The 5th India water Impact Summit, organised by the National Mission on clean Ganga and cGanga - centre for Ganga river basin management, concluded last week with thought provoking ideas on water resource management.
The Summit is continuously gaining popularity amongst experts, intellectuals,researchers,technology providers,policy experts and academicians around the world. It offers a platform for all the stakeholders to deliberate upon various aspects related to the water resource management. The 5th edition of the summit, that started on 10th December and concluded on 15th, witnessed a promising participation of around 3000 such domain experts across the globe.
The practice of organising annual IWIS was instituted by NMCG along with cGanga studies at IIT Kanpur, a think tank for NMCG,Government of India for sustainable development of Ganga River Basin.
Having such a synergised and symbiotic association with a knowledge body, outside Govt., reflects the open approach of the Modi Government on water security & River rejuvenation programme. It exhibits that it is not only receptive to learn from the global best practices but also strives to rise as a global leader and a knowledge hub in the field of River rejuvenation.
The Summit had the main theme - Comprehensive analysis and Holistic management of local rivers and water bodies. The major discussion revolved around the Development vs conservation debate. For somebody like me, who spent his childhood under extreme poverty - in a small rusty village, seeing my mother work as a wage labourer and father as a shoe-maker, I cannot discount the need for development in our country. When I mention development, I certainly refer to the inclusive development - taking all sections of society together - “Sabka Vikas”. Development for us is an inescapable journey that we have to undertake, that too seamlessly without any brakes. In this context, I personally feel that both development and conservation cannot be seen as mutually exclusive. Development and conservation must co-exist, rather, they must complement each other.
As a child I have grown up worshipping rivers and water bodies in my village. Over the years, these water bodies have died a silent death. Pressures of population have saturated our rivers with excess pollutants.
Heavy dependence on cultivation of water intensive crops and practice of monoculture, excessive use of pesticides and fertilisers have all led to huge consumption of water on one hand and accumulation of pollutants in surface and ground water on the other. So how do we address the conservation part in the debate ?
One thing is sure that we cannot follow the principle of “pollute today and clean up tomorrow”. This is inconsistent with our goal of sustainable development. The conservation efforts need to start up today and they must be comprehensively planned, frequently revisited and continuously improvised by integrating latest techniques and methodologies - a task, IWIS seeks to do for Government of India. In order to aid and complement what the summit described as river synchronised development, we must resort to river basin based management - taking entire river basin as a unit for planning any sort of development rather than focussing on isolated parts of rivers.
As far as the development is concerned, the river basins provide ample opportunities
for various sectors of the economy to prosper. The Summit identifies them as fisheries, forestry, horticulture, tourism, inland water ways on select hubs of tourism like Devprayag, Kannauj, Kanpur, Varanasi, Allahabad, Patna etc. These sectors can provide gainful employment while a part of revenue generated can also be earmarked for funding conservation activities in river basins. History is replete with examples where involvement of local community, in economic and conservation activity, has yielded enormous results.
The Summit also deliberated upon 30 effective technologies from 11 countries in the field of Decentralized Wastewater treatment, Energy from Waste, Digital Water, Data and Information, Sustainable agriculture and hydropower. Many of these technologies are capital intensive and have long gestation period before their operationalisation. Hence, it requires innovative financial and guarantee instruments along with strengthening the Hybrid annuity model and PPP framework. Government investment can be utilised in creating a larger water market to enable more investors and market participants, ultimately paving way for establishing economic value for water followed by a financial value - consistent with the Vision of Arth Ganga, envisaged by IWIS. An idea was mooted to issue Ganga sustainability bonds to leverage investment into river conservation and water projects.
The deliberations held during the IWIS - 2020 were holistic,broad based,multi-disciplinary and immensely insightful. It was unanimously agreed upon by all the participants that development and conservation have to go hand in hand. Development must continue to give shape to the dreams of 138 crore people of this country, to enable them to realise their true potential and make meaningful contributions in the globalised world. However, conservation should constitute the heart of our Developmental agenda
The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) and the Centre for Ganga River Basin Management and Studies (cGanga) are going to organise the 5th India Water Impact Summit during 10-15th December 2020 to deliberate on comprehensive analysis and holistic management of local rivers and waterbodies. Due to ongoing COVID guidelines the Summit will be held in virtually on all social media platforms of Namami Gange and cGanga. cGanga, is a think tank formed under the aegis of NMCG, with an objective to make India a world leader in river and water science. It is headquartered at IIT Kanpur and has representatives from leading national and international science and technology institutes.
The theme of this year’s summit is “Arth Ganga”, river conservation synchronised development. It is perceived that development and conservation are antagonistic to each other, this dilemma is also imperative in river conservation. To resolve this and work towards a holistic plan, the present Summit is aimed at discussing and disseminating the need for and modalities of embracing “Arth Ganga” in sectors that are interweaved with river conservation. The summit will focus on “Valuing water” and bringing water security in the country.
