Floods · Urban Water Sector

Janta Parliament discussion on the state of water in India

While Indian Parliament has not met since March 2020 (it is now slated to meet from Sept 14, 2020, though without a number of key features including absence of question hour), Civil Society Groups came together and held a Janta (people’s) Parliament from Aug 16 to 21 Aug 2020, where citizens from across the country from all walks of life enthusiastically participated. On Aug 18 there was a three-hour session on Environment issues[i] (such a session is a rarity in Indian Parliament), as part of which, there was a presentation on Water related issues where SANDRP coordinator was invited to speak. Two water related resolutions were passed among others, by the Janta Parliament, one on Flood Management and another on Urban Water Management. See below for details.

Water, Rivers in Covid and Lockdown times: We have all heard Prime Minister downwards during national lockdowns and even thereafter speak about the need for repeated and elaborate hand washing, among other steps to avoid Covid 19. But millions of people in cities and villages across the country do not have sufficient drinking water within their place of residence. Unfortunately, there was no mention of this reality by any of the govt persons during the last five months, nor how to cope with that reality. Union Water Resources Minister now claims[ii] (interview in Indian Express published on Aug 17, 2020) that on March 26, Prime Minister suggested to him to study the rivers during lock down and the MoWR studied it. We would like to see those studies in the public domain. Madam Speaker may direct Union Water Resources Ministry to share the same in public domain and also ask  them to inform the house how the millions of people who do not have access to drinking water within their residential premises coped during the pandemic.

Avoidable decisions during the pandemic One expected the government not to take any decisions during these five months where democratic decision making process was not possible. In spite of this reality, the government took a number of decisions of far reaching implications for which there was no immediate urgency and where democratic process was required. The EIA (Environment Impact Assessment) Notification is one of them, the 2020 draft involves further dilution of every aspect of the EIA process related to dams, rivers and other water related projects. Some other such decisions of the govt includ: The decision to push even economically unviable and hugely destructive Etalin Hydro Project in Dibang valley in Arunachal Pradesh through a compromised Forest Advisory Committee process, Reconstitution of the Expert Appraisal Committee for River Valley Projects through a completely non transparent process and selection of members that have Zero environment track record or poor track record, meetings of EAC and NBWL (National Board for Wildlife) where decisions about destructive dams like Lakhwar dam on Yamuna river among others were taken. This house may pass a resolution asking govt to review all such decisions.

Floods in India in 2020 monsoon: Madam Speaker, the South West Monsoon 2020 has already brought more than our annual share of flood disaster. In spite of all the projects, expenditure and efforts, the annual flood prone area and flood damages have been going up. This year, already over a thousand people have died in monsoon related incidents. Assam has experienced at least three rounds of floods so far. Bihar has seen literally unprecedented water levels in Gandak, Burhi Gandak, Adhwara and Bagmati river basins. Kerala and Kodagu in Karnataka have seen landslides leading to deaths of large number of people. The dam water storage situation is such that another dam induced disaster could happen anytime in Krishna, Godavari, Cauvery and Tapi basins, among others, if we are not careful. As we discuss this, Godavari water levels are rising all across lower basin in Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The Prime Minister rightly took a Video Conference meeting on this issue on Aug 10, 2020 with Chief Ministers of six key flood affected states[iii]. Some of the key issues related to flood disasters this year includes the issues of wrong operation of Dams, breach of Embankments, other structural problems related to use of rivers and floodplains, Non structural issues including flood forecasting, disaster prevention and disaster management. All of these involve action points that can help hugely reduce the flood disaster. I urge this house to pass a resolution today that urges government to take key actions to reduce flood disasters, including revision of the proposed Dam Safety Act, including operation of dams above 50 MCM live storage capacity in the DSA, legal stipulation for embankment maintenance and decision making and where necessary to decommission them and an independent institute for flood forecasting and flood management. These can go a long way in helping reduce flood disaster and damages.

Urban Water Management, Rain and Floods This monsoon has again exposed how Rain Water is causing floods in cities and the same cities will cry for water a few months after monsoon. The floods are happening with increasing frequency and intensity in metros as we saw this year already in Mumbai and Hyderabad. We have already seen this year ferocious floods in Jaipur, Dehradun and Vadodara where there has been massive destruction of rivers and drainage. The Urban India’s water footprint is relentlessly going up at increasing growth rates, but Urban India is operating in complete policy Vacuum. The Govt has a smart city program, but can any city be smart before it becomes water smart? I would like to propose a resolution here that asks the government to urgently formulate a NATIONAL URBAN WATER POLICY, by a committee of independent minded persons. The policy will guide cities how they can achieve maximum and possibly all use of the rainwater within the city, decentralised sewage treatment to ensure maximum recycling of the treated sewage within the city and thus not only reduce the disasters, but also increase water atmanirbhata of each city and reduce city water footprint. Madam Speaker, Thank you.  

