Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 12 February 2018 (With Innovative Ideas Hyderabad, Chennai & Delhi Are Reviving Its Wetlands)

This week there are exemplary and encouraging wetlands revival stories from three metro cities of Chennai, Hyderabad and Delhi.  In the first example from Hyderabad, meticulously chosen plant species such as tulsi, aswagandha, citronella and hibiscus have been used to create an artificial island to clean Neknampur Lake. The treatment islands are composed of four layers of which the bamboo base keeps the entire structure afloat. Based on soil-less hydroponics, these floating treatment wetlands absorb excess nitrates, thereby reducing the chemical content of the lake water. Microorganisms present in the wetland break down organic matter while the root systems filter out pollutants and sediments. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/3500-saplings-floating-islands-help-rejuvenate-hyd-neknampur-lake-75819 (The News Minute, 3 Feb. 2018)

Image by: Madhulika Choudhary

Similarly, Chennai-based Care Earth Trust along with the public works department (PWD) and the civic body has managed to restore three urban lakes. While many of the smaller wetlands have vanished over time, many mid-sized wetlands seem to have shrunk by almost 65 percent. Thanks to their joint effort, invasive hyacinth was removed from the Narayanapuram Lake in Pallikaranai, while sewer lines, which emptied into the Perungalathur Lake, have now been plugged. A detailed restoration proposal has been forwarded to the PWD regarding the Korattur-Madhavaram-Ambattur lakes. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/hyacinth-out-sewer-line-plugged-three-water-bodies-restored/articleshow/62748110.cms (The Times of India, 2 Feb. 2018)

Meanwhile, Delhi Jal Board (DJB) has taken up interesting new project of creating an artificial lake in Dwarka. The project will supply water in sub-city and improve ground water level too. DJB has approved Rs. 56 crore for the project which will be completed in next seven months.  This would the first model project wherein a lake will be used to augment water supply. The special lake is being created next to the Dwarka water treatment plant (WTP) will have a sand bed to allow maximum percolation of water into the ground. It will have a capacity of 10 million gallons (MGD). The project is expected to add supply of 5-6 million gallons water to Dwarka every day.

Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 12 February 2018 (With Innovative Ideas Hyderabad, Chennai & Delhi Are Reviving Its Wetlands)”

Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 25 December 2017 (CAG Report Shows Ganga River Has No Hope Under NMCG)

Apart from mentioning Govt failure in checking Ganga pollution, the Comptroller & Auditor General’s (CAG) performance audit report on Ganga rejuvenation tabled in Parliament on December 19, 2017 specifically mentions that National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) “could not finalize the long-term action plans even after more than six-and-a-half years of signing of agreement with the consortium of Indian Institutes of Technology”. The fact that NMCG does not have a “river basin management plan even after a lapse of more than 8 years of National Ganga River Basin Authority notification”, mentioned in the report also has great significance. 

It is surprising that NMCG is working without a river basin management plan or a long-term action plan. The CAG performance audit is also lacking. It rightly mentions that infrastructure to treat pollution has not been created but does no assessment whether the creation of infrastructure alone would revive the river.

Further, CAG audit does not look into the issues if lessons from past failures have been learnt, corrections done, independent scrutiny institutionalised, participatory governance achieved, and if this business as usual approach is going to achieve any better results even if all the money were spent, all the DPRs were sanctioned, all the meetings happened, all the manpower available and all the STPs constructed?

Hence it critical that CAG performance audit should have tried to address these issues. Can the state of Ganga improve without improving the state of tributaries? CAG does not even look at this issue.

The CAG report shows that this programme provides no real hope for better future of Ganga and Modi and his government will have a lot to answer when they go to polls in less than 1.5 years. It’s a serious indictment for the govt in general and Modi in particular since he has said right from the beginning that Ganga is their priority and all that they have tried is audited here. http://www.livemint.com/Politics/KW6MIOrOvMvZvEGeozwifJ/CAG-slams-Centre-for-failing-to-utilize-funds-for-Ganga-reju.html;                                 http://indianexpress.com/article/india/ganga-pollution-hc-orders-uttarakhand-govt-to-seal-establishments-polluting-rivers-4991923/; https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/building-of-ghats-crematoria-on-ganga-misses-nov-deadline/articleshow/62234114.cms https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/environment/pm-modi-fails-to-clean-up-his-mother-ganga

Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 25 December 2017 (CAG Report Shows Ganga River Has No Hope Under NMCG)”

Dams · Ganga

The Sad State Of These Persons Called Ganga & Yamuna – Can State Protect Them?

