(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.
As we are celebrating world water day 2019 with the theme ‘Leaving No One Behind’, two United Nation’s reports release in this month have underlined the growing water crisis on the watery planet. While theWaterAid report has raised alarm over rapidly falling groundwater table in South Asia, the sixth edition of ‘Global Environment Outlook’, has warned of growing pollution of freshwater sources and resultant impact on human health.
The situation this year in India indeed warrants wide attention as about 50 per cent of the country is facing drought condition. With rapid fall in groundwater table, wells, tanks and streams are turning dry in most part of central and south Indian states. The farming, riverine and village communities are particularly at the receiving end of compounding water crisis.
In a remedial but surprising move, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike has set up a team of water marshals to act against water tankers charging exorbitantly from residents. Before this, Nasik district administration has formed patrolling squads to protect canal water from theft by farmers. Tribal areas in Siddipet, Telangana arereeling under dearth of potable water. The forest fire and increasing summer has forced wild animals move towards human populated areas.
However, on positive note, many individuals, groups and communities have silently been investing efforts in water conservation works. Many have yielded positive out-comes. Many other institutions including some initiatives at government level have also set an example before others in preserving the water resources and treating and reusing polluted water. Also, there are a number of remarkable water conservation efforts by farming communities across the country. This compilation tries to put together some of the positive water actions in India during the past one year.
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.
Feature image: A Hindu woman worships the sun god in the polluted waters of River Yamuna during Chhath Puja in New Delhi, on Nov. 14. (Image Source: Quartz India.)
In its latest report, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) appointed monitoring committee overseeing Yamuna River cleaning progress in Delhi says that the river is “fighting to stay alive” and it would not be possible to rejuvenate the Yamuna unless minimum environmental flow is provided as it is “virtually reduced to a trickle and remains dry in some stretches for almost nine months of the year”.
In the action plan, it is mentioned that “Although the Yamuna river flows only for 54 kilometres from Palla to Badarpur through Delhi, the 22 km stretch from Wazirabad to Okhla, which is less than 2 per cent of the river length of 1370 km from Yamunotri to Allahabad, accounts for about 76 per cent of the pollution level in the river”.
The committee has suggested that a team of scientists be formed from CPCB, DPCC and other institutions like IIT Delhi or NEERI to carry out inspections and submit reports to it for remedial action. The team can look into the risks and benefits of an alternative way of routing the same quantity of water which can help in reducing the pollution level, it said.
The monitoring committee also raised objection to the capacity utilisation of common effluent treatment plant (CETP) which is as low as 25 per cent. There are 28 industrial clusters in Delhi and 17 of these are connected to 13 CETPs. The remaining 11 clusters are not connected to any CETP. Another area of concern is the direct discharge of completely unregulated waste from industries and residences into the river.
Ken Betwa river interlinking project is back to drawing board with Union water resources ministry approaching the ministry of environment and forest to relax conditions imposed as part of forest clearance accorded in May 2017 for diversion of forest in the Panna Tiger reserve (PTR).
Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) while according Stage-I clearance to the project had recommended that the project proponent and state govt should consider equivalent non-forest area (6,017 ha) adjoining to PTR from the revenue and private land and add to the PTR as a part of core/corridor (for tiger movement) with other areas or satellite core area. According to water resources ministry, they are unable to find land adjoining to PTR.
Traditionally, our river management strategies are mainly focused on the water flows, including flood management, and these have resulted in various interventions such as dams, barrages, canals and embankments. Most of these interventions have had very little consideration for sediment transfer and even if they did, they were generally defunct within a few years of their operations either due to improper design or inadequate maintenance.
A long-term sediment management strategy has never been a part of any protocol of river management, not just in India, but in several other parts of the world. It is amply clear that sediment management must form an important component of management strategies for the Himalayan rivers. The Union Water Ministry has recently circulated a draft policy on sediment management.
