There are large number of stories this week from all over India highlighting the crisis that Urban Rivers in India face. Urban rivers, like the Urban Water sector, exist in complete policy vacuum. There is no policy to guide the Urban water governance. Cosmetic efforts being done when President Donald Trump of USA visits India on Feb 24-25, 2020 at Yamuna (in view of his visit to Agra) or Sabarmati (visit to Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad) won’t really help. The crisis not only affects the rivers, but the health, livelihoods and lives of millions and millions of city dwellers too, in addition to the downstream river users. Our Water Resources establishment has no clue, as is evident from their calling the Dravyawati river channelization in Jaipur as an example of river rejuvenation and suggesting such rivers should be given to corporates to rejuvenate in similar ways! It’s doubtful if the new National Water Policy now being formulated will help, unless it dares to suggest radical changes.
SYNOPSIS: Everyone concerned agrees that India is facing unprecedented and worsening water crisis. Some of the key aspects of water sector challenges include: Lack of reliable water information, need for restructuring of institutions, groundwater lifeline in distress, politicians and institutions pushing more large dams when evidence shows they do not work, the need for attention to maintenance of massive water infrastructure, the increasing footprint of Urban water sector, State of our rivers in general and Ganga in particular, water management for agriculture, governance and changing climate, among others. Unfortunately, these challenges do not seem to get reflected as electoral issues and all parties are equally to be blamed for this. The current Union government has very poor report card on almost every one of the water sector challenges, and its seems like a series of missed opportunities.
Brave Journalists exposes the Nexus supporting illegal sand mining in Tamil Nadu
Reporter honoured for exposing illegal mining On January 4, 2019, Sandhya Ravishankar was conferred Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award for her reportage on illegal beach sand mining in Tamil Nadu. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/news18-editor-m-gunasekaran-becomes-1st-tamil-journalist-bag-ramnath-goenka-award-94522 (5 Jan. 2019)
Journalist stalked after reports on sand mafia Sandhya Ravishankar, Chennai-based journalist alleges multiple attempts to stalk and intimidate her in the recent past after she wrote a series of reports on the sand mafia. She is also fighting defamation cases. https://www.firstpost.com/india/chennai-based-journalist-sandhya-ravishankar-alleges-stalking-intimidation-after-reports-on-sand-mining-mafia-5295131.html (1 Oct. 2018)
Explosive reports on illegal beach sand mining in Tamil Nadu by Sandhya Ravi Shankar: Her report first person singular on Jan 31, 2017 provides blow by blow account of how the nexus involved in illegal sand mining was exposed. (https://thewire.in/culture/beach-sand-cartel, https://thewire.in/tag/beach-sand-mining)
Madhya Pradesh is one of the worse affected states as far as illegal sand mining is concerned. Over the years unsustainable sand mining has caused great damage to Narmada and its tributaries. The Ken, Betwa, Sindh, Chambal and Son rivers which join Yamuna and Ganga rivers has also been facing severe threats from ongoing illegal sand extraction.
Even in 2018, there was no significant improvement in this regard. There were attacks on govt officials and media persons for exposing illegal sand mining. The state govt failed to stop the illegal sand extraction.
On November 16, 2017, the Supreme Court (SC) of India, prohibited 82 large lease holders from mining sand and stone activities in absence of scientific replenishment study. The ban continued all through the year of 2018 and so were the incidents of illegal sand mining and violent attacks on police officials.
The ban has reportedly hampered some development projects. The prices of sand has increased. Meanwhile the mining department is seen making efforts in exploring Manufactured Sand (M-Sand) as an alternative though it seems there is not much success as yet.
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.
ABSTRACT: Many independent observers have argued that dams have played a role in increasing the proportions of Kerala flood disaster during July-Aug 2018. This article shows that Kerala dams violated many basic norms and if operated prudently, could have helped. It shows how post dam floods are different than pre dam floods. It lists the steps that would help in future disasters involving dams. The lessons are useful for all large dams of India.
In theory, every dam can help moderate floods in the downstream areas, as long as and as much as the dam has space to store water. In fact, every action that helps to store, hold, recharge (to groundwater aquifer), delay flow of rainwater from the catchment to the river would help moderate flow and hence flood in the river. Our catchments are fast losing that capacity, with continued destruction of natural forests, wetlands, local water bodies and also soil’s capacity to hold water. Continue reading “Role of dams in Kerala’s 2018 floods”
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”
Well-known ecologist Madhav Gadgil, founder of the Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, has described the devastating floods in Kerala as a man-made disaster and a reaction to the illegal excavations and stone quarrying done over a decade. https://www.hindustantimes.com/pune-news/illegal-forest-land-acquisition-major-reason-for-floods-in-kerala-says-ecologist-madhav-gadgil-calls-it-man-made-disaster/story-vMHPKUH623GEnjyQHI09NP.html (19 Aug. 2018)
Further speaking to various regional media, Madhav Gadgil has said that irresponsible environmental policy is to blame for the recent floods and landslides in Kerala. He also called it a “manmade calamity”. He said that the committee report had recommended to protect the resources with the cooperation of local self-govt and people, but those recommendations were rejected.
He also pointed out that quarrying is a major reason for the mudslides and landslides. Other environmentalists also point fingers at the extensive quarrying, mushrooming of high rises as part of tourism and illegal forest land acquisition by private parties as major reasons for the recent calamity. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/kerala-floods-the-ghost-of-past-environment-policy-returns/65436707 (17 Aug. 2018)
Dams should never be filled before the end of the monsoons. Because then one doesn’t have any solution but to release the water in the surrounding areas: Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP says as one of panellist discussing role of dams in aggravating Kerala floods.
Also see, NDTV discussion on Kerala flood crisis, it included SANDRP coordinator:
Here is NDTV Hindi discussion on Kerala flood crisis, included SANDRP coordinator:
Here is admission about sudden, excessive releases and not foreseeing the coming disaster. The Kerala crisis could have been contained had the state “gradually released” waters from at least 30 dams, officials said, adding that the local authorities failed to foresee the imminent danger with high rain prediction. “Such floods have probably recurred after 100 years, exposing the state’s unprofessionally run reservoir management system and unpreparedness on disaster mitigation and disaster resilience, an official pointed out. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kochi/gradual-dam-water-release-could-have-contained-crisis/articleshow/65436339.cms (17 Aug. 2018)
In its latest report, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has questioned implementation of sixteen National Irrigation Projects. Before this, the CAG has held mismanagement in dams’ operation responsible for Chennai floods in 2015. Both these reports are available on its website now.
The CAG report on National Irrigation Projects, tabled in Parliament on July 20, has revealed that sixteen major multi-purpose water projects, taken up on an expeditious basis about a decade ago, are nowhere near completion, with no work being undertaken in as many as 11 projects despite the incumbent govt’s much-wanted focus on improving irrigation facilities in the country.
The report also mentioned that out of the 16 projects, undertaken under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP) in Feb 2008, only five projects with estimated irrigation potential of 25.10 lakh hectares were under implementation and even these projects suffer from 8 to 99 per cent shortfall in physical progress, the CAG said. The remaining 11 projects with estimated irrigation potential of 10.48 lakh hectares are yet to commence and are at different stages of approval.