A series of moves by the current Central Government, along with some of the state governments since March 2021 have tried to orchestra a push for the Interlinking of Rivers (ILR) in a manner somewhat similar to what happened in 2002 under the previous BJP government led by Shri AB Vajpayee. The 2002 effort did not achieve much on ground and the initiatives two decade later are unlikely to achieve any progress either.Continue reading “Ken Betwa Project shows why River Linking is non starter”
Tag: Union Budget
The 2019-20 Union Budget ignores India’s Water Management Crisis
Elephants are known to love water. But even as Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her maiden budget speech in the Parliament on July 5, 2019 inadvertently compared the government with an elephant[i], her budget speech did not have too much to do with water.
One expected her budget speech to have more on water particularly when Chennai and Tamil Nadu water crisis has been in the headlines and when the Dr Sitharaman’s speech was full of repeated references to Tamil stuff. And also when even the Prime Minister highlighted need for water conservation in his very first Mann ki Baat in the new term. Strangely, FM’s speech did not even mention water sector related words like flood, hydropower, irrigation (except in the list of GST rate reduction items) or even river or Ganga (except for cargo movement and when used in the erstwhile name of the Ministry of Jal Shakti). Continue reading “The 2019-20 Union Budget ignores India’s Water Management Crisis”
DRP News Bulletin 05 February 2018 (J&K Shows The Way To The Nation: To Assess The Viability Of Big Hydro Pojects)
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.
Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 05 February 2018 (J&K Shows The Way To The Nation: To Assess The Viability Of Big Hydro Pojects)”
Maharashtra Water Sector Review of 2016: Revival of scam tainted dams
When the Chief Minister of Maharashtra told the state Assembly on July 21, 2015, “We pushed large dams, not irrigation” he had raised much hopes for the state with a fresh memory of worst ever dam scam and drought termed as “worse than 1972”.
Even though the CM unequivocally said in the state Assembly “Large Dams are not the road ahead”, looking back at year 2016 reveals that the approach of the new government remained as large dam centric. Year 2016 in Maharashtra has been all about reviving the corruption ridden controversial irrigation projects. Continue reading “Maharashtra Water Sector Review of 2016: Revival of scam tainted dams”
Farmers, Rivers and the Environment in Union Budget 2016-17
Above: Canals of Tillari Project, on of the AIBP Project supported in Union Budget 2016-17, unused and derelict Photo: Parineeta Dandekar
Massive expenditure on Large Dams will only help contractors
The Union Budget 2016-17 presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Feb 29, 2016 seems to be promising in its thrust and focus towards farmers and the farming sector of the country. For a sector which employs about 55% of the work force of the country, this priority is much needed and one which holds a promise of a number of multiplier effects. He stated, “We are grateful to our farmers for being the backbone of our food security. We need to move beyond food security and give our farmers a sense of “Income Security”.” This is particularly required when the farmers are in dire states as they are today, many of them facing four consecutive crop failures, Kharif 2014, Rabi 2015, Kharif 2015 and Rabi 2016. In 2015, on average 52 farmers committed suicide every single day in India.
And hence, focus on farming is indeed a positive step. As Maharashtra State Water Resources Minister for State Vijay Shivtare once told me, “We are not very bothered about the high costs of Lift Irrigation Schemes per se. If they work well, and result in prosperous farmers, it would mean more agricultural implements, more Tractors, more vehicles, better homes etc., increasing the government’s revenue at the end of the day.” (“If they work well” was the operative part here, which has seldom materialized in Maharashtra). A Prosperous Farmer and strong farming economy can help all sectors.
Mr. Jaitley opened his budget speech with an Agenda to “Transform India”, based on nine pillars. Foremost pillar is ‘Agriculture and farmers’ welfare, with a focus on doubling farmers’ income in five years, by 2022. The total allocation for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare is Rs 35, 984 Crores.
Finance Minister rightly diagnosed that “Irrigation is the critical input for increasing agricultural production and productivity.” Out of 141 million hectares of net cultivated area, only 46% is covered with irrigation and that there is a “need to address optimal utilization of water resources, create new irrigation infrastructure, conserve soil fertility, value addition and connectivity from farm to markets.”
