This eighth Rivers Review 2017 report presents account of key rivers related developments in North Eastern states comprising Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Meghalaya.
Rivers As National Waterways Rivers of North-East to be tamed for transportation Pursuing its agenda of inland waterway transportation, the Inland Waterways Authority has reportedly organized a road show and a seminar in Guwahati to resolve major issues linked with developing the rivers as viable and sustainable means for cargo and passenger transportation.
When Central Government is trying to push Ken Betwa link project terming it as beneficial for both Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, local people of Banda are now also protesting against it, in addition to the people of Panna that are already opposing it. On Feb. 13, 2018, the Ken Bachao Samiti comprising of farmers, citizens and social workers in Banda sat on a Dharna before district magistrate office. The group have also sent a memorandum to the President of India, demanding immediate cancelling of the project. Raising serious concerns over environmental and social of the linking project, they asked demanded proper impact assessment and public consultation and said the project wont be allowed to go forward. Indeed, as they have said, there has been no downstream impact assessment and people of Banda are likely to loose their river. https://www.livehindustan.com/uttar-pradesh/banda/story-demonstrate-against-ken-betwa-alliance-1800951.html (Hindustan Hindi,13 Feb. 2018)
There have been many positive developments on agriculture, groundwater and environment round the week. In the first positive development, data from the first impact study of Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) shows that small and marginal farmers, who can’t afford costly agricultural inputs, are turning a new leaf by going organic because of lower costs and higher margins. The study conducted by the National Institute of Agriculture Extension Management, has also revealed that Net Returns of organic farmers were higher for all the three crops studied, namely wheat, paddy and soybean, by 15.8%, 36.7% and 50% respectively.
This was based on study of 690 organic clusters in 25 states, out of some 6211 clusters comprising of 2.25 lakh farmers in a PKVY (each ha getting Rs 50 000 as aid) scheme launched in 2015, comprising of 52.3% small farmers. The average cluster size was 69 acres, in each there were 54.6 farmers on average. Maharashtra had the highest number of clusters at 1043 and MP had the highest area under clusters. The funding however remained irregular. India’s domestic organic food market is expected to show Compound Annual Growth rate of 25%, says the study. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/small-farmers-go-big-with-organic-farming/story-nlyQQVUnoewHgeJyvaAnJI.html (Hindustan Times, 29 January 2018)
Another positive news report, have disclosed that how a simple groundwater recharge technique is transforming farmlands in Gujarat. The simple pit and pipe system simply and expertly captures standing water during rains, thus freeing arable land from water logging while recharging groundwater to use for irrigation during the lean season. This is essentially a simple groundwater recharge scheme but appears to last long. As per report about 3000 such units have already been installed in Gujarat and several other states. http://www.thehindu.com/society/this-simple-technology-has-transformed-gujarat-farmlands-into-an-oasis/article22529034.ece (The Hindu, 27 January 2018)
The third positive news have come from Central Government which has prepared a Rs 6000 crore plan to recharge ground water. The scheme is yet to be cleared by the Expenditure Finance Committee and the Cabinet.
As per report, the new 5-yr long scheme will be funded 50: 50 by the World Bank and centre, to be implemented in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana and Rajasthan, covering 78 districts, 193 blocks and 8300 gram panchayats.
Apart from mentioning Govt failure in checking Ganga pollution, the Comptroller & Auditor General’s (CAG) performance audit report on Ganga rejuvenation tabled in Parliament on December 19, 2017 specifically mentions that National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) “could not finalize the long-term action plans even after more than six-and-a-half years of signing of agreement with the consortium of Indian Institutes of Technology”. The fact that NMCG does not have a “river basin management plan even after a lapse of more than 8 years of National Ganga River Basin Authority notification”, mentioned in the report also has great significance.
It is surprising that NMCG is working without a river basin management plan or a long-term action plan. The CAG performance audit is also lacking. It rightly mentions that infrastructure to treat pollution has not been created but does no assessment whether the creation of infrastructure alone would revive the river.
Further, CAG audit does not look into the issues if lessons from past failures have been learnt, corrections done, independent scrutiny institutionalised, participatory governance achieved, and if this business as usual approach is going to achieve any better results even if all the money were spent, all the DPRs were sanctioned, all the meetings happened, all the manpower available and all the STPs constructed?
Hence it critical that CAG performance audit should have tried to address these issues. Can the state of Ganga improve without improving the state of tributaries? CAG does not even look at this issue.
A brilliant coverage by NDTV INDIA at PRIME TIME (08 Dec 2017) on so many issues related to the proposed controversial Pancheshwar Dam, World’s tallest dam in the Himalayas that has neither credible impact assessment nor proper public hearings. Please watch and share.
