SYNOPSIS: Everyone concerned agrees that India is facing unprecedented and worsening water crisis. Some of the key aspects of water sector challenges include: Lack of reliable water information, need for restructuring of institutions, groundwater lifeline in distress, politicians and institutions pushing more large dams when evidence shows they do not work, the need for attention to maintenance of massive water infrastructure, the increasing footprint of Urban water sector, State of our rivers in general and Ganga in particular, water management for agriculture, governance and changing climate, among others. Unfortunately, these challenges do not seem to get reflected as electoral issues and all parties are equally to be blamed for this. The current Union government has very poor report card on almost every one of the water sector challenges, and its seems like a series of missed opportunities.
When I talk with Manshi, a friend and co-traveler from Himdhara Collective about Bhagirathh Prayas Samman that the collective received during the India Rivers Week 2016, she is modest, even slightly hesitant. She simply says, “We love the mountains, we want to protect them and help mountain communities fight the unequal battle against unplanned hydropower. That is one motivation of our work. But the other is recognition of the fact that we are privileged… privileged to be able to speak English, to work on a computer, to understand the bureaucratic procedures that alienate a tribal or forest dweller from her land. That understanding also drives us.”
Citation of Bhagirath Prayas Samman given to Himdhara Collective states: “Himdhara’s strength is its engagement with communities, movements and organisations. It has created an effective discourse around issues of resource distribution and their ownership and the resultant impacts on ecological spaces of mountain communities, especially vulnerable groups like indigenous people, dalits and women. It is an honor to recognize and celebrate Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective’s extraordinary Bhagirath efforts in maintaining the integrity of rivers in Himachal Pradesh.”
In their own words, “Himdhara is an autnomous and informal non registered environment research and action collective, extending solidarity and support, in research and action, to people and organisations asserting their rights over their natural resources and agitating against corporatisation of these resources for destructive development in the state.”
A collective of young, passionate and questioning minds, Himdhara has been working with communities in far flung areas of Himachal Pradesh include Lahaul and Spiti and Kinnaur in their fight against the onslaught of ill-planned and bumper to bumper hydropower projects in Himachal, amongst other issues. Continue reading “Bhagirath Prayas Samman: Himdhara Collective: Relentless Questioning and Doing”
To provide much-needed succour to those reeling under severe drought and facing acute drinking water shortage, as part of temporary drought-mitigation measures, the district administration has established helplines in all seven taluks.
A look at impacts of failing Northeast Monsoon on 4 South Indian States
South India Northeast Monsoon Failing; Water Crisis To Become Worse Andhra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala & interior Karnataka generally receives good rains during the Northeast Monsoon period that commences from Oct until Dec. However, this year, rains have remained scanty over entire Southern India region. Northeast Monsoon has also set in quite late during Oct end. As of now excluding scattered rain events, Monsoon like heavy rains are still far from coming to the southern region of the country. This is a clear indication of possibility of drought-like conditions that might prevail over south peninsula during Northeast Monsoon. In a nutshell, the picture is not very encouraging for next few days and also any significant increase in rains are not foreseen over the southern regions of the country.
National The cost of cheap drugs The Bollaram-Patancheru region in Hyderabad, Telengana is famous for being one of the most polluted industrial areas in India. The periphery around the area has become so toxic one that 2001 article recommended that “most of the soils should be removed from agricultural production” in Patancheru. There is an increase in higher abortion rates to birth defects and stunted growth in children, as well as greater incidence of skin diseases in the region. In the district of Medak in the state of Telangana, Greenpeace in its several reports has identified that people, animals, crops and land have been afflicted by the pollution of industrial waste. Villagers report many serious health issues, including miscarriages, skin disorders, cancers and intestinal problems. The livestock suffer from the same problems. Most, not to say all, food grown in the village is unfit for human consumption. An inspection report published by CSE in November 2015 noted that most companies in Pattancheru-Bollaram were manufacturing pharmaceutical ingredients for which they did not have permission; using more water than the permitted limit and dumping more hazardous waste than allowed. Two of the units were operating without clearance from authorities.
In the case of the Ghaggar river in Punjab, all along its river course, one can witness foul smell, contamination of subsoil water, spread of water borne diseases and chances of damage of crop due to the presence of industrial chemical waste due to industrial waste from the industries in Punjab and Himachal. Media reports report similar occurrences around the Bhiwadi belt, where pharmaceutical companies discharge untreated effluents into drainages which then seep into the groundwater, making way into drinking water supply and agricultural land, resulting in environmental and health risks of unimaginable proportions.