For ensuring this, “Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana” will be implemented in mission mode through which 28.5 lakh hectares will be brought under irrigation”. A major part of this will be through “Fast tracking and Implementation of 89 irrigation projects under AIBP (Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Program) which have been languishing. These will help irrigate 80.6 Lakh hectares. These projects will need Rs 17,000 Crores next year and 86,500 Crores in next five years. 23 of these will be completed before 31st March 2017.”
So, in the coming 5 years, a whopping Rs 86,500 Crores of the taxes collected from all Indians and at least a part of the Krishi Kalyan Cess at 0.5% all taxable services will go into AIBP Projects, with over Rs 17,000 Crores being allocated in 2016-17 itself. This is highly problematic. AIBP was started by P. Chidambaram in 1996 and in two decades since then, it has not delivered anything susbstantial except huge bank balances for contractors, as also for the engineers, bureaucrats and politicians,hand in glove with the contractors. CAG reports have repeatedly highlighted this reality in case of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and now possibly Madhya Pradesh. In fact, this was the very plank on which BJP came to power in Maharashtra. But Arun Jaitely seems to have no new ideas to offer here, except treading on the same path.
While it is clear that the government cannot abandon all incomplete projects, before it decides to spend more good money after already sunk costs on incomplete projects, it needs to halt more Major and Medium irrigation projects and undertake a credible, independent review of why the projects were incomplete for so long, what were the loop holes, what are the lessons learned from past mistakes, which projects are worth going ahead, in what form. And finally, which need to be abandoned. Without doing such an exercise, the money allocated for incomplete projects is not going to help the farmers.
- Massive Support for AIBP Projects in Union Budget 2016 17 is unwarranted
Rs 86,500 Crores over 5 years is a massive amount. Will it be able to ensure promised Irrigation? Which are these AIBP Projects? Why do they need so much support from the Center? How have they performed till now? Where are they located? Is this expenditure wise?
Here is a snapshot of some of the 89 AIBP Projects, maximum of which, 13, come from Maharashtra. Maharashtra has had enough bad publicity following the Dam Scam but more importantly, it now has a Chief Minister, also from BJP, who openly stated in the State Assembly on July 21, 2015 that “We have built Large dams everywhere without thinking of feasibility or water availability” and that “Large Dams are not the road ahead”. Devendra Fadanvis wisely separated Large Dams from actual Irrigation and said: “We pushed large dams, not irrigation, this has to change”. He has spearheaded a considerably successful program that focuses on small scale interventions for harvesting and recharging water known as Jal Yukta Shivar Yojana.
With this context, it is ironic and deeply troubling that maximum Large Irrigation Projects under AIBP come from Maharashtra. The name “Accelerated Irrigation Benefit” is also ironic as many of these projects have been going on for over 2-3 decades, have seen huge costs escalations, corruption charges, question marks about their viability, desirability, optimality, quality and final effectiveness.
Out of 149 AIBP Projects across the country, 89 projects are active, out of which 46 projects have been prioritized in the Union Budget. 23 Priority I Projects are to be completed by 2016-17 and additional 23 Priority II Projects are to be completed by 2019-20. Of these 46 Projects, maximum 13 projects come from Maharashtra.
