Landmark Ganga Conference in Patna: What Bihar needs to urgently do

DURING FEB 25-26, 2017, A LANDMARK MEETING HAPPENED IN PATNA, ORGANISED BY BIHAR GOVERNMENT, UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF CHIEF MINISTER SHRI NITISH KUMAR. THE MEETING WAS ON INCESSANT GANGA WITH SUBTITLE “CAN WE ACHIEVE CLEAN GANGA WITHOUT INCESSANT GANGA?”. THIS NATIONAL-INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE WAS LANDMARK MEETING FOR A NUMBER OF REASONS, BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, SINCE A STATE GOVERNMENT WAS TAKING THE LEADERSHIP FOR THE CAUSE OF THE RIVER GANGA. WHILE THE CONFERENCE WAS FOCUSSED ON ACHIEVING A REJUVENATED GANGA, I WAS TO SPEAK ON THE WAY FORWARD ABOUT THE FARAKKA BARRAGE, A KEY OBSTACLE IN THE PATH OF REJUVENATED GANGA. FOLLOWING IS MY LETTER TO BIHAR CHIEF MINISTER, FOLLOWING THE CONFERENCE, WHICH CONTAINS MY RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE BIHAR GOVERNMENT. THESE RECOMMENDATIONS WERE APPARENTLY ACCEPTED IN THE FINAL SESSION. 

March 2, 21017

To

Shri Nitish Kumar,

Chief Minister of Bihar,

Patna, Bihar

Respected Sir,

Firstly, I would like to thank you and Water Resources Department of Bihar for inviting me to the Patna Conference on Incessant Ganga on Feb 25-26, 2017. This shows great vision and foresight on your behalf, to raise such crucial issues that is not only necessary for the Ganga, people of Bihar, environment of Bihar and future of Bihar, but also for the whole nation. We hope you will continue to lead the nation on this issue, and I am sure you will get huge support, including from me.

Schemetic Diagram of Farakka (Source: Kalyan Rudra)

Schemetic Diagram of Farakka (Source: Kalyan Rudra)

WHY AN URGENT REVIEW OF FARAKKA BARRAGE IS JUSTIFIED AND NECESSARY:

  1. Its already 42 years since the FB was commissioned, it is high time that an assessment and review is done.
  2. The state of the river and the basin has changed since the FB was proposed, designed and constructed.
  3. The changing climate is bound to change the hydrology and sediment  flow in the river, making such a review even more important.
  4. The declared objective of Govt of India to achieve rejuvenated Ganga with nirmal and aviral flow also requires such an assessment of FB.
  5. Bihar government can in any case, considering the constitution situation of water and rivers in India, demand and institute such an assessment in the interest of people, agriculture, environment, rivers and future of Bihar.
Farakka Barrage

Farakka Barrage

BIHAR GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO START THESE STUDIES IMMEDIATELY: As I had suggested at the second day of the conference in pre lunch session, I think the following steps need to be taken up on Urgent basis by Bihar Government:

  1. Assess the impact of FB (Farakka Barrage) through a multidisciplinary team including geo-morphologist, hydrologist, environmentalist, social scientist among others, the impact of the Farakka barrage upstream, downstream, on Bihar, Jharkhand, UP, W Bengal, Bangladesh, involving an open process inviting inputs from all concerned including central agencies, concerned state government and state agencies and general public, experts, civil society, etc. The impact should be consider all kinds of costs, benefits and impacts in all kind of places. It can also take into account the changing climate. This is for assessing in a transparent manner, if there is a case for decommissioning of Farakka barrage.
  1. If the above assessment makes out a case for decommissioning of FB, than another assessment needs to be done in similarly transparent manner about the costs, benefits and impacts of decommissioning of FB, for all kinds of impacts and all kinds of places. What happens to the accumulated sediment behind the FB need to be looked into by this assessment.
  1. May be as a part of the first assessment above or separately, assess the current contribution of Farakka to KPT, navigation along Hugli, to all those benefiting from the water supplied through the feeder canal. This assessment can also see what options are available for ensuring continued benefits that are possible now due to FB, even if FB is decommissioned. This assessment can also look into the issue of viability of navigation along the  feeder channel/ Ganga and also viability of KPT as a river port.
In places along the feeder canal from the Farakka Barrage, an increased frequency of ships to the Thermal Power Plants has resulted in rapid soil erosion

In places along the feeder canal from the Farakka Barrage, an increased frequency of ships to the Thermal Power Plants has resulted in rapid soil erosion

WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE IMMEDIATELY: In the meantime, following steps needs to be taken immediately:
1. Open up gates and under sluices of FB during monsoon, this will substantially ease the flood impact in Bihar due to FB.