The wrong process of dam clearance for the Pancheshwar and Rupaligad Dams have been strongly condemned by Mahakali Lok Sangathan, Uttarakhand Parivartan Party, Uttarakhand Kranti Dal, the National Alliance of People’s Movements: Uttarakhand Akta Manch, Delhi Solidarity Group and others. https://www.facebook.com/sandrp.in/posts/1874936619200669
Every year, November 21 is celebrated as World Fisheries day across the world. Fisherfolk communities organize rallies, workshops, public meetings, cultural programs, dramas, exhibition, music show, and demonstrations to highlight the importance of maintaining the world’s fisheries.
As per a recent United Nations study, more than two-thirds of the world’s fisheries have been overfished or are fully harvested and more than one third are in a state of decline because of factors such as the loss of essential fish habitats, pollution, and global warming. The World Fisheries Day helps in highlighting these problems, and moves towards finding solutions to the increasingly inter-connected problems, and in the longer term, to sustainable means of maintaining fish stocks. https://www.gdrc.org/doyourbit/21_11-fisheries-day.html
In an attempt to understand the significance of the issue, SANDRP with the help of selective media report, presents an overview of key developments and problems affecting fisheries and fisher folks at India and South Asia level.
5 river basins; Total Area: 55,000 square kms.; Total Population: 68.65 lakhs; Total Catchment Area of 5 rivers; Total Catchment Area: 53311 sq.kms
Himachal is a relatively small state and in 2011 its population stood at 68.65 lakhs. It is only 9% urbanised and most of Himachal lives in its villages. Of the total land geographical area only 10% is under agriculture while close to 70% in under the category of ‘Forest land’. And yet agriculture is the main source of livelihood in Himachal with over 93% of the population dependent on it. As in most mountain areas agriculture and forest dependence is interwoven.
Agriculture is made possible due to the irrigation from river channels or natural springs. The health of the forests directly determines the health of the surface and ground water systems which in turn determines the viability of agriculture and horticulture. Horticulture and cash based agriculture was pushed by the government in the late 70s and 80s. Today the state has massive apple cultivation, apart from commercial vegetable cultivation, which is an important source of income for the farmers.
Above: Young kid from a fishing family in Kahalgaon, even the most informed communities (Ganga Mukti Andolan) are clueless about the government’s intentions (Photo by Veditum)
GUEST BLOG BY: Siddharth Agarwal
As the Ganga rises and fills streets and alleys with it’s water all along it’s course, I spend a time out at home, partially because of personal reasons and in some parts due to the rising levels of the river hindering all sorts of movement around it. Currently on a walk along the Ganga for Veditum India Foundation’s ‘Moving Upstream’ project, I’ve been able to walk a distance of about 1000 kms alongside it’s banks from Ganga Sagar till Varanasi in 50 days’ time. Some places saw me walking right next to the river while others had me maintaining my distance since it just wasn’t possible to peruse a course anywhere in the vicinity of the flooded banks.
The rising levels of the river are no surprise, an annual occurrence with variation only in ferocity. We’re surprisingly still caught off guard, every single year, with this news about floods in cities like Patna, Allahabad and Varanasi making it to national television on an almost daily basis. But what of all the places between Patna, Allahabad and Varanasi? What of all the places that are not cities and of all the people who are not urban dwellers? The major focus as I walk along the river are the people of the river and their lives, those who inhabit this space known to all as the vastly fertile Indo-Gangetic plains but unknown as a place extremely vulnerable to the forces of nature and shaky towards those man-made.
I had been informed in advance of the situation of our fishermen by minds already working in the field of environment and rivers in our country, often mentioning that these communities were severely under-represented and very much neglected even when it came to discussions relating to them. Non-inclusiveness of communities while making decisions is not a new theme in India, but given the extent of impact that some upcoming government decisions/policies was going to have on these people, I decided to ask them a few questions as I proceeded upstream from Ganga Sagar, starting early June 2016.
Anywhere downstream of the Farakka barrage, the mention of the word barrage has a stunning effect on the people and 1975 is a year that fisher folks remember as a year of doom. For most readers and even for me before I started upon this trip, this would makes sense if one tries to put in a little effort in imagining how a barrage or dam might affect a river. But unlike how logic would dictate, this effect doesn’t exist just downstream of the barrage and similar reactions continued even further upstream, in Jharkhand and Bihar.
The National Mission for Clean Ganga and The National Waterways programme have been in the limelight for making grand promises of :
1.) Cleaning and maintenance of the river
2.) Economic Development and Cheaper Transportation.