A brief snapshot of some AIBP Projects in Maharashtra:
|1.||Tillari Interstate Project||Sindhudurg||Based in hilly tracts of Western Ghats, highly unviable project, very low irrigation efficiency, terrain not suitable for large dams, Protests, Land Acquisition problems,|
|2.||Bembla Major Project||Yavatmal||Huge Corruption Charges, Work ongoing since last 24 years. High cost escalations. Cracked canal Lining due to poor quality work. Enquiry ordered against Contractor for substandard work.|
|3.||Tarali Major Irrigation Project||Satara||Whistle Blower of Maharashtra Dam Scam, then-Serving Chief Engineer Mr. Vijay Pandhare inspected construction of Tarali Project and stated that compressive strength of all 66 cores of the dam is as low as 42% when a difference in core strength by 1-2% is considered serious. This indicates corruption, use of less cement and institutionalised ill-intent. He officially wrote letter against these happenings. No action taken.|
|4.||Dhom Balkawadi||Satara||Contract of Canal works given to a close relative of Ajit Pawar, Former Deputy CM and Minister of Water Resources. Several tendering lacuna exposed by officials.|
|5.||Arjuna Medium Project||Ratnagiri||Massive cost and time escalations, unviable project in hilly terrain, corruption charges, rehabilitation issues not settled.|
In addition to these, cost escalations of Lower Wardha, Lower Panzara, Nandur Madhyameshwar II (which will need 3 dams in the upstream) are also well known. (Link to all projects in References below)
Across the country, but more sharply so in Maharashtra, Large Irrigation Projects have not automatically meant increased irrigated area, which is what the farmer needs. SANDRP has shown with official data that even after spending over Rs 600,000 crores on Major and Medium Dam and Canal Network between 1993-2010-11, net national canal irrigated area has been decreasing and not increasing. There are several reasons for this.
Above: Canal irrigated area declining in the country Source: SANDRP
Above: Groundwater dominates Irrigation in India, not dams and canals Source: IWMI
If Large Dam approach delivered all that it promised, then Maharashtra, with the largest number of large dams in the country would have had the highest irrigated area. The actual picture is the opposite. Maharashtra has the lowest irrigated area in the country at about 18%. This is not a coincidence. As the dam scam highlighted, more large projects with complicated, ever-changing plans, far away offices and opaque funding mechanisms meant that local people had no clue about what was happening, leaving doors open for the unholy nexus of Babus, Contractors and Engineers to eat away public funds, without ensuring irrigation. Recent example is when the Maharashtra Government told the Hon High Court that they have resolved all of the financial backlog in areas like Marathwada and Vidarbha, but the PHYSICAL backlog remains nearly the same. So is money for large irrigation projects an answer in this scenario?
While three major projects from Vidarbha (Bawanthadi, Bembla and Lower Wardha) included in AIBP will receive huge support from the Center, the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) faces some of the most serious charges of corruption, cost and time escalations, as highlighted by a series of government appointed committees and even CAG. Jan Manch, an NGO from Vidarbha which was instrumental in exposing the scam clearly stated that problems of projects here run deeper. Money is not an easy fix.
So why are the same projects being pushed in the name of farmers when it is demonstrated in Maharashtra that farmers are NOT benefiting from these projects? Cynics would point this out as another Jumlaa! Again, in the same state, the power of small scale water harvesting structures and people’s participation have shown how quickly things can change. Maharashtra still needs to complete Anti-Corruption Bureau Inquiry against several Large Dams, it needs to work on an Integrated State Water Plan and, as per orders of the Hon High Court, it can undertake new Projects only as per the provisions of this plan, it needs to take transparent and credible action regarding its own enquiry reports, which includes Special Investigation Team Report, CAG Report on Irrigation Projects dated 2013, etc. Unless all these steps are taken, and when small scale interventions are demonstrating their impacts, what is the logic behind putting huge public resources on the same approach?
Projects in other states like Sardar Sarovar, Narmada Sagar, Omkareshwar and Maheshwar Projects in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have not resettled the oustees and has used repressive mechanism to still fill the dams. It has been rapped by the Courts. Local communities in Manipur have been opposing dams there and have gone to the National Green Tribunal against Thaubal Dam.
In this context, maximum allocation of funds for Large Irrigation Projects in the Union Budget is clearly, neither convincing nor beneficial to farmers.
Other Schemes included under PMKSY with budgeted expenses for 2016-17 are
- Har Khet ko Pani: Rs 500 Crores
- Per Drop more crop: Rs 2340 Crores
- Integrated Watershed Management: Rs 1500 Crores
- Some Positive water related steps in the Budget:
- A major program for sustainable management of GW with allocation of Rs 6000 Crores and proposed for multilateral finding: Although the amount budgeted is hardly comparable to AIBP Projects, when contribution of groundwater in irrigation is much larger than surface water! We do not really need World Bank funding for this, we should be able to do this on our own.