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

Resolutions passed on Water Sector in Environment session[iv] of Janta Parliament

1. Improving India’s Flood Management

Having regard to the fact that:
(i) The flood prone area and flood damages per year has been going up, in spite of all the structural and non structural efforts, projects and expenditure for flood management.
(ii) There is no accountability or legal regime governing reservoir operation during flood season in India and there are increasing instances when reservoirs, due to wrong operations, have been increasing rather than decreasing the flood disaster impacts;
(iii) Most of the embankments have gone past their expiry dates and maximum damages happen when they breach and their breach frequency is going up;
(iv) The changing rainfall pattern is making the possibility of floods more frequent, also increasing the intensity of floods, but our flood management is not responsive to that reality.

This House urges upon the Government to:
(i) Bring operation of all reservoirs of live storage capacity over 50 Million Cubic Meters under the proposed dam safety Act, along with updated rule curves & emergency action plans keeping in mind updated river cross sections and carrying capacity assessments in the downstream area. Similarly, the annual embankments maintenance should be a legal requirement either under proposed dam safety act or separate flood management act. The draft dam safety act should also have a number of amendments, including to bring it under independent authority.;
(ii) Flood forecasting should be brought under an independent agency for flood management and should include all major and medium rivers, reservoirs and flood prone areas;
(iii) Any intervention in any river/ river basin, including for waterways, bridge construction, river side roads or railways, dredging, embankments, river front development, mining, floodplain use, deforestation in the catchment should require environmental clearance and hydrological impact assessment;
(iv) At the end of each flood season, there should be a report about what happened in the flood season with respect to flood disasters, reservoirs, embankments and disaster management through independent assessments that will also recommend fixing accountability. This can be by the independent flood management authority suggested above.

बाढ़ प्रबंधन को सुधारना

ध्यान देने योग्य तथ्य

  1. हर साल बाढ़ क्षेत्र और बाढ़ से नुकसान बढ़ रहा है। इसके  बावजूद भी कि बाढ़ प्रबंधन के लिए ढांचागत और गैर ढांचागत पहल हो रही हैं, प्रोजेक्ट और इस पर खर्च किया जा रहा है।
  2. भारत में बाढ़ के मौसम में जलाशय संचालन की कोई जवाबदेही और कानूनी व्यवस्था नहीं है, और गलत संचालन के कारण बाढ़ आपदाएं घटने की बजाय  बढ़ रही हैं।
  3. बहुत से तटबंधों की मियाद अवधि खत्म हो गई है और वे टूट-फूट गए हैं। ज्यादा नुकसान तभी होता है जब वे टूटे रहते हैं, और उनकी टूट-फूट बार-बार बढ़ती जा रही है।
  4. वर्षा के बदले हुए पैटर्न के कारण भी बाढ़ बार-बार आती है। बाढ़ की तीव्रता भी बढ़ती है। पर हमारा बाढ़ प्रबंधन इसके लिए उत्तरदायी नहीं  है।

सदन का सरकार से आग्रह है कि ः-

  1. प्रस्तावित बांध सुरक्षा अधिनियम के अंतर्गत सभी जलाशयों का संचालन लाना चाहिए। और जलाशयों की सक्रिय भंडारण क्षमता 50 मिलियन क्यूबिक मीटर होनी चाहिए। इसके साथ नियमों को अपडेट करना, आपातकालीन कार्ययोजना, जिसमें नदी की चौड़ाई और नदी के नीचे की ओर वहन क्षमता का आंकलन होना चाहिए। इसी के साथ तटबंधों की मरम्मत कानूनी आवश्यकता हो। बांध सुरक्षा अधिनियम में संशोधन एक स्वतंत्र रूप से हो।
  2. बाढ़ प्रबंधन के लिए बाढ़ का पूर्वानुमान एक स्वतंत्र एजेंसी के अंतर्गत होना चाहिए।  इस आदेश में नदियां, जलाशय और क्षेत्र शामिल होने चाहिए।
  3. किसी भी नदी या नदी क्षेत्र में हस्तक्षेप के लिए पर्यावरण मंजूरी और  हाइड्रोलाजिकल प्रभाव आंकलन सुनिश्चित होना चाहिए।
  4. प्रभावी और पारदर्शी बाढ़ राहत तंत्र सुनिश्चित करना चाहिए। और राष्ट्रीय आपदा राहत कोष और राज्य आपदा राहत कोष की राशि समय पर भुगतान करनी चाहिए।
  5. हर बाढ़ मौसम के बाद एक रिपोर्ट जारी होनी चाहिए कि बाढ़ के दौरान क्या हुआ- बाढ़ आपदा में, जलाशयों में और तटबंधों में और आपदा प्रबंधन में, इसका विवरण होना चाहिए। स्वतंत्र एजेंसी के द्वारा आंकलन होना चाहिए और जवाबदेही की सिफारिश की जानी चाहिए।

2. Improving India’s Urban Water Management

Having regard to the fact that:
(i) Urban Water footprint is increasing and demand for more and more water from outside urban areas is increasing.
(ii) Whole Urban Water Sector is operating in policy vacuum, National Water Policy has little place for Urban water sector. Smart City Program does not even define a water smart city;
(iii) Instances of disastrous Urban floods is increasing, besides big metros, even smaller cities like Jaipur, Dehradun are also facing catastrophic floods, mostly are man made disasters;
(iv) Urban areas need to consider rain as a resource and need to be fully geared to use almost all of it, or as much as possible within the Urban areas.

