Happy birthday PM Modi; here are some messages from those affected by Sardar Sarovar

Source: downtoearth.org.in

Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrates his birthday on September 17. Unsurprisingly, his choice of venue is the Sardar Sarovar dam and the nearby statue of Vallabhbhai Patel. He spent the morning visiting the control room of the dam on the Narmada after “worshipping” the river. The water level at the dam reservoir was raised to 138.68 metres — the full reservoir level (FRL) — on the occasion.

Not all seemed thrilled:

  • Anti-dam activists were scheduled to protest at Barwani.
  • Several families were evacuated to tin sheds as their homes were to submerge.
  • Those left behind are living on islands
  • Sown fields are now under water
  • More than 30,000 families living in the submergence zone faced displacement and loss of livelihood, according to Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA).

Many distressed people in the submergence areas in Dhar, Barwani, and Alirajpur districts in Madhya Pradesh have already held up their grievances.

And they have a thing or two to say if the PM would listen.

‘Visit our villages’

If he can fly abroad so much, why can’t he visit a village in doob kshetra (submergence area)? asked Gangabai Patidar of Nisarpur. Her home was marked for submergence at 138 m; at 136 m, the water was at her door, she said.

Some 1,200 families there were declared out of danger but the village was sinking.

“The water has filled our streets, it comes up to our door steps but these homes are considered out of doob kshetra. How do we step out and commute? Are we supposed to fly?” asked Gangabai. 

Suresh Patidar, also from Nisarpur, found Modi’s recent tweet hardselling the area as a tourist destination, insensitive. “192 villages are starving, dying, and drowning; hardly anyone has received rehabilitation benefits they are entitled to. All the PM is concerned about is filling the dam’s reservoir before his birthday,” he said. A lack of media attention added insult to his injury.

Shyamabai of Pichodi village, a few kilometres from Barwani town, invited Modi to a public discussion with the oustees, underscoring that with the land drowned, farmers, fisherfolk and potters were starving.

“You forcibly evicted us from our homes and filled them with water. And then, you’re celebrating your birthday as so many humans suffer and animals die,” she said.   

‘Minister of a state’

In Kadmal (Dhar district), another sinking village, residents tried to protest in the few areas some not yet under water. They were on a chain hunger strike.

“People are getting ill, contracting infections because of the dirty water entering our streets,” said Ashutosh Radheshyam Sen, one of those on strike. He blamed the governments of Madhya Pradesh and the Centre for trying to “please” the Gujarat government: “The PM should think about the entire country, not just one state.”

“We want officials to come here, see our reality and complete rehabilitation and resettlement equitably,” said Ashutosh, a journalist who also owns a shop that is now submerged.

“Anyone who tried to move the (Sardar Sarovar) project was projected the saviour of Gujarat. But PM Modi seems to have taken the game to a new level to show that he completed it,” said Shripad Dharmadhikary, an activist and researcher.

“Even as chief minister of Gujarat, Modi went on dharna (demonstration) for the completion of this project, ignoring checks the then government wanted to put in place on humanitarian grounds,” he alleged.

“Work on the dam was stalled until 2014 because rehabilitation was incomplete. But when he became PM in 2014, permission to increase the height of the dam was granted in 15 days,” Dharmadhikary added.

Pointing out at an incomplete canal system, he called the closing of the dam gates a show of power. That MP now has Congress-led government, made the situation worse, according to him.

Himanshu Upadhyaya from Azim Premji University advised the PM to “keep in mind that the water storage in this dam has been achieved at huge social costs borne by people upstream in the submergence zone as well as those downstream in Narmada, Vadodara and Bharuch districts — whose land is eroded by intense flash floods created by dam authorities.”

These aspects can only be forgotten “when one is obsessed with PR” and with the “perfect visual appeal” created by an overflowing dam, he warned. 