The summit will be inaugurated by Jal Shakti Minister, Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat at 12pm on 10th December. Some important announcements and project launches are expected during the inauguration. The event will host multi-country dialogue to strengthen India’s international collaborations in the water sector, experts from UK, USA, Norway and other European countries will participate in these dialogues. Indian experience will also be shared with Lower Mekong Nations (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam).
Summit will give an insight into the complexities and peculiarities of managing local rivers and water bodies with a larger vision of development that is synchronised with river conservation. A review of suggestions made in previous summits will be done. Emphasis will be on review of select Ganga Basin states, namely Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. CMs of these states will be speaking at the summit.
This year’s summit will also discuss Jal Jeevan Mission, an initiative of Jal Shakti Ministry to ensure drinking water to every household by 2024. This summit will bring all stakeholders together to discuss, debate and develop model solutions for some of the biggest water related problems in India. It will serve as a bridge for civil society and faith leaders to engage with scientific, engineering, industry, finance and Government representatives.
Dr. Rajiv Kumar, Vice Chairman, NITI AYOG who also chairs a high power multi-sectoral group on ‘Arth Ganga’ would be sharing his vision during valedictory session.
Registration link: https://iwis.cganga.org/
Ganga Utsav 2020 to be celebrated virtually from 2nd November – 4th November 2020 on Namami Gange’s youtube channel and other platforms
26th October 2020, New Delhi: On the occasion of the 12th anniversary of the declaration of Ganga as a national river, Namami Gange mission, Jal Shakti Ministry will be organising Ganga Utsav 2020.
Ganga Utsav 2020 will be a three days cultural and educational festival, to celebrate the glory of holy river Ganga. The aim is to connect masses to the cause of river rejuvenation and sensitize them about ecological issues through conversations and entertainment. For the first time, it will be happening online on Namami Gange’s youtube, other social media handles and www.gangautsav.in. This has given us an opportunity to take Ganga Utsav 2020 to entire country. Strengthening people river connect is an important priority of Namami Gange Mission and several initiatives are undertaken for the same.
Followed by pre-events on 2nd Nov 2020, the festival will be inaugurated by Hon’ble MoS, Sh. Rattan Lal Kataria, Ministry of Jal Shakti on 3rd Nov 2020. Shri Ganjendra Singh Shekhawat, Jal Shakti Minister will be addressing audience through virtual conference. Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev will be giving a special message on spiritual significance of rivers. The event will conclude on 4th Nov 2020 with a panel discussion with Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Jal Shakti Minister and other senior officials from Jal Shakti Ministry and Namami Gange Program.
Major Attractions of Ganga Utsav 2020
- Shri Rajiv Khandelwal, actor will be in conversation with Richa Anirudhh sharing his experience while shooting for Rag Rag Mein Ganga.
- Shri Rajiv Malhotra, researcher & author and Shri Satyanarayan Dasa, scholar & author will be in conversation. The discussion will be about importance of rivers especially Ganga and India civilisation.
- Padam Bhushan Anil Prakash Joshi, Enviornmentalist and Shri Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Director General, National Mission for Clean Ganga will be in conversation.
- Neelesh Mishra ki Kahaaniya by Neelesh Mishra on river rejuvenation
- Puranic Stories on Ganga by Anand Neelkantan
- Stories and a special puppet show by Your Story Bag
- Live Music Concert by Kailash Kher
- Live Music Concert by Kabir Café
- Kathak Dance Performance by Vasvati Mishra
- Performance by Revati Sakalkar, Indian Semi Classical Vocalist
Award winning films like Kali Bein (The Black River) and Ganga - The Ribbon of Life amongst others will be screened during the film festival. This film festival will be hosted in association with Centre for Media Studies (CMS) is a multi-disciplinary, not for profit, think tank engaged in developing and discussing policy alternatives on a wide-range of issues of local and global significance.
Ganga Quest is a national digital program to improve people-river connect particularly for youth and children organized by National Mission for Clean Ganga and TREE Craze Foundation (TCF). It was held earlier this year which received massive million plus participation. Mini Ganga quest will be conducted throughout the Ganga Utsav 2020.
Ganga Utsav 2020 is expected play an important role in role in attracting public attention to the Ganga rejuvenation. This will also reflect the efforts being made by Namami Gange towards rejuvenation of Ganga and its tributaries. 'Ganga Utsav' is an initiative to revive a sacred culture while embodying new expectations towards rivers of this nation. Above all Ganga Utsav will be an event of celebration and learning at the same time.
Links to join the festival
Click to download: Ganga Utsav 2020 Schedule
Formulation of integrated strategy for development of Arth Ganga model among different ministries and sectors
25th September, New Delhi: Meeting of Empowered Task Force, chaired by Honourable Jal Shakti Minister was conducted with several central ministries, departments and the state governments for ensuring better coordination and convergence among agencies and programs.
Updates from Ministries:
- Department of Drinking Water & Sanitation, Ministry of Jal Shakti will ensure high priority is given to Ganga Villages in Swachh Bharat Mission II. The department is also focusing on solid, liquid waste management in Ganga villages, afforestation and conservation of wetlands/traditional water bodies.
- Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare reported a significant surge in organic farming clusters. Area taken up for organic farming has increased from 840 hectors to 50,000 hectors in Uttarakhand, from 6400 hectors to 35780 hectors in Uttar Pradesh and from 2060 hectors to 14000 hectors in Bihar.
- Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change shared updates on CAMPA funds utilised for afforestation in Ganga basin and status of project Dolphin.
- Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs proposed to increase the solid waste management capacity in Ganga towns. Also, urban water bodies will be protected on priority.
- Ministry of Culture has identified 136 venues for Ganga Sanskriti Yatra and will have dedicated Ganga galleries in museums. They are also working with NMCG to develop a database of archaeological and cultural sites along Ganga tributaries.
- Ministry of Tourism would be completing its action plan for development of Ganga Tourist Circuits within one month.
- Ministry of Rural Development is working on convergence of activities under MNREGA for rejuvenation of small rivers and conservation/ protection of traditional water bodies.
NITI Ayog, Ministry of Power and Ministry of Science & Technology also presented the work done on their part on Ganga rejuvenation. All ministries were directly to form a Ganga cell which will exclusively focus on work related with Namami Gange mission.
Representatives of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar apprised the status of mission and discussed the plan to for revival of smaller rivers in their respective states.
Arth Ganga, an initiative for Integrating people’s participation and economic development with Ganga rejuvenation was emphasised during the meeting. The efforts on Arth Ganga will be segregated into six sectoral interventions – Sustainable Agriculture and Allied Areas, Afforestation and Biodiversity Conservation, Culture and Tourism Development, Inland Waterways, Promoting Clean Energy towards Sustainable Livelihood, Rejuvenation of Water Bodies.
Shri Ratan Lal Kattaria, MoS, Jal Shakti Ministry, Shri U. P. Singh, Secretary, Department of Water Resources, RD & GR and Shri Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Director General of National Mission Clean Ganga were present at the meeting.
Without integrating forestry with water management, the goals of climate change cannot be achieved
Water is the fundamental requirement for sustaining life, agriculture and the overall economy. With an exponential rise in the world population and diversified use of water, coupled with deforestation and increasing climactic vagaries, fresh water sources are under tremendous pressure globally. During the last 100 years, there has been a six to seven-fold increase in the demand for fresh water.
However, at the macro level, though the availability of fresh water is constant, at the micro level, due to overexploitation and indiscriminate use, lopsided planning in human settlements, changes in the hydrological cycle and pollution, water resources are dwindling very fast. Though we have plenty of rainfall in India to recharge the aquifers, it is unevenly distributed and unsustainably used to meet the demand for agriculture and industry. According to the Central Ground Water Board, more than 70 per cent districts are water-stressed and many cities and towns are critical from the point of view of availability of safe drinking water. And on top of this, 70 per cent of the agriculture sector uses groundwater for irrigation. In a nutshell, “blue” as well as “green” water management has been suffering a lot.
Many experts have been raising red flags about the impending water crisis for the last many years but various Government bodies have made fragmentary attempts which did not bring much relief on the ground. One classic case of failure was the watershed scheme which succeeded in very small patches and that, too, with the help of people in villages, who were feeling the pinch of scarcity. One such example was in Hiware bazaar in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra where community-based water management tremendously boosted agriculture and milk production, drawing back the people who migrated to Mumbai after recurrent drought.
Now, the Centre has created the Jal Shakti Ministry to tackle the issue of water scarcity in the country in a focussed and planned manner. The Prime Minister announced the launching of the Jal Jeevan Mission with a projected expenditure of more than Rs 3.5 lakh crore. For the first time, the Jal Shakti Ministry is dealing with most matters relating to water in different Ministries in an integrated manner. The first priority of the Ministry was to ensure potable water to 15.70 crore households as out of 18.93 crore homes in the country, only 3.23 crore had tap water in 2019. It was started as a peoples’ programme and involved citizens in water resources management at every level, right from supply, to reuse, to recharge.
The guidelines issued under the Jal Jeevan Mission stressed on service delivery and involved the people at every step of its execution. The Gram Panchayats, Self Help Groups (SHGs), NGOs and Village Water and Sanitation Committees were involved in planning, implementing, managing, operating and maintaining their own water supply systems.
This bottom-up approach has started paying dividends and 84.84 lakh households were given tap water connections. The programme is picking up fast as now one lakh families are being covered daily. The Ministry, during 2019-2020, provided safe drinking water to 71 lakh people in arsenic-contaminated areas and 5.35 lakh people in fluoride-contaminated areas. One of the innovative technologies to monitor water supply and use was the use of “sensor-based Internet of Things solution” in which a smart water meter tracks the quality, regularity of water supply, quantity and quality of water. It also tracks flow across distribution channels and thus helps in checking leakage and minimising water wastage.
