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Vol. 4                              No. 6             December2002-January 2003

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On the right track?

The centre is ready to introduce, ‘The Drought Prone Areas (Special Provisions) Bill, 2002’ in the upper house of the parliament.It not only acknowledges the loopholes in the state’s approach to drought but also includes clauses for the formulation of the National Drought Policy. "Though the government give some relief, it is inadequate and even negligible. The situation goes from bad to worse due to the apathy of the authorities....So a long term national policy will have to be formulated on a priority basis", says the statement of objects and reason of the bill. (www.rajyasabha.nic.in/
bills-ls-rs/XXIII-2002.pdf)

The scope of the bill, however, is restricted to the tribal belts in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Drought has become a regular phenomenon in our country, even engulfing areas like Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana that had remained unaffected earlier. This year (2002) the country witnessed the worst all India drought after 1987. "July registered one - third of annual rainfall, which is critical for agriculture. 49 per cent deficiency in this month resulted in the worst meteorological drought since 1987", says Indian Meteorological Department’s report. Though the monsoons revived in August and September, the hydrological drought persisted. In many places acute drinking water shortage and starvation deaths have been reported. The worst affected is the mute livestock. And, this is the reported situation in 12 major Indian states in the month of December - next monsoon is still seven months away.

Was it possible to avoid this crisis? The answer is yes. But the problem of integrated development of water resources has not received much attention. This bill gives six months to the Central government to formulate special development plans and establish an autonomous authority to implement such plans. A similar National Drought Preparedness Plan has also been proposed by Dr MSSwaminathan, the eminent agricultural scientist.

Will this bill, if passed in Parliament, equip the government with a proactive strategy to combat drought?

Share your views with Sumita Dasgupta at sumita@cseindia.org or Eklavya Prasad at eklavya@cseindia.org

 

Groundwater or poison?

Groundwater, which is the main source of drinking water for about 25 per cent of India’s population living in cities, has become a cocktail of chemicals and human waste.

Towns like Aligarh, Bhagalpur, Rourkela, Guwahati, Meerut and several others are beset by similar of problems. Unabated urbanisation and lack of investment for infrastructure development have had a disastrous impact. For instance, no water reaching the residents of Aligarh is safe. The first layer of water table from which the majority of the population draw water is 6 - 9 m deep and highly contaminated. The second layer, 18 -21 m deep, has traces of mica, making it naturally contaminated.

Almost every small and medium towns are on the way to becoming an urban nightmare. Shockingly, no organised civic effort to initiate change has been initiated. Let us focus on the Meerut scenario.

Meerut, the most advanced district of western Uttar Pradesh, in terms of literacy and agriculture is experiencing the crunch. However, the problem of contamination is intensifying - making residents and authorities tense. Recently, with CSE’s support a local non-governmental organisation, Janhit Foundation (JF), organised a day-long seminar to address the problem.

The major source of drinking water within the Meerut Municipal Corporation limits is tubewell. Estimated 46,000 tubewells are privately owned and about 500 are owned by the government. Out of the 70 wards, about 59 are provided with adequate municipal supply. Remaining 11 wards lack a systematised supply. Over the years, the dependence on groundwater has skyrocketed resulting in the depletion of aquifers. During a Rajya Sabha debate, C P Thakur, the union minister of water resources, mentioned Meerut as the town recording a fall of more than 4 m in water tables every year.

In 2002, CSE along with JF studied Meerut’s water quality.(www.cseindia.org/html/lab) The analysis of samples collected from handpump and municipal water supply source in different parts of the city indicates a dangerous trend. The concentration of total dissolved solids, magnesium and chloride were above the permissible limits. Bromide content was also found to be high - making it unfit for drinking purposes even after chlorination. However, the municipality has completely overlooked this fact, as their supply continues as before. These problems are creeping in as a number of poisonous effluents from various industries are increasingly dumped into surface water sources without adequate treatment. Further, intensive sugarcane production in Meerut district has not only led to overexploitation of groundwater reserves but also in intensifying pollution.

In April 2001, the building bylaws were amended to make rainwater harvesting mandatory in both the old and new constructions. But its implementation is far from satisfactory. Further, contamination can only be checked if the polluting units are pressurised by people to adopt proper treatment facilities.

In Meerut, unlike in other cities, atleast a public debate has begun to make groundwater free of poison.

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Join us

Catch Water provides you an excellent opportunity to share information (could be an advertisements) and stories related to community-based rainwater harvesting. It is your powerful tool to get in and stay in touch with other interested individuals and institutions.
All you have to do is to
write to Sumita at sumita@cseindia.org or Eklavya at eklavya@cseindia.org

 


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