Guest Blog by: Chicu Lokgariwar

It’s a girl! And another girl!

On March 20 2017, the High Court of Uttarakhand in an unforeseen move, bestowed ‘legal personhood’ on the Ganga and the Yamuna. Ten days later, as people were still trying to understand the implications of this order, the Court declared  the glaciers, lakes, and wetlands of these basins as legal persons. What does this mean exactly?

The decree: As per an order passed on 20th March 2017, while ruling on a public interest litigation filed by Mohammed Salim against the State of Uttarakhand, the High Court has declared the entire length of the Ganga and the Yamuna, including their tributaries to be juristic persons.

The order states, ‘..the Rivers Ganga and Yamuna, all their tributaries, streams, every natural water flowing with flow continuously or intermittently of these rivers, are declared as juristic/legal persons/living entities having the status of a legal person with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person in order to preserve and conserve river Ganga and Yamuna.’

Continue reading “The Sad State Of These Persons Called Ganga & Yamuna – Can State Protect Them?”

Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 10 April 2017 (Activists from 40 countries & all continents meet for RIVER GATHERING in Georgia)

In a most significant event, some 85 river and dam activists from 40 countries and all continents gathered in Tbilisi, Georgia (on border between Asia and Europe, between Black and Caspian Sea) during March 27-31, 2017 to share experiences about their efforts to protect the world’s rivers and join their struggles against destructive hydropower projects. The meeting was organized by CEE BankWatch Network (active in 12 countries in Eastern and Central Europe) and International Rivers.

dahlich

Eight persons from South Asia, including those from India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh joined the meeting to share experiences from the region. Indian participant included SANDRP coordinator (who was also in steering committee of the meeting) and Associate Coordinator Parineeta Dandekar. A number of participants from neighboring and nearby countries like China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Mongolia and Russia also participated. Issues related to trans-boundary rivers, small hydropower projects and multiple projects on the same rivers, decommissioning of the dams, how to achieve free flowing rivers and importance of rivers in changing climate were some of the key issues discussed at the meeting.

Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 10 April 2017 (Activists from 40 countries & all continents meet for RIVER GATHERING in Georgia)”

Dams · Ganga

Varanasi, God’s Own Land

Guest Blog by Nandini Oza

My recent visit to Varanasi in March 2017 was with a lot of expectations for more than one reason. Varanasi is situated on the majestic Ganga and located between the two rivers Varuna and Asi with Gomti – Ganga sangam (confluence) not far away. Naturally Varanasi would be of interest to any person interested in rivers and water. The Government has also announced the ambitious Namami Gange program which is essentially a national mission for cleaning of the river Ganga. The Government has also declared building of waterways through more than hundred rivers across the country and all the three rivers of Varanasi, the Ganga, Varuna and Asi are a part of this project. Besides, Varanasi being Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi’s constituency for three years now, he takes personal interest in its development through several programmes like Swatch Bharat Abhiyan, Namami Gange and so on.  This visit was therefore to familiarise myself with the ground situation, issues and recent developments and I share my impressions here. I also share some of the discussions I had with local groups and individuals of the holy city of Banaras.

Continue reading “Varanasi, God’s Own Land”

Agriculture · Climate Change · Dams · Ministry of Environment and Forests

Farmers, Rivers and the Environment in Union Budget 2016-17

Above: Canals of Tillari Project, on of the AIBP Project supported in Union Budget 2016-17, unused and derelict Photo: Parineeta Dandekar

Massive expenditure on Large Dams will only help contractors

The Union Budget 2016-17 presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Feb 29, 2016 seems to be promising in its thrust and focus towards farmers and the farming sector of the country. For a sector which employs about 55% of the work force of the country, this priority is much needed and one which holds a promise of a number of multiplier effects. He stated, “We are grateful to our farmers for being the backbone of our food security. We need to move beyond food security and give our farmers a sense of “Income Security”.” This is particularly required when the farmers are in dire states as they are today, many of them facing four consecutive crop failures, Kharif 2014, Rabi 2015, Kharif 2015 and Rabi 2016.  In 2015, on average 52 farmers committed suicide every single day in India.[1]

And hence, focus on farming is indeed a positive step. As Maharashtra State Water Resources Minister for State Vijay Shivtare once told me, “We are not very bothered about the high costs of Lift Irrigation Schemes per se. If they work well, and result in prosperous farmers, it would mean more agricultural implements, more Tractors, more vehicles, better homes etc., increasing the government’s revenue at the end of the day.” (“If they work well” was the operative part here, which has seldom materialized in Maharashtra). A Prosperous Farmer and strong farming economy can help all sectors.