According to Water Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, in the post-lockdown period, 32 lakh households were provided with piped water by July 28 under the Jal Jeevan Mission, which also helped in creating employment for over 42,000 people in six States. Under the Jal Shakti Abhiyan, the Ministry has started a massive water conservation movement with the help of communities in 1,592 water- stressed blocks in 256 districts. It focussed on water conservation through rain water harvesting, renovation of traditional water bodies, renovating and maintaining bore wells and watershed management and afforestation activities.
The experts on groundwater are working in most of the water-stressed districts of the country. One of the most outstanding achievements of the Modi Government was the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). More than six lakh villages were declared open defecation free and 60 crore people were helped, with more than 10 crore toilets constructed.
In phase two, the objective is to consolidate and perpetuate the gains of the SBM, including waste management. Under the PM’s Krishi Sinchai Scheme, more than 21.7 lakh hectares were irrigated during the last three years.
Apart from this, innovations and international cooperation on water management need to be pursued vigorously. However, a major shift is necessary to revamp forest management with water management in order to ensure water in our aquifers, dams and rivers. Without integrating forestry with water management, the goals of climate change cannot be achieved. The additional benefit will be in the form of regeneration of minor forest produce primarily animal foods and medicinal plants. There is no better time to focus on changing the objectives in COVID-19 times. Will the Environment Minister, Prakash Javadekar, take the initiative in this direction? One hopes so.
(The writer is a former civil servant)
There needs to be a sustained campaign to spread awareness about water reuse, recycling and conservation
The provision of safe water is essential to protect humans from waterborne diseases. Sadly, more than 600 million Indians are facing high to extreme water stress and 75 per cent of households do not have drinking water, according to the NITI Aayog. At least 163 million people are without access to treated piped water and approximately 70 per cent of the water supply is contaminated, resulting in nearly 2,00,000 deaths each year. India ranks 120th out of 122 nations in the water quality index.
This disproportionate water access, especially in rural areas and peri-urban slums, demands the creation of drinking water security, especially for women and girls who are burdened with the responsibility of collecting water for their families. According to a report, Small Water Enterprises: Transforming Women from Water Carriers to Water Entrepreneurs 2019, which was released at the World Water Week organised by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) in Stockholm, women collect as much as 80 per cent of water consumed by households, in addition to their other responsibilities.
The report has been prepared by Safe Water Network India, an NGO working with USAID. The report further reveals that India has a dismal gender empowerment record and is currently ranked 108th out of 149 countries. Domestically, women are grossly under-represented in the Indian economy, comprising only 26 per cent of the workforce. It would be pertinent to note that globally, women spend over 200 million hours collecting water daily.
Under the Jal Jeevan Mission scheme, around 84.83 lakh rural households were provided with tap connections. Post the Corona unlocking, around 45 lakh tap connections have been provided so far. On an average, daily about one lakh households are being provided with tap connections across the country. Although the scheme promises piped water in every rural household by 2024, unfortunately most of the water systems are rife with operational issues due to poor maintenance. While the Government has set itself a target of providing treated and safe 24x7 piped water supply at 135 litres per capita per day (LPCD) in the cities, its efforts are hampered by raw water availability, a debilitated and old piped water supply infrastructure and the inability to create new infrastructure in slums.
The global decentralised water market is expected to grow to $22 billion by the end of 2021. Most community water players are currently focussing on the drinking water market as it represents the highest yield per litre compared to other end-use applications. According to Frost and Sullivan, smart Internet of Things (IoT) and digitised sustainable solutions will be the two major growth drivers in the water industry in the future.
For 2020-21, a sum of Rs 23,500 crore has been allocated for the implementation of the Jal Jeevan Mission. Under this scheme, rural women will be trained to test water quality, repair hand pumps and fix broken taps. Women will also be trained to test piped water for biological and chemical contamination and use field test kits to know the extent of contamination. The Ministry of Jal Shakti has tied up with the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Kendra for skilling women so that they can participate at all levels, starting from planning to implementation, management, operation and maintenance of the in-village water supply.
However, safe water is a collective mission. We need to recognise the role of Small Water Enterprises (SWEs), decentralised water treatment plants that provide 24x7 affordable safe water, also called Water ATMs, as integral sources to mitigate the issue of poor water quality while providing affordable safe drinking and cooking water reliably. We need to understand that SWEs are cost-effective and can provide customisable drinking water solutions specifically at places where flagship Government schemes such as the Jal Jeevan Mission cannot reach or are yet to reach.
Water is an integral part of our lives and SWEs should be recognised as a support to the Government. They not only provide livelihood but also save lives and contribute to the economy. The lockdown following the Coronavirus outbreak has hugely impacted operations of the SWEs located in rural and urban India. The inability to set up new plants, the reduced consumer footfall, affected distribution systems, delay in resolving technical issues due to restrictions on movement, and the consequent loss of revenue for local entrepreneurs as well as on-cost recovery on operations are some of the major challenges faced by SWEs.