- A dedicated Long -term Irrigation Fund will be created in NABARD with initial corpus of Rs 20,000 Cores. Unfortunately, NABARD has no specific social and environmental policies and has been funding projects without attention to the key governance issues.
- 5 lakh farm ponds and dug wells in rain fed areas and 10 lakh compost pits through MNEREGA.
- Allocation for MNREGA is Rs 38500 crores, in reality this is much less than the actual demand and also less than what was actually spent last year. Last year, the actual spending on the programme was Rs 41,169 crore. The additional spending of Rs 6,470 crore is the pending liability and if adjusted the actual allocation in 2016-17 drops to Rs 32,030 crore—less than what was allocated in 2015-16. MNREGA allocation should have been higher.
- Organic farming to be promoted: Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana 5 lakh acres under organic farming in 3 years with allocation of around Rs 412 crores. While more areas under organic farming is welcome, the target is more un-ambitious and allocation most meager. As Jayapal Reddy (Secy, confederation of kisan organisations) says we need aid for increasing carbon content in soil all across India.
- Incentives for enhancement of Pulse production. Rs 500 Crores under National Food Security Mission to pulses. Districts covered increased to 622. This is a specifically encouraging step taken as Pulse Farming is mostly rainfed, require low fertilizer inputs, contributes to protein security, is climate friendly. We spent about Rs 15,000 Crores this year to import pulses and a focused plan for procurement and assured MSP will be of a great help. But the FM could have been much more ambitious here. A similar scheme was needed for oilseeds too.
- Access to markets is critical for farmer incomes. Unified Agri Marketing Scheme has been announced where a common e-platform will be developed for 585 regulated wholesale markets. Amendments in APMC Acts are a prerequisite for joining. On the 14th April Birthday of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, Unified Platform dedicated to Nation.
- Revised norms of assistance under National Disaster Response Fund in April 2015.
- Special focus on adequate and timely flow of credit to farmers. Against target of 8.5 Lakh Crores in 2015 16, the target of agri credit 2016-17 will be Rs 9 lakh Crores.
- Prime Minister Fasal Bima Yojana providing greater cover against natural calamities at a low premium. Provision of Rs 5500 Crores in Budget 2016-17. However, the amount originally estimated to cover all farmers was Rs 17,600 crore. Why this lower allocation?
- Where are the Rivers?
In NDA’s first budget in 2014-15, when Ganga Arati and rhetoric on Ganga cleaning were at their peak, the Finance Minister had said during his budget speech: “ Rivers form the lifeline of our country. They provide water not only for producing food for the multitudes but also drinking water.” 
This year however, there is no mention of Rivers, not even Ganga. However, Namami Gange Plan/ National Ganga Plan has been allocated Rs 2250 Crores in the year 2016-17. The plan itself remains unclear. A plan based on Sewage Treatment Plants alone does not hold promise for Ganga with Rs 2000 Crores budgetary support, or Rs 20,000 Crores, like the money we have spent in the past years, corresponding to declining water quality of the river.
Inland Waterways Plan: The much-talked about Plan pushed by Minister for Road Transport and Highways and Shipping Mr. Nitin Gadkari would be getting around 350 Crores in 2016-17 as the combined budget for Sagaramala (Ports project) and Inland Waterways is pitched at 800 Crores and Sagarmala is budgeted at 450 Crores. Inland Waterways Program is being pushed without a thought being given to rivers in which they will operate. It is raising some very crucial questions, elaborated here: Digging Our Rivers’ Graves?
Interlinking of Rivers Plan: The Plan has not been mentioned in the budget and the scheme does not feature in the further discussions. However, the Center is pursuing the project, disregarding ecological cost, social costs, financial costs and interstate conflicts.
It looks like Budget 2016-17 has no special announcements for rivers. However, plans like 100 Urban Rejuvenation Mission (Amrut and 100 Smart Cities) have been allocated a massive Rs 7296 Crores this FY. Projects like Smart Cities, Highways Project, Inland Waterways all have a strong link and impact on life support systems like rivers and these needed to be seriously addressed. India has no policy for Urban Rivers, and this has meant that rivers are common grounds for encroachment, pollution and extraction, leading to their destruction, like the Ganga, among others.