Mr. Jaitley opened his budget speech with an Agenda to “Transform India”, based on nine pillars. Foremost pillar is ‘Agriculture and farmers’ welfare, with a focus on doubling farmers’ income in five years, by 2022. The total allocation for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare is Rs 35, 984 Crores.

Finance Minister rightly diagnosed that “Irrigation is the critical input for increasing agricultural production and productivity.” Out of 141 million hectares of net cultivated area, only 46% is covered with irrigation and that there is a “need to address optimal utilization of water resources, create new irrigation infrastructure, conserve soil fertility, value addition and connectivity from farm to markets.”

For ensuring this, “Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana” will be implemented in mission mode through which 28.5 lakh hectares will be brought under irrigation”. A major part of this will be through “Fast tracking and Implementation of 89 irrigation projects under AIBP (Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Program) which have been languishing. These will help irrigate 80.6 Lakh hectares. These projects will need Rs 17,000 Crores next year and 86,500 Crores in next five years. 23 of these will be completed before 31st March 2017.”

So, in the coming 5 years, a whopping Rs 86,500 Crores of the taxes collected from all Indians and at least a part of the Krishi Kalyan Cess at 0.5% all taxable services will go into AIBP Projects, with over Rs 17,000 Crores being allocated in 2016-17 itself. This is highly problematic. AIBP was started by P. Chidambaram in 1996 and in two decades since then, it has not delivered anything susbstantial except huge bank balances for contractors, as also for the engineers, bureaucrats and politicians,hand in glove with the contractors. CAG reports have repeatedly highlighted this reality  in case of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and now possibly Madhya Pradesh. In fact, this was the very plank on which BJP came to power in Maharashtra. But Arun Jaitely seems to have no new ideas to offer here, except treading on the same path.

While it is clear that the government cannot abandon all incomplete projects, before it decides to spend more good money after already sunk costs on incomplete projects, it needs to halt more Major and Medium irrigation projects and undertake a credible, independent review of why the projects were incomplete for so long, what were the loop holes, what are the lessons learned from past mistakes, which projects are worth going ahead, in what form. And finally, which need  to be abandoned. Without doing such an exercise, the money allocated for incomplete projects is not going to help the farmers.

  1. Massive Support for AIBP Projects in Union Budget 2016 17 is unwarranted

Rs 86,500 Crores over 5 years is a massive amount. Will it be able to ensure promised Irrigation? Which are these AIBP Projects? Why do they need so much support from the Center? How have they performed till now? Where are they located? Is this expenditure wise?

Here is a snapshot of some of the 89 AIBP Projects, maximum of which, 13, come from Maharashtra. Maharashtra has had enough bad publicity following the Dam Scam but more importantly, it now has a Chief Minister, also from BJP, who openly stated in the State Assembly on July 21, 2015 that “We have built Large dams everywhere without thinking of feasibility or water availability” and that “Large Dams are not the road ahead”. Devendra Fadanvis wisely separated Large Dams from actual Irrigation and said: “We pushed large dams, not irrigation, this has to change”.[2] He has spearheaded a considerably successful program that focuses on small scale interventions for harvesting and recharging water known as Jal Yukta Shivar Yojana.

With this context, it is ironic and deeply troubling that maximum Large Irrigation Projects under AIBP come from Maharashtra. The name “Accelerated Irrigation Benefit” is also ironic as many of these projects have been going on for over 2-3 decades, have seen huge costs escalations, corruption charges, question marks about their viability, desirability, optimality, quality and final effectiveness.

Out of 149 AIBP Projects across the country, 89 projects are active, out of which 46 projects have been prioritized in the Union Budget. 23 Priority I Projects are to be completed by 2016-17 and additional 23 Priority II Projects are to be completed by 2019-20. Of these 46 Projects, maximum 13 projects come from Maharashtra.

