Drought · Rainfall

More bad water news: Post monsoon rains 44% below normal

Even as large parts of India are facing drought, following deficit North West Monsoon, there is more bad news that farmers already know and experience. The rainfall in the three post monsoon months, from Oct 1 to Dec 31, 2018 at all India level has been 71.2 mm, which is 44% below normal rainfall of 127.2 mm. While the quantum of rainfall in these months is not expected to be high except in some South Indian areas, it is crucial for providing life saving and life sustaining moisture for the Rabi crop. It was particularly important since the second half of the South West monsoon was significantly below normal in large parts of Central and South India[i]. These same areas are experiences biggest deficits in Oct-Dec rains. Continue reading “More bad water news: Post monsoon rains 44% below normal”

Drought

Experimental Drought Monitor For India

Guest Blog by Prof Vimal Mishra (IIT Gandhinagar)

Introduction: Real-time drought monitoring and forecast in India is essential to support a large agricultural community. Prof. Vimal Mishra and his group (Water and Climate Lab) developed a real-time drought monitoring platform for India. The system provides conditions based on meteorological (rainfall based), hydrological (runoff based), and agricultural (soil moisture based) droughts and updates everyday. The products are based on real-time satellite rainfall, which was corrected using the long-term climatology from the India meteorological department (IMD). Runoff and root zone soil moisture are simulated using a well evaluated hydrologic model. All the drought products are extensively verified against other drought indicators such as satellite based drought severity index. Further information on monitor can be obtained in Shah and Mishra (2015). Continue reading “Experimental Drought Monitor For India”

Dams · Drought · Interlinking of RIvers · Jammu and Kashmir · Uttarakhand

India facing its worst water crisis ever: Himanshu Thakkar

Find below interview of SANDRP coordinator Himanshu Thakkar by Aditi Phadnis, Business Standard. The interview was published in Business Standard on the 14th May 2016 (http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/india-facing-its-worst-water-crisis-ever-himanshu-thakkar-116051400704_1.html)

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Environmental activist and water expert Himanshu Thakkar tells Aditi Phadnis that India needs a comprehensive water-use policy immediately.

You are quoted as saying that India is in the grip of its worst hydrological crisis ever. Isn’t that a bit drastic? After all, India has endured endemic in many parts of the country for several years now. What makes you so pessimistic?

I do not think it is statement of pessimism but possibly reflects a reality. What we are seeing this year is unprecedented in many respects: major perennial rivers like the Ganga, Godavari, and have dried up at several locations, which was unheard of earlier. Groundwater levels are at a record low. In many places hand pumps have dried up completely. The number ofimpacted, the intensity of the impact are huge. This is only the fourth time in a century that there has been a back-to-back drought, but on all previous occasions groundwater, an insurance in times of drought, had provided relief. That is no longer an available option in several places. Our rivers are in a much worse situation today than ever in the past, due to all the ill treatment we have meted out to them, including multiple and often unnecessary, unjustified damming. All this makes the situation this year much worse.

You are credited with making public a lot of information and anlysis about the circumstances of the current shortage of water in Maharashtra. What do your findings tell us about the issue of water in the state?

The first thing that strikes you about is that it has, by far, the highest number of big dams in India. According to the National Register of Large Dams of the Central Water Commission, of the total number of 5,100 big dams 1,845 are in Maharashtra. So about 35 to 36 per cent of all big dams in India are in the state. Yet Maharashtra is in the headlines for drought and water scarcity today. While nationally, 46 per cent of cropped area is irrigated, in Maharashtra the figure is hardly 18 per cent. There is a lot of evidence here that big dams have proved to be a failed water resources development model. The current chief minister did say in his famous Assembly speech on July 21, 2015, that farmers need irrigation, not dams, and dams are not the only means to achieve irrigation. Unfortunately, one of the major planks used by his party to achieve power in Maharashtra, the Rs 70,000-crore irrigation scam, seems to have been totally forgotten by the state government.

Parts of Maharashtra are facing multiple agrarian and hydrological crises this year. Rainfall deficits have been as high as 40 and 42 per cent in the last two years in Marathwada. In some districts and blocks the figure is even higher. So rain-fed kharif crops in many parts have failed for the last two years. The rabi crops were also hit by unprecedented hailstorms in 2014 and 2015. The 2016 rabi season has been hit by unusually dry conditions.

