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.
As can be seen from the news reports from Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Arunchal Pradesh, Karnataka, among others, the opposition to Large Hydro Projects and Big Dam is growing all over India. These projects are neither economically viable, nor Socially-environmentally sustainable. There are much better options exist and hope the governments takes informed, democratic decisions. Going by the agenda and minutes of the recent Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects and other decisions, this hope seems far fetched at the moment.
India’s environmental Legal system is in deep trouble. Ritwick Dutta shows this through two brilliant articles, but this is also apparent from the failure of pollution control mechanism and people, rivers and environment continues to suffer as is apparent from the poisonous Hindon river basin water that people of over a hundred villages are forced to drink while the cases have been going on in National Green Tribunal. The Yettinahole verdict of the Supreme Court now and NGT earlier seem to have completely ignored all the illegalities and falsehoods involved in the case. The verdict thus also ignored the severe vulnerabilities of the Western Ghats that is getting worse with such mindless developmental interventions. And the government seems happy to destroy the independence status of the NGT through problematic appointments, as Ritwick Dutta shows through another article. What is the hope when the judiciary itself is blind to such glaring disasters?
There is a lot that Bihar and Union Govt that need to answer why did Patna go under water in spite of fully knowing its vulnerabilities. Why was the city not prepared to face this kind of situation? Some of the major man made reasons include: Sewage Pumps not working, drainage map not available, no emergency plan in place. Not too many people know that there is GANGA FLOOD CONTROL COMMISSION, sitting right in Patna, an organisation under Union Ministry of Water Resources, existing since 47 years now. WHAT HAVE THEY BEEN DOING is a mystery.
Its high time questions are asked if GFCC is doing any useful work. The government may like to brush aside the issues, saying its too high rainfall due to climate change, but that wont help. Patna is bang in the way of Ganga and it doing all kind of mindless activities including river front development, destruction of local water bodies and wetlands, and of course not knowing its drainage map. It shows abysmal failure of the World Bank funded flood management project that existed not so long ago, housed in Patna. And Patna was being funded under Smart city program to do all kinds of water unsmart activities. Over a week since the flooding started, parts of the city is still under water and now the city is facing fresh crisis in the shape of Dengue. The trouble is, there is no sign that the city, state or the country is doing anything to learn from this man made disaster.
FANTASTIC piece of work that shows how Ministtry of Finance, NITI Ayog, MoWR and MoEF raised objections to the National Waterways bill, but it was bull dozed by Gadkari, without even sharing the comments with cabinet.
पोत परिवहन मंत्रालय को यह चेताया गया था कि व्यापक विचार-विमर्श के बिना किसी जलमार्ग को राष्ट्रीय जलमार्ग घोषित करना सही नहीं होगा. इतनी बड़ी संख्या में राष्ट्रीय जलमार्ग विकसित करने पर न सिर्फ केंद्र सरकार पर आर्थिक बोझ पड़ेगा बल्कि पर्यावरण को भी गहरा नुकसान होगा, जिसे कभी ठीक नहीं किया जा सकता है. द वायर द्वारा सूचना के अधिकार (आरटीआई) के तहत प्राप्त किए गए आधिकारिक दस्तावेजों से ये खुलासा हुआ है कि वित्त मंत्रालय ने एक ही बार में इतने सारे जलमार्गों को राष्ट्रीय जलमार्ग घोषित करने के फैसले को लेकर कड़ा ऐतराज जाहिए किया था.फाइल नोटिंग और आधिकारिक पत्राचारों की करीबी जांच से यह भी पता चलता है कि वित्त मंत्रालय की टिप्पणियों को केंद्रीय कैबिनेट के सामने विचार के लिए रखा ही नहीं गया और कैबिनेट ने बिना इसके ही राष्ट्रीय जलमार्ग विधेयक, 2015 के प्रस्ताव को 25 मार्च 2015 को मंजूरी दे दी थी.
