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Vol. 3      

No. 2 

April   2001

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Orissa has water, drought artificial
Even as the western Orissa is reeling under acute drought the Central Ground Water Board has come up with a good news about vast reserve of groundwater in Bolangir, Kalahandi and Nuapada districts of the state. According to the survey conducted by the board, the three districts seem to be floating over a vast water reserve. The survey revealed that the groundwater level remains between four metres to six metres during summers while it rises two metres during the winter season. Curiously, instead of using this reserved water, the state government has been using railway bogies to supply water in the summers. Social activist Jagdish Pradhan said that it was the faulty government policies of over-relying on big dams, which take more than 10 years to complete, that has led to the drought situation and suffering to people. Meanwhile, the state government has declared 3,877 villages and 13 wards of 28 districts of Orissa as drought affected.

(Asian Age, New Delhi, 16 March, 2001)

Special camp to promote water conservation
A special camp to undertake water conservation activities on private land began in Madhya Pradesh from the first week of April. Under the ‘pani roko abhiyan’ the community water resources are being renovated through government schemes with public participation. Now, the farmers will have to invest on water conservation activities in their own fields. They will be given mid-term loans of upto Rs 10,000 through primary cooperative agriculture credit societies to construct water conservation structures, deepening of tanks, ponds and wells on their own lands. A comprehensive training programme has been designed under the strategy to be implemented from April 7 to May 7. A core team comprising 10 to 12 technical officers from various departments such as rural development, agriculture, horticulture, forest and public health engineering departments will be formed in each district. They will impart training to block level officers and employees from April 7 to 11 who would be given charge of two to three villages. These officers would then go around the villages from April 20 to May 7, imparting technical training to the farmers about the type of water conservation structures to be constructed. A loan of maximum Rs 2,000 payable in three years will be given to farmers for recharging their wells and constructing bunding and deepening of ponds. They will be given a maximum loan of Rs 10,000 for constructing pond or tank upon their field. This will be payable in five years. They shall also pay interest on small irrigation schemes.

(Central Chronical, Bhopal, 7 April, 2001)

Packaged water being peddled at 200% profit
There is an unhealthy competition between manufacturers of packaged drinking water in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secundrabad, but it is the consumers who are at the receiving end. For every rupee the manufacturer gets from the consumer on the packaged drinking water, the retailer gets a profit of Rs 2. That implies that if the consumer pays Rs 12 for a litre of mineral water, Rs 4 goes to the manufacturer and Rs 8 to the retailer. Even if the sales tax (at the rate 12 per cent) and central excise (at the rate 16 per cent) is taken into account, the price doesnot cost more than Rs 4. The astronomical difference grows out of the tough competition between the 214 manufacturers, which the retailers cash upon. Many retailers do not want to sell water bottles priced at Rs 10 simply because they want a profit margin upto 250 per cent derived out of bottles priced at Rs 14. The Andhra Pradesh packaged Drinking Water Manufacturers representing Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) certified companies have decided to fix the price at Rs 10. The Association asserts that the consumers would soon get better quality packaged water at competitive rate since most of the 200 and odd units would be closed down, thanks to the BIS rules.

(Asian Age, New Delhi, 16 April, 2001)

Slipping into Bangladesh for a bath
Jaheda Khatun crosses the zero line along the Indo- Bangla border every day a number of times and goes to Bhabermura village of Camilla district of neighbouring Bangladesh to bathe. She is just one of the eight hundred villagers of Nazapura, in East Tripura district, who slip into Bangladesh either for fetching drinking water or to take a bath. "But crossing the border is not always easy because if either the Border Security Force (BSF) or the Bangladesh Rifles spot us, they turn us back. I could not bathe yesterday as I was stopped by the BSF from crossing the border", Abdul Manan, a farmer, said. Abdul Latif, a former head of the village belonging to the opposition Congress said, villagers have been facing these problems since partition in 1947. "We have had many governments since independence, but no government solved our problem." Neherunnesa Bibi, a CPI- M member of the village Panchayat said on repeated requests to the authorities two tubewells were sunk in the village, but these did not work, while there was no arrangement for irrigation. When contacted rural development minister, Subodh Das said he had come to know about the acute water crisis in the village and has ordered the District Magistrate to enquire into the matter. "We must repair the tubewells and if they cannot be repaired, we must supply drinking water with the help of tankers to the village and also dig some Kutcha wells," Das said.

(Central Chronical, Bhopal, 7 April, 2001)

Massive anomalies in water pricing: UNICEF White paper
Individual property rights in water for irrigating farms to stop its inefficient and unsustainable use at a highly subsidised price water markets to make water tradable; and metered distribution of drinking water in urban areas in a city like Ahmedabad; are some of the major UNICEF recommendations for a water policy in Gujarat. Handing over to Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, Rupert Talbot, UNICEF water and sanitation chief said," there is an urgent need for the state to enact a water law." He added that adverse impact of drought and water scarcity is by no means uniform across all socio-economic strata of the society. The state has been asked to set up an autonomous state water development and water management board directly responsible to the state legislature which would have powers to create institutional structures for conjunctive management for ground and surface water. Suggesting to immediately adopt the principle of ‘user pays, polluter pays’ as done in South Africa, the new policy points to the need to not just adopt laws to stop over exploitation of the scarce underground waters but create ‘groundwater sanctuaries’, for the protection of ground water resources too.

(The Times of India, Ahmedabad, 19 April, 2001)


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