Although, post-lockdown, footfall has increased, consumption has reduced, leading to sustainability challenges. Financial sustainability has become the most important determinant for the survival and scaling up of SWEs as water is priced within certain socio-economic parameters to reach all.
Although there is a provision for the private sector to invest in SWEs, this brings its own set of challenges such as delayed infrastructure delivery, complex institutional frameworks with multiple regulatory authorities, politicians offering free water leading to lower probabilities of recovering capital investment, and high operating costs. Reforms are required at the policy and implementation levels. There is an increasing need for holistic collaboration with the Government in terms of technology, monetary and resource-sharing partnerships, single window clearance and development of an ecosystem.
“There should be GST exemption on equipment and water delivery services for cost-effective operations. Further, Corporate Social Responsibility funds should be allocated towards strengthening decentralised community water systems,” says Madhu Krishnamoorthy, Head of Business Development, WaterHealth India. The critical role of SWEs in providing access to water needs to be acknowledged besides a sustained campaign to spread awareness about water reuse, recycling and conservation. The SWEs can make a lasting social and economic impact by improving health, creating jobs, improving vocational skills and bringing new technologies to bridge the existing gaps in the water supply chain.
(The writer is vice-president, Safe Water Network)
The combined effect of El Niño and aerosols reduces rainfall markedly over the sub-continent and intensifies the severity of droughts by as much as 17 per cent, as compared to the individual effect of a warm ocean current
Aerosols, tiny solid particles or liquid droplets suspended in the atmosphere, are rapidly becoming the ubiquitous factor in environmental degradation and pushing up the frequency of droughts across the world, especially in India. They can come from natural sources, like dust or wildfires, or man-made sources such as vehicles and industrial emissions.
A team of atmospheric scientists from India, USA and Canada found that aerosols in the atmosphere can increase the severity of droughts in the Indian subcontinent by as much as 17 per cent during El Niño years.
The El Niño phenomenon, which occurs when there is abnormal warming over the Pacific Ocean, is already considered detrimental for the monsoon as it blocks the flow of moisture-bearing winds from the oceans to the Indian landmass. A new study by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) Pune found that it further weakens the monsoon by transporting aerosols from lower altitudes in the East Asian region up and into the higher altitudes of about 12-18 km, forming an aerosol layer called the Asian Tropopause Aerosol Layer (ATAL) over the South Asian region.
It remains suspended there during the monsoon and its thickening cuts solar energy to the Earth. This in turn weakens monsoon circulation and increases the severity of drought conditions.
The study, published in the Scientific Reports journal, reveals that the combined effect of El Niño and aerosols reduces rainfall over the Indian sub-continent as compared to the individual effect of El Niño. Going by the satellite readings and a series of model simulations in the report, the severity of droughts during El Niño years over the sub-continent has amplified by 17 per cent.
Noting that in recent decades there has been an increase in the frequency of El Niño events and droughts over India, the researchers warned against any further increase in industrial emissions from both East and South Asia as they can lead to a wider and thicker aerosol layer in the upper troposphere and further intensify droughts.
Given that India is already vulnerable to hydrological and weather extremes, a higher degree of drought severity will only subject the country to more hydrological stress while affecting agriculture and the livelihood of millions of people.
Reducing aerosol emissions is not only essential for improving air quality but also for controlling droughts and their impact on people in the Indian subcontinent. Rising temperatures, too, are becoming the cause of increase in the concentration of aerosols in the atmosphere that cause air pollution.
According to a recent study by researchers from the University of California, aerosol presence is exacerbating climate change and its adverse effects. While climate change is warming oceans, it is warming land faster, which is bad news for global air quality. The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, shows that the land-sea warming contrast drives up aerosol concentration in the atmosphere.
Aerosols not only affect the climate system, including disturbances to the water cycle, they also harm humans, animals and plants as they cause smog and pollution. Their output and emissions are a matter of grave concern.
To rein in these soaring emissions, we need to understand the level of aerosol pollution in India. India needs an aerosol protocol that is able to set the parameters for preventing spread of aerosol emissions. Industries and other man-made sources of aerosol emissions currently have a free run thanks to lack of stringent regulations that set ground rules for operations.
The categorisation of industries and other aerosol-emitting units is critical and periodic checking will go a long way in controlling them. This will have a direct impact on the fight against climate change and help India arrest its worsening environment situation.
(The writer is an environmental journalist)
Writer: Kota Sriraj
Courtesy: The Pioneer
The Chennai water crisis calls for the establishment of a National Water Committee, consisting of scientists, administrators and domain experts
The country is witnessing acute water shortage in many areas either due to the failure of rains or inadequate rainfall. The crisis has been brewing in many States like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Gujarat and even the national capital of Delhi because of which people are suffering terribly.
In Chennai, women were seen lining up in queues, holding plastic buckets and waiting for tankers, some of which are reportedly fleecing the public. IT firms, restaurants and the construction industry have all admitted that they are struggling without water. Violent clashes between residents on the issue of water sharing, too, have been reported. Meanwhile, reservoirs supplying water to Chennai have all dried up.
