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Wednesday, June 06, 2018

The State of India's Water Resources..

I hope you continue to find newer and newer ways to save water. For myself, I have been practicing, on a neighbour's guidance, to use a glass now stationed at our bathroom sink for brushing and washing my face rather than use water directly from the tap. The water saving is substantial. 

The news of 5th June says : Water levels in India’s major reservoirs are 10 per cent lower than normal whereas these are 50 per cent deficient in Himachal Pradesh. Extreme rainfall is becoming more common in much of the country leading to floods and loss of agriculture.

River Mithi, Mumbai / Nicholas / CC-By-SA 3.0
Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand all saw major reservoirs running dry in early 2018 and drought and severe water shortages in many parts of these states.

A May 7 report of this year refers to the battle over the Yamuna between Delhi and Haryana. The Yamuna’s lack of water for all the demands placed over it highlights the profound — but scarcely acknowledged — crisis now confronting India: it is slowly running dry. Signs of severe water stress are everywhere. Yet there is little action from the government or public awareness of the impending crisis. Any sense of the importance of water conservation among affluent city dwellers seems minimal.

Water conservationist Rajendra Singh said that Shimla is not alone. A water crisis is likely to hit metro cities within the next few years. “At least 12 metro cities will face severe water crisis in the next five to six years, and in the next ten years there will be a crisis in almost all parts of the country,” he said .

The water storage level across 91 major hydro reservoirs in India has plummeted to 17 per cent, lower than the 21 per cent storage recorded last year at the same time. As a result, electricity generation from hydropower was down by a quarter in March 2018.

Reports are showing how not treating our waste water properly and re-using it responsibly, is leading to overall water shortages. Sludge from a treatment plant at Malyana, which had a faulty sewage treatment system, was flowing into the Ashwani Khad -- a spring from where Shimla used to get its largest share of water. When unclean water from the sewage treatment plant contaminated streams, there was an outbreak of jaundice that affected more than 500 people in Shimla between December 2015 and March 2016. The Himachal Pradesh High Court then put a blanket ban on use of water from springs around Shimla after this. But the administration did little to compensate for the loss of reservoir water since 2016.

India is one of the most water-challenged nations in the world, with at least 54% of the country being recognised as highly or extremely water stressed, according to a 2015-World Resources Institute report.

Calculations based on some estimates of the amount of water lost to the atmosphere by evapo-transpiration suggest that water that can be put to use in India in future will be about 654 billion cubic metres (BCM), very close to the current actual water use estimate of 634 BCM. These estimates suggest there is little scope to meet any additional demand. 

So please focus every day on how you can save more and more water.

Monday, June 04, 2018

We are all making a world without water - and now we have to live in it.

A friend whatsapped me this piece about the Shimla water crisis : 

शिमला के पानी दाता : पानी की हाहाकार के बीच जब मेयर चायना भाग गई ओर सरकार के हाथ पांव फूल गए ,तब यह फरिश्ता रात के 3-3 बजे तक अधिकारियों के साथ शिमला के गली गली पानी की सप्लाई सुनिश्चित करने निकला, शहर के चप्पे चप्पे का जायजा लिया और अगले दिन प्रदेश के सबसे बड़े कोर्ट की सबसे ऊंची कुर्सी पर बैठकर डेली सुनवाई करते हुए शिमला को जल संकट से निकाला।शिमला के जगरूप वकीलों ने इसकी शुरुआत एक दिन की हड़ताल से की तो माननीय एक्टिंग चीफ जस्टिस संजय करोल साहब ने पानी सप्लाई सुचारू करवाने का जिम्मा खुद सम्भाल लिया।अधिकारी सुबह साढ़े नो बजे कोर्ट में तलब किये और तगड़ी घुट्टी पिलाई।फिर क्या था चीफ सेक्रेटरी तक को म्युनिसिपल कारपोरेशन के कार्यालय में बैठना पड़ा।शहर में जो पानी की सप्लाई 12 दिन बाद हो रही थी उसे हर तीन दिन बाद करवाया।लीकेज ओर अवैध कनेक्शन धारियों के कनेक्शन कटे।सप्लाई लाइन से सीधे कनेक्शन लेकर 24 घँटे पानी सप्लाई का लुत्फ लेने वालों की शामत आई।लाखों का पानी बिल भरने वाले पानी भरते नज़र आये।शिमला के जल संकट को सिर्फ एक दिन में हल कर के जस्टिस संजय करोल प्रदेश की जनता के हीरो बन गए।शर्म की बात है कि जिन दो लोगों, मेयर ओर पानी मंत्री को इस संकट की घड़ी में मैदान में डटने चाहिए था वो दोनों ही भाग खड़े हुए।सोचिये अगर जज साहब कानून का डंडा उठाकर रात भर लोगों की समस्याओं को समझते ओर हल निकालते तो शिमला में महामारी फेल सकती थी।जज साहब ने सभी VVIP को टैंकरों से पानी सप्लाई करने पर पूर्ण प्रतिबंध लगा कर आम जनता को राहत दी।