During the 2015 monsoon, we (my Pune-based colleague Parineeta Dandekar does most of our Maharashtra-related work) realised in mid-July that this year is going to be a crisis for most of Maharashtra, in addition to some other adjoining areas. So we wrote to the chief minister in August that the state needed to take certain measures urgently. This included stopping the diversion of about three billion cubic metres of water from the Bhima and Krishna basins to the high-rainfall Konkan area, stopping non-essential water-use activities, taking stock of available water and deploying it for priority needs, and so on.

The did not wake up to this situation then or at the end of the monsoon or even now. While the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyaan, the flagship scheme of current Maharashtra government, is welcome, leaving aside some problematic work they are doing in terms of deepening, widening and straightening of rivers, it cannot be a fig leaf to hide its incompetence in handling this crisis.

In Marathwada and western Maharashtra (similarly, also northern Karnataka) sugar cane cultivation on about four to five per cent of cropped land takes up about 70 per cent of available irrigation water. We have been saying that considering the rainfall, weather situation and water availability, sugarcane is not a sustainable crop in these regions. However, even when 2014 and 2015 monsoon had major deficits in Maharashtra, the area under sugarcane remained at record levels. This was after the 2012 drought in Maharashtra, when the same issues had cropped up and the government, including the then Union agricuture minister Sharad Pawar promised intervention. We saw no implementation of those promises then. The situation is the same now.

Industry and agriculture are both responsible for the water crisis. But industries can’t be shut and farmers can’t be told to stop farming. So what is the answer?

I won’t say industry and agriculture are responsible. The kind of industries we set up and the kind of agriculture we do in any region has to keep in mind the various factors prevailing in the region, including water. When we conduct water-intensive activities in water-starved regions, that is an invitation to an inequitable, unsustainable, conflict-generating situation and sooner or later we will face the consequences. We have seen this happening in Maharashtra over the last decade most starkly.

Shouldn’t everyone be made to pay for water? Punjab has 98 per cent irrigation. It has spent money over the years, setting up irrigation channels, etc. Nobody has paid for those. Worse, the water running in those channels is not paid for either. By contrast, Maharashtra has barely 18 per cent irrigated land. What is the solution?

About 80 per cent of the water we use is supposed to be used by farmers, and I think there is national consensus that farmers in most places are not in a position to bear additional input costs in the current situation. Farmers need to be guaranteed much better returns on their produce than they are getting now. Say, if the Bharatiya Janata Party is able to implement the promise it made to farmers in its election manifesto that they should get 50 per cent return on investment, then maybe we can start talking about making farmers pay for the water, as that cost will then be included in the input cost calculations.

Moreover, a lot of users of water even in urban and industrial areas are not paying for the water they use or pollute. For example, a lot of groundwater gets used up by them, but there is no payment or regulation of this. Nor are they being made to pay for the pollution their effluents lead to.

We also need more participatory decision-making in water resources development before we can start asking farmers to pay for all the wrong decisions that are being taken now.

In the midst of all this gloom over lack of water, some states -Telangana and Maharashtra, for instance – have signed a pact to interlink rivers (ILR). Andhra Pradesh and Telanagana have already effected the interlinking of two rivers. Is this the way forward?

Today groundwater is India’s water lifeline, as most of our water comes from it and in every water sub-sector the dependence on groundwater is increasing with each passing year. So whether we like it or not, whether we want it or not, groundwater is our water lifeline. Our water policy, programmes and projects need to focus and prioritise how to sustain the groundwater lifeline. Will ILR help achieve that? The answer is no. In fact, we also need to prioritise optimisation of use of our existing water infrastructure; second, making rainwater harvesting the central focus as that can help sustain groundwater. ILR is costly, environmentally destructive, socially disruptive and a non-optimum option, particularly in view of the changing climate, in addition to other issues.

In hill regions like Uttarakhand and Kashmir, the frenzy of the floods can hardly be forgotten. What is happening there?

Yes, all across the Himalayas, the high disaster vulnerabilities (to earthquakes, floods, landslides, erosion and flashfloods) have deepened because of the changing climate and the kind of interventions we are doing there. Our disaster management infrastructure remains a rather weak link, as the Supreme Court order on on May 11, 2016 about the current drought pointed out. We seem to have learnt little from the Uttarakhand disaster of June 2013 and the Jammu and K ashmir floods of September 2014 and March 2015. As the Nepal earthquake of April-May 2015 showed, these regions are prone to major seismic shocks. All this demands urgent action and possibly course change.

