The hilly state of Uttarakhand also known as land of rivers has seen increase in riverbed quarrying operations over past decade. With establishment of stone crushers industry, scale and intensity of riverbed minerals (RBM) excavation has further increased in past few years. So has become the impact on villagers and rivers.
However, the government lacks monitoring, transparency, accountability in checking the unscientific, unauthorized RBM as is evident from a review of Uttarakhand Mining and Geology Department (M&G) website and media reports. In fact the state government has neither conducted replenishment study nor formed District Mineral Foundation (DMF), suggesting that it is hand in gloves in organized loot of RBMs.
Indian media never seems to report this, but IMD (India Meteorological Department) also provides river basin wise rainfall figures for South West Monsoon, also for other seasons. As in the previous years, here is an overview of the river basin wise rainfall during just concluded SW Monsoon 2019 (June-Sept 2019, though the monsoon started withdrawing only on Oct 9 and has not yet fully withdrawn from across India as I write this on Oct 15 2019), like the way we have been doing for the last three years[i]. Our earlier monsoon 2019 articles provided monsoon over view[ii], state wise rainfall figures[iii] and Marathwada specific situation[iv].
It’s not clear why Indian media does not report river basin wise rainfall figures, since that is arguably, the most appropriate way to look at the rainfall figures, since river basins are the hydrological units and the run off from the rainfall ends up in the rivers, and creates floods many times, as happened during 2019 monsoon. There could be issues of quality of the river basin wise rainfall figures, but that is true for all IMD’s rainfall figures at some level or other. Continue reading “River Wise Rainfall in Monsoon 2019”→
Flood forecasting is an important activity during monsoon, considering the huge and increasing flood prone area, flood frequency, intensity and flood damages. Accurate and timely flood forecasting can hugely help reduce the damages due to floods. Central Water Commission (CWC) is the only agency responsible for flood forecasting in India. To understand the CWC’s flood forecasting better, we have compiled the list of the various flood, inflow forecasting sites and flood monitoring sites in India.
In this compilation, we have given state wise list of CWC’s flood forecasting, flood monitoring and inflow forecasting sites in North India, comprising of states of Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Chandigarh. It includes available details like name of river, sub basin, Warning level (WL), Danger Level (DL), High Flood Level (HFL), Full Reservoir Level (FRL), Maximum Water Level (MWL), as applicable. As we see below, there are many gaps in this basic information for the sites that are part of CWC’s list. A similar zonewise overview of CWC’s sites was compiled in 2018, which can be seen here. Overview of CWC Flood Forecasting Sites 2018: North India. We have brought this updated compilation for 2019 as there are large number of changes as ou can see.
It’s great to see the top edit in THE TIMES OF INDIA today (Aug 12, 2019) calling for urgent review of flood management in India. Indeed the current floods can be a big wake up call.
TOI Edit rightly says: “Similarly, there’s also an urgent need to upgrade dam management in the region. Despite heavy rain warnings, why couldn’t Maharashtra and Karnataka coordinate to release dam waters downstream as a pre-emptive measure? We need much more proactive and punctilious supervision of dam waters.” Indeed there is need to fix the responsibilities of failures in Dam Management, including forecasting failures, Violations of rule curves, mismanagement of reservoirs and lack of information sharing and coordination.Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 12 August 2019: URGENT REVIEW OF FLOOD MANAGEMENT REQUIRED”→
A new surge in the developmental interventions in the rivers in India is seen with the implementation of National Inland Waterways Act, 2016. Under this Act, 138 stretches of the rivers, creeks, backwaters, estuaries, etc. in 24 states and 2 union territories will be developed as the ‘national inland waterways’ for the transportation of huge cargo and passenger vessels. Being declared as “national” means that the control and regulation of these waterways will be in the hands of the central government and not state governments. This project of Central Government is being pushed forward with the claims of inland water transport being cost-effect, environmental friendly and safe for the transportation of hazardous goods. However, these so called benefits are neither universal nor automatic as they will be dependent on certain conditions, and will accrue if and when those conditions are met. Development of these waterways will be controlled and regulated by Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI). Continue reading “National Inland Waterways in Bihar: Viable or desirable?”→
Flood forecasting is an important activity during monsoon, considering the huge and increasing flood prone area, flood frequency, extent and flood damages. Accurate and timely flood forecasting can hugely help reduce the damages due to floods. Central Water Commission (CWC) is the only agency responsible for flood forecasting in India. To understand the CWC’s flood forecasting better, we have compiled the list of the various flood, inflow forecasting sites and flood monitoring sites in India.
In this compilation, we have given state wise list of CWC’s flood forecasting, flood monitoring and inflow forecasting sites, along with available details like rivers, sub basin, river basin, Warning level, Danger Level, High Flood Level, Full Reservoir Level, Maximum Water Level. As we see below, there are many gaps in this basic information for the sites that are part of CWC’s list.
