Narmada Samachar: 01 March 2003

Headlines


All this (and more) news can be accessed via the Press Clippings page at:
     http://www.narmada.org/pressclippings.html
The NBA press releases are accessible at:
     http://www.narmada.org/nba-press-releases

Archives of Narmada Samachar are accessible at:
     http://www.narmada.org/samachar



Narmada Samachar

Press Clippings

The linking will augment the flow of Ganga ;
Indian Express; 02 Mar 2003

MEDA to tap falls, streams for power ;
Pune Newsline; 17 Feb 2003

Arundhati to join anti-globalisation campaign ;
Deccan Herald; 11 Feb 2003

NAPM campaign kicked off from Kerala enters Maharashtra ;
keralanext.com; 10 Feb 2003

Pakistani and Indian officials meet in Islamabad to resolve water-related disputes ;
Environmental News Network; 07 Feb 2003

Regulate groundwater usage: PM ;
Economic Times; 06 Feb 2003

BJP rakes up Narmada rehabilitation issue ;
Central Chronicle; 05 Feb 2003

Proposal to link rivers a 'waste of money', says Medha Patkar ;
Outlook India; 31 Jan 2003

Experts raise doubts about river-linking project ;
The Hindu; 31 Jan 2003

NBA Press Releases

Legal Notices Issued to Narmada Valley Development Authority ;
NBA Press Release - 02 Mar 2003

Dharna of SSP Affected Adivasis in Alirajpur Enters Sixth Day ;
NBA Press Release - 26 Feb 2003

Serious Bungling in Rehabilitation of SSP Adivasi Oustees Brought to Light ;
NBA Press Release - 25 Feb 2003

Third Day of Alirajpur Dharna Continues ;
NBA Press Release - 23 Feb 2003

Dharna at Alirajpur Begins ;
NBA Press Release - 21 Feb 2003

Other Related Press Releases

Nimad Malwa Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan Press Release - Fifteen Thousand Farmers Gather in Mandleshwar to Protest Against Electricity Tariff Hikes in Madhya Pradesh ;
NBA Press Release - 27 Feb 2003

Jan Sangarsh Morcha Press Release - Struggle begins against hike in electricity tariffs, farmers launch civil disobedience movement; We shall fill not bills but jails ;
NBA Press Release - 17 Feb 2003

Press Excerpts

World Bank to back dam schemes ;
BBC; 27 Feb 2003

... The World Bank has adopted a new water strategy. Once it avoided dams and other large-scale projects because of the controversy surrounding them. Now the Bank has decided that it cannot meet the needs of the world's poor without becoming involved in the kind of schemes which have been so criticised in the past. ...

Civil society: Hidden persuader ;
Rediff, India; 15 Feb 2003

... There is the movement for right to information in Rajasthan, the questioning of the costs and benefits of large dams (think of the fall-out of Medha Patkar: I doubt if another large dam will be started in any of our lifetimes), the critique of genetically modified foods, and so on. ...

Juice By The River: Diary of a Trip ;
Rediff, India; 15 Feb 2003

... Not in British times, not in half a century of free India, not in 40 ... Electricity for nearly two thousand people, flowing from a dam, channel, tank, turbine and ...

Medha Patkar calls for political movement ;
The Hindu; 04 Feb 2003

... Activist Medha Patkar today called for largescale participation in the formation of a national political movement to challenge oppression and fight for rights. ...

Pipe-dream? ;
The Hindu; 02 Feb 2003

... THE NATIONAL river interlinking plan has been enthusiastically received for three central claims it makes for itself. One, it would lead to a permanent drought-proofing of the country by raising the irrigation potential to equal the current net sown area of about 150 million hectares. Two, it would solve, or at least mitigate, the annual floods in the Ganga and the Brahmaputra. Three, it would add 30,000 MW of hydropower to the national pool. ...

Water wars ;
The Hindu; 02 Feb 2003

... BY ITS own admission, the Centre recognises as a major hurdle the managing of a political consensus for its ambitious project to interlink rivers, even though the Government feels empowered, armed as it is with a Supreme Court order to complete the task in 10 years. ...

The smaller, the better ;
The Hindu; 02 Feb 2003

... MICHAEL EVENARI, an Israeli scientist, was intrigued when he saw ancient towns in the middle of the Negev desert which gets only about 100 mm of rain every year. Not only did they have their own drinking water systems, but surplus for agriculture too!

His research on this led to a pathbreaking finding, that small catchments manage to hold more water than larger ones. He showed that 3,000 micro-catchments of 0.1 hectares each give five times more water than one catchment of 300 hectares! ...



