There are large number of stories this week from all over India highlighting the crisis that Urban Rivers in India face. Urban rivers, like the Urban Water sector, exist in complete policy vacuum. There is no policy to guide the Urban water governance. Cosmetic efforts being done when President Donald Trump of USA visits India on Feb 24-25, 2020 at Yamuna (in view of his visit to Agra) or Sabarmati (visit to Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad) won’t really help. The crisis not only affects the rivers, but the health, livelihoods and lives of millions and millions of city dwellers too, in addition to the downstream river users. Our Water Resources establishment has no clue, as is evident from their calling the Dravyawati river channelization in Jaipur as an example of river rejuvenation and suggesting such rivers should be given to corporates to rejuvenate in similar ways! It’s doubtful if the new National Water Policy now being formulated will help, unless it dares to suggest radical changes.
A large number of stories this week remind us that India urgently needs national urban water policy.
The water footprint of urban areas is gradually on the rise. The cities have several problems with management including destruction of water sources, groundwater exploitation, poor performance in treating and recycling the polluted water, pollution and encroachment on water bodies etc. To fulfil their growing demands new dams, barrages and check dams are being planned, proposed and built on the rivers in faraway places, which is in turn displacing and depriving the local people of equitable water share.
Even before onset of summer, the Army in Sagar district have started patrolling Chitora dam to prevent water thefts (denying farmers to take dam water for irrigation).
In a mountain village in southwest China’s Sichuan province, authorities have demolished seven small dam projects this year along a river to clear illegal developments in a new nature reserve. The demolition is part of a nationwide programme to close hundreds of tiny and often ramshackle dams and turbines and bring order to China’s massive hydropower sector after years of unconstrained construction.
The dams sat on an unnamed tributary of the fierce and flood-prone Dadu river, which feeds into the Yangtze, Asia’s largest and longest river, where the government says the “irregular development” of thousands of small hydropower projects has wrecked the ecology. But green groups say the campaign will not necessarily save the environment because it will not affect big state hydropower stations, which they say have caused the most damage.
On the 48 km Zhougong, authorities have already demolished small projects built in nature reserves or encroaching upon new “ecological red lines” drawn up to shield a quarter of China’s territory from development.
The government says small dams have disrupted the habitats and breeding patterns of many rare species of fish, although green groups argue the damage wrought by bigger dams is more severe, with entire towns and ecosystems submerged in water, which they say increases the risk of earthquakes, landslides and even climate change.