There is some good news this week. A survey has found existence of fishing cat and two otter species in Chilika lake – this was not known so far. However, this also underlines how little we know about India’s aquatic biodiversity in our rivers, lakes and deltas. Its high time we have authentic baseline survey across India, hopefully in participation with the local communities who would already know so much about this. And may be rather urgently, once we are through with the current Covid-19 Crisis.
The four state of West India have only five Ramsar sites of international importance. These includes Sambhar lake and Keoladeo NP in Rajasthan, Nalsarovar in Gujarat, Bhoj Taal in Madhya Pradesh and Nandur Madhmeshwar Wetlands in Maharashtra. There is no Ramsar site in Goa state.
This week’s news bulletin has a number of examples of Better Water Management Options that India has, let us focus on the example from state. These examples come from Kerala (achieving a barren land free constituency & KERI study showing the need for desilting of Malampuzha reservoir), Tamil Nadu (lessons from implementation of System of Rice Intensification in large parts of cultivable land and also declaring the Cauvery Delta as protected agriculture zones that will help stop the problematic hydrocarbon exploration project as also, hopefully other destructive projects), Odisha (govt filing affidavit in the Supreme Court asking it to stop work on Polavaram Dam of Andhra Pradesh is hugely belated but right move), Telangana (rejecting the Godavari Cauvery River Linking proposal of NWDA for its shoddy water balance), Uttarakhand (Dehradun DM accepting in affidavit to High Court that 270 acres of river bed land is encroached in the district), Kashmir (drive to remove encroachments of Khushal Sar lake, even if selective, hopefully it will be a beginning), NGT (cancelling the township coming up in lake eco sensitive area in Bengaluru) among others. We have listed only the welcome initiatives from the govt. Even if these initiatives are taken to logical conclusion and also emulated by other states, it can go a long way in moving towards better water management.
The residents of villages abutting the sanctuary see sand mining as an important livelihood option because agriculture in the arid region is neither productive nor dependable. (HT Photo )
Madhya Pradesh is at the forefront of illegal sand mining activities. There have been violent attacks on government officials, reporters and villagers in recent years. The year 2019 saw change in state government and concerned people were hopeful that things will turn better now. However this overview shows not much have changed for rivers and people while attacks and fatalities continued in 2019.
The sixth addition of India Rivers Day (IRD) 2019 held on Nov. 23 in New Delhi saw participation of scientists, academicians, experts, government officials and civil society groups. In the day long day seminar organized by India Rivers Forum (IRF) presentations, debates and panel discussion were held on the theme “Envisioning the Institutional Framework for River Governance in India”.
After honoring Mustaqueem Mallah with Bhagirath Prayas Samman (BPS) for his sustained efforts made in revival Katha river, Manoj Misra, member Organizing Committee (OC) IRF, presented the summary of “Rejuvenating Ganga A Citizen’s Report”. The report highlighted that most of the government work under Ganga Action Plan (GAP) and National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) is done on the main stem of Ganga river which forms only three per cent of the entire basin.
For Mustaqueem Mallah, restoration of Katha River is sole aim of his life. And the 30 years old has been making steady and solid efforts to achieve this for past over 8 years. Belonging himself to Mallah (boatman) community, Mustaqueem has been witnessing the degradation of Yamuna river, flowing close to his village Ramra in Kairana block of Shamli district, Uttar Pradesh.
“Loving rivers is my religion”, says Mustaqueem who has formed the Kevat Mallah Ekta Samiti to raise the issues of fishermen, boatmen and riverbed farmers the river dependent communities who have been suffering adversely due to absence of flows in Yamuna river for most months of a year.
River carrying capacity is such a crucial factor in deciding if certain areas will be flooded and with what severity. This capacity is constantly changing, more so in tropical climate and high silt carrying rivers of South Asia, as new research shows. However, most models that are used in India, including by CWC, assume steady state situation. Nor are there constant and credible efforts to assess the river cross sections and river conveyance capacities and put them in public domain. The study shows how important it is that we wake up to this reality and ensure credible, consistent monitoring and assessments by credible independent agencies at the earliest. This has become even more urgent, the study underlines, since in changing climate, the rainfall patterns are changing fast.
Guest Blog by Kalyani Thatte
“Our borewells are drying up fast. We have reached to 400-450 ft deep but it is futile most of the times. There are very few wells that are having water throughout the year. The water levels are dropping every year. Tankers are regular in summers. We are not even able to take a Kharif crop at times as it hardly rains and that too when it is required for the standing crops”, this was the narrative told in the first village named Zinnar in Osmanabad. However as I travelled through different villages in different blocks of the district and later on to the districts of Ahmednagar, Solapur, Nashik, Jalgaon, the narratives remained more or less the same. The only change was the names of the villages.
This year (2019), the rainfall was deficient, the monsoon was erratic. But this narrative has been similar for many years. Especially from last 8-10 years the intensity of such narratives is increasing. These narratives made me realise that what is happening is something that is not in our hands. However it also brought forth the factors which are in our hands and which are thanks to ruthless exploitation, are worsening the situation. Continue reading “Groundwater & the tragedy of the commons in Marathwada”
Blessings, like disasters, are complicated. Blessings come with a lot of attachments. And if you cannot manage them, you could invite disasters.
India is a blessed country in so many ways as far as water endowment is concerned. Our monsoons, rivers, aquifers, the Himalayas, the rich traditional techniques and management systems, to name a few. But the impacts of accumulated mismanagement over the last several decades are now coming out in the form of crisis in multiple ways. Continue reading “India’s Water Management Crisis”
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.