The Prime Minister finally found time to have the first ever meeting on National Ganga Council, over three years after the Ganga Notification of Oct 7, 2016. The meeting happened at Kanpur, where the NGT recently fined the state government for continuing to release untreated effluents into the Ganga. In fact NGT in recent weeks have taken several decisions that also shows how abysmally the govt has failed on Ganga front. And now after the first NGC meeting, the Prime Minister, in an effort to divert attention from Namami Gange failure, is proposing the new slogan of Arth Ganga, which basically seems to suggest focus on Money, which is Exactly what is not going to help the cause of Ganga. The Ganga is still on the lookout for the Ganga putra that promised a clean Ganga in May 2014.
Today is World Water Day. The theme for this year is ‘Leaving No One Behind’. In India it’s onset of summer. As usual, many parts of country have started facing water scarcity. After deficient monsoon, half of the country is in drought grip. The drought is further compounding the already stressed situation. Cauvery river has started drying. The monsoon failure and drying of surface water sources have severely affect the ground water resource, which is depleting across the country.
Presently groundwater is lifeline of India. It caters to meet 85 per cent of drinking water supply in rural parts. About 65 per cent of urban potable water supply is also based on ground water. Similarly 65 per cent of agricultural area is irrigated by water below the ground and it is meeting about 55 per cent of industrial demand.
The Water Aid report titled Beneath the Surface: State of the World’s Water 2019 released in this month, draws grim picture of ground water depletion in India. It says that about 24 per cent of all India’s water use is extracted ground water. With about 250 cubic km of extraction, India draws out more groundwater than any other in the world — more than that of China and the US combined. Because of this, the rate of groundwater depletion has increased by 23% between 2000 and 2010.
Well-known ecologist Madhav Gadgil, founder of the Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, has described the devastating floods in Kerala as a man-made disaster and a reaction to the illegal excavations and stone quarrying done over a decade. https://www.hindustantimes.com/pune-news/illegal-forest-land-acquisition-major-reason-for-floods-in-kerala-says-ecologist-madhav-gadgil-calls-it-man-made-disaster/story-vMHPKUH623GEnjyQHI09NP.html (19 Aug. 2018)
Further speaking to various regional media, Madhav Gadgil has said that irresponsible environmental policy is to blame for the recent floods and landslides in Kerala. He also called it a “manmade calamity”. He said that the committee report had recommended to protect the resources with the cooperation of local self-govt and people, but those recommendations were rejected.
He also pointed out that quarrying is a major reason for the mudslides and landslides. Other environmentalists also point fingers at the extensive quarrying, mushrooming of high rises as part of tourism and illegal forest land acquisition by private parties as major reasons for the recent calamity. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/kerala-floods-the-ghost-of-past-environment-policy-returns/65436707 (17 Aug. 2018)
Dams should never be filled before the end of the monsoons. Because then one doesn’t have any solution but to release the water in the surrounding areas: Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP says as one of panellist discussing role of dams in aggravating Kerala floods.
Also see, NDTV discussion on Kerala flood crisis, it included SANDRP coordinator:
Here is NDTV Hindi discussion on Kerala flood crisis, included SANDRP coordinator:
Here is admission about sudden, excessive releases and not foreseeing the coming disaster. The Kerala crisis could have been contained had the state “gradually released” waters from at least 30 dams, officials said, adding that the local authorities failed to foresee the imminent danger with high rain prediction. “Such floods have probably recurred after 100 years, exposing the state’s unprofessionally run reservoir management system and unpreparedness on disaster mitigation and disaster resilience, an official pointed out. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kochi/gradual-dam-water-release-could-have-contained-crisis/articleshow/65436339.cms (17 Aug. 2018)
In a remarkable development, Jammu & Kashmir Govt is reviewing its Hydro policy to assess whether the Hydro Electric Power Projects (HEPs) are still viable. As per sources, this is for the first time that the Govt is discussing the viability of generating hydro power.
An empowered committee led by the Chief Secretary has started this discussion by calling for an “approach paper” that will give an overall picture of the hydropower industry in India. Top sources in the State Power Development Corporation (SPDC), a government-owned company, told Kashmir Reader that the empowered committee wants to lay a roadmap for power generation in the state. “It will reflect the vision of the government. It will give the picture of hydropower generation in India, its rates, market, demand and supply. It will also lay down a roadmap for large power projects,”
The approach paper will be part of a new hydropower policy which will be submitted before the same committee, and then before the cabinet for approval. The SPDC had submitted a hydro policy draft in April last year, which was returned to it in December. Sources said the approach paper has to be submitted in two months’ time.
At present, India has a surplus generation of hydropower, which has plummeted its rate. This has led to losses for SPDC as it invested in projects whose generation costs were high. The blunt example is that of the 450-MW Baglihar II. SPDC has failed to lure any buyer for more than a year as its selling cost of per unit of energy, Rs 4.4, is nearly Rs 2 higher than the market rate. The SPDC has finally managed to sell the power at about Rs 4 per unit to the Uttar Pradesh government but for one year only. The SPDC may have to struggle again next year if the state of UP does not continue the contract.
