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.
There has been no lack of symbolism, funds, infrastructure, technology, promises, big statements and periodic announcements for Ganga by the Modi government. In fact, grand statements started even before the 2014 Parliamentary elections. But how do we gauge if there was an intention to rejuvenate the Ganga? May be if we could see a credible road map, a clear sense of purpose. If we could see signs of attempt to understand what the “development” plans are doing to the river. If we had a clear definition of what constitutes Ganga and what are the time bound goals of Nirmal and Aviral Ganga. Does the Namami Gange, the central program of Modi government on Ganga since May 2014 clear any of the tests? Even towards achieving Nirmal (clean) Ganga, if not Aviral (incessantly flowing) Ganga? Unfortunately, there is none.
As INDIA RIVERS WEEK 2018 gets underway in Delhi during Nov 24-26, 2018 with theme “Can India Rejuvenate Ganga“, let us try and see the state of Ganga and Namami Gange in the context of what is happening on this front in recent years. Continue reading “Namami Gange: Where is the intention?”
In this second part of the Ganga article, let us listen to some official agencies about the state of Ganga River following the recent efforts.
Parliamentary Committee: Why is Ganga among the five most polluted rivers of the world? Said Parliamentary estimates committee (2016-17) for Ministry of Water Resources, Ganga Rejuvenation and River Development (MoWR for short) in a report on “Ganga Rejuvenation” submitted to the Lok Sabha (lower house of India’s Parliament) on 11th May, 2016[i]: “However, indiscriminate anthropogenic interventions like construction of HPPs[ii] in the seismically active and fragile Himalayas, diversion of 80 to 90 percent of water, discharge of extremely hazardous effluents by 144 drains and dumping of solid waste has converted the Ganga into one of the ten most polluted rivers of the world. Alarmed by the drying-polluted Ganga and taking note of the solemn resolve of the Prime Minister to rejuvenate the Ganga, the Committee decided to select the subject for in depth examination and report with a view to accelerate the work of Ganga rejuvenation.” The report also noted, “The Public Accounts Committee (2014-15) in their 8th Report on Water Pollution had expressed distress that the Ganga has become one of the five most polluted rivers in the world, despite launching of the ‘Ganga Action Plan’ and the ‘Mission Clean Ganga’ (2009) by the NGRBA[iii].” Continue reading “Is there hope from National Mission for Clean Ganga? Listen to official agencies”
Ganga river basin’s importance is well acknowledged. The World Bank, that is funding a currently ongoing USD 1 Billion project for Ganga Clean up says in its Project Appraisal Document[i]: It’s the most populous basin in the World. 50% of India’s poor are in the five states along the main stem of Ganga: Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and W Bengal. The basin of the 2525 km long river spans four countries (China, Nepal, India, Bangladesh) and 11 Indian states. More than 60 million people came to the Ganga river in the city of Allahabad for pilgrimage in January 2007 during Kumbh Mela, making it the largest gathering in the world. It will again happen in January 2019. Continue reading “What ails Ganga: Why Namami Gange is spectacular failure”
Union Water Resources Minister Shri Nitin Gadkari claimed in a press conference on May 10, 2018 that by March 2019, 70-80% of Ganga will be cleaned and that by Dec 2019, Ganga will be 10% clean. He did not bother to mention as to at at which place he was referring to, which pollutants he was referring to, and 70-80% was with what reference time point was he referring to. Earlier at the Economic Times Leadership Conclave, he had declared that Ganga WILL BE CLEANED by 80%. Now he has decreased the % and also added qualification, he shall try to. He possibly meant that 70-80% of the allocation of Rs 20000 Crores will be spent by that date, and not necessarily, cleaning the river? This is because when he was specifically asked about low % of the allocated finances spent so far, he said we hope to spend much more this year. But can spending money clean the Ganga River? He also made other claims: Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin May 14, 2018: THE SHIFTING, ILLUSORY, NON SPECIFIC GOALPOSTS OF GADKARI on GANGA”
In an important development in Manipur this week, PM Narendra Modi could not commission the controversial Mapithel dam due to local protest. As per, the official statement notifying The PM was was supposed to launch is the Mapithel dam, part of the Thoubal Multipurpose Project.
As per CRA Manipur blog report, the forum of Mapithel dam affected “Joint Action Committee Against Forced Inauguration of Mapithel Dam had threatened a 48-hour shutdown to coincide with the dam’s scheduled inauguration by Modi. The committee withdrew its call late on March 14, reportedly after the Manipur government agreed to shelve the inauguration.