– देश के 106 जलमार्गों को राष्ट्रीय जलमार्ग घोषित करने के फैसले को लेकर केंद्र के दो प्रमुख विभाग नीति आयोग और वित्त मंत्रालय ने कड़ा विरोध जताया था.
– पांच फरवरी 2015 को भेजे अपने जवाब में नीति आयोग ने कहा कि जिन जलमार्गों को राष्ट्रीय जलमार्ग घोषित करने का प्रस्वाव रखा गया है, उसे लेकर ये चर्चा नहीं हुई कि आखिर किस आधार पर इन्हें राष्ट्रीय जलमार्ग घोषित किया जा रहा है.आयोग के यातायात विभाग ने अपने पत्र में लिखा, ‘सबसे पहले किसी भी नदी को राष्ट्रीय जलमार्ग घोषित करने के लिए कुछ व्यापक मापदंड जैसे कि उद्योगों से संपर्क, पर्यावरण प्रभाव आकलन, पूरे साल में पानी की मौजूदगी, नौपरिवहन इत्यादि तय किए जाने चाहिए.’
As I write this, around 1000 people are on a hunger strike in a small village on the banks of Narmada river in Badwani District, one of the most fertile and culturally rich part of Madhya Pradesh. The hunger strike which started with 5 women and leader of Narmada Bachao Andolan, Medha Patkar is now in its 6th day on Aug 31, 2019. Continue reading “Photoblog: Rivers for Life: Narmada Rally at Badvani, July 2019”
Consider the facts: The 600 feet tall statue of Sardar Patel that the Prime Minister of India will inaugurate on Patel’s Birthday on October 31, 2018 is situated bang in the middle of the Narmada river. To take up such unprecedented construction in the middle of the river would require, at the least, environment clearance, since the construction would have huge impacts on the river. No such clearance was sought or given. It would have required environmental impact assessment, environmental management plan, appraisal, public consultations, monitoring and compliance. NONE OF THIS HAPPENED. Continue reading “Why Sardar may have been uncomfortable with the 600 feet statue”
As things stand now, Gujarat is facing prospects of a serious water crisis that may extend till at least next average or above average monsoon. State level Rainfall so far this monsoon is 19% below average as on Sept 1. But the state level average hides the local situation.
Some of the districts that have received rainfall with high deficits, as per IMD figures till Sept 1, 2018 include: Kutch: -58%; Patan: -58%; Gandhinagar: -51%; Morbi: -47%; Ahmedabad: -48%; Surendranagar -43%; Banaskantha: -55%; Mehsana: -52%; Devbhoomi Dwarka: -40%. These district level figures indeed show massive rainfall deficit with less than a month of monsoon remaining. Continue reading “Gujarat’s water crisis rooted in years of misplaced priorities”
In its latest report, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has questioned implementation of sixteen National Irrigation Projects. Before this, the CAG has held mismanagement in dams’ operation responsible for Chennai floods in 2015. Both these reports are available on its website now.
The CAG report on National Irrigation Projects, tabled in Parliament on July 20, has revealed that sixteen major multi-purpose water projects, taken up on an expeditious basis about a decade ago, are nowhere near completion, with no work being undertaken in as many as 11 projects despite the incumbent govt’s much-wanted focus on improving irrigation facilities in the country.
The report also mentioned that out of the 16 projects, undertaken under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP) in Feb 2008, only five projects with estimated irrigation potential of 25.10 lakh hectares were under implementation and even these projects suffer from 8 to 99 per cent shortfall in physical progress, the CAG said. The remaining 11 projects with estimated irrigation potential of 10.48 lakh hectares are yet to commence and are at different stages of approval.
Within a span of a week, two interesting reports on National Water situation were made public. Indians have heard of NITI Ayog’s first ever report on Composite Water Management Index, trying to put together state of water management in India. Not many here would have heard of the United States Geological Survey (USGS)’s once in five year report on water consumption for various activities and states in USA[i]. The US report was published on June 19, 2018, five days after NITI Ayog report was launched on June 14 by Union Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari.[ii] Continue reading “A tale of two National Water reports: NITI and USGS”