SANDRP

Shimla Gujran in Yamuna baisn: Journey from a flourishing village to a living hell

Shimla Gujran

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Shimla Gujran village on the other side of DN-2 (Photo by Vikas Sharma, village doctor who had to fix an air tight aluminimum framed glass door at his clinic to avoid to deadly stench)

The news of ammonia laden pollution entering Delhi’s water supply via Yamuna River has become more of a routine. The periodical nuisance forces closure of Delhi Jal Board (DJB) water treatment plants for few days, leading in disruption of water supply to lakhs of people. But as usual, within couple of days things fall back to normalcy until the cycle strike back.

The source of pollution remains undisclosed with only hint that the origin presumably a drain carrying pollutants from Haryana sneaks into river somewhere upstream of Delhi. Much is not talked or heard about the mystic drain and the problem largely remains unfixed. Haunted time and again Delhi Government has now installed one Ammonia-Neutralizers and planning to buy more as a remedial measures.

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DRP News Bulletin 02 May 2016 (Patoda: How a village in drought hit Maharashtra achieved water independence)

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Patoda: How a village in drought hit State turned water self-reliant  At a time when almost every village in drought-hit Marathwada is facing acute water scarcity tiny Patoda, on the fringes of water-starved Aurangabad city, is offering valuable lesson in water management conservation and harvesting. Though it is surrounded by arid villages but Patoda’s residents regard water as more precious than money. They follow strict rules about usage and strictly carry the water audits. Water meters are installed in every households and entire village recycles each drop of waste water it generates. Today no rain water flows out of the village. Percolation has recharged the aquifers and the water table has risen. So effective is its water conservation model that Patoda has now become a model for the rest of Marathwada and has won 22 state & national awards. But it did not happened over nights. In fact it is a result of over 10 years joint efforts done by villagers.

The water sources of the village like Kham River, had been reduced to a nullah with unchecked release of sewage and effluents & wells had no potable water. Even the govt water supply scheme was neither enough nor potable.  All this forced villagers to look elsewhere for a solution. The first step was saving rainwater by building several bunds across the nullahs, stabilisation ponds set up for waste water where multiple forms of bacteria and algae act together to clean waste water which is then used for farming. The gram panchayat decided to set up a water filtration plant on its own. Then came the concept of a water meter and ATM machine. The gram panchayat provides 20 litres of filtered mineral water free to all the 581 families that use ATM cards. There are water meters installed to curb excess use. Water from the govt supply scheme and some wells is used for washing and cleaning. Though there were govt funds for various schemes the core contribution came from the villagers.

Meanwhile in Uttar Pradesh, a group of villagers from Malakpur in Shamli district are trying to breathe new life into Katha, a 150-km long river which is dead now.  The self-made engineering plan is to put up check dams to harvest monsoon water along the one kilometre stretch of the river bed which is 5-40 feet deep. At present, in the absence of check dams, it flows into the Yamuna. Over the last two weeks the villagers have launched a “one house, one pot” water donation movement. In Madhya Pradesh people of two villages (Chhari & Tori in Palera block) in Tiakamgarh district in Bundelkhand got together to build a 150 ft long, 15 ft wide and 5 ft tall stop dam in Sanghani river to conserve water during monsoon.  On the other hand, about 20 villages in the drought-hit Navalgund taluk of Dharward district stand as a stark contrast to the calamity prevailing in the neighbourhood. A majority of farmers in these villages are unaffected by the drought. They are able to cultivate crops and keep them healthy by sufficiently watering them, and are making profits all because of  are the farm ponds.  The farmers of Mandya district Karnataka which is notorious for farmers sucicides is presently experiencing an agricultural revolution of sorts as farmers  are now selling organic produce for a profit.

DROUGHT 2016

National India is the biggest virtual exporter of water According to the Water Footprint Network India is a large virtual net export of water because of agricultural products. Its database for India shows that except for Brahmaputra and Mahanadi, all river basins with a population of more than 20 million experience water scarcity for a major part of the year. The two most populous basins Ganga & Indus suffer significant-to-severe levels of water scarcity for 7 and 11 months in a year, respectively. Also see, India’s farms have a far worse scorecard on water use The adverse effects of rice procurement in states such as Punjab & Haryana on water tables have been noted by many, including govt itself. For example, a 2014 finance ministry working paper notes that extensive rice cultivation in Punjab and Haryana has created serious erosion in water tables. No efforts have been taken to rationalize procurement destinations despite such concerns.

Op-Ed Invest in & improve micro irrigation system to cope with drought Minor irrigation structures play a significant role in recharging of wells, drought mitigation and flood control. Studies show that micro irrigation system helps save water, reduce cost of cultivation and improve crop yield.  Unfortunately, minor irrigation projects have received only scant attention from policymakers over time. Micro irrigation system comprising drip and sprinkler irrigation has greater potential to improve water use efficiency in agriculture. Despite various promotional efforts undertaken by State govts, their level of adoption and spatial spread has remained low.

MAHARASHTRA DROUGHT

Sugar cane vs Marathwada’s drought Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP  wrote in a November 2014 that a sugar factory uses 1,500 litres of water to crush one tonne of cane by the lowest estimate & in the 2014-15 season, 70 factories in Marathwada crushed around 15.4 mt of cane using 23.14 million cubic metres of water “by the lowest estimate of 1,500 litres per tonne”.  She further mentions that this amount of water would have been sufficient to irrigate 8K acres of groundnut. It could have taken care of the drinking water needs of 1.5 million people till the monsoon of 2015. A detailed piece on the Sugarcane drought saga. There are several issues here, but it is good that a serious debate is ensuing.

