Maharshtra – 2012 drought worse than in 1972; study blames govt mishandling


Ketaki Ghoge , Hindustan times , April 4, 2013

MUMBAI: The drought looming in one-third of the state has been compared to that in 1972. Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, among others, termed it as worse than the one the state faced 40 years back.

The answer to this remark can be traced more to the government’s failure in agriculture and water management than nature’s wrath.

South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), a network of organisations working on water- related issues, compared and analysed rainfall figures from June to October in 1972 and 2012 in 17 drought-affected districts and found that rainfall in 1972 was much lower than in 2012 for every month except June.

The figures show that in 2012, eight districts witnessed more than 50% deficit rainfall in June, none in July, three districts had 50% deficit rainfall in August, one district in September and two districts in October.

In 1972, three districts witnessed more than 50% deficit rainfall in June, nine districts in July, nine in August, six in September and 17 in October.

In 1971 too, rainfall was low. But in 2011, the rainfall was above average and most of the dams were full.

SANDRP argued that in the intervening 40 years, Maharashtra has been able to build big dams and it should have been able to store more water and reduce the impact of rainfall deficit. However, big dams starting with Jayakwadi, Ujani and Dudhana have nearly 0 % live storage as of now.

One of the reasons that SANDRP attributes this to is sugarcane farming. Overall, the area under sugarcane in Maharashtra increased from 167,000 hectares in 1972 to 102,2000 hectares in 2012. “Solapur, Pune, Ahmednagar, Satara, Sangli, Jalna, Osmanabad, Beed, Latur, Nasik, Parbhani and Aurangabad , all drought prone and drought affected districts of the state, are also major sugarcane producing districts. They collectively produce 79.5 % of sugarcane of Maharashtra and more than a quarter of sugarcane production of the country in 2012,” said Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP. The repeated drought cycle has not stopped farmers from taking up sugarcane farming and the government has failed to put any restrictions on this waterguzzling farming or control water releases upstream from the big dams.

Research by South Asia

How the other half dries


P. Sainath, The Hindu

  • MAN-MADE DROUGHT: In Maharashtra, even tigers do not have
    MAN-MADE DROUGHT: In Maharashtra, even tigers do not have “an attached forest reserve.” A hoarding on the Mumbai-Pune Highway. Photo: P. Sainath
  • MAN-MADE DROUGHT: In rural Maharashtra, you take water when you find it, wherever you find it. Photo: P. Sainath
    MAN-MADE DROUGHT: In rural Maharashtra, you take water when you find it, wherever you find it. Photo: P. Sainath
  • MAN-MADE DROUGHT: In rural Maharashtra, you take water when you find it, wherever you find it. Photo: P. Sainath
    MAN-MADE DROUGHT: In rural Maharashtra, you take water when you find it, wherever you find it. Photo: P. Sainath

How we use water can be as important as how much water we have. Who owns or controls that water will prove crucial

“Every apartment is a dream come true — the coronet that tops the king-sized lifestyle of true blue blood.” So run the ads. Yup. The blue bloods do it big. Each apartment has its own private swimming pool. These are, after all, “super-luxurious, supersized designer apartments.” The kind that “match the royal lifestyles.” There are also the villas the builders proudly announce as their “first gated community project.” And yes, each of them ranging from 9,000 to 22,000 square feet also offers its own private swimming pool. In yet other buildings coming up, the duplex penthouses will each have, you guessed it: private swimming pools.

These are just in Pune alone. All of them with other amenities needing still more water. A small but proud trend — with the promise of more to come. All of them in regions of a State lamenting their greatest drought in 40 years. In Maharashtra, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s view, one of our worst droughts ever. In a State where thousands of villages now depend on visits from water tankers. A daily visit if you’re lucky. Once or twice a week if you’re not. Yet it’s as if there is no connection between the swimming pools and the drying lakes. There’s very little discussion about it, for sure. As little as there was during two decades when the State rejoiced in the spread of dozens of “water parks” and water-theme entertainment parks. At one point, a score of them in the Greater Mumbai region alone.

Major diversions

Across the drought-hit regions of the State, despair grows. Over 7,000 villages are drought or scarcity-hit. Officially. Thousands of others are also in a bad way but are not classified as drought-hit. Of those declared as affected, some will get a bit of help. The government runs water tanker visits for them. Thousands of others make direct deals with private tankers. Close to half-a-million animals are dependent on cattle camps. Distress sales of cattle go on briskly, too. Water in many reservoirs is below 15 per cent. In some it is close to dead-storage levels. But far more than the searing drought of 1972, this is a man-made one.