A brief snapshot of some AIBP Projects in Maharashtra:

No. Project District Issue
1.                      Tillari Interstate Project Sindhudurg Based in hilly tracts of Western Ghats, highly unviable project, very low irrigation efficiency, terrain not suitable for large dams, Protests, Land Acquisition problems, 
2.                      Bembla Major Project[3] Yavatmal Huge Corruption Charges, Work ongoing since last 24 years. High cost escalations. Cracked canal Lining due to poor quality work. Enquiry ordered against Contractor for substandard work.
3.                      Tarali Major Irrigation Project Satara Whistle Blower of Maharashtra Dam Scam, then-Serving Chief Engineer Mr. Vijay Pandhare inspected construction of Tarali Project and stated that compressive strength of all 66 cores of the dam is as low as 42% when a difference in core strength by 1-2% is considered serious. This indicates corruption, use of less cement and institutionalised ill-intent. He officially wrote letter against these happenings. No action taken.
4.                      Dhom Balkawadi Satara Contract of Canal works given to a close relative of Ajit Pawar, Former Deputy CM and Minister of Water Resources. Several tendering lacuna exposed by officials.
5.                      Arjuna Medium Project Ratnagiri Massive cost and time escalations, unviable project in hilly terrain, corruption charges, rehabilitation issues not settled.

In addition to these, cost escalations of Lower Wardha, Lower Panzara, Nandur Madhyameshwar II (which will need 3 dams in the upstream) are also well known. (Link to  all projects in References below)

Across the country, but more sharply so in Maharashtra, Large Irrigation Projects have not automatically meant increased irrigated area, which is what the farmer needs. SANDRP has shown with official data that even after spending over Rs 600,000 crores on Major and Medium Dam and Canal Network between 1993-2010-11, net national canal irrigated area has been decreasing and not increasing.[4] There are several reasons for this.

1.jpg

Above: Canal irrigated area declining in the country Source: SANDRP

2

 Above: Groundwater dominates Irrigation in India, not dams and canals Source: IWMI

If Large Dam approach delivered all that it promised, then Maharashtra, with the largest number of large dams in the country would have had the highest irrigated area.  The actual picture is the opposite. Maharashtra has the lowest irrigated area in the country at about 18%. This is not a coincidence. As the dam scam highlighted, more large projects with complicated, ever-changing plans, far away offices and opaque funding mechanisms meant that local people had no clue about what was happening, leaving doors open for the unholy nexus of Babus, Contractors and Engineers to eat away public funds, without ensuring irrigation. Recent example is when the Maharashtra Government told the Hon High Court that they have resolved all of the financial backlog in areas like Marathwada and Vidarbha,  but the PHYSICAL backlog remains nearly the same. So is money for large irrigation projects an answer in this scenario?

While three major projects from Vidarbha (Bawanthadi, Bembla and Lower Wardha) included in AIBP will receive huge support from the Center, the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) faces some of the most serious charges of corruption, cost and time escalations, as highlighted by a series of government appointed committees and even CAG. Jan Manch, an NGO from  Vidarbha which was instrumental in exposing the scam clearly stated that problems of projects here run deeper. Money is not an easy fix.

So why are the same projects being pushed in the name of farmers when it is demonstrated in Maharashtra that farmers are NOT benefiting from these projects? Cynics would point this out as another Jumlaa! Again, in the same state, the power of small scale water harvesting structures and people’s participation have shown how quickly things can change. Maharashtra still needs to complete Anti-Corruption Bureau Inquiry against several Large Dams, it needs to work on an Integrated State Water Plan and, as per orders of the Hon High Court, it can undertake new Projects only as per the provisions of this plan, it needs to take transparent and credible action regarding its own enquiry reports, which includes Special Investigation Team Report, CAG Report on Irrigation Projects dated 2013, etc. Unless all these steps are taken, and when small scale interventions are demonstrating their impacts, what is the logic behind putting huge public resources on the same approach?

Projects in other states like Sardar Sarovar, Narmada Sagar, Omkareshwar and Maheshwar Projects in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have not resettled the oustees and has used repressive mechanism to still fill the dams. It has been rapped by the Courts. Local communities in Manipur have been opposing dams there and have gone to the National Green Tribunal against Thaubal Dam.

In this context, maximum allocation of funds for Large Irrigation Projects in the Union Budget is clearly, neither convincing nor beneficial to farmers.