- Environment in Union Budget 2016-17
While the Environment Minister was one of the first Ministers to official hail Union Budget as “Visionary”, it is a bit sad to see that Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change (MoEF and CC) does not feature in the list of Important Ministries annexed to Finance Minister’s Speech, nor does a single Scheme from MoEF and CC feature in the list of Important schemes.
MoEF and CC gets a slightly higher budget than the massively slashed budget for the past two years. However, as Down to Earth has pointed out, there is a hitch here: “The Budget document shows that allocations to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) have continued to rise, from Rs 1,681.60 crore in last year’s budget to Rs 2,250.34 crore in 2016-17. But most of this Rs 570-crore increase has come in the form of planned revenue expenditure (salary and other operational expenses), which has risen by Rs 540 crore to Rs 1,944.75 crore this year. This leaves an increase of only Rs 30 crore divided between planned capital expenditure estimates (expenditure on schemes and programmes) and non-planned estimates. In fact, planned capital expenditure saw a dip in comparison to actual expenditure undertaken during fiscal year 2014-15.”
Some Climate Change initiates like National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), have seen an increased allocation. Of the Rs 180 Crores for Climate Change initiatives, Climate Change Action Programme (CCAP) has been allotted Rs 30 crore, the National Mission on Himalayan Studies Rs 50 crore and the National Adaptation Fund Rs 100 crore. According to Down to Earth, “While this is more than the Rs 160 crore allocated last year, there is no provision to cover the revised estimates of total expenditure of Rs 136.79 crore for the CCAP and Rs 115 crore for the National Adaptation Fund.”
There has been an upward spike in the National Clean Energy Fund, constituted mainly by Coal Peat & lignite Cess, which has seen increase from Rs 50 to 100 Rs/tonne in 2014-15, further to 200 Rs/tonne is 2015-16 to 400 Rs/tonne in 2016-17. It is reported that it is this fund which will be support Inland Waterways Project, which is likely to destroy our remaining rivers. It will be hugely ironical if Clean Energy Fund levied on coal because of its environmental impact is used for Inland transport of Flyash and Coal from Rivers, as envisioned in the Inland Waterways Plan!
Budget of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has also been increased considerably from Actual 2014-15: Rs 515 Crores, Revised Estimates 2015-16: Rs 262 Crores and Budgeted Expenditure of 2016-17 at 5036 Crores.
All in all, the massive thrust and support for large dam and canal network which has not delivered in past remains one of the most problematic parts of the Budget. The focus of farmers, encouragement to pulse farmers, increased decentralized procurement, increased Clean Environment Cess, increased allocations (marginal) to MoEF and CC and CC initiatives are welcome steps. Finally, a budget is as good as its implementation. A look at achievements of the last year indicates that that several schemes are still listed as under progress. While the aim of increasing farmers’ incomes by double in 2022 sounds very strong and positive, it does remind one of the BJP’s election promised of ensuring 50% profit over costs to farmers, unmet till date and now abandoned. Agricultural growth rate has not achieved more than 4% in any five year plans, and this target will need about 15% Compound Annnual Growth rate in farmers’ income, that looks nearly impossible.
It is also sobering to note, as Devinder Sharma says, that in 17 states of the country, farmers average monthly income is 1666 Rs. Doubling it in five years would mean 3332 Rs a month, nearly the same as five years back, if adjusted against inflation!
- Parineeta Dandekar, Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP
State-wise details on AIBP Projects here: http://mowr.gov.in/writereaddata/1-1-1_Completing%20priority%20projects.pdf
Rivers and Water in Union Budget 2014-15
In the first annual budget (for the year 2014-15) presented by the new NDA government at the centre on July 10, 2014, it is generally bad news for Ganga and other rivers. Below we have given various provisions on water and river from the budget speech of the Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley. Mr Jaitley said in his speech: “In the first Budget of this NDA government that I am presenting before the august House, my aim is to lay down a broad policy indicator of the direction in which we wish to take this country.” The broad policy indicators on rivers do not seem to be any good news for the rivers of the country.
