(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.
Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has possibly inadvertently, started a debate that really needs to be honestly looked at: ARE BIG DAMS ATM MACHINES FOR POLITICIANS? He may have raised the issue only in the context of Polavaram Dam and Andhra Government, but the question is equally valid for all big dams across the country. Including for Sardar Sarovar Dam, as Andhra Water Resource Minister has possibly only rhetorically asked.
As analysis by SANDRP and others including by numerous CAG reports have shown, dams are not adding to Net National Irrigated area since over 25 years. They in fact worsen the groundwater recharge and sustainability situation, directly and indirectly. And groundwater remains our water lifeline since several decades and will remain so. And yet, thousands of crores get spent on big dam every year, while such resources are not available for sustenance of groundwater, India’s water lifeline. This election, we wont have that honest debate, since both the initiator and responder are not particularly serious about it. Nor the media seems to have the stomach for such a debate. WHEN WILL WE HAVE AN HONEST DEBATE THAT WILL ANSWER THIS QUESTION: ARE DAMS ATM MACHINES FOR POLITICIANS?
As joint monitoring report by Paryavaran Surakhsha Samiti (PSS) and Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) shows, Sabarmati is severely polluted river, downstream of Ahmedabad and is practically a dead river. Upstream of Ahmedabad, the once perennial river has no water of its own and is stealing the Narmada water meant for drought prone areas.
This incidentally is supposed to be model river rejuvenation as told to SANDRP coordinator on a television channel by no less than Executive Director (Technical) of National Mission on Clean Ganga. In fact posters during the 2014 Parliamentary elections in Varanasi, where Mr Modi fought from, said exactly that. So is the National Ganga river going down that path? Narmada itself is in same situation downstream of the dam in Gujarat as another report here shows. Gujarat model has many examples to show, it seems.
A report of groundwater pollution in Luna village accessed by Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) has once again pointed to the alarming rate of groundwater contamination in the industrial belt in Padra in Vadodara. The report accessed through RTI found that that the Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) level in groundwater was an alarming 2225mg/I and 27222mg/I in October and December 2018.
It should be noted that even in treated effluent water the accepted levels of COD is 250 mg/I. For ground water the level should be nil. The report was a result of joint investigation carried out by the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), Farmers Action Group (FAG) and affected farmers in October and December 2018.
It’s not secret that water pollution is getting worse in India, including pollution of groundwater sources, thought we still donot know the full extent of the pollution of that source. But there is so little citizen action on such an important issue that affects so many so severely on daily basis. So it’s great to see four separate instances of such action this week, one each from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Kerala. In absence of any seriousness shown by governments at centre and states and any effective success from judicial intervention, this is welcome news. One only hopes this is no flash in the pan and rather beginning of citizens’ action to agitate against such rampant water pollution that goes on in India.
As about 500 global financiers meet in London on March 5-7, 2019, one of the items on agenda pushed by Big Hydro lobby is criteria to include Big Hydro as climate solution. As following Comment in Nature shows, this is completely based on lobbying efforts and not based on merit of the case. If the merits of large hydro were to looked at objectively, there is absolutely no case of inclusion of Large Hydro as climate solution. In fact, the article does not attempt to list the severe, widespread and long lasting adverse social and environmental impacts of large hydro. Today when there is BIG question mark over even economic viability of large hydro, such attempts are clearly uncalled for. Hope the global financiers will see through this lobbying effort.
The World Hydropower Congress will meet in Paris during May 14-16, 2019. Their program says:
Following over two years of discussions with industry, academia, governments and international NGOs, the Climate Bonds Initiative, an investor-focused not-for-profit is due to launch a consultation later this year on proposed green bond criteria for hydropower. This criteria is seen as key to fully unlocking the market to the hydropower sector, as to date it has been held back a lack of clarity over appropriate standards. https://congress.hydropower.org/2019-paris/programme/green-bonds-for-hydropower/
This shows that the Congress, essentially a Hydropower Lobby meeting, is also interconnected with the Climate Bond Initiative on Hydropower.
Two artists are engrossed in some meaningful graffiti work at a public bus stand, on an otherwise laid back, colourless Sunday morning. A closer look and their strokes in fact seem to be urging the passerby to pay attention to rivers and water resources. There seems to be a message to all the drawings. It is not often that one comes across a sight like this in small town Chalakudy in Kerala. The artists have teamed up with the Chalakudy River Protection Forum under the umbrella of a State-wide campaign titled ‘Ozhukanam Puzhakal’ or ‘The Rivers Must Flow’. Continue reading “Ozhukanam Puzhakal: UNTO HER WE SHALL RETURN…”→
Kerala – the God’s own country is in strong grip of unsustainable sand mining which has been happening for decades in the rivers and coastal areas of the state. The state has suffered hugely in 2004 Tsunami and 2018 Floods which, as several reports explain, were aggravated by illegal sand extraction. Yet nothing seems to have changed. Apart from violation of environmental norms, the extraction of finite mineral is going on, ignoring the nature’s warnings.
The state of Kerala experienced extreme precipitation events during the 2018 South West monsoon period with multiple episodes culminating in devastating floods across the state during 14th-18th August 2018. This year, with an early onset of monsoons that dovetailed with strong summer showers, the state received about 41% excess rainfall (2394 mm against the normal of 1700 mm) during the period June 1st to August 22nd . Almost all of its reservoirs were near full storage by mid-July.
The heavy downpour and the uncontrolled opening of the spillway gates of almost all reservoirs that inundated huge stretches of river banks and floodplains, along with massive landslides across the Western Ghats affected more than 1.5 million people, with close to 500 human casualties, immense losses to property, livelihoods and resource security apart from the extensive damage to forests, wildlife and biodiversity. Maximum destruction was observed along the rivers of Periyar, Chalakudy and Pamba, all having multiple dams on their tributaries. The debate is still on as to the various reasons, both manmade and natural, behind the floods and the resultant wide-ranging casualties [2,3,4,5,6]. Meanwhile things have taken a rather unexpected turn in the flood ravaged state.
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.