Houses in Shimla / Arpit Chhonker / CC-By-SA 4.0
Even now politicians are talking of more dams, more lifting schemes (which are subject to corruption and not completed for years) from far away rather than protecting and enhancing local sources and inculcating a culture of conservation / tighter management. Shimla earlier had 30-40 public water sources in the city – hillside streams and bawadis which have been constructed over or commandeered for private use. Farmers growing vegetable crops upstream have been stopped from drawing water – is it a given that rural people must pay for cities’ misuse ? 

It is rich that the Congress can blame BJP, having been in power at assembly level and Shimla corporation level for most of the time. BJP too hasn’t confronted this issue in its 15 years of rule at assembly level and a few years at the corporation level.

The previously installed waterschemes that supplied shimla have only half the water they were designed for. A long dry spell with less rainfall and snowfall appear to be factors behind the depletion of water in the city. Leaky pipes also lead to a loss of a significant amount of water. The civic body gives VIP localities preferential treatment. The illegal construction that takes place across the city is also the place where water is frequently pilfered for use, along with hotels that draw extra water. As a result, the common man is left to face the shortage of water almost every year.

Indian agriculture faces threats from irresponsible shrimp (& prawn) farming..

I am beginning to catch up with photos and videos sent me by friends in India on whatsapp while I was away.

Saw a terrible news item sent by a friend – in a large no. of villages, shrimp farms near chennai have turned barren the agriculture lands surrounding them. The untreated effluent from shrimp farms, full of toxic chemicals, is let out into lakes, rivulets and surrounding lands. It has ruined all groundwater sources and is destroying Kaliveli lake that hosts vast numbers of migratory birds and is a spawning ground for many fish varieties. Worse, the shrimp farmers, politically connected and rich, have broken the nearby dam which housed fresh water, which otherwise could have supplied fresh water to Chennai. Farmers are ruined and migrating as labourers.

Giant Tiger Prawn / CC-By-SA 3.0
I read more widely and found a large no. of news items that report on the devastation in Tamil Nadu. This is the story too in Andhra Pradesh (see here too), Orissa (also see here, here and here) and Gujarat (also see here and here). This has gone on for decades.

The shrimp farms are not registered or monitored by the authorities despite persistent protests by those surrounding them. Sometimes after largescale protests some shrimp farms are closed down, only to re-open again shortly. The shrimp farms are so toxic that they can use a particular piece of land only for a few years and then abandon it to move to new pieces of land. This degraded land cannot be turned back to farming for another 30 years as it is full of salinity and chemicals. The rich in our lawless land can monopolise environmental resources for great profits while more and more farmers and fish workers leave their generations old vocations to become labourers in cities.

The Indian governments, past and present have done nothing – even as other governments have recognized the dangers and have more effectively regulated shrimp farming. Most countries completely ban inland shrimp farming. Mexico runs the industry via highly regulated cooperatives. America has pioneered closed loop shrimp farming where the waste products are eaten by other acquatic animals. The value of protecting mangroves is being recognized even by shrimp farmers as the mangroves filter out toxic chemicals and restore water quality. But Indian governments are not bothered as they only seek to make more money to win the next election.

I can see news of only one large scale action - but we will have to see if it lasts.. in the Chilika Lake of Odisha.