RIVERS FM said, “Rivers form the lifeline of our country. They provide water not only for producing food for the multitudes but also drinking water.” This shows the limited understanding of rivers that the government has. Rivers provides so much more than water. The FM do not seem to have any good news for this lifeline as the budget has several proposals that will harm and destroy the rivers.
River Linking The PIB wrongly claims, “The Budget also contains the first ever effort to link the rivers across the country.” A sum of Rs. 100 crore in the current Budget to expedite the preparation of Detailed Project Reports has been set aside. This is waste of public money. In addition to this, there is a huge allocation for the annual budget for NWDA, whose only mandate is studies for river linking. It is existing for 22 years, but has not produced a single document that will pass independent public scrutiny, and NWDA is afraid to put any document in public domain. Why is the government spending money on such fruitless exercise?
GANGA: Integrated Ganga Conservation Mission The Finance Minister, Shri Arun Jaitley said, “I propose to set up Integrated Ganga Conservation Mission called “Namami Gange” and set aside a sum of Rs 2,037 crores for this purpose.” Shri Jaitley said that the Mission is being launched because a substantial amount of money has been spent in the conservation and improvement of the river Ganga but the efforts have not yielded desired results because of the lack of concerted effort by all the stakeholders. This is admission of even NDA’s failure, since they were in power for at least six years and have not been able to make a dent in the state of the river. They should learn from that experience before jumping into such missions.
This raises a lot of unanswered questions: There is already an existing National Mission for Clean Ganga and if this new mission will be in addition to the old one or if the old one will be abolished? What is new in the new mission? Strangely, the FM did not use the work Ganga Rejuvenation, the charge that Ms Uma Bharti has been given. Does this indicate something is amiss here?
Riverfront Development “The Finance Minister has also set aside a sum of Rs. 100 crore for Ghat development and beautification of river front at Kedarnath, Haridwar, Kanpur, Varanasi, Allahabad, Patna and Delhi in the current financial year since Riverfronts and Ghats are not only places of rich historical heritage but many of these are also sacred.”
The trouble is, this could spell disaster for the river and the cities where such development is planned, if this is going to happen on the lines of Sabarmati river front development. This is because in case of Sabarmati, the Riverfront development meant encroachment of over 200 ha of riverbed. If this is followed the river’s carrying capacity will be reduced. In changing climate, rivers need more and not less carrying capacity as the events of July 2005 in Mumbai, of August 2006 in Surat & recent years in Delhi have indicated. During Uttarakhand disaster of June 2013 the buildings that we saw collapsing were all standing on the riverbeds. That should be a warning for any riverfront development that would encroach on the riverbed.
NRI Fund for Ganga To harness the enthusiasm of the NRI Community to contribute towards the conservation of the river Ganga, an NRI Fund for Ganga will be set up which will finance special projects, the Finance Minister added.
“A project on the river Ganga called ‘Jal Marg Vikas’ (National Waterways-I) will be developed between Allahabad and Haldia to cover a distance of 1620 kms, which will enable commercial navigation of at least 1500 tonne vessels. The project will be completed over a period of six years at an estimated cost of Rs 4,200 crore.”
Watershed Development To give an added impetus to watershed development in the country, a new programme called “Neeranchal” will be launched with an initial outlay of Rs 2,142 crore in the current financial year. This could be a positive move, but we have to await the details. It is also not clear if this is in addition to the ongoing watershed development or in place of it.
Rural Drinking Water For providing safe drinking water, Rs 3600 crore has been earmarked under National Rural Drinking Water Programme in approximately 20,000 habitations affected with arsenic, fluoride, heavy/toxic elements, pesticides/fertilizers through community water purification plants in next 3 years, the Finance Minister added.
Delhi Water Reforms Rs. 500 crore for water reforms to make Delhi a truly World Class City. The budget does not say a word what these reforms would mean, but going by the track record of this government in past, when they say reforms, they mean privatisation, which will be strongly opposed in Delhi.
