Interlinking of Rivers

Linking may lead to more frequent flooding of the Betwa river

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 21, 2006

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EVERYTHING about this controversial project is low-key. The Ken-Betwa Link Project is the first link in a series of projects to build dams and canals between 30 of India's rivers, major and minor. In August 2005, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh signed a Memorandum of Understanding for starting work on the canal to link the Ken and Betwa rivers.

The 427-km long Ken river rises in Madhya Pradesh, flows through the State for 292 km and then joins the Yamuna at Chilla in Uttar Pradesh. The districts of Chatarpur and Panna in Madhya Pradesh and Bandha in Uttar Pradesh depend on it for water via a network of weirs and canals built a century ago. According to the MP irrigation department, these have all been declared defunct, having outlived their utility.

The Betwa is another tributary of the Yamuna that also rises in the same region as the Ken and flows north through MP for 232 km. It joins the Yamuna at Hamirpur in UP, upstream of the Ken. This is the larger of the two rivers.

The link proposal suggests building a 230-km-long canal to transfer 1020 million cubic metres (mcm) of surplus water from the Ken to the Betwa river. The canal will originate at the Daudhan dam, to be constructed a few kilometres upstream of two existing (defunct) weirs. In addition, there will be four more dams. All of these will be built in the Panna National Park and will submerge a large part of this protected area.

The project will irrigate an estimated 3.7 lakh hectares of additional land, give 3.3 lakh people drinking water and generate 66 MW of power. It is estimated to cost Rs. 8,500 crore. 8.650 Ha of land submerged by the dams and the canal. The canal will be linked to existing tanks and ponds en route to its destination to the Barwa Sagar, an old reservoir on a small stream near Jhansi that empties into the Betwa river. In addition to rains, Bundelkhand has a rich history of tank irrigation. The Chandelas and later rulers built a network of large and small tanks by walling up streams, drains and rivers over the last millennium. These are largely functional even now and in many towns and villages are the main source of water for drinking, washing and irrigation. Some are large enough to be used for fishing. Most hold enough water to last a couple of years without good rainfall. Most places along the likely route of the canal are already well irrigated by these tanks and other small rivers in the region, including the Dhasan river. The canal is supposed to feed some of these tanks, while draining others.

The entire stretch that the canal is to pass through is hilly and very rocky. The land slopes from south to north and from east to west. All the rivers and underground aquifers flow in this general direction. The canal will block this natural flow of water, leading to waterlogging in the southern part of the region. It will reduce water availability to the north. The canal also has to cross the Dhasan river. All this will make its construction a contentious and environmentally destructive activity.

In order to recover the construction costs, the project proposes to charge for the use of water, based on the crop grown per Ha. In order to pay these charges, farmers will have to change their cropping pattern to cash crops. Small and marginal farmers will get edged out in the process.

Rajendra Parmar, who farms some 10 Ha outside Nowgong near Chatarpur, is sceptical about the canal. The land, he says, is very well irrigated with tanks, canals and tube wells. The extra water will only cause waterlogging.

Further, both the rivers flow through the same part of the country. They flood at the same time. The Betwa enters the Yamuna upstream of the Ken. If the Ken's waters are added to the Betwa, there will be regular floods along the section of the Yamuna between Hamirpur and Chilla. Conversely, says Dr. Prakash, there will be droughts immediately downstream of Chilla. The project will not mitigate floods or droughts; it will exacerbate them.

There are enough examples of drought mitigation at the local level around the country. However, the drawback from the government and industry's perspective is that these are driven by local communities and do not benefit either babudom or industrialists. A mega project is a feast for bureaucrats, politicians and businessmen. This alone will be sufficient reason to go ahead with river linking despite objections and agitations by local people.

Hindu Sunday magazine

Environmental Education

A lot needs to be done!

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 19, 2006

Blog

The time has come for environmental education to move out of class rooms and address real problems out there. Environmental Education, I have always believed, is a life long learning subject. It cannot be straightjacketed as biology, chemistry, economocs law, etc- It has to take from all disciplines to be meaningful. This can really be achieved by any educated person.

We had an interesting chat on the topic with Lima Rosalind of WWF(I).

Read the transcript by clicking HERE.

Wildlife

Are we doing enough to protect TIGER, the most potent symbol of Asia?