In many low and middle income countries, weak laws and ineffective regulatory bodies have led to rising incidences of industrial waste flowing into ponds, lakes and rivers. If we examine the causes, the role of the pharmaceutical industry is similar to printing, chemical and paint industries. Pharma effluents contain hazardous chemicals which are leading to antimicrobial resistance or AMR where the human body is resistant to antibiotics, and thus, becomes susceptible to common infections. The very same ingredients used to manufacture antibiotics get mixed up with the bacteria during waste disposal, through our waters. Studies have shown that high levels of antibiotics are found in streams and lakes in the area close to many plant than in the body of human beings. The phenomenon is such that it is assuming the form of a serious public health issue in developing as well as developed countries. Over 700,000 people die every year because of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) all over the world. If this trend persists and resistance continues, McKinsey studies has shown that by 2050, around 10 million people globally will die because of AMR (Antimicrobial Resistance)
It is pertinent to note that New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase superbug (NDM-1), a bacteria, first found in New Delhi’s public water supply in 2008, is resistant to almost all known antibiotics and has spread to over 70 countries in the world.
On the other hand, scientists from multiple institutes having done a detailed study on river pollution concluded that arsenic in the study areas poses potential health risk to the residents and indicates that the “ingestion of water over a long time could magnify the probabilities of cancer. They collected and assessed concentrations of 27 trace elements in surface water samples from 48 sites of waterways (lakes, canals, and tributaries of major rivers) in four states: Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Telangana. Analysis revealed that elements such as chromium, selenium, arsenic, iron, and manganese are the major pollutants, as their concentrations exceeded the acceptable national and international water quality standards in several sites of Vrishabhavathi, Ennore, Adyar, Cooum and Periyar rivers. Further, statistical analysis revealed that the Cauvery, Ennore, Adyar, Cooum and Periyar river basins are affected by various anthropogenic activities, leading to moderate-to-high pollution by arsenic, chromium, manganese, iron, and selenium. According to the scientists, potential pollution sources are industrial waste, sewage intrusion, paint industry waste, and automobile runoff.
Big Dams Ineffective & Destructive, Will Involved Villagers In Building Small Check Dams: CM Jharkhand On Oct 21 making an important statement during a meeting in Jharkhand CM Raghubar Das has said that State Government will not construct big dams and will go for smaller check dams. While addressing the Asanpahari villagers in naxal affected Kathi Kund, the CM also said that he was against big dams as they entail catastrophic and cascading impact on environment and local people. Admitting that big dams have not benefited the farmers, he criticized the former Congress Government for allowing construction of big dams.
The CM has also made another important announcement that villagers would be involved in the construction of smaller check dams to meet water need for irrigation. Announcing funding of 15 small water recharge ponds in every village, he also stated that villagers will be be financially assisted to develop their own plan for construction of check dams. He also urged villagers to produce electricity from Bio-Gas and use its by-product the sludge as manure in fields.
Jharkhand CM here is making an interesting CLEAR statement that big dams have not helped Jharkhand and they would prefer to go for smaller dams.
SANDRP Blog IMD’s River Basin Rainfall Maps Useful But Needs Improvement We have noticed during just concluded South West monsoon season that IMD has started a new and welcome feature in rainfall data reporting. The Data is available in maps, on daily, weekly and seasonal basis. We are not sure when this practice started, we noticed it only during 2016 monsoon season. This is most welcome development, since getting rainfall data at basin level is most appropriate and useful, since basin is the hydrological unit that will experience the impact of rainfall or lack of rainfall in the basin, in form of floods or droughts. There a number of limitations as of now. We hope IMD will take necessary steps to remove these limitations and improve the availability and access of basin wise rainfall maps and data in coming years.
Is there any justification for DESTRUCTION of Panna Tiger Reserve? Can we save our Natural Heritage like the Panna Tiger Reserve (PTR) from being destroyed in the name of baseless, questionable, non transparent, undemocratic and manipulated projects like Ken Betwa inter linking ? It will facilitate export of water from Bundelkhand to OUTSIDE Bundelkhand. Whatever little benefits are claimed, some of them are already available and much more can become available at much lower costs, faster and without destroying the Forests and Tiger Reserve. The project will actually lead to destruction of Ken catchment and hence the Ken River itself. Watch this FASCINATING, AWESOME story of tigers of PTR. This BBC film where Raghu Chandawat is the story teller and Pradip Kishen is lending his voice, tells the story of Tigers of Panna till 2003, it seems. Please watch and let us all try to save it from destruction that is now writ large in terms of Ken-Betwa Link Project (KBLP). One more short film by wildlife biologist Koustubh Sharma illustrates how the Daudhan Dam under KBLP will submerge and destroy the PTR.
