NBA Press Release
  22 August 2006
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Flood Management, Not control through either ILR or Large Dams, will show the way !

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It is not just Narmada but Tapti, Krishna, Godavari and other small and large rivers, too, which are in spate and whose basins, the rural as well as urban populations therein, houses, lands, and property, went under waters. 'Doob' was experienced by even those urban dwellers who might have denounced the struggle of the dam-affected and ridiculed their pain and sufferings. While there is nothing to rejoice, there is much to learn. The floods in all the above rivers and their basins could not be controlled but were worsened with the Dams, especially large ones, against the claims. The releases from Ukai Dam submerged the market city of Surat. Those from Mahi-Kadana Dam brought in flooding of the Vadodara district; Dams in Krishna created havoc in the populated and politicized regions of Maharashtra - Kolhapur and Sangli Districts - as well as in Karnataka. Godavari dams too, flooded the districts of Marathwada Region. The impact of natural heavy rainfall was worsened by the artificial dams which could not function as a mechanism for controlling floods.

The problem cannot be termed as an unexpected calamity since any dam is to be planned with 1:100 rainfall presumed. Not one dam and one river, the tributaries to major rivers in a river basin, are also to be taken into consideration, with the cumulative impact, at the planning stage itself. Even the simultaneous releases from all the dams in the river basin should have therefore been expected and planned for. What we were witnessing instead is that the technocrats and politicians hide behind the arguments of failure in regulation, while earlier they boasted of perfection in monitoring the flows and assessing the impacts. The people should know that if Ukai Dam released 10 lakh cusecs of water, and along with the heavy flows in the Tapti Basin, that should have been within the parameters of the dam and anticipated.

Dam releases, one should know, are not "god given" or "unmanageable" or "un-anticipated". They are not calculated with the worst scenario in mind and hence when the releases occur, unscientific explanations are thrown in the face of the suffering people, hungry and thirsty amidst water all around. The same is to happen in Narmada where Bharuch City and seven lakh population in the downstream of SSP would face a cycle of drought and flood in the years to come.

The experience of dams causing floods in the west to south India is to be analyzed to know that flood control with huge structures obstructing, storing and releasing major flows has failed more than once and needs an alternative. The option is, flood management in place of flood control. The degraded catchments with reduced green cover and no small ponds and bunds are proving to be increasingly incapable of local water harnessing that could percolate and fill the groundwater aquifers, too. Instead the precipitation flows away in the form of flash floods and drought follows. In the cities, problem is intensified with no percolation possible due to concrete flooring changing the runoff coefficient, leaving no land for recharging the sub-surface reserves. With drains blocked and not deepened nor widened, with the population and its fast growth has resulted in an unprecedented crisis. It's a cumulative impact of all of this with change in the rainfall pattern due to climatic transformation that is to be dealt with.

The statement by the President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam, is more than shocking in the above context. His propagation of large capacity reservoirs and massive inter-river basin transfers through the gigantic project of river inter-linking is a solution that can prove poisonous and not medicinal. He must be told in a forthright manner that the best of water management has to begin with the first drop where it falls and end within the outer limit of a river basin and not beyond. The President should know that in the case of Alamatti, the dam which he dedicated to the nation, there was no backwater level computation. And no truthful information provided to the people in Kolhapur, Maharashtra who have suddenly faced submergence of 75,000 hectares of land and 14,000 houses last year and a little less this year. The people were randomly evicted and further blamed for not submitting to the orders of the almighty. The politicians to the President should, however, know that those who face the brunt are more water-literate than the planners and the policy makers. They have to and they will rise to save their lives and resources by managing the waters through post-modern decentralized ways which are neither destructive nor causing displacement.

Medha Patkar