Aurangabad farmers seek irrigation subsidy dues pending for 3 years A group of farmers from Aurangabad district and nearby areas on 25 April staged an agitation in front of the divisional commissioner’s office demanding the release of dues towards subsidy that the govt had promised for adopting drip irrigation techniques. The govt bears around 45-55% cost of the drip irrigation system installed by the farmers in the form of subsidy. Many farmers from Marathwada have adopted the water efficient techniques of irrigation in the wake of consecutive years of deficient monsoon. With the subsidy yet to be released, the farmers are reeling under mounting debt. The protesters also alleged that there is no online registration for claiming subsidy for drip irrigation.

‘People’s Assembly’ to save Pune’s environment With Maharashtra facing its gravest water crisis in decades, a group of environmentalists and water conservationists in Pune has decided to revive an age-old tradition to formulate innovative solutions. Two non-governmental organisations Biospheres & Tellus with the backing of the Pune Municipal Corporation and the Pune Forest Division, held the first ‘Paryavaran Chavadi’ an assembly to discuss environmental problems at the Parvati Hills on 22 April. A ‘Chavadi,’ a traditional facet of Maharashtra’s rural life, is a place where the village community gathers and public business is transacted.

Posh Mumbai apartments not immune to water crisis These towers are some of the sought-after addresses in Mumbai. Apartments here command premium prices; in fact, one of the most expensive ones in the country commands Rs 1 lakh a square foot. Yet, they have to depend on water tankers, even during a good monsoon. The municipal water supply is insufficient. Although the problem in towers cannot be compared to the one faced by slum-dwellers, it illustrates how people who can afford to spend crores on a flat still have to grapple with water shortage.

OTHER STATES

Madhya Pradesh Farmer beating the drought water smart farming With no proper rain since August 2015 in MP, Pritpal Singh Randhawa have shown how to fight the rain-starved land by switching to a crop needing less water. They grew coriander and made considerable profit at a time when other farmers growing wheat or soyabean made negligible profits. The news report also mentions that the Betwa river in the region has turned bone dry. Also the trend of farmers shifting from Punjab to Central and Western India and practicing water intensive farming in dry areas is not good.

Andhra Pradesh  Kuppam staring at drinking water crisis The unusual rise in mercury levels up to 42 degrees Celsius in Kuppam in Chittoor district during the last one week is worrying people, followed by fall in the groundwater levels at several places. Villages around Kuppam town are facing severe water problem, and reports of women staging protests have come in recent days. At present, residents of Kuppam are being supplied with water once in three days, leading to uneasy situation. On 18 April, people of Dalavai Kothapalle hamlet staged a demonstration at the mandal office in Kuppam, demanding water. 

Karnataka Water in Almatti hits dead storage level Almatti, one of the major reservoirs of Karnataka and the lifeline of Vijayapura district, has reached dead storage level over a month before the arrival of monsoon. Officials said the occurrence was not unprecedented. The available water can be used till June, when the monsoon arrives, the official said. Though norms prohibit the use of dead storage water as it helps maintain ecological balance, a provision has been made to use it for drinking purpose during emergencies.

Telangana VVIPs guzzle as Hyderabad struggles for water Interestingly, the VVIP consumers also owe huge dues to the  board. The CM’s camp office itself owes bill dues of Rs 65,962 to the water board till April this year. Raj Bhavan owes about Rs 1.14 lakh & Even the assembly owes a mammoth Rs1 Cr to the water board. It was surprising that only a few offices including the assembly, council and protocol offices have been consuming such a huge quantity of water. Most of the water is being utilized for nurseries and watering plants on the premises of the assembly, instead of using recycled water for these purposes.

Uttar Pradesh Ponds go bone-dry in Bundelkhand villages With May yet to arrive, the Gorai-Mughli village in Banda village faces acute scarcity of drinking and irrigation water, as out of 142 hand pumps, 36 are damaged. Not a single government tube well, canal or pipeline is close to the village. Water-boring has also proved difficult due to the rough terrain. According villagers the last time the ponds went dry like this was in 1989.  Out of the 12K odd Chandeli and Bundeli era traditional ponds known for their engineering brilliance which dotted the Bundelkhand landscape, only 2K remains.  

WATER

SANDRP Blog Submission to Mihir Shah Committee For Restructuring of CWC & CGWB It is proposed that the current CWC and CGWB should be reconstituted along following lines. Encouraged by communication from the committee and MoWR that the suggestions need not be limited by the TORs since TORs are also extendable, I have proposed a new institutional structure that is different than the current one. A brief outline of this was presented at the 6th meeting of Mihir Shah headed committee on Jan 11, 2016, it is elaborated here further.

INTER STATE WATER DISPUTES

Karnataka Give and take water, govt tells Maharashtra According to CM Siddaramaiah the govt will explore a permanent solution on sharing water from the Krishna River & its tributaries with the upper riparian Maharashtra to meet the drinking water solution during summers on a “give and take” basis. Maharashtra needed 4tmc water from Almatti dam (for Jat, Akkalkot & Solapur) to meet drinking water needs & around same quantity of water was required for north Karnataka districts. Meanwhile in response to Karnataka’s request for 4tmc of water, Maharashtra on 18 April released 1tmc.