  1. This needs to start immediately in next monsoon, that is in 2017 monsoon.
  2. GoB needs to demand from centre that preparations should start for this on war footing immediately.
  3. GoB needs to have a role in the operation of FB on day to day basis immediately. GoB needs to write to Centre about this since FB is operated by FB Authority, a MoWR organisation of GOI.
  4. People across Bihar need to be mobilised for this immediately for actions related to FB.
  5. This being the centanary year of Champaran Satyagrah as mentioned by you, this is possibly a very good time to launch “FARAKKA KHOL DO, Bihar ko badh vibhidika se bachao” movement in which people across needs to be mobilised.

Reading this, Dr Mayank Vats suggested a new slogan: “Badh trasta Bihar Kare pukar, khol do farraka Dam  ke sare dwar.”

Dejected Fisherman upstream Farakka Barrage. He says Hilsa is nearly wiped out from here and there is intense conflict for the meager catch. Photo: Author

Dejected Fisherman upstream Farakka Barrage. He says Hilsa is nearly wiped out from here and there is intense conflict for the meager catch. Photo: Author

All this was part of my presentation at the Patna conference, your officers have a copy of it. I hope you would take necessary steps to urgently take up these actions.

I would be happy if I can be of any assistance to Bihar in this regard. I hope the WRD of Bihar would keep us updated about the steps taken in this regard.

In the meantime, I had requested them to send me all the official correspondence that Bihar govt may have had with the Centre and Central govt agencies on the issue of Farakka barrage possibly since the first letter that former Chief Secretary wrote about twelve years ago. I would request the friends in WRD to share a copy of the same.

Thanking you,

Yours Sincerely,

Himanshu Thakkar (ht.sandrp@gmail.com), for SANDRP

Kedarnath Mondal, a noted activist working on issues related to Farakka Barrge, discussing with fisherfolk

Kedarnath Mondal, a noted activist working on issues related to Farakka Barrge, discussing with fisherfolk

EARLIER SANDRP BLOGS  ON FARAKKA:

1. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/lessons-from-farakka-as-we-plan-more-barrages-on-ganga/

2. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2016/12/22/farakka-refugees-walking-along-ganga-from-gangasagar-to-gaumukh/

3. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/world-rivers-day-and-ganga-a-look-at-farakka-barrage-and-other-such-calamities/

4. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2016/08/24/दो-बाॅधों-की-कहानीः-क्या-ब/

5. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2016/08/23/a-tale-of-two-dams-is-bihars-unprecedented-flood-an-avoidable-man-made-disaster/

6. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/ganga-in-peril-building-more-barrages-will-finish-it-off/

7. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/05/07/sinking-and-shrinking-deltas-major-role-of-dams-in-abetting-delta-subsidence-and-effective-sea-level-rise/

6 Comments on “Landmark Ganga Conference in Patna: What Bihar needs to urgently do

  1. Congratulations for this initiative, well done, Nitish ji will respond. He did to me once. Wonder why the New Delhi wallas are silent over Farakka and its so far latent issues inundating large parts of Bihar? Kindly assume leadership. Regards. My support will always for you. Harsh

    Like

    • Let us translate recommendations into policy action. It is a million dollar question under Indian democracy. Technical expertise, and political will will help solve this problem. Consistent follow up is a must…. We are with the TEAM

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  2. Bihar needs to articulate its demands. When FB was not constructed also, Bihar faced severe flooding from its tributaries (Kosi and Mahananda) but not from the main river Ganga. FB may be cause of flooding not more than 10% in Bihar.

    Other than navigational facility, can Kolkata city get sufficient water for drinking needs without Ganga water diverted from FB? Already, the ground water in West Bengal is not fit for drinking due to excessive Selenium contamination. More over, FB is very important to receive Brahmaputra river water for interlinking all Indian rivers. To provide adequate water in the south western rivers of Bangladesh during lean flow season, Bangladesh is actively considering to construct a barrage across Ganga in the downstream of FB whose back waters would touch FB. Refer https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ganges_Barrage_Project for more data. Thus existence of FB is very important to whole India and Bangladesh with minor disadvantage to Bihar state which can be mitigated by damming the Nepal rivers.

    The measures as proposed by you are to be implemented without delay to reduce the flood level in FB pond during the river flooding.

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    • Thanks, as usual very useful comment. I am glad you agree that measures I have suggested can be implemented without delay. About the contribution of FB to Bihar floods, is there any way to substantiate it may not be more than 10%?

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  3. In one of the conferences held quite sometime back in Patna, Nitishji had stated that in the State of Bihar, the Ganga was not getting the waters from the source and was rather contained waters flowing down from Nepal. I think that is tragic, especially if one thinks about peoples faith in the Ganga. That is possible only when the Ganga is ‘aviral’. Can it really be aviral after some dams and barrages are already in place, and many more are under construction and proposed. Can we not have just one river, the Ganga mainstem, free from the dams and barrages. We have enough reasons from the historical past as well as recent times (National River) to do this for the Ganga.

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    • Yes, totally agree, Prakash ji. Even on Feb 25 Nitish ji said the same thing that Bihar is not getting their rightful share in Ganga from upstream

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