There is some good news this week. A survey has found existence of fishing cat and two otter species in Chilika lake – this was not known so far. However, this also underlines how little we know about India’s aquatic biodiversity in our rivers, lakes and deltas. Its high time we have authentic baseline survey across India, hopefully in participation with the local communities who would already know so much about this. And may be rather urgently, once we are through with the current Covid-19 Crisis.
The theme for World Water Day 2020 is ‘Water and Climate Change’. Indeed the changing climate has been altering the earth weather system including disrupting the water cycle.
Urban areas in India are facing increasingly severe water crisis due to mismanagement of available resources, urban flooding due to blockage and encroachments of drainage channels, pollution of water sources on account of increasing solid and liquid waste. However, there are individual, civil society group and government efforts which have been helping ameliorate the situation with rain water harvesting, pond revival, wells restoration among others. Here is a compilation of positive urban water stories from for World Water Day 2020.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Union Territory of Chandigarh enjoys ‘City Beautiful’ tag for better planned urban development. Undoubtedly the city has wide roads, abundant green patches, well planned residential sectors, public amenities, cyclist tracks etc.; however dumping of solid waste and untreated sewage around its periphery shows that the city performs poorly in managing its water and natural sources.
The story of Faidan Nizampur also known as Faidan Pind drain near Airport is an apt example showing that while city manages to get beautiful tag, the rivulets and lives of people around it have turned miserable by increasing pollution load and other issues.
Interrogating Cauvery Calling N Ram questions Jaggi Vasudev’s Cauvery Calling, asks why it shifts goal posts Speaking at Interrogating Cauvery Calling seminar in Chennai, N Ram said that various state governments and the central government that endorses the project should also be questioned.
“Now a very serious issue that must cause concern is the raising of public interest and public money for this project. Truly mega, in terms of money involved – 242 crore trees, 11,000 crore rupees. That is the kind of money involved. Only 0.5% collected. There is still time to put checks on this and prevent this from going further,” he said. “What is the management of this money? Who oversees it? There is no transparency, no verifiable document, no clear management structure for huge amount targeted. It is a matter of great concern.”
– N Ram also said that various state governments and the central government that endorses the project should also be questioned. “As a political journalist, this is the question that occurs to me. Who gave the Isha Foundation the right, the jurisdiction to transgress on what should be the commons. And why are governments being subservient to this idea? Apart from the risks, probable negative outcomes and over simplification of solutions for Cauvery, this is what is worrying,” he concluded. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/n-ram-questions-jaggi-vasudevs-cauvery-calling-asks-why-it-shifts-goal-posts-112838 (24 Nov. 2019)
River carrying capacity is such a crucial factor in deciding if certain areas will be flooded and with what severity. This capacity is constantly changing, more so in tropical climate and high silt carrying rivers of South Asia, as new research shows. However, most models that are used in India, including by CWC, assume steady state situation. Nor are there constant and credible efforts to assess the river cross sections and river conveyance capacities and put them in public domain. The study shows how important it is that we wake up to this reality and ensure credible, consistent monitoring and assessments by credible independent agencies at the earliest. This has become even more urgent, the study underlines, since in changing climate, the rainfall patterns are changing fast.
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)