihoods in the rapidly changing Eastern Himalayas, particularly Assam. The World Wildlife Fund Global Environment Facility has notified the cancellation of the Manas Integrated River Basin Management Project in April 2019, and has been sent to the GEF secretariat, according to GEF procedures. This follows the decision from the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Commission of Bhutan, not to pursue the project. Concerns were raised, given the project is trans boundary. There is no full detailed explanation, backing up the cancellation decision.

Venezuela In New Cold War
In Jan 2019, Juan Guaido, the young, American backed opposition leader, sworn himself in as president, pending new elections. He based his claim to the presidency, on being head of the National Assembly, which president Nicolas Maduro has attempted to sideline. Protesters in Venezuela are battling with security forces, as Guaido has urged the military to join his revolt against president Maduro. USA imposed draconian financial and economic sanctions on Venezuela in Jan 2019. Russia which has substantial investments in Venezuelan oil, sent two Tupoler bombers to Caracas in Man 2019. The Kremlin also helped Maduro to sell $1.2 billion worth of Gold reserves. Russia dispatched some 100 military personnel to Caracas, allegedly special forces members, to serve as advisers. Venezuela has become part of a proxy war, between foreign powers. The Maduro regime includes figures who are deeply involved in drug trafficking. The generals have plundered the country's vast mineral resources, from the abundant oil wealth to diamonds and gold.

At least 29 prisoners were killed and 19 police wounded in clashes at a jail, in Acarigua town, in the Portuguesa state (western Venezuela), on 24 May 2019. The incident at the police station occurred when, police special forces (FAES) tried to stop a massive prison break. Besides locking food and medicines, more than 400 people are believed to have been killed in Venezuelan jails, since 2011.

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Vol. 52, No. 6, Aug 11 - 17, 2019