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.
rivers & water bodies
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.
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 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.
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.
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’.
National Geographic reports: Around the world, alarms are being sounded about groundwater depletion. Underground water is being pumped so aggressively globally that land is sinking, civil wars are being waged, and agriculture is being transformed. According to scientist Jay Famiglietti, the areas where aquifiers are under the greatest threat are also the most heavily populated.
Two years of NDA government have meant a mixed bag for environmental governance in India, according to a performance review by the non-profit Centre for Science and Environment, While there was commendable progress on pollution control and waste management, forest governance took on a more industry-centric approach and the Paris Agreement was a missed opportunity.
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.
Nachiket Kelkar writes: This Bill plans to convert 106 rivers and creeks across India into waterway canals, purportedly for ‘eco-friendly transport’ of cargo, coal, industrial raw materials, and tourism. Unfortunately there is no debate on the high ecological and social risks the NWB poses to riverine biodiversity and local resources through such irreversible engineering controls.
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.
With the drought scorching the world and the rest of India refusing to let up, Agumbe in Shimoga district of Karnataka, known as the ‘Cherrapunji of the the South’ for the abundant rainfall it receives, is experiencing water scarcity this year. In nearby Kerala, perennial rivers like the Pamba and Kabini have gone dry, affecting thousands.
Techno-economic fixes do not address the underlying “zero-sum game” nature of water resource use. Ultimately, the problem is that of allocating the water available each year among users — both people and the ecosystem. Without understanding how much water is available, how much is used and by whom, solving India’s water crisis will be impossible.
Swati Bansal writes: The waters of many rivers were declared as unfit for human consumption. This included rivers in Goa with fecal coliform bacteria, and rivers in Karnataka where none were suitable for drinking. But pollution was just one factor, the other was hydropower power projects which continue to choke rivers such as the Chenab.