Guest Blog by Manoj Misra
Allowing Swami Gyan Swarup Sanand (formerly Prof. GD Agarwal) to die unheard is perhaps the most tragic but not the only serious faux pas committed by Prime Minister Modi and his team in the matter of Ganga rejuvenation. It was actually the culmination of a series of missteps that began early in his tenure.
It can reasonably be presumed that candidate Modi was sincere and serious when he made those famous statements at Varanasi during his campaign (and even later) regarding Ganga rejuvenation. They seemed straight from his heart and seemed to be convincing to many. Everybody thought, “Here is a Prime Minister, who does not – contrary to his predecessor – need goading to make all the right noises”. Hopefully these noises shall result into right actions as well. So much so that Swami Sanand waited almost four years before making his discomfort on lack of any worthwhile progress on Ganga rejuvenation known directly to the Prime Minister. He wrote a number of letters before and after embarking (beginning 22 June 2018) on his legendary 111 day fast that ultimately led to his martyrdom on 11 Oct 2018.
Continue reading “HOW MODI GOVERNMENT WENT HORRIBLY WRONG ON GANGA REJUVENATION”
Its deeply saddening that just before 4 pm today (Oct 11, 2018), Prof G D Agarwal, now known as Swami Gyan Swarup Sanand, laid down his life for the cause of a rejuvenated Ganga. He was on FAST UNTO DEATH, as he declared through his letter to the Prime Minister on Feb 24, 2018, four months before he was to launched his fast. Continue reading “TRIBUTE TO LATE SWAMI SANAND WHO DIED FOR THE CAUSE OF GANGA RIVER”
In this second part of the Ganga article, let us listen to some official agencies about the state of Ganga River following the recent efforts.
Parliamentary Committee: Why is Ganga among the five most polluted rivers of the world? Said Parliamentary estimates committee (2016-17) for Ministry of Water Resources, Ganga Rejuvenation and River Development (MoWR for short) in a report on “Ganga Rejuvenation” submitted to the Lok Sabha (lower house of India’s Parliament) on 11th May, 2016[i]: “However, indiscriminate anthropogenic interventions like construction of HPPs[ii] in the seismically active and fragile Himalayas, diversion of 80 to 90 percent of water, discharge of extremely hazardous effluents by 144 drains and dumping of solid waste has converted the Ganga into one of the ten most polluted rivers of the world. Alarmed by the drying-polluted Ganga and taking note of the solemn resolve of the Prime Minister to rejuvenate the Ganga, the Committee decided to select the subject for in depth examination and report with a view to accelerate the work of Ganga rejuvenation.” The report also noted, “The Public Accounts Committee (2014-15) in their 8th Report on Water Pollution had expressed distress that the Ganga has become one of the five most polluted rivers in the world, despite launching of the ‘Ganga Action Plan’ and the ‘Mission Clean Ganga’ (2009) by the NGRBA[iii].” Continue reading “Is there hope from National Mission for Clean Ganga? Listen to official agencies”
Ganga river basin’s importance is well acknowledged. The World Bank, that is funding a currently ongoing USD 1 Billion project for Ganga Clean up says in its Project Appraisal Document[i]: It’s the most populous basin in the World. 50% of India’s poor are in the five states along the main stem of Ganga: Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and W Bengal. The basin of the 2525 km long river spans four countries (China, Nepal, India, Bangladesh) and 11 Indian states. More than 60 million people came to the Ganga river in the city of Allahabad for pilgrimage in January 2007 during Kumbh Mela, making it the largest gathering in the world. It will again happen in January 2019. Continue reading “What ails Ganga: Why Namami Gange is spectacular failure”
A new surge in the developmental interventions in the rivers in India is seen with the implementation of National Inland Waterways Act, 2016. Under this Act, 138 stretches of the rivers, creeks, backwaters, estuaries, etc. in 24 states and 2 union territories will be developed as the ‘national inland waterways’ for the transportation of huge cargo and passenger vessels. Being declared as “national” means that the control and regulation of these waterways will be in the hands of the central government and not state governments. This project of Central Government is being pushed forward with the claims of inland water transport being cost-effect, environmental friendly and safe for the transportation of hazardous goods. However, these so called benefits are neither universal nor automatic as they will be dependent on certain conditions, and will accrue if and when those conditions are met. Development of these waterways will be controlled and regulated by Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI). Continue reading “National Inland Waterways in Bihar: Viable or desirable?”
It’s a bit intriguing situation. IMD and Skymet experts are downgrading the monsoon rainfall from earlier forecast 100% to 92%. Both agencies are predicting even lower rainfall in remaining part of current South West Monsoon. Bihar has received 413.2 mm rainfall till Aug 2, 2018, 22% below normal. And yet, starting Aug 1, CWC’s flood forecasting sites along the Ganga were showing ominous portents. For the first time this monsoon, the sites started showing steep upwards trend. Continue reading “Will sluggish Farakka again create prolonged floods along Ganga in Bihar?”
When I was documenting a tiny, free-flowing river in Maharashtra Western Ghats named Shastri, the common thread from headwaters to estuary was Fishing! It was everywhere, in all forms, including dozens of fish species and fishing practices, including everyone: men, women, children, otters, crocs, storks. Across the country, buzzing, diversified fisheries with old, complex narratives indicate a rich river. And the palette just gets more vivid, nuanced and colorful with the size of the river.