Posted by Puja on July 17, 2006

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According to researchers the tiger population has dropped over the past 100 years from an estimated 100,000 in 1900 to only 4000 in the 1970's. In wake of the tiger crisis, government launched the Project Tiger in 1972 and we achieved little improvement in population of tigers from 4000 in 1970 to 5000-7500 tigers at present. Further, many national and international organisations are also doing their bits to safeguard the population of our national animal. To save these big cats we have to check the dangerous threats to tigers like habitat destruction, poaching, and especially human-tiger clash. If you also want to save this magnificent creature, then come ahead and voice your concern with merinews. Merinews, a participatory media platform have recently started a special coverage on the Tiger Conservation, in which we have a discussion going on regarding tigers’ future in India. I’m sure you have something interesting on the subject to share with our readers. You can voice your concern and share your experiences and insights on this subject by registering on our site and posting your articles here. Post your articles here. To read more articles, click here Puja

Any other

Tigers in Trouble - Protect Them

Posted by Puja on July 17, 2006

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TIGER, the most potent symbol of Asia, the pride of the Jungle is facing trouble. Today there is little ground remaining for our national animal. According to researchers the tiger population has dropped over the past 100 years from an estimated 100,000 in 1900 to only 4000 in the 1970's. In wake of the tiger crisis, government launched the Project Tiger in 1972 and we achieved little improvement in population of tigers from 4000 in 1970 to 5000-7500 tigers at present. So let us all unite to re-establish the dignity of the “Greatest Cat” that they deserve. If you really want to save this magnificent creature from becoming extinct, then come forward and voice your concern with merinews. Merinews, a participatory media platform have recently started a special coverage on the Tiger Conservation, in which we have a discussion going on regarding tigers’ future in India. I’m sure you have something interesting on the subject to share with our readers. You can voice your concern and share your experiences and insights on this subject by registering on our site and posting your articles here. http://www.merinews.com/newsPortal/JSP/tiger.jsp" To read more articles, http://www.merinews.com/rss-headlines.html Puja

Bio-Diversity

What can a city dweller do?

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 16, 2006

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Simple actions such as maintaining a wildlife friendly garden can actually contribute to biodiversity. Its a long shot but if everyone where to modify their gardens in this way it could actually make a difference to some species e.g. the declining populations of house sparrows to name one.

 Let your lawn go natural for wildlife.

Save trees by reducing your junk mail

Environmental Education

Environmental education has no borders

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 14, 2006

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Courses in environmental studies are very good at describing issues. Educators must also give techniques or tools for aspiring environmental professionals. Here is the gist of a discussion in a group at myspace.com which I found interesting.

"A bricklayer layes bricks, a graphic designer designs PR and websites, a teacher teaches, a car mechanic fixes cars, but environmental professionals? In my thoughts you have to specialize in a set discipline, then you can later slant it towards conservation. You must frame the issues, not describe them.

I've learned this the hard way because for me it's been hard to develop a resume with concrete assets, not abstract thoughts."

"If there are tools for environmental professionals in conservation, what are they? Teaching this is not easy. Environmental problems are very site specific, and any good solution needs to factor in social and economical aspects. It comes with experience, and with asking lots of questions.

What does an environmental professional use? That depends on the environmental problem, its scale, temporality, spatial extent, etc. I would be pretty confident to say that mathematical models, geographical information systems (GIS), statistical analysis, and a thorough understanding of the specific field of interest, field and lab equipment and procedures. This is ideally complemented by a knowledge of law, economics, sociology at the minimum."

Environment Awareness

Environmental problems

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 12, 2006

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Environmental problems are very site specific, and any good solution needs to factor in social and economical aspects. It comes with experience, and with asking lots of questions.

"Marketing" is an important issue, not only with environmental problems but with most problem in general. It is not only important to identify a problem, it is equally important to be able to present it to the public in a way that people can identify with it and to express it in a way that is easy to comprehend.

 You will be learning about many problems that may seem overwhelming, and at times you may feel that there are so many aspects to an issue that it is impossible to get a grasp on all of them.

Water quality is deteriorating, nitrate is killing off habitats, phosphorus is accelarating the closure of lakes, ground water is being polluted, farming accelerates erosion of soil, air quality is suffering, but on the other hand we need food, cash crops and food security. Where do you strike the balance?

 How do you make incentives for farmers to apply conservation practices? Who should pay for these costs? Who should pay for the economic downturn of fisheries ? These issued need to be aired and the public should know the impacts and the efforts to reduce them.

We need to generate debate on issues concerning the environment.  It is the ecosystem that is sustaining humanity.