WETLANDS & WATER BODIES

Karnataka Asia’s second largest tank could dry up soon With heat wave sweeping across Karnataka, the water level has depleted in Shanti Sagara tank, said to be second largest tank ever built in Asia -after Joysagar Lake in Sibsagar town of Assam. According to Pakirappa H, a member of zilla panchayat last summer, the tank had 25 ft of water and now the water level is just a few feet. If the evaporation due to increasing temperature and use continue like this, the lake will dry up within two weeks. The 800-year-old tank, located about 270 km from Bengaluru, has a circumfer ence of 30 km and water spread area of 6550 acres.

Telangana Save city lakes from pollution: HC Making it clear that separate enclosures are a must to protect the Hussainsagar and other lakes in the city and Ranga Reddy district from pollution during Ganesh immersion, the Hyderabad High Court on 25 April asked the govt to take steps for construction of such enclosures. Stressing on the need for a coordinated effort between the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation and the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority for restricting the height of idols, the bench questioned the counsel representing GHMC as to why the civic body did not take steps to clean the lake.

Maharashtra MoEF misses deadline for Kopri wetlands reclassification, gets extn On 15 Jan this year, NGT had given the MoEF 3 months’ time to visit the wetlands & mangroves and classify the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) in this area. This direction came soon after greens filed a petition in the tribunal stating that the MoEF had faultily reclassified the wetland in Kopri from CRZ1 to CRZ 3, thus allowing construction activities in this green zone in Kopri. An area that falls under CRZ 1, which cannot have any constructions on it as against CRZ 3 where there is no restriction. The deadline to submit the report was extended by a good 10 weeks. The next hearing will be held after two and half months on July 11. The MoEF has enough time to survey the wetlands and submit their report this time.

Op-Ed Shrinking wetlands by Manas KR Das In the illustrative first part the author finds pollution and encroachment two single biggest reasons behind vanishing and degradation of India’s wetlands. He also mentions that massive urbanization is posing a serious threat to the protection of the wetlands. In the second part the writer concludes that public apathy and dearth of regulations leading to rampant commercial exploitation of wetlands by govts and private builders. Furthermore, river channels & irrigation tanks are excluded from protection status under the Wetland Rules.

HYDRO POWER 

Arunachal Man behind stalling 780Mw Nyamjang Chhu HEP arrested  Sad to know that Lama Lobsang Gyatso, a fierce opponent of hydro power projects in Tawang and General Secretary of the Save Mon Region Federation has been taken to Tawang Police station following his comments that Guru Rinpoche, the Abbot of Tawang Monastery should stay away from the Hydro Power issues in Tawang district. It is not clear whether he has been arrested. When contacted, the OC of Tawang Police did not give any comments on the issue.

FLOOD

Assam Nearly 1lakh people affected by floods Unusual drought, flood, hail storm, snowing, heat stroke going together in country. Pre-monsoon floods like the ones being witnessed now are a rarer occurrence. Nearly 1 lakh people have been affected by the floods so far in the districts of Jorhat, Sivasagar, Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Cachar and Charaideo. So far about 13,000 hectares of crop area is under water in the state. Train services on the Silchar-Lumding-Guwahati line are seriously affected due to landslides at 4 places between Lumding and Badarpur.  Arunachal Pradesh is also badly hit by the rains. Parts of Nagaland, Mizoram and Tripura have received rainfall and hailstorm.

Centre  Real time data for flood forecast Statement by Prof. Sanwar Lal Jat in Lok Sabha on 28 April 2016.  Ministry has taken up National Hydrology Project that envisages setting up of a system for timely and reliable water resources data acquisition, storage, collation and management. It will help in gathering hydro-metrological data for analysis on a real time basis.  Also The National Water Informatics Centre shall provide a Single Window source of updated data on water resources & allied themes including real time data as per availability; and provide value added products and services to all stake holders for its management and sustainable development for the benefit of all communities across the nation.

RIVERS

National High air and water pollution in India’s 41 tier-II cities Central Pollution Control Board finds that the waste treatment capacity of the cities barely covers 10% of their sewage. Water quality monitoring indicates that the rivers are polluted in downstream of major urban centres due to large-scale water abstraction and discharge of untreated/partially treated waste water. According to the environment minister, municipal corporations are largely unable to handle the entire sewage generated with the existing infrastructure. Also see Delhi is home to unbreathable air & undrinkable water  

Odisha River water in state not safe for drinking According to Bikram Keshari Arukha State forest & environment minister water in none of 11 major rivers or their tributaries in the state were suitable for drinking. He added that Kathajodi river in Cuttack and Daya river in Bhubaneswar were among the worst-polluted rivers. Incidentally, the twin cities of Cuttack and Bhubaneswar witnessed spurt in jaundice cases, caused by polluted water.

Maharashtra NGT pulls up PCMC over Pavana river pollution A week after the green court slapped a show-cause notice on the Pimpri Chichwad Municipal Corporation for polluting the Pavana River, the officers remained blissfully unaware about the order. Although the legal department admitted to receiving the show-cause notice, the corporation’s remained oblivious.

NARMADA Sardar Sarovar dam-affected people on hunger strike for rehab Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar along with Sardar Sarovar dam-affected people from Barwani & Dhar districts started a three-day hunger strike in Bhopal on 27 April  demanding rehabilitation of the 7000 homeless. Patkar said the height of the dam was increased from 122 to 139 metres and now the gates could be closed anytime, which would allow more water storage in the submergence area. Patkar termed the govt’s complete rehabilitation claim as false and said 7000 families from Madhya Pradesh, 1200 from Maharashtra and 300 from Gujarat are yet to get relief. 