Other Schemes included under PMKSY with budgeted expenses for 2016-17 are

  • Har Khet ko Pani: Rs 500 Crores
  • Per Drop more crop: Rs 2340 Crores
  • Integrated Watershed Management: Rs 1500 Crores
  1. Some Positive water related steps in the Budget:
  • A major program for sustainable management of GW with allocation of Rs 6000 Crores and proposed for multilateral finding: Although the amount budgeted is hardly comparable to AIBP Projects, when contribution of groundwater in irrigation is much larger than surface water! We do not really need World Bank funding for this, we should be able to do this on our own.
  • A dedicated Long -term Irrigation Fund will be created in NABARD with initial corpus of Rs 20,000 Cores. Unfortunately, NABARD has no specific social and environmental policies and has been funding projects without attention to the key governance issues.
  • 5 lakh farm ponds and dug wells in rain fed areas and 10 lakh compost pits through MNEREGA.
  • Allocation for MNREGA is Rs 38500 crores, in reality this is much less than the actual demand and also less than what was actually spent last year. Last year, the actual spending on the programme was Rs 41,169 crore. The additional spending of Rs 6,470 crore is the pending liability and if adjusted the actual allocation in 2016-17 drops to Rs 32,030 crore—less than what was allocated in 2015-16. MNREGA allocation should have been higher.
  • Organic farming to be promoted: Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana 5 lakh acres under organic farming in 3 years with allocation of around Rs 412 crores. While more areas under organic farming is welcome, the target is more un-ambitious and allocation most meager. As Jayapal Reddy (Secy, confederation of kisan organisations) says we need aid for increasing carbon content in soil all across India.
  • Incentives for enhancement of Pulse production. Rs 500 Crores under National Food Security Mission to pulses. Districts covered increased to 622. This is a specifically encouraging step taken as Pulse Farming is mostly rainfed, require low fertilizer inputs, contributes to protein security, is climate friendly. We spent about Rs 15,000 Crores this year to import pulses and a focused plan for procurement and assured MSP will be of a great help. But the FM could have been much more ambitious here. A similar scheme was needed for oilseeds too.
  • Access to markets is critical for farmer incomes. Unified Agri Marketing Scheme has been announced where a common e-platform will be developed for 585 regulated wholesale markets. Amendments in APMC Acts are a prerequisite for joining. On the 14th April Birthday of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, Unified Platform dedicated to Nation.
  • Revised norms of assistance under National Disaster Response Fund in April 2015.
  • Special focus on adequate and timely flow of credit to farmers. Against target of 8.5 Lakh Crores in 2015 16, the target of agri credit 2016-17 will be Rs 9 lakh Crores.
  • Prime Minister Fasal Bima Yojana providing greater cover against natural calamities at a low premium. Provision of Rs 5500 Crores in Budget 2016-17. However, the amount originally estimated to cover all farmers was Rs 17,600 crore. Why this lower allocation?
  1. Where are the Rivers?

In NDA’s first budget in 2014-15, when Ganga Arati and rhetoric on Ganga cleaning were at their peak, the Finance Minister had said during his budget speech: “ Rivers form the lifeline of our country. They provide water not only for producing food for the multitudes but also drinking water.” [5]

This year however, there is no mention of Rivers, not even Ganga. However, Namami Gange Plan/ National Ganga Plan has been allocated Rs 2250 Crores in the year 2016-17. The plan itself remains unclear. A plan based on Sewage Treatment Plants alone does not hold promise for Ganga with Rs 2000 Crores budgetary support, or Rs 20,000 Crores, like the money we have spent in the past years, corresponding to declining water quality of the river.

Inland Waterways Plan: The much-talked about Plan pushed by Minister for Road Transport and Highways and Shipping Mr. Nitin Gadkari would be getting around 350 Crores in 2016-17 as the combined budget for Sagaramala (Ports project) and Inland Waterways is pitched at 800 Crores and Sagarmala is budgeted at 450 Crores. Inland Waterways Program is being pushed without a thought being given to rivers in which they will operate. It is raising some very crucial questions, elaborated here: Digging Our Rivers’ Graves?[6]

Interlinking of Rivers Plan: The Plan has not been mentioned in the budget and the scheme does not feature in the further discussions. However, the Center is pursuing the project, disregarding ecological cost, social costs, financial costs and interstate conflicts.

It looks like Budget 2016-17 has no special announcements for rivers. However, plans like 100 Urban Rejuvenation Mission (Amrut and 100 Smart Cities) have been allocated a massive Rs 7296 Crores this FY. Projects like Smart Cities, Highways Project, Inland Waterways all have a strong link and impact on life support systems like rivers and these needed to be seriously addressed. India has no policy for Urban Rivers, and this has meant that rivers are common grounds for encroachment, pollution and extraction, leading to their destruction, like the Ganga, among others.

  1. Environment in Union Budget 2016-17

While the Environment Minister was one of the first Ministers to official hail Union Budget as “Visionary”, it is a bit sad to see that Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change (MoEF and CC) does not feature in the list of Important Ministries annexed to Finance Minister’s Speech, nor does a single Scheme from MoEF and CC feature in the list of Important schemes.

