From The Tribune: The drought has affected 21 of the 32 districts, including the ‘rice bowl’ area of the Cauvery delta, where we travelled. Farmers’ distress was visible everywhere. This is not just a natural disaster. Our travel made it clear that a good deal of farmers’ distress is due to man-made or policy-induced disaster.
Keith Schneider reports: The thickening chain of death and sorrow in the Cauvery Delta, formed from the powerful links of water, agricultural, and industrial policy, is bludgeoning Tamil Nadu. The human toll, counted in the escalating numbers of shattered hearts, is a disturbing measure of how extravagant, water-consuming development practices no longer fit environmental conditions.
This is the introductory article in Firstpost’s nine-part series of ground reports on the ongoing water crisis in south India. The series will cover various aspects of the near-calamitous situation in Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, with the onset of blistering heat waves that are putting more pressure on existing water resources.
Shoaib Daniyal reports: The theatrics of the recent protest by Tamil Nadu farmers in Delhi might seem odd, but it was driven by a disastrous situation in the state. This country-wide map of water reservoir levels shows just how bad things are: the state has 81% less water in its reservoirs than its 10-year average.
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.
Down to Earth reports: Severe dry spells in Indian forests have hit the livelihood of more than 100 million people. But India simply does not acknowledge this drought. There’s no official nomenclature for forest droughts, nor any official plan to deal with them. So, while a farmer gets compensation for failed crops, forest-dwellers receive nothing.
Osama Manzar writes: As part of a digital literacy project in Maharashtra, rural students identified the following major consequences of drought— lack of water for basic needs, irregular supply of drinking water by government authorities, supply of unhygienic water, shortage of fodder for cattle, unemployment, health issues and lack of awareness about water conservation schemes.
Catch News reports: In a new initiative by Speaker Ram Niwas Goel, proceedings for the day at the Delhi Assembly were kickstarted by a lecture series. The first lecture was delivered by veteran journalist P. Sainath, who spoke on ‘Water and Farm Crisis in India’, which he said were the defining crises of our times.
Archana Mishra writes: Authorities failed to use MGNREGA and NFSA provisions meant for relief in difficult times. Even delayed wage payments forced downtrodden farmers to migrate towards cities. The national average of MGNREGA wages delayed beyond the statutory limit of 15 days is 62 percent of all wage payments for 2015-16, an RTI query revealed.
Bhaskar Vira writes: Water is an issue that cuts across all aspects of social and economic life in India. Compartmentalised responses are unlikely to adequately address the current crises. There is a need for an integrated approach, which addresses source sustainability, land use management, agricultural strategies, demand management and the distribution and pricing of water.
A resident of Pune, Maharashtra’s second-most developed city, uses five times as much water as her counterpart in Latur, the district most ravaged by drought in south-central Marathwada region. That’s the extent of water inequality in Maharashtra, according to a new analysis, characterised by disproportionate availability and consumption of water across regions, crops and consumers.
Shripad Dharmadhikary reports: As the summer has progressed, stories of the impacts of drought and water scarcity have been coming up, mostly highlighting the conditions of farmers, cattle and problems of domestic water supplies in villages, towns and cities. However, what’s not reported is the situation with industries, particularly the coal based thermal power plants.
While the economy has achieved resilience from drought impact, rural communities across the country continue to face the wrath of monsoon failure, leading to distressed selling of lands, movable assets, and migration. This is aggravating poverty of the people affecting their nutritional standards rendering them more vulnerable to disease and ill-health and loss of productivity.
India has an extreme air pollution problem, which kills up to 400,000 people every year. This pollution, made up of fine particles called aerosols, also has the effect of cooling the local climate by reflecting or absorbing sunlight before it reaches the ground. It is feasible that India’s pollution problem has been “hiding” extreme heat spikes.
The PM patted his own back for meeting the CMs of drought affected states. What he did not mention that the CMs were given much less than what they needed and asked for from the National Disaster Response Fund, that too after considerable delays. The MNREGA too is starved of funds by the central government.
India is reeling under a back-to-back drought, with 10 states declared affected and nearly 2,00,000 villages affected, and shredding the social fabric in affected areas. In this concluding part of our series on combating drought, we present examples where traditional methods for water harvesting have been successfully put to use by communities to drought-proof themselves.
As India reels under a back-to-back drought, with 10 states declared affected and nearly 2,00,000 villages affected, it’s time to ask whether the present situation could’ve been avoided. And yet, here are examples from across India where, armed with little more than determination and imagination, ordinary people have turned things around to create little oases.
As India reels under a back-to-back drought, with 10 states declared affected and nearly 2,00,000 villages affected, it’s time to ask whether the present situation could’ve been avoided. As many expert voices presented here point out, it’s not the weather alone that creates a drought, but bad planning and an often corrupt and apathetic administration.
Environmental activist and water expert Himanshu Thakkar tells Business Standard that India needs a comprehensive water use policy immediately. Making it clear that India is facing its worst drought ever, he says: “I do not think it is statement of pessimism but possibly reflects a reality. What we are seeing this year is unprecedented in many respects.
Speaking at a National Consultation on Drought, journalist P. Sainath explains how India’s ‘thirst economy’ makes profits. “If we think we are facing is only a drought, we’re in serious trouble. You’re in the midst of a mega water crisis,” he says, debunking the idea that a good monsoon will solve India’s crippling water crisis.