As this report narrates, a great volunteer effort is underway in Mumbai to clean up Mithi river. What they have achieved is just about 350 m of clean river, after labouring over weekends for several months. But this is such a daunting task to even venture to start. They have not only started, but made visible progress. Let us hope it will achieve all its objectives.
The Dam Bachao Abhiyaan has been coming up in various forms. They blame the upstream water use in the catchment for dams not filling up. The catchment area could be using the water through groundwater (e.g. Hussain Sagar in Hyderabad), Johads (e.g. Sahibi catchment in Alwar), Tanks (e.g. Cauvery catchment in Karnataka), or check dams (e.g. Gandhisagar catchment in Madhya Pradesh, Bisalpur and Ramgarh catchment in Rajasthan), the latest episode reflected in the news below.
One key question that is never answered is, does the construction of dam extinguish all the rights of the catchment area to harvest and use any water for even basic needs and livelihoods? Does the very existence of the dam make all such water use in the catchment illegitimate? What about the right to water and livelihood of the catchment area? Should dam filling be so sacrosanct as to not allow any legitimate water use in the catchment? Hope the court and the government resolves these issues. Hope there is debate on this to decide in which circumstances there will be legitimacy to such Dam Bachao Abhiyaan.
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.
After highlighting role of dams in floods in Kerala and how improper dam operation affected people in Assam and Himachal Pradesh, this third and concluding part throws light on other dam induced flood (and canal breach) incidents in 2018. Continue reading “Dams Floods 2018: Filling up Dams well before Monsoon end, Invitation to Disaster”
Dams and reservoirs make rivers sediment-starved and menacing manifold downstream. While heavy rainfall is also a key factor behind the floods, hungry water had a more pronounced effect, says D. Padmalal, Scientist and Head, Hydrological process group, National Centre for Earth Science Studies.
– “When the sediment transport is interrupted, the potential energy of the hungry water released from dams will scour the river banks downstream, uprooting trees or riparian vegetation and damaging bridges and other engineering structures,” explains Dr. Padmalal. Overloaded with silt and clay from the eroding river banks, the highly turbid and viscous water clogs drainage channels. Subsequent discharge of water from the dam will lead to inundation and waterlogging of large areas.
– Hungry water can also develop in high gradient river channels devoid of adequate quantity of sand and gravel, especially during periods of high rainfall. “Years of uncontrolled sand mining have left most of the rivers in Kerala depleted or exhausted of sand and gravel. This creates a situation similar to the release of hungry water from dams,” notes Dr. Padmalal. When the river channel has adequate supply of sand and gravel, the potential energy of the water is used to transport the mixture. The water does not scour the banks or turn muddy.
Union Water Resources Minister Shri Nitin Gadkari claimed in a press conference on May 10, 2018 that by March 2019, 70-80% of Ganga will be cleaned and that by Dec 2019, Ganga will be 10% clean. He did not bother to mention as to at at which place he was referring to, which pollutants he was referring to, and 70-80% was with what reference time point was he referring to. Earlier at the Economic Times Leadership Conclave, he had declared that Ganga WILL BE CLEANED by 80%. Now he has decreased the % and also added qualification, he shall try to. He possibly meant that 70-80% of the allocation of Rs 20000 Crores will be spent by that date, and not necessarily, cleaning the river? This is because when he was specifically asked about low % of the allocated finances spent so far, he said we hope to spend much more this year. But can spending money clean the Ganga River? He also made other claims: Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin May 14, 2018: THE SHIFTING, ILLUSORY, NON SPECIFIC GOALPOSTS OF GADKARI on GANGA”
Today is 13th day of the Swami Shivanand fast unto death to protect Ganga River from illegal mining. The health of 70 years old Marti Sadan head is turning critical with each passing hour. If no intervention is done immediately, the Saint’s life will be in danger.
Matri Sadan resumed its fight against rampant mining in Ganga on May 13th, 2017 after State Government opened Ganga riverbed mining which the Ashram is strongly opposing for last many years.
For first eleven days two disciples of the Ashram observed hunger strike. But seeing no response from Govt, Swami Shivanand himself sat on fast unto death on May 24, 2017 against indiscriminate mining of national river. Still the Govt went ahead with Ganga mining activities stating that it was necessary to protect the city from flood.
In response the Saint shunned even taking water. But instead of communication with the protesters, the State Govt reportedly on May 28, 2017 tried to force feed the saint to fail the agitation for which the Govt was criticized greatly.