GANGA Centre Wildlife Institute to undertake biodiversity restoration WII 3 year long project to work towards the restoration of select aquatic species that thrive in the river will cost cost Rs25cr. Without ensuring adequate flow in the river, the success of project is under suspicion. For a flowing river govt must first refrain from building any new dam and hydro project and allow maximum e-flow downstream existing dams, barrages and hydro projects including Run of the Rivers. Working towards catchment restoration and reviving drying natural springs and streams is also desirable and sustainable solution in the long run.

Ganga clean-up plan to revive polluted Doon streams The Union ministry of environment has written to ministry of river development to get two drying streams (Rispana and Bindal which flow in Dehradun, enter the river Suswa before falling into the Ganga) of Uttarakhand revived under the Ganga rejuvenation plan. Municipal figures show that the streams are now highly polluted as about 30 metric tons of the city’s daily waste enters them. Another major cause of the rising pollution in them is that over 45 slums housing about 30,000 dwellers are situated on Rispana and Bindal banks.

CPCB instructs 31 municipalities to set up STPs on Ganga banks To prevent disposal of solid waste into the Ganga, the Central Pollution Control Board under the Namami Gange project has instructed the municipalities of 31 towns built on the river front across the state to set up sewage treatment and solid waste management plants. Instructions have also been issued to all municipalities to ensure door-to-door collection of solid waste and submit a project report on the same.

Uttar Pradesh Ganga ‘drying up’ as summer intensifies across India Locals in Allahabad, where Yamuna and the mythical river Saraswati meets Ganga at Prayag, expressed their concern over the falling water-level of the Ganga amid worsening heat wave conditions. The condition is such that there is no water in the river. People can easily walk and cross the river from one end to another. The water level has become so less people are extremely worried as Prayag is losing its importance.  The country is reeling under severe summer with temperature touching almost 45 degree Celsius in many parts of the country.

Gharials, turtles at risk as Ganga shrinks to a trickle The Ganga is a pale shadow of itself this year in the district, and the turtles, fish and gharials its waters teem with are at grave risk. Rivers are being deprived of essential flow when it matters most of survival of aquatic life which figures nowhere in water distribution policies of respective State govts. No doubt there is less water available than found in previous years, but it is also true that continue water diversion from barrages Madhya Ganga at Bijnor and Bhimgoda & Cheela in Haridwar for irrigation and hydro power has compounded the situation further. Last year, in its blog SANDRP has highlighted how Farakka Barrage is impacting Ganga River, aquatic system and fishing communities.  

NGT asks CPCB, UPPCB to analyse soil samples near Aril river The green court has directed the Central and Uttar Pradesh pollution monitoring bodies to analyse soil samples from agricultural farms near Aril river in Moradabad district. It also directed Central Ground Water Authority to carry out a detailed survey of ground water contamination and submit a report by May 30. A paper mill has been continuously discharging its untreated effluents and dumping solid waste into Aril river which meets Ramganga at Bareilly. Consequently, Aril is blocked causing an overflow during the monsoons. As a result, the water and the effluents run into the adjoining agricultural lands in Sambhal district and damage crops and planted vegetation.

YAMUNA Haryana  Water shortage hits several dists as Yamuna level drops After Ganga its Yamuna. Last year in April there was 13761 cusec water at Bijnor that has come down to 892 cusec this year. Similarly the average discharge of water at Hathnikund Barrage on the Yamuna this month stood at 2,278 cusecs against 5,716 cusecs recorded in 2014 and 6,323 cusecs in April 2015. Although post NGT order of increasing the share of Yamuna river from 160 to 352 cusec there is a little improvement and the river is still managing trickling upto Karnal which was not the case for almost past one decade. But seeing the hot spell it seems the river will turn dry completely in May 2016.

Uttar Pradesh A people’s movement in to revive Katha river A group of villagers from Malakpur in Shamli district are trying to breathe new life into Katha, a 150-km long river which is dead now. With help from a local scientist, farmers are leading the effort to turn a 1 km stretch of the barren riverbed into a lake. The self-made engineering plan is to put up check dams to harvest monsoon water along the one kilometre stretch of the river bed which is 5-40 feet deep. At present, in the absence of check dams, it flows into the Yamuna. Over the last two weeks the villagers have launched a “one house, one pot” water donation movement.

Water crisis looming large with searing temperatures, polluted Yamuna  Agra facing double whammy of increasing pollution and decreasing water level in Yamuna River. The city needs 402MLD water but able to get only 250MLD. Due to pollution authorities are forced to add 10 times more chlorine and alum than WHO standards. The situation will go out of control if pollution levels in the river increase.

SAND MINING     

Madhya Pradesh NGT seeks reply on illegal sand mining  Unsatisfied by information provided by state mining corporation, Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board, State Environment Impact Assessment Authority, over social activist Medha Patkar’s allegation that rampant illegal sand mining was on in catchment and submergence areas of Sardar Sarovar Project in 4 districts, NGT directed respondent departments to come back with complete reply on May 25.

