Southwest Monsoon provides about 75% of our water and yet we have not learnt how to manage that rain water, without creating avoidable flood disasters, without using submergence as weapon to displace people as is being attempted in case of Sardar Sarovar Project in Gujarat, without allowing water to flow to Pakistan, which is against all the rhetoric of the top most government persons and without the needless push for more big dams or interlilnking rivers or such mega centralised projects and programs? If we go through this week’s DRP News Update, it does not seem like we have. All the contrary elements are there for all to see.
It is certainly possible to manage the rain better so that more of it is available beyond the monsoon in a decentralised manner, as decentralised as the rainfall itself. The elements of it all well known: harvest rain where it falls, recharge groundwater, create local water systems, desilt existing such systems, protect wetlands, forests, increase soil’s capacity to hold moisture through increasing carbon/ organic conent of the soils (we know how this can be achieved), use the created large reservoirs judiciously, ensure all the dams in a basin are filled up simultaneously and not sequentially, ensure water flow in the river for maximum period as that will also help recharge groundwater, reduce deforestation in the catchments, increase forest area in the catchments where possible, protect local water systems everywhere including Urban areas, protect flood plains and ensure rivers have capacity to carry floods that it is required to carry, have better and more accurate rainfall forecasts (including riverbasin wise/ sub basin wise forecasts), coordinated actions across river basins and states. There is some minor improvements here and there as we see in this bulltin, but no major change.
It’s more optimal rain water management that will help better water security, sustainable water availability, food production, livelihoods and agricultural security, among others. What is the road map to learn this and learn fast? There is no immediate light to the end of the tunnel.
It’s great to see the top edit in THE TIMES OF INDIA today (Aug 12, 2019) calling for urgent review of flood management in India. Indeed the current floods can be a big wake up call.
TOI Edit rightly says: “Similarly, there’s also an urgent need to upgrade dam management in the region. Despite heavy rain warnings, why couldn’t Maharashtra and Karnataka coordinate to release dam waters downstream as a pre-emptive measure? We need much more proactive and punctilious supervision of dam waters.” Indeed there is need to fix the responsibilities of failures in Dam Management, including forecasting failures, Violations of rule curves, mismanagement of reservoirs and lack of information sharing and coordination.Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 12 August 2019: URGENT REVIEW OF FLOOD MANAGEMENT REQUIRED”→
India urgently needs a lot of effective work on Dam Safety, but the bill before the Parliament makes CWC (Central Water Commission) as focal point of Dam Safety, but CWC has conflict of interest and poor track record. The Bill does not provide any real independent oversight, nor clearly defined norms of complete transparency in the dam safety matters, and there is no role of the vulnerable communities, the most important stake holders. The Bill also tends to centralise the power with the Union govt, and states legitimately suspects this. https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/dam-safety-bill-2019-why-evokes-opposition-stakeholders-1576391-2019-08-02 (Aug 2, 2019)
The Interstate Amendment Water Disputes Amendment Bill before the Parliament is basically tinkering with the existing system, which will not change anything fundamentally. It needs to be understood that disputes arise when an upper riparian state (or a country) build a large dam or diverts the massive amount of water, leading to lower availability of water for the lower riparian state (or country). When it comes to resolution, the tribunals look at a river as a channel of water and its distribution, ignoring that it is a complete ecosystem and that water in a river depends on the state of its basin and catchment area. It also depends on the extraction of groundwater. These aspects are ignored by the tribunals. Moreover, a state does not represent a river basin or all its stakeholders (the people using river water), which is why the Narmada tribunal’ award created a conflict between the states and their people. The central government’s impartiality is suspect and would have a great bearing on the resolution process. https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/interstate-river-water-disputes-bill-2019-1575531-2019-07-31 (1 Aug. 2019)
The following is an excellent example of how early flood warnings from Bhutan, shared with downstream Assam communities using WhatsApp messages, saves lives. This needs to be highlighted and word spread to implement it in all flood prone areas on Urgent basis, including in trans-boundary areas, as this is an example of the same.