Feature Article: Linking India's rivers - Sudhirender Sharma, Mostafa Kamal Majumder

The AgBioIndia Bulletin - 28 Feb 2003

Estimated to cost Rs 5,60,000 crores (US $ 112 billion) , it is the mother of all projects in India - envisaging 30 links across Himalayan and peninsular rivers. Doubts have already been expressed on its economic viability though Former Union Power Minister and Shiv Sena MP Suresh Prabhu, who heads the Task Force for executing the project, is confident about mobilising resources for the same. Prabhu has already hinted at the possibility of levying interlinking surcharge or water tax but the upcoming Union Budget is unlikely to have any such reflection given the fact that elections are only a year away.

The massive project -- a dream come true for the bureaucrat, engineer and contractor nexus -- has already turned into a major national debate. Environmentalists are agitated, economists are excited and the policy makers are divided, but the government seems adament. After all, the river linking project may or may not provide water to the parched drylands of the country (70 per cent of the country's cultivable area is rainfed) but will surely 'irrigate' the future prospects of at least the next ten generations of the people assigned to execute the mega-project.

Accompanying story from the New Nation, Dhaka, unfolds Bangladesh's concern on Ganges water sharing an issue that the Task Force has conveniently pushed under the carpet.

Contents:

1. Budgeting Interlinking of Rivers -- Sudhirender Sharma2. Ganges gives red alert: '96 water treaty bypassed -- Mostafa Kamal Majumder --------------------------------------------------------------

1. Budgeting Interlinking of Rivers By Sudhirendar Sharma

Suresh Prabhu does not get tired to reiterate government's commitment to move ahead with the project by simultaneously brushing aside criticism as an unavoidable evil. The National Water Development Agency and the Ministry of Water Resources are unkind to all criticism levied against Rs. 5.60,000 crores initiative to link the Himalayan and the peninsular rivers in an unbelievable period of ten years.

Though the National Water Development Agency has conducted feasibility studies on 6 of the possible 30 river links in last two decades, Suresh Prabhu is confident about completing the project within the given timeframe. If delays in project execution in the past are anything to go by, this confidence is indeed an overstatement. However, in the absence of punitive action on cost overruns due to delayed execution optimism continues to capture the popular imagination!

Given the incredible cost of the project, should the Task Force not be held accountable for taxing the public exchequer in the event of a likely delay? Already cost overruns between 50 to 893 per cent over original estimates have been reported from some of the large water development projects. This has meant a slap of Rs. 70,000 crores and Rs 110,000 crores on the public exchequer in the 10th and the 11th Five Year Plan respectively to complete `spillover projects'. This leaves little scope of financing the interlinking project out of the planned expenditure. But the Task Force has continued to make everyone believe that indeed the project can be financed from within available resources. Current external debt situation, that has already touched a whopping Rs. 5,00,000 crore mark, may have discouraged the Task Force from opting for external lending. But internal resource condition doesn't seem any good either.

Having categorically negated raising external funding for the project, Prabhu has given a clarion call to the industry to come forward and support the costliest endeavour that the country has undertaken. The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) plans holding a national conclave soon to discuss its position in light of the potential benefits that might accrue from the project. Following the privatisation of a stretch of Sheonath river in Chattisgarh, the private sector sees a distinct role for itself in managing country's water resources. The `interlinking of rivers' proposal may indeed provide that opportunity.

The Radius Water Ltd , the company that has 'ownership' over a section of the Sheonath river under lease for thirty years, is selling water to the industry as well as the government. It is, however, another matter that the people on the banks of the river have lost ownership over their natural heritage; the farmers are not allowed to use river water; and the fishermen are barred from casting nets in the river. People even don't take risk of taking bath in the river.

By opening the floodgates to private sector investment in the interlinking proposal, the Task Force may indeed end-up bargaining the traditional rights of people over water resources. Because it is not only the capital investment that the government is seeking for the project but recurring expenses towards operations and management too. Privatisation helps achieve both, as consumers have to pay for every drop, whether be it for household needs or irrigation.

With operations and maintenance expected to cost no less than Rs. 30,000 per hectare for the interlinking proposal, the success of the project will depend on how best the recurring costs get realised from the users. Undoubtedly, the water- stressed communities that stand to benefit from proposed interlinking will have to incur the costs of sustaining the ambitious project. With this being the likely scenario, whose question the project is seeking to answer is anybody's guess?