MoEF and CC gets a slightly higher budget than the massively slashed budget for the past two years. However, as Down to Earth has pointed out, there is a hitch here: “The Budget document shows that allocations to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) have continued to rise, from Rs 1,681.60 crore in last year’s budget to Rs 2,250.34 crore in 2016-17. But most of this Rs 570-crore increase has come in the form of planned revenue expenditure (salary and other operational expenses), which has risen by Rs 540 crore to Rs 1,944.75 crore this year. This leaves an increase of only Rs 30 crore divided between planned capital expenditure estimates (expenditure on schemes and programmes) and non-planned estimates. In fact, planned capital expenditure saw a dip in comparison to actual expenditure undertaken during fiscal year 2014-15.”[7]

Some Climate Change initiates like National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), have seen an increased allocation. Of the Rs 180 Crores for Climate Change initiatives, Climate Change Action Programme (CCAP) has been allotted Rs 30 crore, the National Mission on Himalayan Studies Rs 50 crore and the National Adaptation Fund Rs 100 crore. According to Down to Earth, “While this is more than the Rs 160 crore allocated last year, there is no provision to cover the revised estimates of total expenditure of Rs 136.79 crore for the CCAP and Rs 115 crore for the National Adaptation Fund.”

There has been an upward spike in the National Clean Energy Fund, constituted mainly by Coal  Peat & lignite Cess, which has seen increase from Rs 50 to 100 Rs/tonne in 2014-15, further to 200 Rs/tonne is 2015-16 to 400 Rs/tonne in 2016-17. It is reported that it is this fund which will be support Inland Waterways Project, which is likely to destroy our remaining rivers. It will be hugely ironical if Clean Energy Fund levied on coal because of its environmental impact is used for Inland transport of Flyash and Coal from Rivers, as envisioned in the Inland Waterways Plan!

Budget of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has also been increased considerably from Actual 2014-15: Rs 515 Crores, Revised Estimates 2015-16: Rs 262 Crores and Budgeted Expenditure of 2016-17 at 5036 Crores.

~

All in all, the massive thrust and support for large dam and canal network which has not delivered in past remains one of the most problematic parts of the Budget. The focus of farmers, encouragement to pulse farmers, increased decentralized procurement, increased Clean Environment Cess, increased allocations (marginal) to MoEF and CC and CC initiatives are welcome steps. Finally, a budget is as good as its implementation. A look at achievements of the last year indicates that that several schemes are still listed as under progress. While the aim of increasing farmers’ incomes by double in 2022 sounds very strong and positive, it does remind one of the BJP’s election promised of ensuring 50% profit over costs to farmers, unmet till date and now abandoned. Agricultural growth rate has not achieved more than 4% in any five year plans, and this target will need about 15% Compound Annnual Growth rate in farmers’ income, that looks nearly impossible.

It is also sobering to note, as Devinder Sharma says, that in 17 states of the country, farmers average monthly income is 1666 Rs. Doubling it in five years would mean 3332 Rs a month, nearly the same as five years back, if adjusted against inflation!

  • Parineeta Dandekar, Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP

 END NOTES:

State-wise details on AIBP Projects here: http://mowr.gov.in/writereaddata/1-1-1_Completing%20priority%20projects.pdf

[1] http://thewire.in/2016/03/01/agriculture-sector-needs-more-than-just-income-security-for-farmers-23273/

[2] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2015/07/26/we-pushed-large-dams-not-irrigation-cm-fadnavis-assembly-speech/

[3] http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/proposed-in-1992-bembla-irrigation-project-still-incomplete-112101802012_1.html

[4] https://sandrp.in/irrigation/Failure_of_Big_Irrigation_Projects_and_Rainfed_Agriculture_0510.pdf

[5] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/rivers-and-water-in-union-budget-2014-15/

[6] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/digging-our-rivers-graves/

[7] http://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/budget-2016-17-loose-change-for-climate-change-52973

Ganga · Ministry of Water Resources

A RIVER MAP FOR REJUVENATING GANGA

(Above: River Ganga at Rishikesh Photo with thanks from Ramesh Rawat, India Travelz)

– Guest Blog by: Manoj Misra (manojmisra@peaceinst.org.  Author is the Convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan)

A ‘road map’ might be an inappropriate term for a ‘river’ rejuvenation plan. Thus I am using the term, a ‘river map’.