HIMACHAL PRADESHWater scarcity leaves Shimla high and dry Residents in the city are reeling under acute water shortage for the last few days. They are getting rationed water supply after four-five days.“Hoteliers are paying private tankers Rs 2,600 for 6,000 litre water,” said Harnan Kukreja, president, Shimla Hoteliers’ Association. The Shimla Municipal Corporation is struggling to ration 21 MLD of water that was pumped from its major sources these days. The water availability per resident was just 5 litre as on May 25.
The city needs 45 MLD water daily, but the water availability has come down from 29 MLD last week to 21 MLD on May 25, 2018. Guma, which has 20 MLD capacity, and Giri, which has 20 MLD capacity, could supply just 4 MLD and 14 MLD, respectively, revealed MC supply chart. Churat supplied 1.25 MLD, Chair (0.32 MLD) and Koti- Brandi (0.35 MLD).
On May 4-5, 2016, Lok Sabha Speaker Smt Sumitra Mahajan took the lead in organising a workshop for Members of Parliament on Drought, Agrarian Crisis and ILR. As part of the newly constituted Speaker’s Research Initiative’s (SRI for short) work, Smt Mahajan inaugurated the workshop at 4 pm on May 4, 2016, where a panel of eight speakers were invited (4 on each day, SANDRP coordinator was one of the invited speakers on 1st day) to share their views, followed by questions from Members of Parliament. The idea was that on these important issues, Parliament Members are better equipped to raise the relevant issues when debating and raising questions in Parliament. It was heartening to see that at least 90 MPs (88 from Lok Sabha and 2 on Rajya Sabha) were present for 2.5 hours on first day, and they wanted to ask so many questions that there was not sufficient time to allow all of them to ask, nor sufficient time for speakers to make full presentations or answer all the questions. Similarly on second day too Speakers showed lot of interest on these issues. While inaugurating the workshop, Smt Mahajan mentioned how in Solapur, Maharashtra, because of the work of the collector and his team of officials, the impact of drought is lower than that in other districts. This was certainly heartening since it was SANDRP Associate Coordinator Parineeta Dandekar who first wrote on this issue, following her visit to Solapur and interview with the district collector. The workshop highlighted the need for many such workshops, possibly more focussed, but the impact of the workshop was already visible in the (as yet unfinished) debate under section 193 that started in Lok Sabha on May 5, 2016, hopefully to be continued in current week.
Large parts of Krishna basin spanning Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are facing massive rainfall deficits, drought like conditions and crop failures. The tail-end reservoirs of Srisailam and Nagarjun Sagar are almost empty. Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are already thinking of conserving the available water for drinking water. They are not even thinking of releasing any water for saving the crops in delta farmers. In upstream Maharashtra itself, the Ujani dam has ZERO live storage and perennially dry Marathawada has the highest rainfall deficit. Shockingly, in this very period from July 1 to Aug 6, Maharashtra has diverted more than 350 Million Cubic Meters of water (at most conservative estimates) FROM this very Krishna and Bhima basins to the High Rainfall area of Konkan (it already has had 1467.1 mm rain till Aug 7, 2015) and down to the sea! If this diversion was stopped since July 1, when the signs of severe monsoon deficits in the three states were already there, this water would have been available to save crops in lakhs of acres in the river basin, and some of it would have also flowed to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and water may have been available for saving some crops. Even now these Koyna and Tata dams have 2535 MCM water in live storage that is reserved for diversion to Konkan and to sea, but wont be release for the failing crops across the basin. How can we continue such wasteful use of water in a water deficit basin, at the cost of livelihoods of lakhs of farmers? Even now it is necessary to URGENTLY review this situation and consider stopping diversion of water FROM Krishna basin to sea. This may save crops and livelihoods of lakhs of farmers. Continue reading “As Krishna Bhima basin farmers in Maharashtra, Karnataka, AP & Telangana face drought, crop failure, Water scarcity, Maharashtra DIVERTED 350 MCM water from the basin & stored another 2535 MCM reserved to release, literally to sea!”→