The statement of Shri U P Singh, secretary, Union Water Resources Ministry, that “industry (private or public sector) could adopt small rivers” seems to suggest that the government is moving towards handing over the rivers to Corporate bodies. The example Mr Singh gave of Drayavati River of Jaipur is even more disturbing since that river has been completely destroyed by the project implemented by the Tatas. It should not surprise though, considering that no less than the Prime Minister has been giving the example of canalisation of Sabarmati as an example of rejuvenation of the river. If this is what the government means by rejuvenation, that even Ganga and Yamuna are facing major risks of destruction. Its not less shocking that while Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar has questioned Modi government’s attempt to achieve Nirmal Ganga without attempting Aviral Ganga, his own government is basically following the same Sabarmati model on Ganga in Patna. If this is the example of “rejuvenation” of river according to the top most bureaucrat of of the government in charge of Water resources, nothing can save India’s rivers except a people’s movement against such moves wherever such destruction of rivers is attempted.
Sand and gravels forming riverbed materials hold immense ecological value for living and healthy rivers systems. The inbuilt water filtration capacity and absorbing characteristic of the minor minerals plays critical functions in groundwater recharge and in ensuring lean season flow in the rivers. However for over two decades the brazen illegal and mechanized mining activities across the country have been irreversibly affecting the rivers and riverbank communities. The state of Punjab is among leading states where state government has failed[I] to ensure sustainable sand mining practices. The 2019 overview the state shows strong clout of political parties over the illegal sand mining operations without sharing a thought for the rivers and public.
This report shows pretty bad situation of rain fed farmers in Marathwada due to excess Oct Rains. Severe and wide spread damage to crops. https://www.gaonconnection.com/desh/massive-crop-damage-in-marathwada-due-to-heavy-and-continuous-rain-farmers-are-looking-support-for-pm-fasal-bima-yojana-46581 (31 Oct. 2019)
Here is some figures about the massive impact of untimely rain in Marathwada and rest of the Maharashtra. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/after-drought-marathwadas-farmers-hit-by-untimely-rain-6098730/ (2 Nov. 2019)
The South West Monsoon in 2019 in India brought the highest rainfall of last 25 years and issues related to heavy rainfall continue even to the end of October 2019. Here we have listed major instances during the monsoon when there were question marks over safety of dams either due to structural safety or due to wrong operations of the dams. Some issues of breaches of embankments/ canals are also included here. As we can see, the instances come from across the country, including North East, North, West, Centre, South.
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.
Under India’s constitution, water is supposed to be STATE subject. That seems to be under serious threat. First it happened with Waterways Act in 2015 (this was opposed by a number of ministries at centre and number of states, but the bill still got passed). Now the three new bills, as listed below are further threatening this. The advocates of centralisation, including the World Bank and the Central govt big dam lobby, have been wanting to change the constitutional status, but they have not succeeded so far, but now effectively, they could achieve that objective if all these bills are passed.
3 Water Bills Threatening Federalism Three Bills are presented by the Centre in the recently concluded session: a) River Basin Management Bill, 2019 proposing 13 River Basin Authorities for various river basins in our country, b) River Water Disputes Bill, 2019, to have a dispute resolution committee DRC, and c) Dam Safety Authority Bill, 2019, which significantly shift rights and authority of the States over rivers to the Centre.
With these Bills staring at federalism, the new question emerging is: Who will have final say on the water in rivers; the Centre or the States, the Peoples’ representatives or bureaucrats? https://countercurrents.org/2019/09/three-water-bills-threatening-federalism (25 Sept. 2019)
The Interstate River Water Dispute Bill is making it mandatory for the Central government to make such scheme. Under the Act, the Central government maintains a data bank and information system at the national level for each river basin. The Bill provides that the Central government will appoint or authorise an agency to maintain such data bank.
