(Feature image from Hindu file photo of a kalyani filled with weeds in the vicinity of Devanahalli Fort near Bengaluru.)
Even as the Union government is AGAIN busy changing the name plate of Ministry of Water Resources, some real water solutions emerge from Bihar, Karnataka and Punjab.
PunjabMany takers for ‘Phagwara technique’ of paddy direct seeding Some farmers had experimented last year with a direct seeding technique of paddy, developed by a Phagwara-based farmer, which reduces water requirement by 90%. Seeing the results — low water usage and high yield — many more farmers have signed up for the same this year. As they require much less water for the first two to three weeks, these farmers have also managed to sow paddy much before the schedule fixed by the Punjab government.
Five months have passed of 2019. There is apparently no reduction in illegal sand mining activities which are continue to ruin rivers, kill people and damage public infrastructure across the country.
In North India, the Ghaggar, Yamuna, Ken, Betwa and Chambal rivers have been severely affected. The Narmada, Krishan, Godavari and Cauvery are prominent rivers bearing the burnt of unsustainable extraction.
There are reports hinting that uncontrolled mining menace is also aggravating the drought situation. On one hand it is causing siltation of reservoirs thus reducing storage capacity while on the other it is inhibiting recharge of shallow aquifers supplying base flow to rivers during lean season. This is one of the main reasons many of perennial rivers like Cauvery, Narmada, Yamuna, Ken, Betwa and Godavari at many places are running dry this year.
The new government at the centre, headed by Shri Narendra Modi, if we go by the signals so far, is likely to push the mega project agenda including Inter Linking of Rivers (ILR). It also seems that Gadkari may continue to be the Water Resources Minister, if we go by the statements and signals so far. Both these steps would be wrong. The PM has said he wants to provide piped drinking water to everyone in the country in his new term. Such one size fits all solutions are likely to create more problems than solutions, as we can see from the dumping of honey sucker tankers close to drinking water sources, thanks to building of crores of soak pit toilets.
If the government wanted to listen, this weekly bulletin (like any other week) from SANDRP provides enough food for thought. Very large part of India, including huge parts of big dam building states of Gujarat and Maharashtra are in grip of drought. Like they have been repeatedly over the last few years. ILR is an extension of the big dam agenda and no amount of false promises of Godavari water are going to fetch votes, as they did not for the BJP in current elections in Tamil Nadu or Andhra Pradesh. Similarly big hydro is no longer viable, and pushing them either in Ganga basin or in North East India will only invite dis-satisfaction, destruction and distress. Big dams are making the floods worse as Kerala example showed in Aug 2018, among many others. We can choose to close our eyes to these realities, but that wont change the realities.
Sindhudurg has become the country’s first district to have successfully documented and mapped wetlands, following a Mumbai HC order in Vanashakti petition. Engaging community participation in the eight-month long process, the district is now training bodies of other districts in the state to replicate its documentation model. This was the state response to Mumbai HC as a pilot in Sindhudurg district. The district administration approached the team of local organization Syamantak, which suggested engaging community participation in the documentation and mapping process.
– “Conducting mapping through community is an effective way to save public money. If this model is implemented across the state, the government can save crores,” said Sachin Desai, who is running Syamantak’s study centre for experiential learning in Dhamapur. The committee completed the task of mapping 57 wetlands in the district in about eight months. Sindhudurg will soon be releasing the first volume of magazine ‘Sindhudurg — Land of Wetland’, the first-of-it-kind in the country. The district planning and development council (DPDC) is giving financial support to the magazine through the forest department.
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.
(Feature image by Nishant Panwar, Vikas Nagar, shows Yamuna River in upper reaches in Jan. 2019)
On April 11, 2019, is the birthday of Yamuna river. The Yamuna Jayanti comes every year on the sixth day of ‘Chaitra’ (summer) Navratra. The Kapat (door) of famous Yamnotri shrine would be opened this year on May 7 for Char Dham Yatra.
In April-May 2019 India will vote to elect 17th Lok Sabha or Parliament. On April 11, the 1st of the 7 polling days, the home state of Yamuna river, Uttrakhand and the districts of Western Uttar Pradesh through which Yamuna river flows, will vote.
The two other states heavily dependent and Yamuna river, Haryana and Delhi will see voting on May 12. The district Mathura, Agra, Etawa, Kanpur, Hamirpur, Fatehpur and Allahabad of Uttar Pradesh located along Yamuna river will witness voting from second (April 18) to sixth phase on May 12.
The NDA government come to power in May 2014 promising clean Ganga and Yamuna. The thousands of devotees of Mathura and residents of Agra were especially convinced of a promise of clean flowing Yamuna river. People were also hopeful that the government of the same party, BJP, in centre and in key basin states of Yamuna (Uttarakhand, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh) would bring a change in the situation. But over the five years, things have only deteriorated further. In fact, under the present government apart from dams and pollution a illegal sand mining has emerged as equally dangerous threat for the Yamuna rivers from upper reaches through middle and lower stretches.
On the occasion of Yamuna Jayanti, the Yamuna Nadi Mitra Mandli (YNMM) a voluntary group of villagers and concerned; established along the length of Yamuna by Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan is highlighting the issues affecting the Yamuna river and riparian communities which have remained unaddressed during past five years and none of the political parties even now have remotely focused on these. They also warn that ignoring the problems of Yamuna and dependent community will soon affect every state and dependent people in a significant way apart from endangering the river itself.
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?
A report of groundwater pollution in Luna village accessed by Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) has once again pointed to the alarming rate of groundwater contamination in the industrial belt in Padra in Vadodara. The report accessed through RTI found that that the Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) level in groundwater was an alarming 2225mg/I and 27222mg/I in October and December 2018.
It should be noted that even in treated effluent water the accepted levels of COD is 250 mg/I. For ground water the level should be nil. The report was a result of joint investigation carried out by the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), Farmers Action Group (FAG) and affected farmers in October and December 2018.
It’s not secret that water pollution is getting worse in India, including pollution of groundwater sources, thought we still donot know the full extent of the pollution of that source. But there is so little citizen action on such an important issue that affects so many so severely on daily basis. So it’s great to see four separate instances of such action this week, one each from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Kerala. In absence of any seriousness shown by governments at centre and states and any effective success from judicial intervention, this is welcome news. One only hopes this is no flash in the pan and rather beginning of citizens’ action to agitate against such rampant water pollution that goes on in India.