Aquifers in 16 States in the country are contaminated by uranium, whose presence in drinking water has been linked to chronic kidney disease by several studies, a recent study has shown. More importantly, uranium doesn’t figure on the list of contaminants monitored under the Bureau of Indian Standards’ drinking water specifications. The main source of this contamination is natural, but groundwater depletion by extensive withdrawal of water for irrigation and nitrite pollution due to the excessive use of nitrogenous fertilisers may be exacerbating the problem, said the study.
– The study was carried out by a team of researchers led by Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University in the US. The team, which also included experts from the Central Ground Water Board, the Rajasthan government’s Ground Water Department and Gujarat Water Resources Development Corporation, analysed groundwater samples from 226 locations in Rajasthan and 98 in Gujarat.
Wetlands can be defined as lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic eco-systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water.
But they are threatened by reclamation and degradation due to activities like drainage and landfill, pollution, hydrological alteration (water withdrawal and changes in inflow and outflow), over-exploitation resulting in loss of biodiversity and disruption in ecosystem services provided by them.
Similarly, despite country’s space agency ISRO had in 2011 mapped over two lakhs of wetlands across the country, the centre has, so far, notified only 115 wetlands and 63 lakes in 24 states and 2 UTs for conservation and management.
Ganga Basin, particularly Bihar is facing unprecedented floods, starting on Aug 12, 2017. Water levels of Major tributaries of Ganga, including Kosi, Mahananda, Rapti, Ghagra, Bagmati, Gandak and Kamlabalan are close to or above the historically highest flood levels almost simultaneously. This has rarely happened in the past. The water level of Ghagra is close to HFL at Elgine Bridge in Barabanki district in Uttar Pradesh. Most other flood forecasting sites in North Bihar and East UP were shown as pink dots on CWC flood forecasting map on Aug 13-15, signifying that water level at these sites was above the danger level. This is possibly the beginning, this wave is expected to rise as it travels down towards Bihar and then W Bengal and Bangladesh. Continue reading “Ganga basin faces unprecedented floods in Aug 2017”→
In the midst of a serious meeting pontificating on water issues, suddenly one hears an evocative sher in impeccable Urdu, followed by laughter and rounds of Irshad. The sher captures a lot in a few lines.
For an MTech Engineer from IIT and a Ph D Structural Engineer, Dr Dinesh Kumar Mishra, Mishra ji, is a colourful personality.
His erudition on rivers and floods in Bihar is tempered by folklore, songs, myths and shayari. A polyglot, Mishraji speaks and writes with eloquence in not only in Hindi and English, but in Bengali, Odiya and Urdu with equal ease. He holds a doctorate from the University of South Gujarat and has been an Ashoka Fellow. Mishraji is an institution in himself when it comes to rivers and floods of North Bihar and has single-handedly contributed to a gradually changing perception of flooding rivers as a catastrophe or “something to be tamed”.
And hence, it gives us great pleasure to share that Mishraji was honored with the Bhagirath Parayas Samman at the India Rivers Week held in New Delhi on the 29th November 2016. India Rivers Week is being organized since November 2014 by a consortium of NGOs including WWF India, INTACH, SANDRP, Toxics Link and PEACE Institute Charitable Trust. More than 100 River experts, planners, researchers, artists, enthusiasts and activists from different parts of the country have been coming together to celebrate India Rivers Week in Delhi in last week of November to discuss, deliberate and exchange their experiences and ideas aimed at the conserving, rejuvenation, restoration of rivers in the country.
Citation of Bhagirtah Prayas Samman states “Dinesh Mishra, an engineer from IIT Kharagpur, has laid the foundation for an extensive knowledge base on floods in rivers.Through his writings, lectures, advocacy and public interactions he has inspired many individuals and organisations to record local knowledge about floods and generate information that creates awareness among communities. All this has become part of a larger social movement… It is an honour to recognize and celebrate Dr Dinesh Mishra’s extraordinary Bhagirath efforts in institutionalizing traditional ways of living with floods.”
Born just prior to independence in a village in Utter Pradesh, Mishraji has dedicated his life in telling us about destruction wrought by infrastructure centric-flood control measures on rivers… especially rivers of the Ganga basin in North Bihar. Since 1984, Mirshraji is engaged in the study of floods, water-logging and irrigation and has slowly nurtured a diverse army which is able to see a lot more in floods than only destruction. He has helped us see the impact of flood control infrastructure like embankments.
