Wildlife biologist Nisarg Prakash writes: After a flare-up in my depression and increasingly erratic behaviour, I was shunted out from a landscape that I once knew like the back of my hand. It was here that I’d retreated to the land, to the hills, valleys and streams as a poultice for the cuts and bruises.
Soil & Water
The Third Pole reports: Over 140 million people are eligible to vote as Uttar Pradesh —the land of the Ganga and the Yamuna— goes to polls. Everybody agrees that the poison affects drinking water and irrigation. Still, the apathy is mirrored in town after town in eastern UP. Candidates rarely address it in their campaigns.
India Water Portal reports: The year 2016 was an abysmal year in terms of environmental policy and conservation in India. There were also many initiatives worth talking about. Any initiative, however, is only as good as those managing it. Here we talk about four people in the country who made news for their water-related actions.
T. Hanumantha Rao, irrigation engineering expert and the brain behind a participative method of water management based on his ‘Four Waters’ concept, passed away on Sunday. The Four Waters concept, explained in this video, brought rich benefits to Rajasthan, where even drought-affected areas improved over the years. Several other states are actively pursuing his recommendations.
Noted water conservationist Anupam Mishra passed away at the age of 68 on Monday. Here’s a tribute and a video where he talks with wisdom and wit about the amazing feats of engineering from centuries ago by the people of India’s desert regions to harvest water. These ancient aqueducts and stepwells are still used today.
The Washington Post reports: In a massive new study published in the influential journal Nature, more than 50 authors from around the world document a so-called climate system “feedback” that, they say, could make global warming considerably worse over the coming decades. That feedback involves the planet’s soils, which are a massive repository of carbon.
In ‘Tending Our Land’, authors M.G. Jackson and Nyla Coelho present a vivid, historical account of the great human enterprise of food production, an entirely new story– one that reinstates an ancient but eminently relevant imperative for our times. It makes essential reading for policy makers, academia and the budding bold generation of land tenders.
Hydropower is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions: a new study shows that the world’s hydroelectric dams are responsible for as much methane emissions as Canada. The study finds that methane, which is at least 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide, makes up 80% of the emissions from water reservoirs created by dams.
Pablo Tittonell is professor ‘Farming Systems Ecology’ at Wageningen University and one of the worlds most well known experts in the field of agriculture and ecology. In this TED Talk, he advocates intensification of agriculture by making optimal use of natural processes and the landscape to meet the worlds constantly growing demand for food.
The Modi government had come with the promise of a better future for India’s rivers. Unfortunately, the promise remains unfulfilled, and there seems to be no roadmap in sight for our rivers. There’s nothing in the policies, plans or projects of the current government that would provide any ray of hope, now or in future.
There’s no such thing as ‘healthy food’ if it’s not produced by sustainable farming systems on living soils, Patrick Holden told the recent ‘Food: The Forgotten Medicine’ conference. But after 70 years of industrial farming, there’s a huge job to be done to restore depleted soils and the impoverished genetic diversity of seeds and crops.
Soumya Dutta writes: Pakistan is a dry country, with average annual rainfall of less than 250 mm, less than our desert district of Bikaner. The Indus, which India is now threatening to block, irrigates around 70% of the ‘food basket’ farmlands in Punjab & Sindh; it’s literally the life line for the people of Pakistan.
Nityanand Jayaraman writes: The complexity of river systems, the hydrological dynamics that determine their ebb and flow, and anthropogenic confounders such as land-use change and climate change had no influence on the tribunal order… Today’s planners try to spare water for ecological flows, not realising that ecological flows are what keep the river a river.
Chetan Chauhan reports: Maharashtra and Rajasthan have started community based Jal Swabhilambhan schemes that give ownership of government-aided watershed management to the communities. “We just aid and assist the villagers in creating durable water assets. The villages decide what they want,” said Sriram Vedire of Rajasthan Water Authority, who initiated the programme in early 2016.
Yesterday, with protests over the Cauvery water dispute bringing Bangalore to its knees, many of the city’s techno-optimists found themselves stranded on its burning roads, like bunnies caught in headlights. It might just be another sign that ‘life as we know it’ is about to change forever, both in India and the world, writes Vijay Kundaji.
Live Mint reports: This is not a one-off dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu— the latest flare-up puts the spotlight on the growing incidence of water wars among states and, in some instances, within regions in a state. Riparian states warring over water is not new— nearly every river in the Indian subcontinent is contested.
Indira Khurana writes: A whopping 25 per cent of India’s total land (329 mn ha) is undergoing desertification while 32 per cent (105 mn ha) is facing degradation that has reduced productivity, critically affecting livelihoods and food security of millions across the country. Combating desertification brings together three interdependent natural resources: Land, water and biodiversity.
The Narmada Bachao Andolan began 31 years ago as a protest against the Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada river, and went on to raise questions about the very development model India has embraced. Today, with the NBA reviving their landmark struggle for justice, we are re-publishing author Arundhati Roy’s landmark 1999 essay on the topic.
India is presently in a strange situation–there’s an unrelenting drought in some parts of the country, while rain has inundated other parts, leading to loss of life and property. Like our droughts, our floods too are often manmade, critics say–a product of official incompetence, ignorance and apathy. These examples from across the country show they may have a point.
Sukanta Chaudhari writes: Today, a great threat looms over wetlands. Under a new environmental regime, each state will be free to form its own guidelines. Bengal’s new environment minister, has declared his intention of ‘developing’ the wetlands and even having their Ramsar status annulled. The truth is that Kolkata’s wetlands are ‘real estate in waiting’.