It is well known that despite the Ganga Action Plan (GAP) being in place since the year 1985 and the Supreme Court adjudicating public interest litigation on it since 1993 the river has become increasingly sick with some stretches notably in Kanpur deserving a biologically ‘dead’ status. So it came as a huge sign of hope when the Prime Minister Modi took upon Ganga rejuvenation as a personal mission and appointed Sushri Uma Bharti, a well known Ganga devotee and activist as the Union Minister of the renamed Ministry of Water resources, River development and Ganga rejuvenation. Soon the Finance Minister in the new government allocated financial resources to the tune of Rs 2037 Crores in the name of Nemami Gange (devotional bow to river Ganga) a flagship scheme of the new government, which is aimed at the rejuvenation of river Ganga.

Yet in recent days the Supreme Court time and again has chided the state on the lack of a sound action plan for its avowed objective of a rejuvenated river Ganga. So much so that it once, in an obvious exasperation on the state’s ‘business as usual’ approach to the issue, commented that “it might well be another 200 years before Ganga is actually rejuvenated”? Clearly notwithstanding its firm intent, the state continues to struggle with defining a ‘road (river) map’ that could while convincing the highest court in the land of its utility, set a clear and effective action plan on the ground for a rejuvenated Maa (mother) Ganga?

REJUVENATION

Let us try and see what does Ganga really require for its rejuvenation?

Term ‘rejuvenation’, which includes restoration, is a return of any living entity from what it is today to an agreed state of previous health and wellness. To unravel that we might first need to understand ‘what is’ and ‘where is’ river Ganga?

Most planners tend to view Ganga as a 2500 km long river from Gaumukh to Ganga Sagar, passing through the cities of Uttarkashi, Devprayag, Rishikesh and Hardwar in the state of Uttarakhand; Kanpur, Allahabad and Varanasi in the state of Uttar Pradesh; Patna in the state of Bihar and Kolkata in the state of West Bengal before merging with the sea in the Bay of Bengal.

Herein, we understand lay the first fundamental planning mistake. For if Ganga were a simple linear entity as planners hold, then King Bhagirath would have unnecessarily carried out tapasya (penance) placating Lord Shiva to hold Ganga in his jata (matted locks) as she descended with massive force from the Brahm Lok (abode of the gods) with a presumed potential to wreck absolute havoc on the mrityu lok (earth) unless its speed had been broken. This mythical tale translates itself into an earthly reality whereby Ganga actually resides in each and every spring, in every water fall and in every stream that together form the vast network of its tributaries spread over its vast basin. So Ganga rejuvenation plan to make sense and desired impact must encompass actions to revive and restore all these numerous streams and tributaries.

The water fall is as much the Ganga (Photo by Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan)
The water fall is as much the Ganga (Photo by Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan)
Small rivulets are as much Ganga (Photo by Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan)
Small rivulets are as much Ganga (Photo by Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan)

Thus any rejuvenation plan that fails to look at and factor in the Ganga’s larger reality is destined to fail, a la all the previous Ganga Action Plans. All put together Ganga is no less than 25,000 km in length,   with a basin spread of some 1,086,000 sq km. (see map) These include areas in the states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, UP, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal within and China, Nepal and Bangladesh outside of India. With such a huge basin, the rejuvenational challenge might appear daunting, leading to an alluring thought that let us first try and rejuvenate the 2500 km of the main stem of the river and then may be tackle the rest. This we believe to be a fatal approach akin to fire fighting, without getting to the root cause, with the most immediate organ of a cancer afflicted human resulting ultimately organ by organ in the latter’s demise. Let us not forget that a healthy river system is like a multi-strand chain which is ‘as strong as its weakest link’. Hence as long as even one tributary remains sick, there can be no respite or rejuvenation of Maa Ganga!

Ganga river basin (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ganges_Basin)
Ganga river basin (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ganges_Basin)

In other words there is no single river Ganga. It is actually ‘Ganga Rivers’ spread all over its basin and carrying names like the Yamuna; Ramganga; Gomti; Mahakali (Ghaghara); Son; Gandak, Koshi etc with each in turn having their own network of rivers and their rejuvenational requirements, since over time majority of them have as well gone ‘sick’.

RIVER INHIBITING PROJECTS  

Some might ask, but then what could be done with tributaries lying or originating in Nepal, Bangladesh or in China? A lot actually, beginning with not promoting or supporting river ‘inhibiting’ projects there and then taking lead in a common futures dialogue (an International Ganga Rivers Commission) program on Ganga as the Ganga rivers are in need of rejuvenation there as well.

Dwelling more on what are the river ‘inhibiting’ projects we are led to what constitutes a river’s integrity?