In the last few weeks of June 2019, a series of WhatsApp messages (sent via unofficial channels) were sent from Bhutan to India to warn “cross-border friends” downstream of the Aai, Saralbhanga and Manas rivers about cloud-bursts, swollen rivers and possible flash floods affecting people in the Indian state of Assam.
Irked over “judicial impropriety” by some senior advocates in taking relief from its vacation benches by suppressing facts, the Supreme Court July 5 blasted them for “playing fraud” upon it. Terming this practice as “the height of judicial misconduct”, a bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Navin Sinha said senior advocates were “not above the law” and such conduct reflected that “no morality” is left in some of them.
It also took exception to the passing of order by the vacation bench, which had stayed the demolition of some buildings in Kerala for six weeks. Hearing the matter earlier, a bench headed by Justice Mishra had directed on May 8 that these buildings be removed within a month as they were constructed in the notified Coastal Regulations Zones (CRZ), which is part of the tidally influenced water body in Kerala.
When the matter came up for hearing on July 5, the bench said it has “serious objection” to what has happened in the case as “height of judicial impropriety has been done”. “During the vacation, the matter was mentioned before me but I refused to hear it. Then it came before another vacation bench. That bench should not have passed the order. You (lawyers) are permitting the court to commit judicial impropriety,” the bench told senior advocate Kalyan Banerjee, who is also a Lok Sabha MP from All India Trinamool Congress.
For several decades now, groundwater has been India’s water lifeline. It is going to remain India’s water lifeline for long time to come. So when Prime Minister Modi called for people’s movement on water conservation during his MANN KI BAAT Radio program on June 30, 2019 (http://pib.nic.in/PressReleseDetail.aspx?PRID=1576353), the first thing the people would expect the government to do is to acknowledge the reality that groundwater is India’s water lifeline and make the sustenance of that water lifeline as the focus of all National Water Policies, programs and plans.
India also urgently needs a National Urban Water Policy that would also define what is a water smart city. The government will need to show it is serious by putting in place rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharging systems at ALL government buildings and lands across the country and show that these are functioning.
The government will also need to bring back the watershed development as the focus of its work on water conservation and reverse the wrong steps this government took five years back (see the detailed report below).
The government also needs to urgently start work on restructuring of water institutions of India, starting with CWC. Unless people see the government’s seriousness through actions, the one listed here are the initial steps, there is little likelihood of credibility of what the government says.
With rainfall in June 2019 during the South West Monsoon already showing a deficit of massive 33%, the fifth highest deficit in last 100 years, its possibly the most opportune time to take these steps on URGENT BASIS.
गत 23 जून 2019 को, उत्तराखंड की चौथान पट्टी में तेज और असामान्य बरसात हुई। थलीसैंण तहसील के अंतर्गत लगने वाली चौथान पट्टी में 72 गांव आते हैं। पौड़ी जिले के दूरस्थ क्षेत्र में बसी चौथान पट्टी, दूधातोली आरक्षित वन के बफर जोन के आस पास बसी हुई है। साथ में यह पट्टी अल्मोड़ा और चमोली जिले की सीमाओं से सटी हुई है।
(“इति जोरग बरख लागि छ, हम भैर-भीतर नि अय स्की, हमूल अपण जमन मै यैस अंधकोप नी देख, हमूल जाण याल छ, गाढ़-गेदरयुग गुगाट, जरूर कखि ढोल-फ़ोल करल”) “इतने जोर से बारिश हुई थी कि हम लोग घरों में कैद हो गए। हमारी याद में ऐसी घनघोर बरसात पहले कभी नहीं हुई। गाड़ गदेरों में आई बाढ़ की गड़गड़ाहट से ही हम समझ गए थे, कहीं कुछ नुकसान जरूर होगा”, स्यूंसाल गांव की एक बुजुर्ग महिला ने बताया।
बारिश रविवार शाम लगभग तीन बजे के शुरू हुई और करीब दो घंटे तक लगातार चलती रही। अतिवृष्टि के दो बाद ग्रामीण लोग इसे बादल फटने की घटना मान रहे हैं और इलाके में इससे हुए नुकसान की सूचनाएं किस्तों में मिल रही है।
June 21 seemed like a new day with all the national newspapers carrying full front page advertisements about Kaleshwaram project of Telanagana, advertised with more than usual share of superlatives: Lifeline of Telangana, record breaking projects, the world’s highest lift project completed in fasted time and so on. At three (Maharashtra – the upstream state- Andhra Pradesh – the downstream state and Telangana the project state) Chief Ministers and one governor gathered on the banks of Godavari river in Jayashankar Bhupalpally district to inaugurate a project that opposition mocked, saying it is just 20% completed.
