A number of welcome developments around dams appear in this week’s DRP News Bulletin from SANDRP. The prominent is the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation declaring that it may not need Pinjal Dam, which SANDRP had said in its report way back in 2012-13 and the then BMC commissioner had agreed to in an interview to NDTV. This should also lead to cancellation of the Damanganga Pinjal River Link proposal. The Maharashtra govt decision to review the need for Human dam is also welcome. The Kerala State Information Commissioner’s decision to direct that the Dam Break Analysis should be in public domain is also a useful precedent that all states and CWC need to follow immediately and also amend the proposed Dam Safety Act to include a provision that all Dam Safety related information, including meeting minutes, agenda, decisions, status reports etc will be in public domain.
On February 2, the World Wetlands Day is celebrated globally. The theme of 2020 is Wetlands and Biodiversity to emphasize the critical roles the wetlands plays for wildlife, aquatic life, and native vegetation. They also play crucial role in harvesting rainwater, recharging groundwater, providing livelihoods, acting as carbon sinks and providing cushion against flash floods thus they hold immense significance in changing climate.
This compilation puts together some of the positive developments related to wetlands that took place in 2019. It also includes few individual initiatives of lakes and water bodies cleaning from greater Noida, Chennai and Udaipur. There have been some fruitful efforts by citizen and community groups in Maharashtra, Goa and Kerala.
A new study has shown how powerful the monsoons and their abnormalities are: It’s these abnormalities that ended reigns of multiple dynasties in medieval India, not wars. But the society does not seem to understand this basic reality today, and we are not only doing everything in our power to make the monsoon abnormal through human induced climate and natural world changes, but not even valuing the rainwater in our water policies, programs and practices. The changes we are bringing in natural world is making even the smaller monsoon abnormalities bring catastrophic impacts as the capacities of the people and societies to cope with the changes is decreasing. These studies are another wake up call, if only we were interested one.
In a number of ways the Supreme Court order this week that the municipal commissioners and chief officers can be prosecuted for releasing untreated pollutants from the cities to the rivers and other water bodies is path breaking. Can it help fix accountability of release of such untreated sewage? Can it help ensure that cities stop doing this and cities not only have adequate sewage treatment facilities, but also that cities have to ensure that the STPs function to ensure that no untreated sewage ends up the rivers and other water bodies?
Interrogating Cauvery Calling N Ram questions Jaggi Vasudev’s Cauvery Calling, asks why it shifts goal posts Speaking at Interrogating Cauvery Calling seminar in Chennai, N Ram said that various state governments and the central government that endorses the project should also be questioned.
“Now a very serious issue that must cause concern is the raising of public interest and public money for this project. Truly mega, in terms of money involved – 242 crore trees, 11,000 crore rupees. That is the kind of money involved. Only 0.5% collected. There is still time to put checks on this and prevent this from going further,” he said. “What is the management of this money? Who oversees it? There is no transparency, no verifiable document, no clear management structure for huge amount targeted. It is a matter of great concern.”
– N Ram also said that various state governments and the central government that endorses the project should also be questioned. “As a political journalist, this is the question that occurs to me. Who gave the Isha Foundation the right, the jurisdiction to transgress on what should be the commons. And why are governments being subservient to this idea? Apart from the risks, probable negative outcomes and over simplification of solutions for Cauvery, this is what is worrying,” he concluded. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/n-ram-questions-jaggi-vasudevs-cauvery-calling-asks-why-it-shifts-goal-posts-112838 (24 Nov. 2019)
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.
Following death of Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand (Prof G D Agarwal) while on fast unto death on Oct 11, 2018 and disappearance of Swami Gopal Das ji from AIIMS-Delhi, Swami Aatmabodhanand ji has been on fast unto death at Matri Sadan, Haridwar since Oct 24, 2019. In a letter to the Prime Minister on April 19, 2019 he has said that if the government does respond by April 25, 2019 to the four demands for which the fast undo death is undertaken, he will leave water from April 27, 2019. The four demands are well known:
- Cancel all under construction and proposed dams on Bhagirathi, Alaknanda and their tributaries.
- Prohibit all mining and tree cutting in the Ganga flood plains, particularly in Haridwar
- Enact Ganga Act for the preservation of River Ganga, the draft of which has been sent to the govt.
- Constitute an autonomous Ganga Council
A pond dug a few years ago in Jignanda village of Hamirpur district still holds plenty of water despite scanty rainfall (Photo by Soumya Sarkar)
In a remarkable campaign during the ongoing general elections, Bundelkhand villages have demanded PONDs for Votes. This is exactly what is required for Bundelkhand, and not the destructive, costly and contractor driven Ken Betwa link that BJP has been trying to push here. Congratulations to the Bundelkhand people and People’s Science Institute that has led this campaign.
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 we are celebrating world water day 2019 with the theme ‘Leaving No One Behind’, two United Nation’s reports release in this month have underlined the growing water crisis on the watery planet. While the WaterAid report has raised alarm over rapidly falling groundwater table in South Asia, the sixth edition of ‘Global Environment Outlook’, has warned of growing pollution of freshwater sources and resultant impact on human health.
The situation this year in India indeed warrants wide attention as about 50 per cent of the country is facing drought condition. With rapid fall in groundwater table, wells, tanks and streams are turning dry in most part of central and south Indian states. The farming, riverine and village communities are particularly at the receiving end of compounding water crisis.
The cities of Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune are facing severe water scarcity which will turn worse in the coming days. The Cauvery river in Kodagu, Karnataka has registered unprecedentedly low flow. The water level in Jayakwadi dam in Aurangabad has reached dead storage and Mettur dam has been falling sharply.
In a remedial but surprising move, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike has set up a team of water marshals to act against water tankers charging exorbitantly from residents. Before this, Nasik district administration has formed patrolling squads to protect canal water from theft by farmers. Tribal areas in Siddipet, Telangana are reeling under dearth of potable water. The forest fire and increasing summer has forced wild animals move towards human populated areas.
However, on positive note, many individuals, groups and communities have silently been investing efforts in water conservation works. Many have yielded positive out-comes. Many other institutions including some initiatives at government level have also set an example before others in preserving the water resources and treating and reusing polluted water. Also, there are a number of remarkable water conservation efforts by farming communities across the country. This compilation tries to put together some of the positive water actions in India during the past one year.