A BBC report said, “India is facing its worst water crisis in its history.” India Today stated that “50 per cent” of the country is staring at “drought.” In this connection, this writer had written an article titled, ‘Water Woes’, which was published recently in The Hindu. I also issued an appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to immediately set up a ‘National Water Committee’ consisting of scientists, administrators and other eminent people to deal with the problem on a war footing.
This writer had set up a similar committee by a judicial order as a judge of the Supreme Court in MK Balakrishnan vs Union of India (2009) case under the chairmanship of former Secretary in the Union Ministry of Science and Technology, Thirumalachari Ramasami. In the case of Delhi Water Supply & Sewage Disposal Undertaking vs State of Haryana (1996), the Supreme Court observed, “Water is a gift of nature. Human hand cannot be permitted to convert this bounty into a curse, an oppression.” However, scant notice was given to this admonition and the natural resource has been converted into precisely that.
When this writer was the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court (2004-2005), a Bench, presided over by him in L Krishnan v. State of Tamil Nadu (2005), noticed that most of the lands marked in the revenue records of the State as ponds or lakes had been encroached upon. Many houses and illegal shops were built on them. The Bench directed the removal of all illegal encroachments. It is doubtful if the order was effectively implemented by the authorities. In Karnataka last year, a piquant situation cropped up. While in the coastal and Malnad region as also some districts of the State, the rain fury wreaked havoc, other regions, especially the northern part of the State, witnessed drought-like situation during the same time. This was unbelievable.
China, too, experienced a similar situation before the 1949 Revolution. Some areas (those next to Hwang He, also known as the ‘river of sorrow’) experienced frequent floods, while others experienced drought. After the Chinese Revolution of 1949, the authorities constructed huge dams on these rivers. Canals were built to carry excess water to drought-hit areas. This way, flood as well as the drought problem was solved. Why could this not have been done in India, too?
States along the coastal lines have access to unlimited sea water but it needs to be desalinated. Desalination methods like reverse osmosis are extremely expensive. But with the help of scientific research, inexpensive methods can be found out. The Himalayas, too, have almost unlimited water in the form of snow but it needs to be harnessed properly. Other techniques like rain water harvesting must be made mandatory in all human settlements. All such efforts call for a strong political will — on the part of the Central as well as State Governments — using scientists (both Indian and foreign). Unfortunately, this will was missing until now.
Now that his Government has a mandate, it is hoped that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not miss this opportunity. He should immediately set up the National Water Committee, giving it adequate funds and other support.
(The writer is a former Judge of the Supreme Court)
Writer: Markandey Katju
Courtesy: The Pioneer
The Saraswati might have been a myth for some but satellite imagery clearly shows that such a river system did exist in line with present-day Ghaggar and had a very wide basin right up to the Rann of Kutch. It was linked to the Sutlej
River valleys over the centuries have cradled and nurtured some famous civilisations. For obvious reasons, this pattern has continued and even today most of the large cities continue to flourish on the river banks. Excavations and discoveries undertaken by Sir Mortimor Wheeler during the earlier decades of the last century unravelled the secrets of the Indus Valley civilisation hitherto lying buried under centuries of history.
We may have known about the Indus Valley civilisation much earlier had the original discoveries by Charles Mason, a noted archaeologist in the 1820s, been given more serious consideration. It may come as a surprise but some of the Harappan sites around the Indus are known to have been pillaged by contractors for brick ballast to build a portion of the Lahore railway in the later half of the nineteenth century.
Archaeological evidence shows that Indus was highly prone to floods and frequent changes of course. As the sister river to the Indus, the Mihran also carried large volumes of water along a course parallel and eastwards of Indus. But over the millennia, the Mihran has ceased to exist, so also the towns on its banks. In later studies, the Mihran came to be identified with Hakra as well as the Saraswati (also extinct).
Recent (May 2019) excavations reported from Ganweriwala indicate the town to have been located on the banks of old river Hakra, often cited as the mythical Saraswati. There has been a renewed interest in the recent years in river Saraswati, as the department of culture has initiated a project for research on satellite imagery to ascertain and chart out the entire route of this ancient river. It would be in the general area of the present states of Haryana and Rajasthan that evidence would be attempted to be collected to ascertain whether the civilisation around the Saraswati was an extension of the Indus valley or vice versa.
The mythical Saraswati River, which is now extinct, has found wide mention in the Puranas and ancient Indian history. The Skanda Purana mentions that the Kanyakubja Mahadesh of Bhoja, comprising 36 lakh villages, extended up to Kurukshetra and Saraswati. In the Rigveda, a river course has been mentioned, which now corresponds to the Saraswati and Ghaggar. The Saraswati has been mentioned as a mighty river from the pre-Vedic times. By the time the Manusmriti and the Mahabharata came to be written, it had already developed its present character. Manu calls the place where it disappears as Vinasana. The Mahabharata states that after disappearing, the river reappeared at three places. It disappears in sands near the village of Chalaur and reappears at Bhavanipur. At Ballchapart, it again disappears, only to appear again at Barakhera. At Urnai, near Pehova, (ancient Prithudaka), it is joined by the Markanda stream. At Sirsa (ancient Sairishka), it is joined by Drishavadi or Chitang.