‘Gujarat farmers not thrilled either’

In 2002, Ramsingh Chattarsingh Solanki of Rajghat village (in the submergence area in Barwani) moved to Gujarat as he was allotted land in Kesrol village in Bharuch district. But it was infertile and uncultivable, he alleged.

“The Gujarat government cheated us. We moved back to our old village and now this is drowning,” the 82-year-old man said.

Thousands of acres of agricultural land downstream in Bharuch, Narmada, and Vadodara districts in Gujarat was getting destroyed, said Kamlesh S Madhiwala, president of fishers’ collective Samast Bharuch Jilla Machhimar Samaj.

“Crops ready for harvest drowned. Gujarat did benefit, but the water distribution has been mismanaged. Farmers don’t have water, but companies never face a shortage. Seems the dam’s water is primarily for them,” he said.

“Despite the dam getting the lion’s share of central funding under ‘Accelerated irrigation Benefit Programme’, successive Gujarat governments have failed to prioritise development of the canal network,” alleged Upadhyaya.

Figures in the government’s own Socio-economic Surveys show a shortfall between irrigation potential created and utilised. The ad hoc command area development plans and half-hearted implementation of participatory irrigation management were to be blamed too, he added. 

‘SSP, we have a problem’

According to the Narmada Control Authority’s daily updates, the Bargi reservoir and the Indira Sagar Project reservoir upstream were almost full. Any sudden release of water from the two reservoirs upstream could lead to flash floods. This is compounded by tremors felt in more than 12 villages along the banks of the Narmada.

“This is the time to generate power at full capacity. Technically that’s the way to operate the dam so that floods can be controlled, not aggravated,” said Vijay Paranjpye, water expert and chairman of Gomukh Environmental Trust For Sustainable Development, Pune. He was concerned about potential shock release of water and said water should have been released:

“It is more important for the Gujarat government and the authority to protect lives rather than celebrate someone’s birthday.”

As Heat Intensifies and Hand Pumps Dry Up, Districts in Bihar Grapple with Drinking Water Crisis

Source: news18.com

Patna: Sixty-year-old Fula Devi, a resident of Shahpur Kasim village in Vaishali district in Bihar, stares at tough days ahead.

Her eyes well up as she talks about how her crops have been destroyed due to a lack of water.

“I have lost all my cash crops spread over 10 kathas of land (17,000 sq ft) and incurred losses worth more than Rs 25,000. Our misery does not end here. We have to struggle for drinking water as well. All the hand pumps have dried up here,” she says.

Flood-prone Bihar is known for an abundance of water resources. However, several districts are facing an acute water crises this summer due to mismanagement of water bodies and a population boom. The water table has gone below 250 feet from the ground level and hand pumps and tube wells, the main sources of water for drinking and irrigation in most villages, have also dried up.

Even as locals are struggling to cope with this crisis, farmers are the worst affected. Given the non-availability of irrigation water and intense heat, their crops are fighting for survival. Their livestock does not get required quantities of drinking water either.

Shahpur Kasim is one of the many villages in Vaishali district where people are grappling with such a crisis. Villagers here before never faced such a situation until last year since tube-wells and hand pumps always had water at 55 feet.

The situation has now turned grave as the water table has dipped to 250 feet, with government hand pumps failing to pull water from the depth.

In Brahmapur village in the same district, underground water tanks have been constructed at 20-50 feet and water motors have been installed to extricate water, which is then hand-pumped for consumption.

Collecting drinking water has turned into a nightmare for villagers. Here, women flock to get a few buckets of muddy water for their daily activities.

Fewer wells are left with water due to the onslaught of tube-wells and hand pumps.

While a few parts of the district receive drinking water through tankers sent by the government, others now buy the same.

Chandan Kumar is another victim incurring heavy losses as his mango orchard and lychee plantation have completely dried up.

Kumar had planted the crops in 10 acres of land, but as there has been hardly any yield, he incurred losses worth Rs 5 lakh.

“The crisis is severe because the water level has gone down severely. No one had ever imagined that tube-wells in the village could become defunct like hand pumps as they were bored 100-200 feet below ground level,” he says.