Mishraji believes that India’s flood control policy revolves mainly around embankments resulting in severe environmental problems. The maintenance of such structures is in the hands of “indifferent technocracy” which does not take cognizance of the fact that investment in the flood control sector is doing more harm than good. Rising flood prone area of the country is a pointer to that. There are a wide range of aspects that need to be looked into afresh like agriculture, non-farm employment, migration, health, education, and access to civic amenities etc. He finds it intriguing that reciprocal inaccessibility of the flooded areas during the peak season and prolonged water-logging during the peace-time has not attracted the imagination of most of the responsible people. He is trying to learn from the people, their perception of the problem and take it up with those in power while keeping in touch with the people about the probable official intervention. These bridges are rare and much-needed in India. He has raised the issue of floods and water-logging and the links with infrastructure in state, national and international levels.
He has highlighted the futility of embankments as a flood control measures in rivers like Kosi and its tributaries. Through his persistent efforts of over more than three decades, Mishraji has helped change the way river floods are understood and managed. Using an approach which respects the natural cycle of floods, founded on local knowledge, he has robustly challenged the main stream flood control approach. For him, the long-term sustenance of rivers as well as their natural processes is the key, supported by meticulous research into the historical and cultural aspects of rivers.
Mishraji’s narration of how people used to come out in boats to enjoy flooded areas at full moon nights in Bihar is not only poignant, it also reminds us of the paradigm shift that came into our water management when we discarded age-old wisdom and adopted measures which were out of sync for our rivers.
Mishraji’s work is a confluence of solid grass root level contacts, extensive knowledge of local traditions, topography, geography and hydrology, robust field research and unique analysis. His writings including articles, books and films have made a deep impact on current understanding and thinking about floods in rivers and how best to deal with them. Through all this, he has made notable contributions towards developing a new policy dialogue on India’s flood control system, and the impact they have had on livelihood practices.
Mishraji is also the convener of an informal group of flood activists called Barh Mukti Abhiyan, an effective informal group with wide acceptance and vast contacts. He is currently engaged in writing about river Gandak and Ghaghara and thus shall complete the entire landscape of rivers of north Bihar.
He has over hundreds of Notable among his large number of publications, are “Trapped! Between the Devil and Deep Waters: The Story of Bihar’s Kosi River” and “River Bagmati: Bounties Become a Curse”. His book “Boya Per Babool Ka’ was chosen as one of the best books written over the subject of environment by the Ministry of Forest and Environment, Government of India in 2002. This was later translated into English and published titled, ‘Living with Politics of Floods’ in 2002.
He was a member of the Dams and Development Forum of UNEP and represented Project Affected People there during 2003-07. He was also a member of the Working Group on Flood Control and Water Logging of the Planning Commission of India to review the progress made in eleventh Five Year Plan and make recommendations for the Twelfth.
He has encouraged many organizations to take up the issue of floods and water-logging in their respective river basins, in Bihar and other states as well, and they are carrying on their works. He has encouraged many groups to take up drainage works of small chaurs (land depressions) and resume agriculture on the land that emerges out of water. He provides them with basic technical details and help them executing the work. This has shown very encouraging results as compared to heavily budgeted drainage schemes taken up by the Irrigation Departments.
He has published a book on the River Mahananda (titled Bandini Mahananda in Hindi), a boundary river between Bihar and Bengal, in 1994 followed by a bi-lingual (Hindi and English) book on the Bhutahi Balan (2004) (Bhutahi Nadi aur Takniki Jhar Phoonk / Story of a Ghost River and Engineering Witchcraft) and on the Kamla River (2005) titled Baghawat Par Majboor Mithila Ki Kamala Nadi/ The Kamla-River and People on Collision Course.
His book on the River Kosi titled ‘Dui Paatan Ke Beech Mein – Kosi Nadi Ki Kahaani’ was published in Hindi in 2006. Its updated English version titled “Trapped! Between the Devil and Deep Waters – Story of Bihar’s Kosi River”, co-published by SANDRP, came out in 2008 just before the famous breach of the Kosi embankment at Kusaha in Nepal. Book on Bagmati was published in 2010, titled Bagmati Ki Sadgati. Its English version is also co-published by SANDRP titled “River Bagmati: Bounties Become a Curse” in August 2012. He has now started working on the major river of North Bihar, the Gandak and that will complete detailing the major rivers of north Bihar. This book will touch the Ghaghara and the Burhi Gandak too that flow almost parallel to the Gandak.
Mishraji’s crusade to highlight the wisdom behind age-old methods to “live with the floods”, his fight to expose the utterly destructive impacts of embankments and their role in amplifying flood misery, coupled with his sensitive and scholarly love of folklore and literature make his work accessible and engaging. We need more people like Mishraji who can tell us the stories of our rivers.
We congratulate him for the Bhagirath Prayas Samman and thank him, on behalf of our rivers, for his Bhagirath efforts.