The area between the Saraswati and Drishadvati is known to be the sacred land of Brahmavarta, the home of the Vedic rishis. After disappearing, the dry bed reappears south of Rohri and runs parallel to the Indus into the Arabian Sea, which is analogous to the ancient Mihran Hakra System. The other cities of the Saraswati era were Kapishthala (Kaithal), Sonaprastha or Sonepat and Paniyaprastha or Panipat.
Reports of the appearance of sweet water in certain dry areas of Kutch after the earthquake also led to a revival of interest in the archaeology of the Indus Valley and the impact of tectonic movements on the river systems. It is widely believed that the Saraswati river system may have become dry on account of one such upheaval. There is sufficient data to show that the original course of the Sutlej was to follow a southward flow from Ropar (Punjab) towards the Ghaggar, the two coming together near Shatrana in Sangrur district and then flowing towards Kutch. The sharp bend and a directional change at Ropar, which is extremely unusual considering the flat terrain, may appear to have been possible on account of a tectonic uplift. This may have led to the ultimate drying up of the Ghaggar-Saraswati system as Sutlej was the only perennial source of water in the area, which may have changed course due to an earthquake.
That the Sutlej was earlier joined to the Ghaggar-Saraswati system is also borne out from a legend in the Mahabharata, where it is mentioned that Vashistha threw himself into the Sutlej to commit suicide. The Saraswati might have been a myth for some but satellite imagery clearly shows that such a river system did exist in line with the present day Ghaggar, and had a very wide basin right up to the Rann of Kutch.
Another interesting feature of the ancient history of this area is the speculation on the possible linkage between the Harappan civilisation and the Gangetic plain. Is it that the river Saraswati could provide the missing link? Only forthcoming research would be able to decipher this centuries-old secret whether Saraswati was originally joined by Sutlej or by river Yamuna, both these rivers having changed course centuries ago.
(The writer is a former Commissioner of Police, Delhi)
Writer: Dr KK Paul
Courtesy: The Pioneer
According to Soumi Roy Chowdhury, Devendra B Gupta and Sanjib Pohit, “The value of a river will depend on a unique data-set to construct the water poverty profile and experts who can suggest future correctives” In India, water is rarely a focus area in the discourse about new pathways for development. The narrative generally centres on two things: First, the availability of water and second accessibility to good and safe drinking water. Public policies largely focus on the latter even as the Government launches flagship programmes like Namami Gange and National Rural Drinking Water Programme.
But to be able to measure societal impact of any given programme, it is important to have baseline and end line information. In this case, how river water scarcity or its quality impacts common households. Specially, information on the use of water, livelihood aspects and quantifiable aesthetic value of the river are of utmost importance to gauge value.
Such information is, however, sparse and available only for pilot projects. Further, no serious efforts have been made to compile them for better identification of water- stressed regions, especially in the Indian context. However, efforts are under way to create a data-driven policy-making in our country.
With the launch of the Composite Water Management Index developed by NITI Aayog, one gets a sense of the macro picture of the effectiveness of water management across various States. Efforts like these must, however, be complemented with information linking household welfare, understanding livelihood implications of water scarcity and the degree to which it impacts human population. All of these can succinctly bring disparate data sources together.
Further, river basins in India are of different sizes, with habitation and livelihood depending on it. Therefore, analysing the communities living off the basin is critical to take into account both the physical and socio-demographic factors associated with water scarcity. A water poverty index approach is appropriate for such an analysis as it can monitor both the availability of water as well as the socio-economic factors that hinder the use and access of the same.
Elsewhere in the world, water poverty index, a relatively newly introduced policy tool, has caught the attention of policy-makers in the realm of water-driven issues. However, it is yet to catch the attention of Indian researchers and legislators.
The concept is based on the premise that the lack of adequate water supply in a country can lead to poor health of its population, whereas despite its availability, it is the user cost of clean water that can drive one to use inadequate and unreliable sources of water supply.
Therefore, a country, which is water-scarce should encompass understanding of different inter-related components: The availability of internal water resources and external water inflows followed by access to safe water and sanitation in the region. Equally important is to capture the share of regional water use for domestic, industrial and agricultural purposes.
Scientific measurements of water quality parameters are equally critical to understanding the role of different kinds of regulatory mechanisms to preserve the water body, including biodiversity threats.
Last but not the least, the socio-economic ability of availing clean water resources and status of health information constitute the much-needed water data for a comprehensive analysis. The applicability of this kind of measure goes beyond just ranking the regions, which is the usual reporting norm, but actually categorising the components. Targeted approach allows diagnosis of the source of water problem and helps identify those policy parameters that need more attention.