Another example is that of Nimuno Bezgo, and Chutak hydropower projects, which sell energy at Rs 13 per unit. The SPDC also buys power from Dulhasti project at Rs 7, when the available rates for power in the market is around Rs 2 and Rs 4. https://kashmirreader.com/2018/02/02/cs-led-panel-to-lay-roadmap-for-power-generation-in-jk/ (Kashmir Reader. 2 Feb. 2018)
As per another report, facing a growing demand for electricity and unable to tap its vast potential for generating hydroelectric power, the state government is looking to boost solar power generation. Given the long gestation period of hydel projects, it is unlikely the generation of hydroelectric power will expand significantly in the near future, said. Hence, the focus on solar power. Indeed, when solar power potential exists, with lower installation and operation costs and impacts, why States continue after destructive, expensive hydro projects? https://scroll.in/article/866058/kashmir-can-generate-a-lot-more-hydel-electricity-than-it-requires-why-is-it-eyeing-solar-power (Scroll.In, 30 Jan. 2018)
There is one more interesting hydro power development in which the state cabinet of Bihar has approved closing 3 and cancelling the development of 2 others in addition to handing over of 8 hydropower projects to neighboring Jharkhand.
There have been many positive developments on agriculture, groundwater and environment round the week. In the first positive development, data from the first impact study of Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) shows that small and marginal farmers, who can’t afford costly agricultural inputs, are turning a new leaf by going organic because of lower costs and higher margins. The study conducted by the National Institute of Agriculture Extension Management, has also revealed that Net Returns of organic farmers were higher for all the three crops studied, namely wheat, paddy and soybean, by 15.8%, 36.7% and 50% respectively.
This was based on study of 690 organic clusters in 25 states, out of some 6211 clusters comprising of 2.25 lakh farmers in a PKVY (each ha getting Rs 50 000 as aid) scheme launched in 2015, comprising of 52.3% small farmers. The average cluster size was 69 acres, in each there were 54.6 farmers on average. Maharashtra had the highest number of clusters at 1043 and MP had the highest area under clusters. The funding however remained irregular. India’s domestic organic food market is expected to show Compound Annual Growth rate of 25%, says the study. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/small-farmers-go-big-with-organic-farming/story-nlyQQVUnoewHgeJyvaAnJI.html (Hindustan Times, 29 January 2018)
Another positive news report, have disclosed that how a simple groundwater recharge technique is transforming farmlands in Gujarat. The simple pit and pipe system simply and expertly captures standing water during rains, thus freeing arable land from water logging while recharging groundwater to use for irrigation during the lean season. This is essentially a simple groundwater recharge scheme but appears to last long. As per report about 3000 such units have already been installed in Gujarat and several other states. http://www.thehindu.com/society/this-simple-technology-has-transformed-gujarat-farmlands-into-an-oasis/article22529034.ece (The Hindu, 27 January 2018)
The third positive news have come from Central Government which has prepared a Rs 6000 crore plan to recharge ground water. The scheme is yet to be cleared by the Expenditure Finance Committee and the Cabinet.
As per report, the new 5-yr long scheme will be funded 50: 50 by the World Bank and centre, to be implemented in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana and Rajasthan, covering 78 districts, 193 blocks and 8300 gram panchayats.
Gram Panchayats that prepare water security plans and put infrastructure to augment water supply will get incentives. Interestingly, an earlier version of the scheme, called National Groundwater Management Improvement Scheme was rejected by AFC in May 2017. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/centre-readies-rs-6-000-crore-plan-to-recharge-groundwater/story-nziZ6rvp88ZJHFo0DM5kNO.html (Hindustan Times, 28 January 2018)
SANDRP Blog Farm ponds in Maharashtra Causing Groundwater Decline Farm ponds recognized as a drought proofing measure have received a great push from the central Govt recently. On the flip side however serious concerns are being raised over implementation of the farm ponds and more importantly –their use. Civil society organizations like Watershed Organization Trust and also SANDRP have been pointing out that the use of farm ponds has long drifted from its objective of storing rainwater for protective irrigation. Most of the farm ponds are instead being used as storage tanks for pumped out groundwater exposing this underground resource to losses through evaporation, etc. In the process they are accelerating the rate of groundwater exploitation multi fold.
SANDRP Blog Little for Bundelkhand, lot for contractors in Ken Betwa river-link The official executive summary of the Detailed Project Report of KBLRP on NWDA website says: “The main objective of the Ken-Betwa link project is to make available water to water deficit areas of upper Betwa basin through substitution from the surplus waters of Ken basin.” Upper Betwa basin (Raisen and Vidisha districts of MP) is not in Bundelkhand. So KBLRP is essentially facilitating export of water from drought prone Bundelkhand to area outside Bundelkhand, which, in fact is well endowed with over 900 mm of average annual rainfall.
The DPR further says, a third o the surplus water will be utilized for “enroute irrigation of 0.60 lakh ha. in the districts of Tikamgarh and Chhatarpur of MP and Mahoba & Jhansi of U.P.” The claim in the minutes of Expert Appraisal Committee meeting of Dec 30, 2016 that “It is proposed to provide irrigation facility in 6,35,661 ha of area in Panna, Chhatarpur, Tikamgarh Districts of Madhya Pradesh and Banda, Mahoba and Jhansi Districts in Uttar Pradesh” needs to be put in context here. Firstly, this claim is far in excess of what the presumed surplus water can irrigate.
In 2016, India has been witnessing one of the severest droughts after independence. The phenomena has led to a ‘never before’ kind of water crisis across the country. As a result the surface water sources are under severe stress and aquifers beneath ground have been over drafted. An already depressed agrarian community is worst hit. Thousands of parched villages have been dotting the rural landscape. Many somewhat immune urban centers are also facing the wrath of heat.
However there is no dearth of inspiring tales in the field of water conservation pan nation presenting a ray of hope amid gloomy scenario. The exemplary works being done by several villages, people and organizations across the country offer some lasting solutions to growing water scarcity. So here is an attempt to present a State wise account of drought hit areas which have been wading through the water crisis sound and safe by reinventing the community driven and local water harvesting practices.