The action committee is primarily demanding compensation for the people displaced by the project as mandated by the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.
Apart from complaints of inadequate compensation, opposition to the commissioning of the dam itself has grown louder over the years. Local communities claim the project violates the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 and its new avatar, the Forest Rights Act of 2006. https://cramanipur.wordpress.com/2018/03/16/as-local-communities-protest-manipur-government-cancels-plan-of-modi-inaugurating-mapithel-dam/
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)
When I was documenting a tiny, free-flowing river in Maharashtra Western Ghats named Shastri, the common thread from headwaters to estuary was Fishing! It was everywhere, in all forms, including dozens of fish species and fishing practices, including everyone: men, women, children, otters, crocs, storks. Across the country, buzzing, diversified fisheries with old, complex narratives indicate a rich river. And the palette just gets more vivid, nuanced and colorful with the size of the river.
More than 10 million Indians from some of the most vulnerable groups depend on rivers for their livelihood and nutritional needs. This staggering number can be an underestimate as several riverine fisherfolk do not bring their produce to the market and our livelihood census hardly captures the intricacies of riverine fisheries sector. Despite the huge dependence and critical importance of riverine fisheries, the sector continues being ignored and abused. The reasons behind the exploitation are at the heart of a deeper, more troubling discourse: ownership and appropriation of the river as a natural resource. Continue reading “Riverine Fisherfolk as Mascots of flowing rivers and how 4 projects treat them today”
The news media is filled with this new kid on the block, trying to wake the nation about the need to save our rivers… amazing to see so many film stars, politicians, governments, and public personalities, many of them rather innocently joining the band wagon… some friends were pleading that see, he is able to take the message of rivers to so many people, including lakhs of children… let us try and see if there is something positive here… may be, may be this is just the entry point, but the guy and his team have bigger vision? May be we need to give him longer rope, be more charitable and not jump to negativity?
We have kept all this in mind while writing this.
We see nothing from the people who are leading the rally, or their websites or messages that they understand the real threats faced by and reasons for the state of our rivers, are ready to even list such causes or protest any further move to destroy our rivers. The website claims it is “a nationwide awareness campaign to revive our rivers”. Can missed call save our rivers?
A summary analysis of the ecological impacts of the National Waterways Bill (2015)
– Nachiket Kelkar (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Introduction: The National Waterways Bill (NWB, Bill No. 122 of 2015) was tabled by the current central government’s Minister of Transport and Shipping, Mr. Nitin Gadkari, in May 2015. This Bill plans to convert 106 rivers and creeks across India into waterway canals, purportedly for ‘eco-friendly transport’ of cargo, coal, industrial raw materials, and for tourism purposes. The primary reasons provided for this bill are that 1) inland water transport is fuel-efficient, cost-effective and eco-friendly, 2) the systematic development of waterways will create progressive economic opportunities in the country, and 3) the potential of water transport is underutilized in India. The Bill has since been examined by the Standing Committee appointed of Rajya Sabha Members and experts on the matter, who submitted their findings in Report No. 223 (Rajya Sabha Secretariat, August 2015). Recently, the Bill has been cleared by the Lok Sabha, and awaits final discussion in the Rajya Sabha within a fortnight’s time. As of now the NWB appears to enjoy support across party lines, states and political positions and agendas. There is also a belief that waterways would mean maintenance of enough water flowing in our rivers – yet the means through which this is proposed to be achieved involve capital dredging and large-scale conversion of floodplain environments and riverbanks to concrete embankments. A serious concern of observers has been that there has unfortunately been but scant debate on the high ecological and social risks the NWB poses to riverine biodiversity and local resource users through such irreversible engineering controls on our rivers. There is no discussion among politicians and administrators. Importantly, this issue appears to have barely received adequate attention even in environment and conservation circles. Problematically enough, the NWB thus emerges as a threat that may go unnoticed by conservationists and get passed without debate, deliberation or emphasis on environmental clearances to the extent required. In this article I will discuss the potentially damaging consequences of the NWB on river ecology, human life and hydrological dynamics of India’s riverscapes. My earlier article on the SANDRP blog ‘Four boats at a river crossing along Ganga’ (dated 28th December, 2015) had described https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2015/12/28/four-boats-at-a-river-crossing/) ground experiences related to the impacts of large-scale inland water transport (IWT). Continuing there I attempt to provide a point-wise discussion and critique of the NWB. Continue reading “Digging Our Rivers’ Graves?”