Indeed, this is by no means a simple task that can be accomplished easily. An interdisciplinary team of researchers is needed to understand and analyse the water poverty index of a river basin. More frequently, it happens that data is not available at the adequate level in India. For example, scanty information is available on water scarcity or how the poor quality of the same impacts the health and developmental goals of the people in various communities across river basins.
In sum, working towards a unique data-set to construct a water poverty measure will require hydrologists, who can advise on the water flow and availability, scientists who can develop water quality measures and social science researchers, who can assess the information on the use and implications of river water usage, including health costs, economic costs and other socio-demographic linkages.
(The writers are Associate Fellow and Professors at National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), New Delhi. Views expressed here are personal)
Writer: Soumi Roy Chowdhury, Devendra B Gupta and Sanjib Pohit
Courtesy: The Pioneer
The holy river crying for policy-makers’ attention
The Yamuna river is highly venerated in the Hindu religion and is worshipped as goddess Yamuna, further the river marks its relevance as the daughter of the Sun God and the sister of Yama, the god of death. The river is so holy in Hindu religion, it is strongly believed that bathing in its sacred waters frees one from all sins. The parody is as such that the holy waters of the river is being abused in such a manner that the river is suffering and in connection the lives of the people is getting affected too.
For a long period of time the holy river Yamuna has been the lifeline for Delhi. From a pristine water course that was mesmerised by the Mughals it now meanders wearily loaded with pollutants.
The major cause of pollution of the river Yamuna is basically related to the religious practices that are carried out by the people in day to day lives. Yamuna is a river which passes cities whereby a lot of religious institutions are present like for an instance vrindavan, people in Hindu religion whereby the holy river is thought to be as a place whereby offerings are to be made and this is a general adopted practice by the Hindus.
A recent judgement by the Uttarakhand High Court, the division bench states that rivers Ganga and Yamuna, all their tributaries, streams, every natural water flowing with flow continuously or intermittently of these rivers, as juristic/legal persons/living entities having the status of a legal person with all corresponding.
This judgement by the Uttarakhand High Court has not only mentioned that the river Yamuna is a living entity but also has to protect the river Yamuna.
River pollution is a big menace to the environment and of course human health too, the other factors related to the contribution in the pollution are the Industrial wastes, mixtures of chemicals, heavy metals are all discharged in water and these are difficult to clean up.
It has been observed on the banks of the river people enjoy the call of the nature which adversely affects the river health.
The Yamuna has been sentenced to the harshest treatment by the humans, the Yamuna is a garbage dump for more than 57% of the Delhi waste thrown into it and only 55% of Delhi’s residents are connected to proper sewage system which negates the other 45% of the population which again remains not properly connected to the proper sewage system. According to Centre for Science and environmental Pollution, around 80% of the Yamuna’s pollution is due to raw sewage.
The river pollution leads to number of health problems and disorders in humans. Not only it affects the human life but also affects the aquatic life, leading to the growth of fishes that are unsuitable for human consumption which further results in mass killing of the aquatic life too. Many economic activities are carried out by the people on these water bodies for an instance fishing and there are people whose livelihood depends on the aquatic life. Further it is not only limited to humans and the aquatic life but also animals and birds who drink the water of the river. After drinking the toxic water of the river mostly the animals, birds, humans and aquatic life suffers disorders and result in their death.
In the long term, if the continuous river pollution continues it will be a threat to the biodiversity and also the extinction of some species can disrupt the ecosystem completely, as we are aware about the chains of the ecosystem.
The rivers situation at present is very alarming and people in their references term it to be a huge sewage canal, its water is unfit for human consumption and cannot be qualified for any use, it cannot even support bacteria or any aquatic life.
At present the government has spent hundreds of crores Indian rupees in the cleaning of these rivers but still the river still remains to flow dirty.
Yamuna enters into Delhi at Wazirabad barrage, it is reflected in the picture P.1, the water stored in left beaker is the water of Yamuna before entering Delhi and the water stored in the right side of the beaker is the water of Yamuna after entering Delhi.
It seems that human activity is the major cause by which the river Yamuna is killed, the colour of the water has turned completely black which contains heavy metals, toxic metals, pesticides and nuclear wastes and which results in destruction of the properties of water, the oxygen level of the Yamuna water remains to be zero.
The very first solution of this problem has been mentioned in this article itself whereby it is important to know the stakeholders to the particular issue, once the stakeholders have been identified the responsibility of the cleaning of the river Yamuna can be shifted to them.
Dozens of countries have established regulatory bodies for instance in some states of U.S the regulatory bodies are public Utility Commission, in england and Whales a regulatory body was created OFWAT in 1989, and many countries choose for privatization for the concern of water management which India should also implement.
The another is “awareness”, once the government is successful in creating the awareness that the river contributes a lot to the people and it is their duty to protect it the pollution level will go tremendously down. The government should formulate policy by making field research and identify the polluters and apply the concept of Polluters Pay Principle.
(Ankit Kishore is a law student School of Law, KIIT University)