Above: Near the fish Sanctuary at Tekpowale, Pune Photo: Sarosh Ali
In India, there has been a rich tradition of communities trying to conserve a part of their ecosystem as a microcosm for the rest. The Western Ghats in particular was home to myriad of such community sanctuaries. These, however, diminished as government policies from the time of the British, and even post-independence, did not realize the importance of community involvement.
There are many community conserved areas (CCAs), some that have existed from ancient times, and some which have emerged in recent times, after having observed some form of degradation, related to local communities are trying to salvage the ecosystem in Western Ghats. While Sacred Groves, or protected patches of forests are relatively well documented, sacred fish sanctuaries which protect the fish as well as rivers, are lesser known. This is an attempt to briefly document a few such sanctuaries in Western Ghats of Maharashtra.Continue reading “Fish Sanctuaries in Western Ghats of Maharashtra”→
Above: Dry Pravara River Bed, with sugarcane on one side and frantic well drilling in the riverbed on the other (Photo: Parineeta Dandekar)
Large parts of Maharashtra are facing possibly the worst droughts in the past 100 years, the third drought in the last 4 years. There are multiple components to this: poor rainfall in 2015 monsoon on the back of failed 2014 monsoon, relative dry winter, loss of four back to back crops, dangerously depleting groundwater levels and no restriction on water intensive crops, water use by urban areas and industry. Currently, the situation is unprecedented even for drinking water. Section 144 has been clamped in Latur, possibly first time in the history for safeguarding water sources, protect tanker water supply and avoid unrest.Continue reading “Sugar Industry Lifts (read steals) drinking water released for Maharashtra’s Drought-hit places”→
Is India facing its worst-ever water crisis?On 11 March first time in 30 years history power generation at Farakka power plant in West Bengal was suspended for 10 days due to non-availability of water in Ganges. Nobody is sure why but the evidence about the declining water levels and waning health of the 2,500km long Ganges is mounting. Monsoon rains have been scanty for the second year in succession. The melting of snow in the Himalayas has been delayed. Water tables have also been declining in the Ganges basin due to the reckless extraction of groundwater. The 3-month-long summer is barely weeks away but water availability in India’s 91 reservoirs is at its lowest in a decade, with stocks at a paltry 29% of their total storage capacity, according to the Central Water Commission. Thousands of villagers in drought-hit region of Maharashtra depend on tankers for water & authorities in Latur district, fearing violence, have imposed prohibitory orders on gatherings of more than 5 people around storage tanks. Tens of thousands of farmers and livestock have moved to camps providing free fodder and water for animals in parched districts. The govt has asked local municipalities to stop supplying water to swimming pools. States like Punjab are squabbling over ownership of river waters. In water-scarce Orissa, farmers have reportedly breached embankments to save their crops. Realy the waning health of the sacred river underscores the rising crisis of water in India.
Background Bihar faced the worst floods if its history in 1987, the records of which are yet to be bettered. In the preceding year of 1986 the flood was severe in many parts of Bihar but as the rainy season drew to close, the last October rains failed and a vast area of the State came under the grip of drought. Surprisingly, the districts cited for perennial floods like Saharsa, Purnea and Khagaria in the State were also hit by the drought. The year 1987, however, was worst for floods in Bihar (in addition to UP and W Bengal) while the rest of the country was facing one of the most severe droughts in the century. Many parts of the country were facing famine like situation while all the rain bearing clouds had moved toward Bihar. Traditionally, two days of continuous rains or a clear sky of the same duration during the rainy season signals floods or drought in the State and makes farmers apprehensive of the days to come. Continue reading “Bihar Floods of 1987-I”→
Tamil NaduA people’s initiative to restore a river’s gloryThe Noyyal River Restoration Federation will launch ‘Noyyalai Nokki’ (Towards Noyyal), a people’s initiative to restore the Noyyal river system on 26 March. Social activist Anna Hazare will launch the project at Kooduthurai in Alandurai in Coimbatore district. The river originates in the Western Ghats and runs through the four districts to join the Cauvery at Noyyal village. Known as Jungle stream, in olden times as many as 34 streams used to feed water into it and the river would flow throughout the year with two or three annual flood spell. But now, just 4 or 5 streams feed the river. In many places, the river is encroached upon, sewage is let into it, or the river needs to be desilted. The river is all set to regain its glory with the ‘Noyyalai Nokki’ initiative. What is encouraging is the willingness of the public to be part of it. The project proposes to divide the river into segments of 500 metres for restoration and maintenance. Ownership groups will be formed for every 500 metres and it will consist of the local people, experts and patrons (divide-distribute-develop model).
Promise of credible Irrigation Data remains unfulfilled yet again
Economic Survey Report of Maharashtra state for the year 2015-16 is out. For the Agriculture and allied activities sector, its findings are sad though not shocking. The sector has clocked negative growth rate of 2.7% and production of almost all Kharif and Rabi Crops has taken a hit following the second consecutive monsoon failure and 59.4% deficit.Continue reading “Maharashtra Economic Survey 2015-16”→
The official minutes of the 37th meeting of the Standing Committee of the National Board of Wild Life (NBWL) held on Feb 26, 2016, about the Ken Betwa Link Project (KBLP) Phase I have exposed the lies of project developer National Water Development Agency (NWDA) and its consultant for Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) about a number of crucial aspects of the project impact on the Panna Tiger Reserve, Vulture Habitat and Ken Ghariyal Sanctuary.
It now becomes clear that both NWDA and EIA consultant AFCL (formerly Agriculture Finance Corporation Ltd) are guilty of misleading the MoEF’s (Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change) Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River Valley Projects, when the KBPL was discussed by the EAC during Aug 24-25, 2015, Oct 26-27, 2015 and Feb 7-8, 2016. We hope the EAC will take appropriate action against the developer and the EIA consultant for misleading the statutory official agency. Continue reading “NWDA & EIA lies on Ken Betwa River Link nailed by IGF (WL): Will EAC take action against them now?”→
Recycling and reuse of wastewater is an important aspect of water management providing a way to increase available water while also preventing pollution of water bodies by sewage.
An estimated 62,000 million litres per day (MLD) sewage is generated in urban areas across India, according to the Environment Minister, while there is treatment capacity for only 23,277 MLD as of Dec 2015. A CPCB report further reveals that the actual amount of sewage treated stands at 18,883 MLD as only 522 out of 816 sewage treatment plants listed across India were operational, as of March 2015 (even this claim of 81.1% capacity utilization seems HIGHLY exaggerated). Thus, at least 70% of sewage generated in urban India is being dumped in rivers, seas, lakes and wells, polluting water bodies and contaminating fresh water sources. Partially treated or untreated sewage is responsible for large part of the pollution in streams and water bodies. Up to 80% of water bodies could be polluted.
Municipal water supply systems in India are struggling to meet the demands of the burgeoning population in cities. Rapid urbanisation is increasing the freshwater demand for different purposes. Ground water being used to meet water shortages has fallen to dangerously low levels. The solution to the urban water crisis lies in harvesting rainwater and reviving local water bodies and wetlands which can store the water and help replenish ground water. It is also imperative that water is used judiciously and leakages in the distribution system are plugged.
Scarcity in water supply: Municipal agencies are struggling to supply water as water levels in reservoirs are plummeting because of the deficit rainfall in 2015. For instance, as of Jan 2016, the Navi MumbaiMunicipal Corporation (NMMC) has suspended accepting applications for new supply connections until the onset of monsoon. To tide over the water shortage, the NMMC has disconnected many illegal connections, many in slum areas. It is also taking measures to prevent theft and plug leakages to bring down distribution losses which are currently 19% of the water supplied.