After mounting pressure the CM of Uttarakhand is learnt requesting to stop hunger strike. Following this mining was stopped in Ganga and the saint started taking water after six days but decided to continue fast as long as Government imposes complete ban on mining in writing.
On June 02, 2017, accusing the State Govt of blatant apathy towards Swami Shivanand’s hunger strike against illegal mining on the Ganga riverbed in the Kumbh Mela area, a group of scientists, activists and followers have written to the PM Modi requesting the PM to intervene without delay to stop unscientific mining of the Ganga.
In a most significant event, some 85 river and dam activists from 40 countries and all continents gathered in Tbilisi, Georgia (on border between Asia and Europe, between Black and Caspian Sea) during March 27-31, 2017 to share experiences about their efforts to protect the world’s rivers and join their struggles against destructive hydropower projects. The meeting was organized by CEE BankWatch Network (active in 12 countries in Eastern and Central Europe) and International Rivers.
Eight persons from South Asia, including those from India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh joined the meeting to share experiences from the region. Indian participant included SANDRP coordinator (who was also in steering committee of the meeting) and Associate Coordinator Parineeta Dandekar. A number of participants from neighboring and nearby countries like China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Mongolia and Russia also participated. Issues related to trans-boundary rivers, small hydropower projects and multiple projects on the same rivers, decommissioning of the dams, how to achieve free flowing rivers and importance of rivers in changing climate were some of the key issues discussed at the meeting.
The drought has extended its grip in the South, with the South-West (S-W) monsoon falling significantly short and the North-East monsoon proving a total failure. Reeling under the impact of failed monsoons, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry have declared themselves as drought affected. Kerala and Karnataka, which are the worst affected, are already contemplating actions such as cloud seeding to tide over the situation.
In Kerala, the S-W monsoon deficit stood at -34 per cent, and the North-East monsoon, -61 per cent. Similarly, in Tamil Nadu, the deficits were -19 per cent and -62 per cent (North-East monsoon). For Coastal Karnataka, the shortfall stood at -21 per cent and -63 per cent, respectively. Drought-like conditions are also prevailing in parts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Water levels in key reservoirs in the region are at their lowest. The water tables have declined further even as the civic administration in many cities, small towns and panchayats has been increasingly tapping groundwater to ensure supplies. The situation is so dire that the Kerala govt has directed PepsiCo to cut down drastically on the use of groundwater for its Palakkad plant. Traders in Tamil Nadu are also boycotting these fizzy after claims that foreign firms are exploiting the country’s water resources.
During a global seminar held on Feb. 25-26, 2017 in Patna experts from across the country have advocated an “urgent review” and comprehensive study of the Farakka dam to revive the Ganga river. The experts were discussing various concerns facing River Ganga and the possible solutions for them. The seminar titled as “Incessant Ganga” was organised by Bihar’s Water Resources Department, almost week after, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar has openly termed the barrage as genesis of floods in the State. Speaking in the program, the CM again expressed deep concerns behind receding water flow in the Ganga and increasing silt deposit due to Farakka dam.
Speaking during the seminar, environment expert Himanshu Thakkar the coordinator of SANDRP advocated urgent need for review of Farakka barrage claiming that it has failed to fulfill any of the purpose – irrigation, hydro electric power, water supply – of the barrage for which it was built. As per, Himanshu Thakkar the dam was built to maintain the navigability of Kolkata port.
Thakkar also suggested that the gates of Farakka be opened during monsoon to mitigate the intensity of floods in Bihar. As per Thakkar there was an urgent need for a comprehensive study of the Farakka barrage to find out its achievements or whether the barrage fulfilled its objectives. The committee constituted for study must include the Centre, Bihar, West Bengal and all states having Ganga, he said adding that a study should be made on the social and livelihood impact of the barrage, how it affected people’s lives, whether its existence was justified and cost-benefit assessment among other issues.
Above: Standing at the edge of a river island, the Gaga river upstream of Farakka barrage seems to stretch out forever like the sea (Photo by Siddharth Agarwal)
GUEST BLOG BY: Siddharth Agarwal
The monsoons had begun their annual ritual about the same time I found myself bereft of my old company while walking along the Ganga from Ganga Sagar to Gaumukh[i]. The documentary crew that was traveling along with me had decided against venturing into the states of Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, hence I ended up travelling alone upstream from Farakka.[ii],[iii] Continue reading “Farakka Refugees: Walking along Ganga from Gangasagar to Gaumukh”