There have been huge diversions of water in the last 15 years to industrial projects. And to private companies also in the lifestyle business. To cities from villages. Blood has been shed over such transfers. As in Maval in 2011 when police fired on angry farmers, killing three and wounding 19 others. They were protesting the government acquiring their land for a water pipeline from the Pavana dam to Pimpri Chinchwad. The scale of water loss this implied drew thousands more into the protests as well. The State’s response at the time was to book around 1,200 people for “attempted murder.” And for rioting as well.

Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar also did his best to lock in the control of industry over irrigation. He even tried to amend for the worse, the already regressive Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Act. One new clause on his agenda would have barred any challenge to water-distribution policies.

The trends in diversion for lifestyle-entertainment though, are not new. In 2005, a huge “Fun & Food Village Water & Amusement Park” popped up in Nagpur (Rural) district. That, in a period of real water stress. The Fun “Village” had 18 kinds of water slides. It also had “India’s first snowdrome” along with an ice rink. It is not easy to maintain snow and ice in 47° heat. That took huge amounts of electricity in a region seeing 15-hour power cuts. It also guzzled massive amounts of water.

Lavasa and agriculture

This is also a State that added quite a few golf courses in the past decade or so. It now has 22, with more in the pipeline. Golf courses use huge amounts of water. This has often sparked conflicts with farmers in the past. Golf courses worldwide also use vast amounts of pesticide that can seep into and affect the water of others as well.

Besides, this is a State where we’ve seen angry protests over the water soaked up by private projects like Lavasa, “Independent India’s first hill city.” Sharad Pawar has drawn applause for ticking off his own party’s minister, Bhaskar Jadhav, for wasteful spending on a family wedding in a time of drought. But the Union Agriculture Minister has always been gung-ho about Lavasa. The project’s website noted quite a while ago that it has “permission to store” 0.87 TMC. That is — 24.6 billion litres of water.

No State has spent more money to create less irrigation. The Economic Survey 2011-12 found that land under irrigation had gone up by just 0.1 per cent of land in a whole decade. Which still means that less than 18 per cent of cropped area in the State is irrigated. That’s after spending tens of billions of rupees to produce many millionaires and very little irrigation. The major transfers of water to industry also come in a time of agricultural decline. (A 23 per cent fall in foodgrain in 2011-12 according to the Economic Survey.)

Even as foodcrop declines, fully two-thirds of Maharashtra’s sugarcane is grown in drought-prone or water scarce areas. At least one Collector had called for sugarcane crushing in his district to be suspended during this crisis. The sugar factories there together use up to 90 lakh litres a day. Given the power the sugar barons wield, the Collector is more likely to be suspended than the crushing.

The water needed for one acre of sugarcane can irrigate 10-12 acres of foodcrops like jowar. More than half of Maharashtra’s irrigation water goes to this crop which takes just six per cent of the cultivated area. Sugarcane requires “180 acre inches of water.” That is, 18 million litres per acre. Eighteen million litres can meet the domestic water needs of 3,000 rural households for a month (That’s based on a modest 40 litres a day per person). This in regions where the water table falls every year. That has not deterred Maharashtra from encouraging Rose cultivation — a very tiny trend but growing swiftly with the promise of more to come. Roses need even more water. They need “212 acre inches.” Which is — 21.2 million litres of water per acre. Indeed, rose cultivation, small as it is, has been a cause for some celebration in the State. Exports this year went up by some 15-25 per cent. The rupee’s slide, an extended winter — and “Valentine’s Day” — gifted rose growers this happy situation.

In the last 15 years, the only regulatory frameworks the State has put in place lead to greater privatisation of water. To quicker loss of community control over this natural resource. One that is rapidly depleting. At the same time, the unchecked exploitation of groundwater has made things a lot worse. Maharashtra worked hard to get to the crisis it now faces. Private swimming pools amidst oceans of dry despair. For the rich, there is never a scarcity. For so many of the rest, their hopes evaporate by the day.

sainath.p@thehindu.co.in

 

160 sorties failed but BMC to go for #cloudseeding again


 

This image explaining cloud seeding shows the ...

This image explaining cloud seeding shows the chemical either silver iodine or dry ice being dumped onto the cloud which then becomes a rain shower. The process shown in the upper right is what is happening in the cloud and the process of condensation to the introduced chemicals. Sources for image: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Linah Baliga, TNN Aug 1, 2012,

MUMBAI: Having failed to make artificial rains despite 160 attempts in 2009, the civic body will resort to the same technique this year to make for the shortfall. On Thursday, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will hold a video conference with officials from India Meteorological Department (IMD), Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) and Israeli firm Mekorot to decide on cloud seeding methods in catchment areas of lakes supplying water to the city. Mekorot will assist BMC with technological infrastructure like radar and aircraft.