Wildlife Poaching

Big Cats in Crisis – Save Them

Posted by Puja on July 12, 2006

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TIGER, the most potent symbol of Asia, the pride of the Jungle is facing trouble. Today there is little ground remaining for our national animal. According to researchers the tiger population has dropped over the past 100 years from an estimated 100,000 in 1900 to only 4000 in the 1970's. In wake of the tiger crisis, government launched the Project Tiger in 1972 and we achieved little improvement in population of tigers from 4000 in 1970 to 5000-7500 tigers at present. So let us all unite to re-establish the dignity of the “Greatest Cat” that they deserve. If you really want to save this magnificent creature from becoming extinct, then come forward and voice your concern. Merinews provides an open platform for all to share & express their opinion on issues important to them. Click here to submit your views: - www.merinews.com

Engineers and Environment

Invisible rural engineer

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 12, 2006

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Chewang Norphel, 67, is a soft-spoken innovator from Ladakh. For over 15 years, Norphel, a civil engineer by training, has been building ‘artificial glaciers’ to make life a little easier for the hard-working but poverty-stricken farmers of Ladakh. Farmers in his village call him a messiah. Ex-President K R Narayanan called him an “invisible rural engineer”. But Norphel is better known as Ladakh’s ‘glacier man’ who can generate water and vegetation in the barren landscape of Ladakh.

For his work he was awarded the Far Eastern Economic Review’s 1999 Gold Asian Innovation Award.

Norphel comes from the small village of Skarra on the outskirts of Leh, the capital of Ladakh. He always wanted to do something to help the people of the region who suffer the harsh conditions of this remote, inhospitable high-altitude desert in the Himalayas, where temperatures can drop to below -30°C. Ladakh experiences long, severe winters and brief summers. And to top it all, water is in short supply. Ladakh is in the rain-shadow area of the Himalayas, where the annual average rainfall seldom exceeds 50 mm. The only water source is glacier water coming down the mountains. When glaciers melt in summer, they release water that is used by the people of Ladakh to irrigate their crops.

 “I realised that all the problems of the region were related to water, which was scarce in most areas,” says Norphel. This water shortage is more acutely felt during the summer months, between March/April and June. These months are critical for Ladakh’s farmers. Any delay in sowing the crop rules out an October harvest, as the crop does not then mature in time to beat the harsh winter. Only single crops like wheat, barley and peas are grown here.

The glaciers begin melting only after July. And so the short sowing season sometimes begins and ends before the bulk of water is made available through the melting of natural glaciers. Sometimes there’s no water to irrigate even a few crops. Norphel’s watershed intervention -- the ‘artificial glacier’ -- came from the simple observation that “while there was such a shortage of water at the start of the cropping season, a lot of water was being wasted during winter”.

He noticed that in winter water taps were left open to stop the water from freezing in the pipes. The water flowed into the drains surrounding the taps and froze. “And it is then that it occurred to me: why not try and make artificial glaciers in the vicinity of the village so that local farmers get a real headstart when they need it most,” says Norphel.

Norphel used to work with the Jammu and Kashmir rural development department making zings (small tanks fed by run-off from melting glaciers). A year after he retired from government service, in 1996, he joined as project manager for watershed development for the Leh Nutrition Project, a local civil society organisation. This gave him the opportunity to try out his ‘artificial glacier’ idea to trap and freeze water for future use. Norphel’s technique uses a network of pipes to capture and channel precious snowmelt that would otherwise be wasted. No crops are grown during Ladakh’s severe winters; the little water there is in the mountain streams generally goes waste.

Using some local ingenuity, Norphel built his ‘artificial glacier’ from stone embankments and a few hundred metres of iron pipe. First, water from an existing stream was diverted through iron pipes to a shady area of the valley. From there, the water was made to flow out onto a sloping hill at regular intervals along the mountain slope. Small stone embankments impede the flow of water, creating shallow pools. During the winter, as temperatures drop steadily, the water in these small pools freezes. Once this cycle has been repeated over many weeks, a thick sheet of ice forms, resembling a long, thin glacier. Norphel managed to freeze water in pipes as well. “I noticed in Leh that water sometimes did not freeze in the channels but did so in the thin iron pipes. As the pipes are made of metal and are very thin, they lose heat quite rapidly,” he explains.