A ‘healthy’ river must ‘run’ freely and must ‘flood’ freely. (Floods in Indian rivers are natural monsoonal occurrence which could become devastating when obstructed).

That is its longitudinal and lateral connectivities must not be allowed to be compromised through manmade structures like dams, barrages and embankments. Such connectivities are essential for a river system to fulfill its ecological roles of transport of water, sediment and energy from source to the sea; recharge of ground water; provision of habitat to aquatic and riparian biota and completion of the water cycle.

In other words, a healthy river is essentially an ‘aviral’ (unbroken in its various dimensions) river. Thus the key challenge and objective of any Ganga rejuvenation plan has to be first and foremost its restoration back to a truly ‘aviral’ state.

FIVE STEPS

Accordingly the following five steps are suggested as the ‘river map’ to a rejuvenated river Ganga.

Step 1 – Establish local level Ganga rejuvenation governance systems to ensure participatory bottom up planning and action plan execution. Support this with the establishment of a Ganga Rivers governance research centre.

Step 2 – Prioritise tributaries (Ganga Rivers) for restorative actions on the basis of their current level of threats and develop restorative action plans utilizing the governance systems as mentioned in step 1.

Step 3 – Establish through a participatory process a desired state of the rejuvenated Ganga; devise a national Ganga rivers policy and a Ganga rejuvenation law.  Initiate dialogue with the Ganga nations for an International Ganga rivers Commission.

Step 4 – Review through independent experts, all past, present and planned river ‘inhibiting’ projects on the Ganga Rivers and then either re-design them to become river friendly or decommission / drop them. There should be a moratorium placed on any new structure (barrage, HEP, embankment) on Ganga Rivers till such time that all local level options of water harvesting and energy production (including solar and wind) have been exhausted with a policy that river waters and HEPs shall be the last resort for meeting such needs.

Step 5 – Set a time bound plan of action for ensuring aviral and wholesome Ganga ‘rivers’, with plans for ensuring their flows (water, sediment and energy) as well as the restoration of their catchment, flood plains and the associated biodiversity (aquatic, riparian and terrestrial).

The steps as suggested above are not sequential in nature and many could progress concurrently.  

To a query “what then about the hydropower and water supply for fulfilling various human needs”, the response is twofold.

Firstly, this is the Ganga rejuvenation plan based on what Ganga Rivers need for the restoration of their health. Secondly, hydro-power generation and water diversion cannot be in excess of the thresholds as defined by the rejuvenational requirements of the healthy Ganga Rivers.

A rejuvenated Ganga has to be seen as a ‘provider within strict limits’ (as enunciated by the Prime Minister Modi on the banks of Maa Ganga in Varanasi, when he defined what a Maa (mother) is) and not what we in our flawed wisdom might wish to harness from her, with little concern for her deteriorating health and in disregard to the principle of inter-generational equity.

RIVER AND SEWER

The Indian state under the Ganga Action Plan had been investing time, money and efforts to restore the river Ganga through creation of pollution abatement infrastructure like the Sewage treatment plants (STPs) and the Effluent treatment plants (ETPs) in various cities and industries on the river in the name of ‘river cleaning’ with little ameliorative impact on the health of the river. In our understanding despite the poor maintenance being the cause of the failure of the created infrastructure, this approach to river restoration is fundamentally misplaced and hence wrong.

We believe that our rivers require restoration (based on the steps suggested before) of their ecological integrity in terms of their freedom to ‘flow’ and ‘flood’. Once thus freed, they possess all the power of self cleansing, subject to the observance of the fundamental principle of no mixing of ‘sewer’ with ‘river’.  Here by ‘sewer’ we mean all kinds of grey water produced both by the cities and the industries.

Thus there is no mention of any river ‘cleaning’ or creation of STPs / ETPs as part of the suggested Ganga rejuvenation plan. The installation of such infrastructure is we believe to be an essential element of the process of urbanization and industrialization whereby the grey water from the cities and industries is converted into utilizable water for recycle and reuse to meet the non potable water needs both of the cities and the industries. But to do so in the name of river cleaning is in our understanding an ostrich like approach which takes away the attention and resource allocation from the real needs of river restoration based on the sound principles of river science.

Prime Minister Modi’s another oft quoted aphorism of “Zero defect and zero effect/ impact” should be made applicable not just to good manufacturing practices but also to good urban management practices with mandatory zero impact on any river that happens to pass by. AMEN!

Manoj Misra (manojmisra@peaceinst.org)