Dr Sudhirendar Sharma is a water expert and columnist attached to the Delhi- based The Ecological Foundation. Email: sudhirendar@vsnl.net

-------------------------------------

2. Ganges gives red alert: '96 water treaty bypassed The New Nation, Dhaka, January 16, 2003 By Mostafa Kamal Majumder

Bangladesh's share of Ganges flow fell short of the schedule set by the 1996 water treaty in the entire month of January and the first ten days of February, and made water experts worried about the country's share during the next two months and a half of this dry season.

Responsible quarters have it that during the recent meeting of the Joint Expert Committee (JEC) the Bangladesh side informally sought to know from India the reasons behind the shortfall. It received hints that Ganges water might have been diverted at further upstream to address problem of water scarcity faced by some Indian states, highly placed sources said.

Figures released in Dhaka by the Joint Rivers Commission, Bangladesh, show that during the first ten days of January, Ganges water available at the Hardinge Bridge point was 54,415 cubic feet per second (cusecs) as against the indicative schedule of 67,516 cusecs for the period. The shortfall in Bangladesh's share was thus nearly 13,000 cusecs. Bangladesh's share of water of the river continues to fall short of the indicative schedule mentioned in the agreement. In the second ten-day period the shortfall was nearly 9,000 cusecs. The deficit was about 5,500 cusecs during the last 11 day period of January and about 5,000 cusecs during the first ten days of January.

Since the signing of the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty in December 1996, Bangladesh' share was markedly less than the indicative schedule in the very first lean season that followed. The lowest ever share of 6,000 cusecs was recorded in the dry season of 1997. Deficiency in Bangladesh's share was recorded also in 2001, but the figures were never released. Responsible quarters told The New Nation that during the last 10-day period of March 2001 Bangladesh's share of water averaged 19,898 cusecs as against the indicative schedule of 29,688 cusecs. On 24th of that month the flow had fallen to 15,200 cusecs. Again during the second 10-day period of April that year the Ganges flow to Bangladesh averaged 20,830 cusecs whereas the indicative schedule was 27,633 cusecs. The actual flow had come down to 15,302 cusecs and 15,040 cusecs on 14 and 15 April that year. Similarly during the first ten days of May, 2001 the average flow was 27,039 cusecs as against the indicative schedule of 32,351 cusecs. The flow had come down to 18,794 cusecs on 5th May and 19,056 cusecs on the day before that year, according to the responsible quarters.

As per the terms of the treaty Ganges water is shared during the lean months from January to May. JRC, Bangladesh in a press release has said that the latest figures are based on joint monitoring of water available at the Hardinge Bridge point, located about 90 kilometres downstream of the Farakka Barrage in West Bengal (India). Water experts in Bangladesh are of the view that actual release of water at Farakka point would be less than these figures because a river flowing downstream regenerates some flow from ground water coming from land areas on its two sides. The JRC, Bangladesh could have given an idea about the extent of water sharing if it was in a position to tell how much water was available at Farakka barrage.

Water experts are worried also by the fact that the indicative schedule of share of water was worked out on the basis of the availability of water at Farakka thus giving Bangladesh no say over the utilisation of water at further upstream of the Ganges. Water sharing is thus dependent on factors like quantum of flow affected not only by ice-melt up in the Himalayas and rainfall, but also by water withdrawal on the Indian part of the basin. As per the treaty the two countries are to have equal shares if the water available at Farakka is 70,000 cusecs or less. However, in case the availablity of water at Farakka is up to 75,000 cusecs, Bangladesh's share will remain fixed at 35,000 cusecs while India will get the balance of flow. In case the water available at Farakka is in excess of 75,000 cusecs, India will get 40,000 cusecs and Bangladesh the balance of flow.

The treaty put a condition that India and Bangladesh each should receive guaranteed 35,000 cusecs of water in alternative three 10-day periods from March 1 to May 10. The water sharing arrangement under the treaty was to be reviewed by the two governments at five years' interval or earlier, but so far no such review has taken place. Against this backdrop even this treaty runs the risk of turning irrelevant in the near future if the gigantic plan taken up by India to inter-link Himalayan rivers to divert water to her southern states is implemented in 15 years from now. Additional reading

1. Changing the CourseLinking 37 rivers to resolve India's water crisis is a dream project. Unless logistical challenges are met, it could remain just that, a dream. By Shankkar Aiyar, India Today, Jan 20, 2003.

2. Chasing a mirage of water History will not forgive us if we do not take a decision after a careful examination of the costs and benefits of linking rivers. By C. Rammanohar Reddy, The Hindu, Dec 21, 2002. 3. Inter-linking rivers -- the Kerala experience By R. Madhavan Nair, The Hindu, Dec 11, 2002