Meanwhile, a new analysis of rainfall data reveals that monsoon shortages are growing in river basins with surplus water and falling in those with scarcities, raising questions about India’s Rs 11 lakh crore plan to transfer water from “surplus” to “deficit” basins. According to Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP river basin interlinking should be considered only after exhausting the local potential for harvesting rain, recharging groundwater, watershed development, introducing better cropping patterns (non water-intensive crops) and methods (such as rice intensification), improving the soil moisture-holding capacity and saving and storing water. Raising alarm over significant increase in ground water use, increasing reliance and fast declining ground water table, he warns that inter-basin links would actually reduce groundwater recharge because forests would be destroyed, the river flow stopped and the local systems neglected.
Book Review: Rage of the Rivers: Role of Uttarakhand hydro projects in Kedarnath disaster 2013 by Hridayesh Joshi Rage of the River reads not unlike a gripping thriller. Thing is, it is not fiction. It is a true ‘story’ of a cataclysmic event, exacerbated by greed, and twisted notions of development manifested in blasting fragile hills, tunneling rivers, denuding forests, and encouraging illegal encroachments and mindless construction and tourism infrastructure. This is an important chronicle of one of the worst disasters of our times. Joshi has thoroughly analysed the role of endless, ill-planned hydel projects, but inexplicably fails to take into account the wreckage wrought by unrestrained tourism. Joshi points a finger at the unethical practices of construction companies, contractors and operators of hydel dam projects, even in the face of this monumental disaster. The officials of the Vishnuprayag project refused to listen to the pleas of the villagers to open the dam gates and allow the excess water to flow safely from under the barrage. The advice was ignored, either in ignorance of the gravity of the situation, or with an eye on the opportunity to generate more power. The rising waters broke the barrage flooding the valley and its villages.
In absence of clear and strict laws to define the rivers zone and demarcate flood plains, our rivers are increasingly becoming subject to exploitation. When the river spaces of our National River Ganga & Yamuna River which flow through National Capital are not well protected, then the plight of other rivers across country can be understood.
This week, there are two news reports which again are highlighting this cause. Interestingly in both cases, legal fight is going on in green tribunal which indirectly deals with the issue though with no success so far. In fist case, NGT has directed Govt. of Uttarakhand to demarcate floodplains of Ganga river from its origin in Gomukh till Roorkee, a 65-km long stretch in the state. The tribunal has posted the matter for the next hearing on Oct 20 and asked the state government to submit its compliance report by then. The bench also sought a report on the total number of hotels on the 65-km stretch from the govt. The green panel allowed the state govt to take the help of Roorkee-based National Institute of Hydrology for identification of flood plains. Construction on flood plains and inside river zones is a sure invitation to disaster such as Kedar Nath Floods in 2013 when human made infrastructures erected very much inside river zones were raised down like sand dunes by enraged rivers. It is sad and even more worrisome that we have learnt nothing from such events.
In second incident Govt. of Uttar Pradesh has drawn green tribunal’s ire over constructions in floodplains. The apex court for environmental issues, expressed its dissatisfaction over the manner in which State Govt filed its report on the distance of various real estate projects from the Yamuna flood plain zone in the city. Coming down heavily in the state govt and various Agra authorities, Agra Development Authority (ADA) & irrigation department, it stated that “authorities were expected to act fairly and judicially while complying with its directions.” The tribunal appointed registrar general Mukesh Kumar Gupta as local commissioner and asked him to file a correct position of flood plains and the distances of the various projects. Meanwhile, ADA has been asked to produce the original records before the tribunal on the next date of hearing, Aug 19.
Floods & floodplains are integral part of a river eco-system. Both has essential role to play in smooth functioning of multiple ecological processes that takes place throughout the journey of a river. It is abused of floodplains that our cities are facing flood threats. It is surprising to see how govts have so far failed in protection of flood plain.
With incidents of excess rainfall, cloud burst & land slides happening at increased frequency, it is time to define our river zone and flood plain clearly in the own interest of human being.
Above: Submerged houses in reservoir behind landslide dam. Photo from Darjeeling Chronicle
The Kanaka River is flowing over the dam that was created on Aug 13, 2016, it is confirmed now, but the risk of the dam failure and disaster downstream continues. In the meanwhile, the upstream villages, cut off due to road damaged and bridge submerged, are facing serious problems.[i] Continue reading “TEESTA LANDSLIDE DAM IN DZONGU: RIVER OVERFLOWS OVER DAM BUT RISK CONTINUE”