Allocation for Renuka has no justification The FM said, “In addition, to solve the long term water supply issues to the capital region, construction of long pending Renuka Dam would be taken up on priority. I have provided an initial sum of Rs 50 crore for this.” Firstly Renuka dam does not even have statutory forest clearance and NGT has stopped work on the project. FM, but allocating money for the project in such a situation has indicated that they do not care for statutory clearance process or judicial orders.
Moreover Delhi does not need any more water from outside. It is already privileged with per capita water availability of over 250 lpcd, which is more than most European cities. Delhi does not harvest rain water, does not use flood water to recharge, does not protect its water bodies, does not treat its sewage, does not recycle and reuse the treated sewage, does not reduce its losses, does not do demand side measures and like a spoilt kid, asks more and more water from long distance sources.
Thirdly, Delhi may want exclusive share in water from Renuka, but Upper Yamuna states of Haryana, UP, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh are all asking for their share from the project and are ready to share the costs. Going ahead with the project without resolution of the interstate issues may land us in a soup similar to the Munak Canal.
Allocation for Statue of Unity The budget provides Rs 200 crore for ‘Statue of Unity’ in Gujarat. This project is come up in eco sensitive zone, and will affect large no of people and water body, but it has not seen any social or environmental impact assessment or participatory consultative process. It is supposed to come up in the middle of the water reservoir to be created by the proposed Garudeshwar Dam on Narmada river, but that dam has no impact assessment or clearances and stands challenged in NGT. Allocating money for the project under the circumstances is inappropriate.
Welcome Move: National Centre for Himalayan Studies in Uttarakhand “There is a great need to increase the capacity in the country for Himalayan Studies. I propose to set up a National Centre for Himalayan Studies in Uttarakhand with an initial outlay of Rs 100 crore.”
Irrigation The Budget provides Rs. 1,000 crore for Pradhan Mantri Krishi Seenchaayi Yojana. If this is for decentralized local systems, it would be a welcome move, but no details are available.
Welcome move: Organic farming in North East India Rs 100 crore has been provided in the budget to promote organic farming in Northeast India. This is a welcome move.
Welcome move: National Climate Change Adaptation fund for small farmers The FM said, “Climate change is a reality which all of us have to face together. Agriculture as an activity is most prone to the vagaries of climate change. To meet this challenge, I propose to establish a “National Adaptation Fund” for climate change. As an initial sum an amount of Rs 100 crore will be transferred to the Fund.” This is welcome, but we need to see who corners this money. It should go to the rainfed farmers.
Some other welcome provisions: Finance to 5 lakh landless farmers through Nabard since landless are not able to get bank loans in absence of land as a guarantee; Rs 50 core set aside for blue revolution for inland fisheries. This is provided there is a move to conserve the riverine fisheries.
On the whole, in spite of some welcome moves, on the whole, the budget brings more bad news for the rivers & those depend on rivers and rains, than good.
1. Budget speech of the FM: http://indiabudget.nic.in/ub2014-15/bs/bs.pdf
2. PIB Press Releases from Finance Ministry on July 10, 2014: http://pib.nic.in/newsite/erelease.aspx
Additional issues from Media:
1. The Hindustan Times reported that the budget has reduced the allocation for MEF by 15% compared to previous year: http://www.hindustantimes.com/specials/coverage/unionbudget2014/budget2014/environment-gets-raw-deal-renewable-energy-a-fillip/sp-article10-1238988.aspx
2. The Indian Express has reported that the budget provides additional provisions for shutting downNGOs and Trusts: http://indianexpress.com/article/business/business-others/budget-makes-it-easier-for-govt-to-shut-down-ngos-and-trusts/
3. CSE: “Budget 2014 allocates Rs 200 crore for statue and Rs 50 crore for 50 million people who depend on the handloom sector. What does this say of priorities?”
4. BJP’s maiden budget disappointing for farmers: http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/bjp-s-maiden-budget-disappointing-farmers
5. ‘Budget silent on crucial farmer suicide issue’: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/City/Chandigarh/Budget-silent-on-crucial-farmer-suicide-issue/articleshow/38163502.cms
6. Good, bad and ugly – YJA ‘green’ take on the Union Budget 2014-15: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/07/11/good-bad-and-ugly-our-green-take-on-the-union-budget-2014-15/