More than 10 million Indians from some of the most vulnerable groups depend on rivers for their livelihood and nutritional needs. This staggering number can be an underestimate as several riverine fisherfolk do not bring their produce to the market and our livelihood census hardly captures the intricacies of riverine fisheries sector. Despite the huge dependence and critical importance of riverine fisheries, the sector continues being ignored and abused. The reasons behind the exploitation are at the heart of a deeper, more troubling discourse: ownership and appropriation of the river as a natural resource. Continue reading “Riverine Fisherfolk as Mascots of flowing rivers and how 4 projects treat them today”
(Above: Protest outside MoEF on Oct 24, 2017 when EAC met to consider EC for Pancheshwar Project)
Oct 23, 2017
Chairman and Members, Expert Appraisal Committee (River Valley Projects), Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, Jor Bagh, New Delhi
Respected Chairman and Members,
The agenda of the EAC (for RVP) to be held on Oct 24, 2017, put up on the EC website only on Oct 18, 2017, just six days before the EAC meeting includes the 5040 MW Pancheshwar Multipurpose project (PMP), India’s largest proposed hydropower projects. The agenda should be available at least ten days before the meeting, and this should also be a reason for not considering the Pancheshwar project by EAC for its meeting on Oct 24. Moreover agenda mentions 5600 MW Pancheshwar project, where as the capacity as per EIA is 5040 MW. Is MoEF just callous in mentioning wrong installed capacity or has the capacity gone up? In either case, the 5040 MW Pancheshwar project should not be on EAC agenda. Continue reading “Letter to MoEF’s Expert Committee: Why Pancheshwar Project should not be considered for Environment Clearance”
New Draft Guidelines designed to privatise & destroy Groundwater The Ministry of Water Resources of the Union Government has on Oct 11, 2017 (see notice: http://www.wrmin.nic.in/forms/List.aspx?lid=1180&Id=6) put up draft guidelines on Groundwater management in India (see draft Guidelines: http://www.wrmin.nic.in/writereaddata/guideline-NOC-CGWA.pdf), with comment period of 60 days. The comments are to be sent to: Member Secretary, Central Ground Water Authority, West Block-2, Wing 3 (Ground Floor), Sector 1, RK Puram, New Delhi – 110066, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Draft Groundwater guidelines designed to destroy groundwater further and open floodgates for privatisation of common property resource? “Groundwater is a common property resource and should be used for greater good. But these guidelines are not doing that. Groundwater governance and management should happen in a transparent, participatory and accountable way but that too is not happening through guidelines,” Thakkar said.
Explaining, Thakkar said that the guidelines are “trying to make a system wherein state or district level authorities will be giving NOCs but whether those authorities have capacity to give NOCs after understanding the implications is the question.” “The draft guidelines also take out the need to recharge groundwater. Present regulations say that you if you take out groundwater you need to put in recharge capacity but now they are saying that’s not necessary and are only seeking charges. These things will definitely lead to further destruction of groundwater,” he added. http://www.livemint.com/Politics/irx1jFCWMFjGJk82Z8VZ2O/Govt-proposes-new-guidelines-on-groundwater-usage-by-industr.html, http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2017/oct/13/centre-proposes-water-conservation-fee-for-use-of-groundwater-1673480.html, http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2017/oct/14/townships-with-gym-club-must-pay-water-fee-1673790.html, http://www.hindustantimes.com/environment/centre-proposes-nixing-recharge-requirement-for-industries-extracting-groundwater/story-kN3iPmO9m4MIoYkUX32n7I.html Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 16 October 2017: New Groundwater Guidelines threat to India’s Water Lifeline”
Above: The Bhagirathi valley has a lot of beautiful bends, comparable to the most popular scenic spots across the world. But we’re busy cutting down the mountain to make broader roads in these eco-sensitive areas. Image taken in March 2017. Photo credits: Siddharth Agarwal
Guest Blog by Siddharth Agarwal
In the initial stages of planning the Moving Upstream project on the Ganga for Veditum, where we were going to walk along the whole length of the river, I had approached a lot of individuals to learn from their experiences about the river and the many connected stories around it. These learnings varied from science and activism to adventure and survival. Of all those who were approached, Himanshu Thakkar from SANDRP had been the most generous in extending knowledge resources and sharing contacts from the field. He even entertained a couple of my visits to their office and shared with me a copy of the SANDRP report prepared by Theo, called Headwater Extinctions (February 2014, see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/new-publication-headwater-extinctions-impact-of-hydropower-projects-on-fish-and-river-ecosystems-in-upper-ganga-and-beas-basins/, it includes link to full report), along with a few other documents.
Headwater Extinctions looks at the role played by small and large hydropower projects in altering the fish biodiversity and river ecosystems in the Himalayan reaches of the Ganga and Beas basins. It also speaks about the perspective of local people and that of the authorities towards hydropower projects. Theo, who is an adventurer and ecologist, penned down the report with a scientific aptitude, while I will limit myself here in this revisit report to updated observations made on ground while walking along the Ganga in Uttarakhand (March 2017). This comparative observation will hopefully enable a conversation that requires continuity. Continue reading “Walking along Ganga in Uttarakhand in 2017”