On April 16, 2019, Delhi High Court bench decided to initiate a Public Interest Litigation based on a newspaper report that not much rainwater harvesting or groundwater recharge is happening in spite of years of talk that seems to have remained empty. This is a welcome move and one hopes HC takes the issue to its logical conclusion.
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?
Traditionally, our river management strategies are mainly focused on the water flows, including flood management, and these have resulted in various interventions such as dams, barrages, canals and embankments. Most of these interventions have had very little consideration for sediment transfer and even if they did, they were generally defunct within a few years of their operations either due to improper design or inadequate maintenance.
A long-term sediment management strategy has never been a part of any protocol of river management, not just in India, but in several other parts of the world. It is amply clear that sediment management must form an important component of management strategies for the Himalayan rivers. The Union Water Ministry has recently circulated a draft policy on sediment management.
Every year on the sixth day of summer Navratra the birthday of Yamuna river is celebrated. This year it was on 23 March 2018. On this occasion, SANDRP has prepared a photo blog covering almost entire length of the river. The Yamuna Mitra Mandali (YNMM) (Friends of Yamuna River) group established by Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan has essential contributed for this pictorial blog.
The photo blog tries to show the present day situation of river Yamuna and activities of YNMM on the day of Yamuna Jayanti.
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)
(During monsoon the polluted river cleanses itself allowing migrant fishermen to move in and seek out their livelihood through fishing ; Photo by Burhaan Kinu)
The exploitation of Yamuna Rivers that starts in upper basin comprising Uttarakhand (UKH) and Himachal Pradesh (HP) gets worse as the river is dammed at Hathini Kund Barrage (HKB) while passing through Shivalik Hills located at the border of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh (UP), the barrage has severely compromised lean season (8-9 months) water flow in the river downstream.
As a result, the waterless riverbed resembles a desert till Delhi’s potable water is released back into the river at Palla village, the border of Delhi and Haryana. The absence of flow facilitates intensive illegal riverbed mining for sand and boulders for longer periods in a year which further destroys the river’s eco-system. More over industrial and domestic effluents in great volume from nearby towns reach the river via tributaries, storm water drains. Amid all this successive State Governments show no will to achieve even basic flow of freshwater in the river, even as they keep pushing more dams.
Here is an account of the projects planned and launched in 2016 related to the River Yamuna.