CHINA

China starts construction of Tibet’s biggest hydropower plant on Yangtze River China has started construction of 1.2Gw Suwalong the first hydropower station on the upper reaches of the Jinsha River the headwaters of the Yangtze River at the junction of Mangkam county in Tibet & Batang county in Sichuan province. It is also reported that the dam could pave the way for other projects in the headwaters of the adjacent Nu (Salween) and Lancang (Mekong) rivers to “fuel development” of hydro power in Tibet. Critics say that  the Suwalong dam is being built at a time when the weak grid infrastructure and falling demand for electricity has left many hydropower stations lying idle in the mountainous southwest region.

THE REST OF ASIA

China’s water hegemony in Asia China is clearly not content with being the world’s most dammed country, and the only thing that could temper its dam frenzy is a prolonged economic slowdown at home. More fundamentally, China’s unilateralist approach underscores the imperative for institutionalized water cooperation in Asia, based on a balance between rights and obligations. Renewed efforts are needed to try and co-opt China in rules-based cooperation. It wasn’t geography but guns that established China’s chokehold on major transnational river systems in Asia

REST OF THE WORLD 

US Texas and Louisiana residents sue dam operator over flooding Nearly 240 Texas and Louisiana residents have sued the Sabine River Authority over March flooding that inundated hundreds of homes and closed Interstate 10. Communities in Southeast Texas and Louisiana were flooded by up to 20 inches of rain last month that forced evacuations along and near the Sabine River, which serves as a long border between the two states. Interesting to see dam operators being sued in US for wrong operation of dams, creating damages in the downstream Texas, would look forward to knowing the outcome.

CLIMATE CHANGE

India No link between extreme rainfall events & climate change: Javadekar Responding to a quarry in Parliament on 25 April Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar has admitted that there is a rise in the frequency and intensity of extreme rainfall events in the last 40-50 years in India, but doesn’t think the phenomenon is linked with climate change. Minister continues to be in denial mode about increased frequency and intensity of extreme flood events having climate change footprints.

ENVIRONMENT

Op-Ed Public policy needs to figure out the complexities of the polluter pays principle A highway cutting through Central India’s deep forests and a festival that was held along the banks of Delhi’s dying Yamuna river have thrown up related questions pertaining to the environment. In both cases, the activities were eventually condoned under the polluter pays principle which allows the project to go ahead & given the illegal/predetermined nature of certain projects, the system in the current form has aided wrong precedents. In essence, the polluter pays principle, when combined with a reading of fait accompli creates a complex nexus.  A thought-provoking Hindu Op-Ed by Neha Sinha BNHS Quoting deforestation due to NH-7 & damage to Yamuna flood plain by AOL fest, the author questions the usefulness of polluters pay principle which in most cases contradicts the Public Doctrine Trust and suggests to adopt an ecosystem services approach to understand the damage & cost of damage to environment.

You may like to see DRP News Bulletin 25 April 2016 & DRP News Bulletin 18 April 2016

Submission to Mihir Shah Committee For Restructuring of CWC & CGWB

Snap Shot of CWC Website April 2016

It is proposed that the current CWC and CGWB should be reconstituted along following lines. Encouraged by communication from the committee and MoWR that the suggestions need not be limited by the TORs since TORs are also extendable, I have proposed a new institutional structure that is different than the current one. A brief outline of this was presented at the 6th meeting of Mihir Shah headed committee on Jan 11, 2016, it is elaborated here further. Read More

Bihar Floods of 1987- V – District Khagaria

Cover photo and map from NIDM report of Bihar floods 2007

Above: Cover photo and map from NIDM report of Bihar floods 2007

Guest Blog by: Dr. Dinesh Kumar Mishra

Khagaria faced the first round of floods starting 8th July this year when the floodwaters of the Kosi, the Kareh and the Bagmati had engulfed large number of villages in the district. The Ganga and the Burhi Gandak was relatively quiet at this time despite heavy rainfall locally. It took towards the end of July that the flood level of the rivers started rising alarmingly and the Kazijaan embankment on the Burhi Gandak breached on the 2nd August in Alauli block of the district. The flood water emanating out of the gap created thus engulfed the Panchayats of Raun, Sahasi, Budhaura, Mujauna, Bhikhari Ghat, Shumbha and Burhawa Haripur. The road connecting Alauli to Khagaria was submerged in flood water and its connection with Khagaria was snapped. There was an untimely flood in the Kosi and all the Panchayats of the Beldaur block came under a sheet of water. The blocks of Chautham, Parbatta and Gogri were still spared by floods as the Ganga was maintaining its low profile. So far only 14 Panchayats of Alauli, 5 Panchayats of Chautham, 13 Panchayats of Gogri, 11 Panchayats of Beldaur, 3 Panchayats of Khagaria and only one Panchayat of Kosi was flooded. Relief programs were started in this district on the 4th August but its coverage was meager according to the local people. Rise in the levels of the Badla-Karachin embankment on the Kareh and Badla- Nagarpara embankment on the Kosi/Bagmati was causing concern among the local people. Read More