But there were many serious unanswered questions and problems around the costliest irrigation project of India from a region and sector that is infamous for corruption. Water availability itself is in doubt, the impact assessments are hardly done even in name sake, public consultations non existent. Even statutory clearances are being questioned. If this is the best or even least cost option for the Telangana is not even debated, for a project that may need over 5000 MW of power for lifting the water to over half a km height. That too in a state where no district has below 500 mm rainfall.
Five months have passed of 2019. There is apparently no reduction in illegal sand mining activities which are continue to ruin rivers, kill people and damage public infrastructure across the country.
In North India, the Ghaggar, Yamuna, Ken, Betwa and Chambal rivers have been severely affected. The Narmada, Krishan, Godavari and Cauvery are prominent rivers bearing the burnt of unsustainable extraction.
There are reports hinting that uncontrolled mining menace is also aggravating the drought situation. On one hand it is causing siltation of reservoirs thus reducing storage capacity while on the other it is inhibiting recharge of shallow aquifers supplying base flow to rivers during lean season. This is one of the main reasons many of perennial rivers like Cauvery, Narmada, Yamuna, Ken, Betwa and Godavari at many places are running dry this year.
(Feature image by Nishant Panwar, Vikas Nagar, shows Yamuna River in upper reaches in Jan. 2019)
On April 11, 2019, is the birthday of Yamuna river. The Yamuna Jayanti comes every year on the sixth day of ‘Chaitra’ (summer) Navratra. The Kapat (door) of famous Yamnotri shrine would be opened this year on May 7 for Char Dham Yatra.
In April-May 2019 India will vote to elect 17th Lok Sabha or Parliament. On April 11, the 1st of the 7 polling days, the home state of Yamuna river, Uttrakhand and the districts of Western Uttar Pradesh through which Yamuna river flows, will vote.
The two other states heavily dependent and Yamuna river, Haryana and Delhi will see voting on May 12. The district Mathura, Agra, Etawa, Kanpur, Hamirpur, Fatehpur and Allahabad of Uttar Pradesh located along Yamuna river will witness voting from second (April 18) to sixth phase on May 12.
The NDA government come to power in May 2014 promising clean Ganga and Yamuna. The thousands of devotees of Mathura and residents of Agra were especially convinced of a promise of clean flowing Yamuna river. People were also hopeful that the government of the same party, BJP, in centre and in key basin states of Yamuna (Uttarakhand, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh) would bring a change in the situation. But over the five years, things have only deteriorated further. In fact, under the present government apart from dams and pollution a illegal sand mining has emerged as equally dangerous threat for the Yamuna rivers from upper reaches through middle and lower stretches.
On the occasion of Yamuna Jayanti, the Yamuna Nadi Mitra Mandli (YNMM) a voluntary group of villagers and concerned; established along the length of Yamuna by Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan is highlighting the issues affecting the Yamuna river and riparian communities which have remained unaddressed during past five years and none of the political parties even now have remotely focused on these. They also warn that ignoring the problems of Yamuna and dependent community will soon affect every state and dependent people in a significant way apart from endangering the river itself.