Original link: http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/india-facing-its-worst-water-crisis-ever-himanshu-thakkar-116051400704_1.html

Dams · Drought · Hydropower

Letter to PM: Devise a policy for curbing hydropower water diversions during drought years

Above: Red arrows indicate diversion of water from Tata Dams into surplus basin. Source: Google earth images and SANDRP

Since past three years, SANDRP has been raising the issue of West-ward water transfer during drought years by hydropower dams. Maharashtra annually diverts 3324 Million Cubic Meters of water from its water deficit Bhima and Krishna basins into the water surplus Konkan basin for hydropower generation. This happens though 6 dams on Bhima Basin privately owned by Tata Power and the Koyana Hydropower Project. Although drinking water is the first priority for any society and this is enshrined in the National and State Water Policies, there is no system in place to allocate the waters of these dams to the downstream, when there is dire need. During this drought, which is possibly Independent India’s worst droughts, Tata Dams have released nearly no water to the Bhima Basin and Maharashtra Government on its part has taken no stand on this issue.

After raising this issue several times at many platforms, SANDRP has sent a letter to the Prime Minister as well as to the National Human Rights Commission on this issue. If you agree with the points raised in the letter below, please send similar letter to the authorities.  Continue reading “Letter to PM: Devise a policy for curbing hydropower water diversions during drought years”

Climate Change · Dams · Drought · Monsoon

Dr. Roxy Mathew Koll: “Warming Indian Ocean means a Weakening Indian Monsoon”

AboveAll-India Summer Monsoon (June-September) Rainfall Anomalies during 1871-2015. Note that since 1950s, not only has the incidence of droughts increased, but rainfall in the excess of 10% has also decreased markedly Source: IITM Paper Interanual Variations of Indian Summer Monsoon

When it comes to Global Warming and Climate Change (not interchangeable terms), India and the world have witnessed a series of firsts in the past year. The last 11 months have been the warmest months in recorded history, each monotonously breaking a previous record[i]. In India, regions like Maharashtra including Marathwada have experienced back to back droughts, in addition to increasing frequency of Extreme Weather events like Hailstorms and unseasonal rainfall. Variability of Western Disturbances has increased, which is linked with extensive anthropogenic warming over Tibet[ii]. Our response to Climate Change and the challenges it poses has been far from satisfactory. There has been no impact of National Action Plan for Climate Change, due to the inherent problems in its inception[iii]. State Plans lay languishing for several years, without clear accountability and transparency[iv]. India’s INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution) indicate more harm than good.[v] Continue reading “Dr. Roxy Mathew Koll: “Warming Indian Ocean means a Weakening Indian Monsoon””

Agriculture · Climate Change · Dams · Drought · Environment · Ganga · Irrigation · Monsoon · Narmada · Rivers · South Asia

Dams, Rivers & People News Bulletin Nov 02, 2015 (Festival Fishing on occasion of Kati Bihu in Assam)

People of a village in Morigaon district of Assam fish in groups to celebrate ‘Kati Bihu’ on Sunday. The festival is closely related to agriculture, celebrated on the first day of the Kati month of the Assamese calendar. It is that time of the year when paddy grows in the fields and cultivators work hard for a good harvest.— Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar, The Hindu

Continue reading “Dams, Rivers & People News Bulletin Nov 02, 2015 (Festival Fishing on occasion of Kati Bihu in Assam)”

Agriculture · China · Climate Change · Dams · Drought · DRP News Bulletin · Environment · Ganga · Irrigation · Monsoon · Nepal · Pakistan · Rivers · Sand Mining

Dams, Rivers & People News Bulletin Oct 26, 2015 (Saving Tigers is Saving Rivers, Story of once dry Tamirabarani River )

Tamirabarani teaches: Saving tiger is saving river  After Kalakkad-Mundanthurai was declared tiger reserve in 1992, Tamirabarani river has regained its perennial status. Though shorter than Cauvery and Vaigai, Tamirabarani has always held a special place in the state. It started turning dry for four months every year. People of Tirunelveli and Tuticorin thought their river too was going the way of other state rivers. But a move to save the tiger inadvertently became a save the-river policy. The Union ministry of environment and forests declared the Kalakkad – Mundanthurai area as a tiger reserve in 1992. In three years, there was a noticeable change. A study on water inflow into the Karayar river, a tributary, inside the reserve was taken up. Records show that from 1946 till 1990, the river received only 13,000 cubic feet of water annually. After the area was declared as a tiger reserve, the inflow increased to 23,000 cubic feet.

Continue reading “Dams, Rivers & People News Bulletin Oct 26, 2015 (Saving Tigers is Saving Rivers, Story of once dry Tamirabarani River )”

Climate Change · Dams · Drought · Floods · Ganga · Irrigation · Monsoon · Narmada · Rivers · Sand Mining

Dams, Rivers & People News Bulletin Oct 19, 2015 (Migratory birds keep away from NCR due to warm weather)

Sardar Sarovar Dam gates can’t be closed till last person displaced is rehabilitated: SC.