Bihar Floods in 1987 – IV – Sitamarhi

Cover photo and map from NIDM report of Bihar floods 2007

Above: Cover photo and map from NIDM report of Bihar floods 2007

Guest Blog by Dr. Dinesh Kumar Mishra

Till the end of the third week of July, rains in Sitamarhi were normal and whatever flood that normal water could cause was there in the district. But when it stared raining in the fourth week of July then just within three days, on the 27th July, the Bagmati overtopped the Muzaffarpur-Sitamarhi Road at three places and the road communication between the two towns was snapped. The road communication, however, was quickly restored on the 31st July.  On the 28th July, the Bagmati breached its right embankment near Belwa Ghat in a length of 400 meters. A flood regulator was being constructed here for the past many years to divert part of the river flow (50,000 cusecs)and make it rejoin the river downstream thus delaying this portion of the flow by 16 hours when it rejoined the mainstream. Engineers hoped that by so doing they will be able to control the floods of the river to a great extent. The under construction regulator used to get washed away every year during the rains and this was not a new thing that it was damaged this year also. Water coming out of the damaged regulator submerged the villages on the western bank of the river. The rains of the past 4-5 days were enough to flood hundreds of villages in the blocks of Bairgania, Majorganj, Shivhar, Tariyani, Piprahi, Belsand and Runni-Saidpur of Sitamarhi and Katra and Aurai of Muzaffarpur district. The river water had entered the Sub-divisional HQ of Shivhar on the right bank and on the left bank in the block HQ of Belsand and the thana there through the gaps left in the embankment for constructing sluice gates in future.. The water of the Bagmati had entered every house of Sugia, Katsari, Sugia Bazar, Shahpur, Pokharbhinda, and Bisahi etc and it was flowing one and half feet above the Sitamarhi-Muzaffarpur road near Kataunjha where the river crosses this road that was closed for the vehicular traffic. There was a simultaneous flood in the rivers of the Adhawara Group and a causeway connecting the villages Chilara and Parchhaiyan was washed away. This meant that the road connection between Sitamarhi and Sonbarsa block was also lost. The rail line between Sitamarhi and Darbhanga was overtopped at many places and the train services were suspended between the two stations. Read More

Bihar Floods in 1987 – III – West Champaran

Cover photo and map from NIDM report of Bihar floods 2007

Above: Cover photo and map from NIDM report of Bihar floods 2007

Guest blog by: Dr. Dinesh Kumar Mishra

West Champaran district of Bihar is located in the Northwestern corner of the state and is surrounded by the Gandak and the Burhi Gandak along with their tributaries. Two of its blocks, Madhubani and Thakaraha, are located on the western bank of the Gandak and are adjacent to the Deoria district of Uttar Pradesh.  There used to be a rail line connection between Chhitauni Ghat of Uttar Pradesh and Bagaha in Bihar. A bridge connecting these two towns was washed away during the floods in 1924 and the British Government did not restore this bridge as the train service was coming handy for the freedom fighters to travel to UP and vice versa. This bridge and the rail service were restored a few years ago. The administration of these two blocks (these are split into four now) is run from Padarauna in UP during the flood season as the blocks get thoroughly disconnected from Bihar. To prevent the westward movement of the Gandak and embankment named Pipra-Piparasi Ghat embankment (PP Embankment) was constructed in 1960s as the river has a tendency to shift towards the west and there is a constant pressure of the river on this embankment during the rainy season. At times, the safety of this embankment is threatened and there is long history of its breaches and the engineers of the Irrigation Department face a tough time maintaining the embankment. When the rail bridge was not there on the Gandak one had to go to Madhubani and Thakaraha by crossing the Ganga via Chhapra, Siwan and Gopalganj. Read More

DRP NEWS BULLETIN 25 APRIL 2016 (One Year After Nepal Earthquake, Has the World Learnt Any Lesson ?)

arniko-highway-landslide-photo-from-e-kantipur

On this day in 2015, the massive Nepal earthquake of 7.9 intensity (Richter scale) shook the scenic Himalayan Nation. The earthquake left a major trail of destruction affecting over 20 districts and killing over 9 thousand people.  According to expert Dave Petley, Langtang rock and ice avalanche was the most dramatic and significant landslide, that killed the most individuals. The earthquake killed over 9000 people, with 255 still missing. The severity of the quake can be gauged from the fact that more than a third of the disaster related deaths in 2015 occurred in Nepal’s April 25 earthquake. The earthquake-induced flash floods, landslides and aftershocks also damaged up to 15 hydropower plants, which has not been still restored fully. Surprisingly despite the increasing number of disasters taking place across the globe, world only spends less than a fifth of the money on Disaster Risk Reduction Compared to Disaster management.  Nepal will still take years from recovering socio-economic losses caused by the quake. But it is pertinent that in the wake of the quake and other disasters, human civilisation must learn its lesson. It’s true that development and disaster cannot be stopped but we must make our developmental decisions more informed, rule based and democratic so that it helps us deal better with disasters by decreasing their  intensity and velocity and our short-sighted developmental choices do not get translated into a disaster itself. Read More

Latur Drinking Water Crisis highlights absence of Water Allocation Policy and Management

Manjara Dam

Above: The dried up Manjara Dam near Latur. Photo: Vivek Bendre, The Hindu

On the 16th of January 2016, when Latur City in the heart of Marathwada was receiving drinking water once in 15 days and when plans of bringing water from Ujani Dam, about 300 kms away were being mulled upon, I was standing on the wall of the Lower Terna Reservoir in Osmanabad, about 40 kms from Latur. The dam has been at dead storage for the past 3 years. There are a string of jackwells inside the dam, to take water to rural drinking water supply schemes in Osmanabad and Latur for Nilanga, Killari and recently Ausa in Latur and Makani and Omerga in Osmanabad. Water Filtration System which is supposed to supply drinking water to 14 villages in Osmanabad lies defunct for years, even as the Revenue Minister inaugurated a brand new system for Latur City. Villages supposed to receive water from the dead stock stay thirsty. This is also the same Lower Terna Dam from where water is being taken for the Latur city in tankers now. Read More

