This multi-media report by Siddharth Agarwal based on a walk along the majestic Ken River in central India, now part of a contentious river-linking project, shows how essential it is to the communities living around it.
The idea of walking along a river has many key reasons, but the most important of them is to interact, discuss with and document the life of the actual stakeholders of this natural system. Traversing flood plains and riverbanks on foot takes us right where the story is, not in a far removed space, where even a few kilometres away from it can be a major shift. Location plays a wonderful role in rejigging memory and helps people imagine past situations. The discussions on the scale of the importance of a river suddenly have a realism and depth.
The tendency of filling up reservoirs in the beginning and middle of monsoon season have been leading to avoidable flood disasters in the country. Apart from Kerala flood 2018, which was aggravated by mismanagement of reservoirs, various reports show that reservoirs in river basin of Cauvery, Krishna, Godavari and Ganga were also filled up well before the end of South West monsoon season. Resultantly there were many man made flood spells in downstream areas affecting lives and livelihoods of people.
Every year on the sixth day of summer Navratra the birthday of Yamuna river is celebrated. This year it was on 23 March 2018. On this occasion, SANDRP has prepared a photo blog covering almost entire length of the river. The Yamuna Mitra Mandali (YNMM) (Friends of Yamuna River) group established by Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan has essential contributed for this pictorial blog.
The photo blog tries to show the present day situation of river Yamuna and activities of YNMM on the day of Yamuna Jayanti.
This week there are exemplary and encouraging wetlands revival stories from three metro cities of Chennai, Hyderabad and Delhi. In the first example from Hyderabad, meticulously chosen plant species such as tulsi, aswagandha, citronella and hibiscus have been used to create an artificial island to clean Neknampur Lake. The treatment islands are composed of four layers of which the bamboo base keeps the entire structure afloat. Based on soil-less hydroponics, these floating treatment wetlands absorb excess nitrates, thereby reducing the chemical content of the lake water. Microorganisms present in the wetland break down organic matter while the root systems filter out pollutants and sediments. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/3500-saplings-floating-islands-help-rejuvenate-hyd-neknampur-lake-75819 (The News Minute, 3 Feb. 2018)
Similarly, Chennai-based Care Earth Trust along with the public works department (PWD) and the civic body has managed to restore three urban lakes. While many of the smaller wetlands have vanished over time, many mid-sized wetlands seem to have shrunk by almost 65 percent. Thanks to their joint effort, invasive hyacinth was removed from the Narayanapuram Lake in Pallikaranai, while sewer lines, which emptied into the Perungalathur Lake, have now been plugged. A detailed restoration proposal has been forwarded to the PWD regarding the Korattur-Madhavaram-Ambattur lakes. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/hyacinth-out-sewer-line-plugged-three-water-bodies-restored/articleshow/62748110.cms (The Times of India, 2 Feb. 2018)
Meanwhile, Delhi Jal Board (DJB) has taken up interesting new project of creating an artificial lake in Dwarka. The project will supply water in sub-city and improve ground water level too. DJB has approved Rs. 56 crore for the project which will be completed in next seven months. This would the first model project wherein a lake will be used to augment water supply. The special lake is being created next to the Dwarka water treatment plant (WTP) will have a sand bed to allow maximum percolation of water into the ground. It will have a capacity of 10 million gallons (MGD). The project is expected to add supply of 5-6 million gallons water to Dwarka every day.
2005 से 2008 के बीच पन्ना जिले की कलेक्टर ने अपने कार्यकाल के दौरान केन-बेतवा परियोजना के बारे में अपने शीर्ष अधिकारियों और विभागों को पत्रों की एक श्रृंखला लिखी थी। इन पत्रों में उन्होंने एक चौंकानेवाला निष्कर्ष दिया था कि यदि केन बेसिन के लोगों की पानी की बुनियादी जरूरतें पूरी की जाए, तो केन नदी में कोई अतिरिक्त पानी ही नहीं बचेगा। उन्होंने यहाँ तक लिखा था कि केन-बेतवा नदी जोड़ो परियोजना केन बेसिन के लोगों के लिए एक त्रासदी होगी।
एसएएनडीआरपी (SANDRP) को मिले दस्तावेजों से यह पता चलता है कि 2005 से 2008 के बीच पन्ना कलेक्टर के रूप में अपने कार्यकाल के दौरान उन्होंने केन बेतवा परियोजना को रोकने के लिए कड़ा संघर्ष किया था। उन्होंने दिखाया था कि यदि मध्य प्रदेश 1983 के अपने जल संसाधन मास्टर प्लान को केन बेसिन में लागू करता, तो बेतवा बेसिन में भेजने के लिए कोई पानी ही नहीं बचता। इसे देखते हुए उन्होंने हताश होकर अंततः यह निष्कर्ष निकाला कि केन-बेतवा परियोजना “पन्ना जिले के निवासियों और केन नदी बेसिन के अन्य जिलों के लिए विनाशकारी दुष्परिणामों वाली होगी।”
Above: A fabulous view of Ken river. Nesting sites of Long-billed vultures are to the right. All will go under water if Ken-Betwa linkup is carried out (Photo by AJT Johnsingh)
PREFACE: Following is a submission by the authors to the Ministry of Environment and Forests’ Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects, sent on Oct 25, 2015, as the EAC was to consider the Ken Betwa River Link Project for Environment Clearance on Oct 27, 2015. The authors had sent a submission to EAC in Aug 2015, when the EAC considered this project for the first time. In response to the various submissions that EAC received on this proposal, including one by the authors and another by SANDRP, among others, the EAC had asked the project proponent, NWDA (National Water Development Agency, an organisation under Union Water Resources Ministry) to provide a point wise reply. The NWDA response can be seen here: http://environmentclearance.nic.in/writereaddata/Online/EDS/0_0_15_Oct_2015_1405329601eac.pdf
One has to wonder that if the Ken-Betwa is such a worthwhile project, why is it necessary for the proponents to lie and obfuscate facts in order to promote it. We are not unreasonable individuals and have no reason not to want people to be benefited by appropriate development. If the project had more overall benefit than detriment, why would everyone not support it. However we find that it is prejudiced, not argued on reason, much is being obscured and alternate views have not been taken into consideration. The project is being undertaken in an area that has been evaluated as important enough to set aside for the tigers’ welfare. High priority must therefore be given to this species; but throughout totally inadequate consideration has been given to this. Continue reading “Ken Betwa River Link Project involves India’s first Major Dam inside National Park: It needs, fresh, credible EIA, not misleading falsehoods from NWDA”→