Though civic officials admitted that last time they were unsuccessful, they said this year they are trying to correct the past mistakes. “This time we are doing it under expert guidance, as we had not sought help from agencies like IMD and IITM earlier. After discussing it with IITM they have come to a conclusion that cloud seeding is now a well established science. It’s a proven thing that cloud seeding makes inefficient clouds efficient,” additional municipal commissioner Rajiv Jalota said.

 

IITM has told BMC that Israel has extensively developed its technology on cloud seeding and has been using it for over 50 years. “Fortunately, we had a MoU with Israel’s water and energy department in June, last year. Since the past 15 days, we have been in touch with Israel’s national water company Mekorot to undertake this experiment,” he said.

In 2009, attempts were made over Tansa and Modak Sagar lakes with the help of Hyderabad-based Agni Aviation and the civic body spent Rs 8 crore on the project. Civic officials from the hydraulic department claimed that the experiment failed as BMC was unable to calculate the difference in amount of rainfall in catchment areas after cloud seeding was carried out.

Jalota said that the last experiment in 2009 at Tansa and Modak Sagar was done with the help of an aircraft and also by burning silver iodide crystals.

This time around, the experiment will involve sprinkling of silver iodide on clouds over Tansa, Bhatsa, Upper Vaitarna and Modak Sagar lakes to induce precipitation and subsequently artificial rains. “The technicians will be sitting inside the aircraft to monitor every step. The cloud seeding will be done at the base of the cloud when the cloud is having an updraft and has a reflectivity between 30dbz and 35dbz. This is the time the cloud is best suited for cloud seeding. It takes half-an-hour for the clouds to be efficient and it rains. The average speed of the cloud will be 15 metres per second,” Jalota said.

He said the civic body is in touch with Mekorot’s Mumbai base in Bandra Kurla Complex. “The modalities will be worked out on Thursday, whether or not to use IMD’s radar. We will also decide on whether Mekorot will provide us with just the aircraft or even manpower to operate the aircraft,” said Jalota.

If all goes well, Mumbaikars will also get an additional 455 million litres per day, as gates of Middle Vaitarna dam will be opened and water from the dam will be released by September.

Don’t make water supply out to be rocket science

The BMC should stop looking at outlandish ideas for maintaining supply to taps. Statistics indicate that Mumbai would not have to go through water cuts had the BMC simply turned its attention to plugging the leaks in the distribution chain and the widespread pilferage. The BMC has managed to keep the level of water cut down to 10 per cent this year but some long-term planning and attention to basic details could have done away with even this bit of pain.

 

 

 

 

HRF statement on drought and farmers suicides


Press Release

Hyderabad —The Human Rights Forum (HRF) calls upon the government to bring about a comprehensive ‘Drought Relief Code’. It should encompass measures that must be implemented towards effective drought relief and mitigation. The duties of the State to the people affected by drought and the rights and entitlements of those who suffer from drought must be codified in this law. Such a code is imperative because governments continue to exhibit adhocism and tokenism in the matter of relief towards the drought-hit.

Over the past several weeks HRF teams visited 47 villages in 9 drought-hit districts of the State where farmers have committed suicide. While exact figures are difficult to obtain, it is our estimate that not less than 290 farmers have ended their lives in AP over the past three months, over 90 per cent of them from the rain-fed districts of Telangana and Rayalseema.

Most are small, marginal farmers and tenant farmers. Cotton farmers in Telangana and groundnut farmers in Rayalseema account for the maximum farm suicides. Farmers are taking their own lives principally because of the appalling state of institutional credit leading to excessive reliance on private moneylenders resulting in high indebtedness.

The drying up of public credit because of the ‘banking reforms’ is the single most important contributing cause of farmers’ suicides. Farmers also lack access to reliable and reasonably priced inputs and a remunerative price for their output. It is clear that the government has failed in its obligations on all these fronts thereby rendering farmers helpless when the rains were either delayed or failed like in 2011. Though the government knew of the impending crisis given subsequent crop failures, it did virtually nothing to avert it.

Apart from notching up the number of drought-hit mandals at periodic intervals, the government is doing precious little by way of concrete relief. Measures taken up so far are extremely inadequate. Even implementation of G.O 421, which provides for an economic and rehabilitation package to the family members of farmers who have ended their lives, is pathetic. The RDO-headed verification and certification committee is barely visiting the villages where suicides have taken place and going about its job. It must be remembered that for every farmer who has committed suicide, there are many others facing extreme despair. The present onslaught on the lives of the peasantry has come about because the government has jettisoned its responsibility to the farmers.

The government must at least now stop underplaying the extent of the agrarian crisis and initiate concrete steps to alleviate the situation. All cultivators, including tenant farmers, must be brought into the ambit of institutional credit. If these and other such concrete pro-small farmer measures are not forthcoming, there might be a suicide epidemic in the coming year. VS Krishna Md. Anwar (HRF State general secretary) (HRF State secretary)

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