DRP News Bulletin 18 April 2016 (Prior action & planning can reduce Drought impact: Uma Bharti says it’s pointless, Solapur shows it’s possible)

well2

Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti in an interview tried to refute charges that the Centre reacted late to India’s drought crisis. Water minister makes strange statements that one cannot do any planning about drought & her govt is the first govt to provide water through tankers. However, Solapur, a chronically drought-hit district in Maharashtra was serviced with more than 200 tankers in 2013-14, even when the monsoon rainfall was better than this year. In this drought, there are only 16 tankers plying in Solapur. Drinking water sources have been secured, water from Ujani dam for and sugar cane has been disallowed. The district leads the way in Jal Yukta Shivar Program in the state, new avenues of Agricultural credit are opening, options to sugarcane are being developed, errant sugar factories are being fined for polluting drinking water sources. Will the Union Government accept its mistakes and make amends?

Read More

Open letter to Mr. Rajendra Singh: Do not disregard environmental needs of the Mhadei River Basin and the livelihoods of its people

Mandovi River Goa Photo by author

Above: Mandovi River in Goa just before Mapusa, Photo by Author in Feb 2016

GUEST BLOG by: Chicu Lokgariwar

Dear Mr. Rajendra Singh

Your support for the diversion of the Mhadei River to the Malaprabha before it enters Goa is well known. I understand it is your belief that it will benefit ‘commoners’[i] in the Malaprabha river basin while not having any adverse downstream impact on the Mhadei. While a ‘commoner’ citizen is entitled to have his/her opinion based on a curated portion of the facts, you, Mr. Singh, do not have that luxury.

As a Magsaysay, Stockholm Water Prize awardee, as an individual who has adopted the title of ‘waterman of India’, it is obligatory for you to consider all the facts, to weigh the issues at stake in an unbiased manner, and finally, to commit no injustice. And that is why I do find some comments made by you to the press problematic in their bias. Please allow me to put forth my objections to these statements.

Malprabha River on the Eastern Flank

Malprabha River on the Eastern Flank (Photo by Parineeta Dandekar)

You have gone on record[ii] that it is your belief that ‘This diversion from River Mhadei to River Malprabha would not cause any environmental damage’.

The discharge of the Mhadei, when measured near its mouth in the non-monsoon season is 285 MCM/year (8.07 TMC); and its total annual discharge is 3447 MCM/year (97.6 TMC). Karnataka, as per its original plan made in 2002, aims to divert 214 MCM/year (7.56 TMC). A study[iii] of the water retaining structures then planned by Karnataka on the tributaries of the Mhadei indicates that these six will  retain 21% of the annual monsoon rainfall and 22% of the baseflow during non-monsoon season for the entire basin.

But things are even worse than that study would have us believe. According to A N S Nadkarni, Advocate General of Goa,”Karnataka now wants to divert 24 TMC of water from the basin”.

I fail to conceive of any circumstances in which this extensive withdrawal ‘would not cause any environmental damage’. This is especially true of the Mhadei. The Mhadei sanctuary was formed in 1999, and hosts one of the most lush and verdant pockets of the Western  Ghats Biodiversity Hotspot. Mr. Rajendra Kerkar informs us that infrastructure for the diversion islocated in the  reserve forest area. Nirmal Kulkarni, Chair of the Mhadei Research Centre[iv], has stated in an interview, “This region is sustained and supported by the Haltar nullah, Kalsa-Bandura nullah and their tributaries, along with the Mhadei river and its tributaries. Any diversion of water going to a wildlife sanctuary or forest is not permissible by India’s wildlife laws”[v]. This area will receive a denuded river incapable of supporting the rich riparian ecosystem that now exists. This is true not only in terms of a decreased quantity of water, but also due to a loss in the nutrients brought by the sediments which will now be impounded by the diversion related structures.

An issue unique to coastal rivers is that of tidal ingress. Currently, some 56 kilometers of the Mhadei’s 87 kilometer length is in the saline zone. A decrease in the baseflow of the river will have two consequences. It will increase the salinity of estuarine waters and will increase the area that is presently saline. Either will have catastrophic consequences on the people, wildlife and plants that presently depend on this river.

Increase in the salt content of coastal and estuarine waters can decrease the nutrients available[vi], lead to major mortalities of several species[vii], possibly destroying fish populations[viii]. Increase in the length of the saline zone will decrease the area available for freshwater organisms and lead to a decrease in their numbers.

I will include humans in this list of the victims of environmental damage due to increased salinity. The Mhadei, just above its saline zone, supports most of Goa’s rich Khazan lands. Besides these, several fisherfolk depend on it for their livelihood. And finally, the Mandovi supplies drinking water to 43% of Goa’s population.

Rajendra Singh Interview

Above: Image of The Hindu clipping of March 26, 2016 carrying Rajendra Singh ji’s interview

  1. In an interview with The Hindu of the 26thof March 2016[ix], you said that ‘(Karnataka) should come out clear on a policy that will enable it to harness every drop of water available in its territories’. Further, you have also stated that ‘Karnataka would not have faced scarcity if it had stopped the western flow of water four decades ago’.

Mr. Singh, you are an advocate of healthy flowing rivers. You have, in the past, opposed the inter-linking of rivers. Why do you consider the Mhadei-Malaprabha diversion to be an exception?