Now, this is not a commentary on the efficiency and feasibility of making such proposals, simply an attempt to understand the impact of such programmes. EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) and SIA (Social Impact Assessment) are the terms you might be looking for, something that ideally the governing authority should be taking care of. But why is any of this important or relevant to this article? It is because whatever happens in these places between Patna, Allahabad and Varanasi is very much relevant and important to discuss. These are not uninhabited spaces, but pretty well populated areas with a lot of lives at risk.
Coming back to the point of the two government programmes, firstly, the NMCG letting the Waterways programme run through protected areas and non-protected ecologically sensitive areas goes very much against the whole agenda why this mission was set up. Secondly, the waterways programme in a bid to decrease ‘transportation’ costs and utilise our river potential recently ran tests with large vessels on the Ganga.
What is surprising (or rather not) is that these test runs were without any warnings to fishermen and boatmen in said test sections, the few who were on the waters at the time of passing of these vessels had to face high waves, enough to topple a less experienced or unaware boatman. The news of these tests were flashed all over the main stream media, but failed to make it to those for whom it mattered. Not an uncommon occurrence at all, but till when will this go un-noticed? On asking these fishermen if they have any clue why this is happening, most of them responded in the negative while a few said they’ve learnt about the government’s plans to run large vessels on the river.
As this conversation extends and questions follow, it is gradually revealed that the picture is not clear and conversations have somehow trickled down in a very muzzled form. Though most fishermen laugh off the prospect of this being a constant activity because of the extreme reduction in water level that the river has seen these past years, often mentioning how large excavators and multiple tugboats have been needed anytime a large vessel has traversed these stretches in lean seasons. There’s talk of loss of fishing nets and reduced catch, difficulty in controlling small country boats in high waves, chances of accidents when transporting villagers to small ‘diars’ for agricultural work, loss of land where there’s no embankments and so on, but this also brings us to the most important part of this article.
The Water Highway programme on the Ganga has been proposed on a 1500 km stretch from Allahabad to Haldia, with barrages at about every 100 kms. Now, an avid news reader would have knowledge of this as a great policy step but the fisherman who directly depends on the river for his livelihood does not. This holds true for maybe 15-20 different fishing communities that i’ve had the chance to interact with in the first 50 days and even the mention of new barrages was way too shocking for those who have had to bear the burden of Farakka’s impacts. There are even places where locals have signed their wishfulness of a barrage near their villages without understanding consequences and only having been shown the shiny side like we see everyday in the papers, called ‘development’.
The ‘Moving Upstream’ project intends to understand and present a narrative of the river and it’s people, hoping this will lead to more meaningful conversation and inclusive action by the government. In a recent announcement by Sushri Uma Bharti Ji – Union Cabinet Minister of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, she said she will march down the length of the river to take stock of the status of various projects commissioned by her. I’m glad that cues are possibly being taken from the Moving Upstream project, but like every other government project, when will our habit of assessment (if at all) after execution stop and preparedness & understanding before implementation materialise? I hope she does her Ganga yatra before approving any projects, I hope for inclusiveness.
What separated Maheshwar Ghats on the mighty Narmada from most other rivers I have seen was the sheer gaiety and joy which people were experiencing, jumping in the Narmada. The beautiful, jutting steps of the ghats were designed (and used) like diving boards by men, boys and women. For someone who had just seen a dry Godavari and drier rivers of Marathwada, this mirth was therapeutic. Ferry Boats and laidback ferrymen were relaxing on the river, bobbing up and down rhythmically. In the distance was a tiny sailboat, held together by white fluttering sails, zipping through the waters at a startling speed without the din of a diesel engine. A fisherman and his daughter were returning to their village, taking stock of their catch.. Occasional fish rose above the waters and glistened in the evening sun.Continue reading “नदी के बदले नदी दे सकते है? ..on Maheshwar, Narmada and fishing communities of India”→
‘Majhi jo nau dubaaye, to usey kaun bachaaye’ laments a popular song[i]. It literally translates as: ‘If an oarsman sinks his boat, who can save it?’
This is a question that concerned citizens of Kolkata are asking themselves today in connection with the famed East Kolkata Wetlands. A notified Ramsar site, this extensive wetland spread over 12,500 Ha has been protected for decades by the communities who live within it and by The East Kolkata Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Act, 2006. Today, it is the Environment Minister of West Bengal who has taken it upon himself to destroy the wetlands. Continue reading “Threats to East Kolkata Wetlands are threats to Kolkata: Majhi jo nau dubaaye…”→