This House urges upon the Government to:
(i) Urgently bring out a National Urban Water Policy through a consultative process by a committee of independent minded persons. It should also define a water smart city, include right to water and equitable water distribution;
(ii) The policy should drive towards use of the rain to the maximum possible extent within the city through rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge, local water storages, promotion of water recharging pavements, sponge cities, rooftops and campuses, ensuring decentralised sewage treatment and recycle;
(iii) Only after a city is seen to have exhausted all the local options mentioned above, should there be any consideration of additional external water sources;
(iv) Urban Drainage and flood plain protection should be a legal requirement. Every city should also have its flood forecasting and disaster management authority.

शहरी जल प्रबंधन को सुधारना

ध्यान देने योग्य तथ्य

  1. शहर में पानी की मांग ज्यादा से ज्यादा बढ़ती जा रही है और शहरी क्षेत्र के बाहर भी यह मांग बढ़ रही है।
  2. पूरा शहर जल क्षेत्र का संचालन बिना नीति के हो रहा है। राष्ट्रीय जल नीति में इसके लिए बहुत कम जगह है। स्मार्ट सिटी कार्यक्रम में भी जल स्मार्ट सिटी को नहीं बताया गया है।
  3. शहरी बाढ़ आपदाएं की घटनाएं भी बढ़ रही हैं। यह सिर्फ न केवल बड़े महानगरों में बल्कि छोटे शहरों में भी हो रही हैं- जैसे जयपुर, देहरादून जैसे छोटे शहर भी भयंकर बाढ़ का सामना कर रहे हैं। इनमें से ज्यादातर मानवनिर्मित बाढ़ है।
  4. शहरी क्षेत्र में वर्षा जल को एक संसाधन के रूप में देखने की जरूरत है। और इसका अधिकतम इस्तेमाल शहरी जरूरत पूरा करने के लिए होना चाहिए।

सदन का सरकार से आग्रह है कि ः-

  1. तत्काल राष्ट्रीय शहरी जल नीति बनानी चाहिए। इसके लिए समिति बने जिसमें स्वतंत्र सोच के व्यक्ति हों। इसमें स्मार्ट जल नीति को परिभाषित किया जाए, पानी के अधिकार और बराबरी पूर्ण पानी का वितरण की व्यवस्था हो। ऐसे कदम उठाएं जाएं जिससे उपभोक्ता को कार्यालय या घरों में मीटर के आधार पर उपलब्ध हो।
  2. नीति में यह भी होना चाहिए कि वर्षा जल का अधिकतम उपयोग शहरों में जल संचयन बढ़ाने में होना चाहिए। भूजल पुनर्भरण ( प्रदूषण के जोखिम के बिना), स्थानीय जल भंडार, जल पुनर्भरण को बढ़ावा देना- फुटपाथ में, छत और परिसरों में। इसके साथ विकेन्द्रित दूषित जल शुद्धिकरण और पुनः उपयोग में लाना।
  3. शहर बाहरी स्रोतों से पानी तभी लाएं जब स्थानीय तौर पर सभी विकल्प खत्म हो जाएं, जो ऊपर बताए गए हैं।
  4. शहरी जल निकासी और बाढ़ से प्रभावित होने वाले क्षेत्र  ( फ्लडप्लेन) में कानूनी उपाय लागू होने चाहिए। प्रत्येक शहर में बाढ़ पूर्वानुमान और आपदा प्रबंधन प्राधिकरण होना चाहिए।     

(Hindi translation by Baba Mayaram with inputs from Suhastai.)


[i] For recording of the full session, see:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=38&v=iRuzHuH-o_k&feature=emb_logo

[ii] https://indianexpress.com/article/india/gajendra-singh-shekhawat-despite-covid-no-funds-crunch-for-jal-jeevan-will-meet-2024-target-by-all-means-6557626/

[iii] https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/pm-modi-reviews-preparedness-to-tackle-flood-situation-in-6-states/story-0VZvjiLulSKq7hMFkiLyTI.html

[iv] For all the resolutions passed in Environment session, see: http://vikalpsangam.org/article/janta-parliament-resolutions-passed-in-session-on-environment-18-august-2020/#.Xz6kvzVS_wo

2 thoughts on “Janta Parliament discussion on the state of water in India

  1. Janta Parliament -Waterwhat is this
    Andhakanoon. Politician,bureaucrates
    Ruined water policy Does any body qualified enough to understand complex cycle
    I think no
    BEcivil ME hons water management,PGDM,certificate waterlogging
    Another SSD
    Ex Add secy Water Resources


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