This amendment Bill is a mix of some good provisions which are very much required, and over-centralisation of power. Some States like Tamil Nadu and Odisha have expressed apprehension of appropriation of more powers by the Centre. https://countercurrents.org/2019/09/interstate-river-water-dispute-bill-2019-more-centralisation-of-centres-power (26 Sept. 2019)
Flood forecasting is an important activity during monsoon, considering the huge and increasing flood prone area, flood frequency, intensity and flood damages. Accurate and timely flood forecasting can hugely help reduce the damages due to floods. Central Water Commission (CWC) is the only agency responsible for flood forecasting in India. To understand the CWC’s flood forecasting better, we have compiled the list of the various flood, inflow forecasting sites and flood monitoring sites in India.
In this compilation, we have given state wise list of CWC’s flood forecasting, flood monitoring and inflow forecasting sites in North India, comprising of states of Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Chandigarh. It includes available details like name of river, sub basin, Warning level (WL), Danger Level (DL), High Flood Level (HFL), Full Reservoir Level (FRL), Maximum Water Level (MWL), as applicable. As we see below, there are many gaps in this basic information for the sites that are part of CWC’s list. A similar zonewise overview of CWC’s sites was compiled in 2018, which can be seen here. Overview of CWC Flood Forecasting Sites 2018: North India. We have brought this updated compilation for 2019 as there are large number of changes as ou can see.
Following recent Punjab floods, the Punjab Chief Minister said that the state government would go for canalisation of rivers, as if that is going to help in managing or avoiding flood disaster. This proposal seems to come out from nowhere, but considering that the CM talked about funding by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, either this is already under discussion or these institutes have proposed this to the Chief Minister. The Proposal seems blind to the impacts, costs, risks and wider implications of the canalisation of rivers.
To avoid duplication, the excellent report in MINT below provides detailed reasons why it is a disastrous Idea. The Indian Express report below is in fact a bad example of reporting, since it does not even mention the impacts, costs or risks of the canalisation proposal. And the report that follows these two from California in USA shows how there the work is ongoing to reverse the trend and bring more flood plains in connection with the rivers at a huge cost. Why do we have to repeat the blunders of others, as propagated by the World Bank and ADB and then pay the price in reversing the blunders?
Southwest Monsoon provides about 75% of our water and yet we have not learnt how to manage that rain water, without creating avoidable flood disasters, without using submergence as weapon to displace people as is being attempted in case of Sardar Sarovar Project in Gujarat, without allowing water to flow to Pakistan, which is against all the rhetoric of the top most government persons and without the needless push for more big dams or interlilnking rivers or such mega centralised projects and programs? If we go through this week’s DRP News Update, it does not seem like we have. All the contrary elements are there for all to see.
It is certainly possible to manage the rain better so that more of it is available beyond the monsoon in a decentralised manner, as decentralised as the rainfall itself. The elements of it all well known: harvest rain where it falls, recharge groundwater, create local water systems, desilt existing such systems, protect wetlands, forests, increase soil’s capacity to hold moisture through increasing carbon/ organic conent of the soils (we know how this can be achieved), use the created large reservoirs judiciously, ensure all the dams in a basin are filled up simultaneously and not sequentially, ensure water flow in the river for maximum period as that will also help recharge groundwater, reduce deforestation in the catchments, increase forest area in the catchments where possible, protect local water systems everywhere including Urban areas, protect flood plains and ensure rivers have capacity to carry floods that it is required to carry, have better and more accurate rainfall forecasts (including riverbasin wise/ sub basin wise forecasts), coordinated actions across river basins and states. There is some minor improvements here and there as we see in this bulltin, but no major change.
It’s more optimal rain water management that will help better water security, sustainable water availability, food production, livelihoods and agricultural security, among others. What is the road map to learn this and learn fast? There is no immediate light to the end of the tunnel.
The following is an excellent example of how early flood warnings from Bhutan, shared with downstream Assam communities using WhatsApp messages, saves lives. This needs to be highlighted and word spread to implement it in all flood prone areas on Urgent basis, including in trans-boundary areas, as this is an example of the same.
In the last few weeks of June 2019, a series of WhatsApp messages (sent via unofficial channels) were sent from Bhutan to India to warn “cross-border friends” downstream of the Aai, Saralbhanga and Manas rivers about cloud-bursts, swollen rivers and possible flash floods affecting people in the Indian state of Assam.