CIC tells centre to give Polavaram project info to RTI applicant

Scrap Renuka dam if Centre-HP row can’t be sorted out: SC

State orders release of Godavari water to drought-hit Marathwada

HC Bombay directs inquiry into release of Gangapur dam water for Shahi Snan at Kumbh Mela

Bhama Askhed dam project: Agitation turns violent

Pinjal-Gargai dam project in Mumbai faces protests

Amid heated arguments Nashik Municipal Corporation approved additional Rs 36cr for Makane dam plan

Continue reading “Dams, Rivers & People News Bulletin Oct 19, 2015 (Migratory birds keep away from NCR due to warm weather)”

Climate Change · Dams · Drought · Environment · Ganga · Hydropower · Irrigation · Monsoon · Rivers · Sand Mining

Dams, Rivers & People News Bulletin, Oct 05, 2015 (On Climate Agenda Govt. scale down targets but on ground still pushing hard many hydro projects)

HYDROPOWER

Hydro fast loosing sheen in renewable energy basket  and the share of hydro is likely to decline further as through the past three years, the installed capacity of hydropower projects has remained around 40,000 Mw. While the report superficially may appear as a sigh of relief nevertheless on ground Indian Govt. is still in a hurry to push many big hydro power projects particularly in North-Eastern States. Last month only Piyush Goyal Power Minister cleared the Teesta-III and spoke of clearing Subansiri too. In Siang basin Pauk, Heo, Tato-I are recently approved by MoEF Panel. Protest against 780 Nyamjang Chhu HEP is going on. Similarly several projects in Ganga, Barhamputra and Satluj basin are being cleared and constructed in plain violation of stipulated green norms. Public and private developers are repeatedly ignoring environmental concerns and not addressing the issues raised by local people.

Continue reading “Dams, Rivers & People News Bulletin, Oct 05, 2015 (On Climate Agenda Govt. scale down targets but on ground still pushing hard many hydro projects)”

Climate Change · Dams · Drought · Environment · Ganga · Irrigation · Monsoon · Rivers

DRP News Bulletin, Sep 21, 2015: Buddhist Monpas, Black-necked Cranes & Nyamjang Chhu Project

Rohan Chakraborty’s cartoon on the threat from 780 MW Nyamjang Chhu hydel project to Black- necked Cranes revered by the Buddhist Monpas of Tawang.

HYDROPOWER

UTTARAKHAND: Hydro Power companies, BRO, PWD still dumping debris in Uttarakhand rivers, forest department under pressure as administration and judiciary stand in defence of culprits  MOST SHOCKING STATE OF AFFAIRS IN UTTARAKHAND HYDRO AND RIVERS: “SS Rasailey, director of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve said, “BRO and PWD have been throwing all the road construction-related garbage into the rivers on a regular basis. Similarly, companies behind the THDC run Pipalkoti-Vishnuprayag and NTPC-run Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel projects have been doing this as well, despite the fact that all of them have to dispose waste on a separate piece of land as per the guidelines. While they show that they are following the rules on paper, in reality they don’t.” Rasailey added that while forest officials have taken up this issue, filing cases and even getting the people arrested for alleged waste disposal in Chamoli district, they have not received cooperation from the administration or the judiciary in prosecuting the big companies which are among the violators.

This story sheds light on the plight of people displaced by Tehri Dam as thousands of them are still waiting for proper compensation and rehabilitation. The woes of the displaced people never end. Himangshu Thakkar of SANDRP, who has been working on issues associated with large dams, warned of playing with rivers, “With dams, our politicians are inviting disaster and playing with the lives of people, the Himalayas, the Ganges and future generations. They didn’t learn anything from the June 2013 disaster”.

ARUNACHAL PRADESH MoEFCC massive clearance spree of Arunachal hydro power projects bound to have repercussions as there have been no public consultations in Arunachal Pradesh or Assam. Surprisingly, Subansiri river basin study was not even listed among the 14 subjects that were placed for discussion. However, this did not stop the Committee from taking a decision to go ahead with 26 projects. On 3097 MW Etalin by Jindal group on Dibang, the EAC has recommended  primary surveys only in monsoon, not in winter and pre-monsoon, which experts  say is an attempt to enable faster clearances while compromising ecological and social security as lot of use of areas by people and wildlife is in winter and pre-monsoon, not just monsoon.

Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin, Sep 21, 2015: Buddhist Monpas, Black-necked Cranes & Nyamjang Chhu Project”