This diversion certainly does not come under the concept of ‘catch every drop’ or any other water harvesting principle. As Adv. Nadkarni stated, Goa has no objection if Karnataka wishes to utilise the water within the basin. The issue is that the state wishes to divert water out of the basin into another one. Harnessing ‘every drop of water’ available within political boundaries is a notoriously dangerous and oppressive principle. While India has the good fortune to be the upstream neighbour in the case of most of our rivers, we too would protest if Nepal, Bhutan or China were to follow the principle you are advocating.

While there is a perceived scarcity of water in Karnataka (though the intensity is being debated[x]), scarcity cannot be negated by robbing other rivers.  The solution has to evolve within the basin.

Mr. Vijay Kulkarni, president of the Kalasa Banduri campaign that is advocating the diversion, has informed us that water from the Mhadei will be used to supply the needs of irrigation in Bagalkote, Gadag, Dharwad and Belguam. The rainfall in these districts ranges between 579 to 772 mm[xi]. Admittedly, this is less than that of coastal regions, but is comparable to Alwar. All four districts grow sugarcane, cotton, and sunflower. These are crops with high water needs, their requirements being approximately 1500-2500mm (cane), 700-1300mm (cotton), and 600-1000mm (sunflower)[xii]. In addition, there is an abysmal lack of interest in rainwater harvesting or water recharge. Of the four districts, only Belagavi can boast of one water harvesting/recharge structure constructed to the knowledge of the CGWB. Karnataka has not proved to be a wise user of its own water resources.  Goa is not perfect by any means. It faces problems of pollution of its waters and environmental degradation just as other states do. But that does not give us the right to rob the Mhadei of its water.

  1. As you know, Karnataka has gone ahead and constructed most of the structures required for this diversion without any of the clearances in place, including environment clearance, forest clearance, wildlife clearance, Options assessment, CWC clearance, conducting social and environment impact assessment and public consultations, among others. Most of these are staturoy requirements. In your statements it would have been useful if you had also raised the issue of these violations, since besides being statutory requirements, these are basic steps necessry before any prudent decision making.

Now that the issue is before the tribunal, any such diversion cannot take place without the tribunal decision. In fact, we hope you also raise your voice that the tribunal should also hear the people and civil society, besides the states, since states have most often failed to fairly represent the real interests of most of the poorer and weak sections of society and also environment.

work on diversion done by Karnataka without clearances 3

work on diversion done by Karnataka without clearances 1

work on diversion done by Karnataka without clearances 2

work on diversion done by Karnataka without clearances 4

Work on diversion done by Karnataka without clearances (All four photos by Parineeta Dandekar)

IN CONCLUSION As Mr. Rajendra Kerkar suggests[xiii], rainwater harvesting, selection of appropriate crops and irrigation technologies, and demand management are the key to quenching Karnataka’s thirst. Interestingly, these are the very principles that you mentioned when you spoke of your work in Alwar. At that time you said of these,’I believe this is the way to save the environment and bring prosperity to farmers in Indian villages.’

What was true then is true today. In your own words[xiv] Mr. Singh, your first foray into leadership and water began in November 1985 when ‘carrying a spade and basket and accompanied by Nathi Bhalai of Gopalpura village, we started building a dyke in the hot sun’. Those principles, of working with people, and arriving jointly at a sustainable solution to their needs, of protecting the earth’s resources, is what we expect of you. Not advocating environmentally and socially unsound inter-linking of rivers.

No exceptions.

Chicu Lokgariwar (chicu.l@gmail.com)

END NOTES:

[i]               http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/now-it-is-for-the-tribunal-to-suggest-a-way-out-of-mahadayi-row-rajendra-singh/article8398449.ece

[ii]              http://www.goanews.com/news_disp.php?newsid=6917&catid=169

[iii]             http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/handle/10603/7539

[iv]             http://mhadeiresearchcenter.org/about/the-team/nirmal-kulkarni/

[v]              http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/Diversion-of-Mhadei-waters-will-mean-irreversible-damage/articleshow/48703312.cms

[vi]             Qasim, S. Z., P. M. A. Bhattathiri, and V. P. Devassy. “The influence of salinity on the rate of photosynthesis and abundance of some tropical phytoplankton.” Marine biology 12.3 (1972): 200-206., http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00346767

[vii]            Gibson, R. N., Margaret Barnes, and R. J. A. Atkinson. “Impact of changes in flow of freshwater on estuarine and open coastal habitats and the associated organisms.” Oceanography and Marine Biology, An Annual Review, Volume 40: An Annual Review 40 (2003): 233.

[viii]           Drinkwater, Kenneth F., and Kenneth T. Frank. “Effects of river regulation and diversion on marine fish and invertebrates.” Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 4.2 (1994): 135-151. http://swrcb2.swrcb.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/bay_delta/deltaflow/docs/exhibits/swrcb/swrcb_drinkwater1994.pdf

[ix]             http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/now-it-is-for-the-tribunal-to-suggest-a-way-out-of-mahadayi-row-rajendra-singh/article8398449.ece

[x]              http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/Ktaka-seeks-7tmc-ft-of-Mhadei-water/articleshow/50155740.cms

[xi]             Central Ground Water Board District Profiles, http://cgwb.gov.in/index.html

[xii]            http://www.fao.org/nr/water/cropinfo.html

[xiii]           http://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/one-river-two-names-and-14-year-long-dispute

[xiv]           http://environmentportal.in/files/Rajendra%20Singh.pdf

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