There are several advantages of an artificial glacier over a natural one. To start with, it’s closer to the village and at a comparatively lower altitude. Natural glaciers, on the other hand, are located way up in the mountains and they melt slowly in summer, releasing water to the villages quite late. Early water release from an artificial glacier comes as a bonus for farmers. It enables them to get water a whole month before the snow starts melting on the mountain tops. This is particularly useful to start sowing, as the sowing season ends before water from natural glaciers begins to flow down the mountain.

The largest artificial glacier Norphel has built so far is near the village of Phuktsey. About 1,000 feet (300 metres) long, 150 feet (45 metres) wide, and four feet (1 metre) deep, it supplies irrigation water to the entire village of around 700 people. Norphel says the glacier was built at a cost of about Rs 90,000, which is about a tenth of what it would have cost to build a reservoir with similar storage capacity.

This technology has become immensely popular with the people of Ladakh, not only because it is effective but also because it is simple and affordable and makes use of local resources and skills. And there’s minimal maintenance required. “The villagers can understand this,” Norphel says. “This is optimum utilisation of water by using the simplest technique, at a low cost. It also helps recharge groundwater and nearby springs.”

As more and more glaciers are being constructed all over Ladakh, more and more barren land is coming under cultivation, providing better opportunities to poor and marginalised communities in the region. Norphel hopes that solving Ladakh’s water problems will help slow down the migration of young people to the plains. Improving the economic viability of farms, he says, will sustain village communities and also preserve the ancient Buddhist heritage of his people.

Norphel’s efforts have been tracked in a film by docu-filmmaker Fayaz Rizvi, titled A Degree of Concern, which was recently screened on the National Geographic Channel.

nature/wildlife films

Power of Video to change/motivate? Read this real life story

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 09, 2006

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"Ela Bhatt was totally sold on the idea.

With support from the United Nations Development Programme and USAID, she managed to bring the Martha Stewart team to Ahmedabad. Twenty women from SEWA were given an intensive three-week training. They were all women from the unorganised sector who were unfamiliar even with basic electrical stuff, let alone digital technology. There was Leelaben, the vegetable vendor, Shubhadraben, the bidi-roller, Taraben, the incense-stick-maker…

Leelaben recalls: “I was dying every day and living every day. As a vegetable vendor I used to sit in Manek Chowk market with two baskets of vegetables. But the police always abused us, displacing us whenever they wished to.” For Shubhadra, the bidi-roller, protesting against unjustified wages or insufficient security measures in the workplace was difficult before she learnt how to record her demands. It’s been a long journey since 1984.

For the poor illiterate women of SEWA, Video Sewa has become a tool for change. What began as a sensitisation programme has turned into a mechanism for protest and marshalling public opinion. From simply depicting poor women’s concerns, it has become a canvas for information-dissemination, awareness-building and policy advocacy.

But for the users of this technology, there’s no jargon-spewing. The day Leelaben understood the hidden powers of the video she knew immediately what she had to do. Neelam Dave, coordinator Video SEWA, joined SEWA in 1981. She was among the first group of 20 members to be trained. Although Neelam was a trained photographer she was not exposed to the digital media and she found the training immensely useful. Explaining the effectiveness of video as a communications tool, Neelam says: “Video footage can make the authorities sit up. Leelaben and Shubhadraben both recorded the deplorable conditions of vegetable vendors and bidi-rollers. Armed with the footage, we visited the Ahmedabad civic authorities that responded faster than ever before.”

On a different occasion, the bidi workers of Anand district united to agitate against their employer who had illegally sacked them from their jobs. They had no testimony to back them up, but they had recorded their experiences, which were used as evidence in the Supreme Court, resulting in a favourable judgment and compensation for the women. Neelamben explains that this is not an isolated incident. “We went to Lucknow some years ago, to organise women doing chikankari embroidery. After the core training programme was over we screened some footage of a rally we had shot in Ahmedabad. The footage related to the demands of readymade garment workers for minimum wages. The Lucknowi women were enthused. They immediately decided to organise a similar rally in Lucknow. Such is the power of video,” says Neelamben.

With over 100 films completed, Video SEWA is now a movement. Somewhere down the line it became more than just a protest tool. It is also a space to discuss and negotiate macro issues like food security, water and sanitation, labour rights and women’s rights."

Nilosree Biswas (Nilosree Biswas is a journalist and filmmaker based in Ahmedabad) InfoChange News & Features, April 2006

http://www.infochangeindia.org/ItanddIstory.jsp?section_idv=9&storyofchangev=ItanddIstory.jsp

 




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