While several villages in Lalganj block of Vaishali district face a similar crisis, the situation is the worst in Sirsa.

Besides the mango and lychee orchards, wheat sown on hectares of lands have perished due to a fall in water levels in the region.

Some of the well-off villagers have installed submersible pumps at 350 feet below the ground level to get drinking water.

Rajeshwar Singh, who has a fish pond in Sirsa village, uses a submersible pump. “We were left with no other option as our ponds were drying up and the fish had started dying. There was a drinking water crisis as well,” he says.

In the same village, Mushar Tola has been badly hit as well. Here, elderly people walk up to a kilometre to carry potable water home.

The Jal Nal Yojana (water and tap scheme) devised to provide potable water to every household in the state has failed due to improper implementation and deep-rooted corruption. The scheme has also seen wastage of water.

According to its provisions, every APL (above poverty line) family would be charged a water tax of Rs 60 a month, while BPL (below poverty line) families would have to pay Rs 30 every month.

The government had also decided to provide filtered drinking water to areas with high levels of arsenic and iron in the water.

The district public health engineering (PHE) department has devised a long-term plan towards water conservation and usage. As part of the project, the department plans to install iron containers near one-acre farms to collect water during rain.

Executive engineer (PHE) Manoj Kumar told News18, “There is a no clear policy on the part of the government regarding the installation of submersible pumps, the rampant use of which is further taking down groundwater. The department is planning to launch an awareness programme on water usage and its conservation in the district and trying to make it a part of the school curriculum.”

Vaishali usually gets 1,168mm of rain annually. But last year, it saw a deficit of 52.7% — the highest in any district in the state.

State PHE Minister Vinod Narayan Jha, who is reportedly taking stock of the prevailing situation on a daily basis, at a recent press conference said, “The department is well prepared to meet any challenge thrown by deficit rainfall in districts. We are monitoring the groundwater table reports on a daily basis.”

Jha said 25 districts in the state are drought-affected and the government has identified 37,000 non-functional hand pumps of which 15,010 have been repaired and 3,440 replaced.

Ranchi: 6 injured in knife attack over water dispute

Source: business-standard.com

Amidst the prevailing water shortage in the region due to rising mercury, at least six people sustained injuries after being stabbed by a man here over a water dispute.

The injured are undergoing treatment in a local hospital here.

On Friday, while locals in Kishoreganj were lined up in front of a tanker to fill water, a man from a neighboring village was seen filling water in large barrels, leaving a lesser amount of water for residents of the region.

Speaking to ANI, Sunil Kumar Yadav, one among those who sustained bruises in the incident, said his father asked the man why he was taking so much water and explained that others, too, must get a chance to fill water.

Irked by this, the accused, Yadav said, began quarreling and hurled abuses at his father. When Yadav tried to intervene, the accused took out a knife and began stabbing him with it.

“A boy came to fill water multiple times in our area. My father asked him why he is taking so much water and if he takes all the water, where will everybody else get water from. He started arguing with my father. When I intervened, he hurled abuses and later stabbed me with a knife. He stabbed my mother and brother also when they tried to save me. We rounded him up and grabbed his knife, after which the police took him away,” Yadav said.

Recalling the incident, Yadav’s mother Sona Devi said she too was stabbed by the man when she tried to save her son.

Kishoreganj, locals say, is reeling under water shortage, as tankers are sent only once in four days. Locals claim they are forced to travel distances to fulfill their requirement, as water bodies in the region have begun to dry up due to soaring temperatures.

Acknowledging the situation, state minister CP Singh said people should learn how to use available water judiciously rather than fight over it.

“I heard of the knife attack, this is wrong. Everyone needs water, fighting is wrong. The state and local administration are working on water-related projects. We are trying to arrange water through pipelines, but some are installing motors and diverting water flow. People should learn how to judiciously use water and start water harvesting. It is taking time, but we’re working on it,” he added.