Skip to main content

Failure of big dam model? 36% of India's big dams in Maharashtra are of "little help" in Marathwada drought

By Our Representative
Senior environmental activist and water expert Himanshu Thakkar has said that the current drought in India should clear the misconception that drams are a panacea for water scarcity. In an interview with a top business daily, Thakkar has insisted, “Big dams have proved to be a failed water resources development model.”
“The first thing that strikes you about Maharashtra is that it has, by far, the highest number of big dams in India. According to the National Register of Large Dams of the Central Water Commission, of the total number of 5,100 big dams 1,845 are in Maharashtra”, Thakkar, who with the South Asian Network on Rivers, Dams and People (SANDRP), said.
“So about 35 to 36 per cent of all big dams in India are in the state. Yet Maharashtra is in the headlines for drought and water scarcity today. While nationally, 46 per cent of cropped area is irrigated, in Maharashtra the figure is hardly 18 per cent”, he added.
Even Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, in his Assembly speech on July 21, 2015, admitted that farmers need irrigation, not dams, and dams are not the only means to achieve irrigation, Thakkar said.
Suggesting that the Maharashtra government has failed to understand this reality, Thakkar said, “Parts of Maharashtra are facing multiple agrarian and hydrological crises this year. Rainfall deficits have been as high as 40 and 42 per cent in the last two years in Marathwada.”
“In some districts and blocks the figure is even higher. So rain-fed kharif crops in many parts have failed for the last two years. The rabi crops were also hit by unprecedented hailstorms in 2014 and 2015. The 2016 rabi season has been hit by unusually dry conditions”, he added.
Pointing out that during the 2015 monsoon, he and his Pune-based colleague Parineeta Dandekar realised in mid-July that this year was going to be a crisis for most of Maharashtra, in addition to some other adjoining areas, Thakkar said, “We wrote to the chief minister in August that the state needed to take certain measures urgently.”
The measures included “stopping the diversion of about three billion cubic metres of water from the Bhima and Krishna basins to the high-rainfall Konkan area, stopping non-essential water-use activities, taking stock of available water and deploying it for priority needs, and so on”, he said.
Yet, Thakkar noted, “The Maharashtra government did not wake up to this situation then or at the end of the monsoon or even now”, adding, the state government's Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyaan doing “deepening, widening and straightening of rivers”, cannot be a “fig leaf to hide its incompetence in handling this crisis.”
“In Marathwada and western Maharashtra (similarly, also northern Karnataka) sugar cane cultivation on about four to five per cent of cropped land takes up about 70 per cent of available irrigation water”, Thakkar said, adding, “We have been saying that considering the rainfall, weather situation and water availability, sugarcane is not a sustainable crop in these regions.”
Yet, he added, “Even when 2014 and 2015 monsoon had major deficits in Maharashtra, the area under sugarcane remained at record levels. This was after the 2012 drought in Maharashtra, when the same issues had cropped up and the government, including the then Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar promised intervention. We saw no implementation of those promises then. The situation is the same now.”

Comments

Dams without proper water resources are meaningless.

TRENDING

132 Gujarat citizens, including IIM-A faculty, others declare solidarity with Kashmiris

Counterview Desk
A week after it was floated, 132 activists, academics, students, artists and other concerned citizens of Gujarat, backed by 118 living in different parts of India and the world, have signed a "solidarity letter" supporting the people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), who, it claims, have been silenced and held captive in their own land. The signatories include faculty members and scholars of the prestigious Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A).

Amit Shah 'wrong': Lack of transparency characterized bank frauds, NPAs, jobs data

Counterview Desk
India's senior RTI activists Nikhil Dey, Anjali Bhardwaj, Venktesh Nayak, Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu, Dr. Shaikh Ghulam Rasool, Pankti Jog and Pradip Pradhan, who are attached with the National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information (NCPRI), have said that Union home minister Amit Shah's claim that the Government of India is committed to transparency stands in sharp contrast to its actual actions.

Bharat Ratna nominee ‘joined hands’ with British masters to 'crush' Quit India

By Shamsul Islam*
The Quit India Movement (QIM), also known as ‘August Kranti' (August Revolution), was a nation-wide Civil Disobedience Movement for which a call was given on August 7, 1942 by the Bombay session of the All-India Congress Committee. It was to begin on August 9 as per Gandhi's call to 'Do or Die' in his Quit India speech delivered in Bombay at the Gowalia Tank Maidan on August 8. Since then August 9 is celebrated as August Kranti Divas.

Gujarat's incomplete canals: Narmada dam filled up, yet benefits 'won't reach' farmers

By Our Representative
Even as the Gujarat government is making all out efforts to fill up the Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada river up to the full reservoir level (FRL), a senior farmer rights leader has said the huge reservoir, as of today, remains a “mirage for the farmers of Gujarat”.
In a statement, Sagar Rabari of the Khedut Ekta Manch (KEM), has said that though the dam’s reservoir is being filled up, the canal network remains complete. Quoting latest government figures, he says, meanwhile, the command area of the dam has been reduced from 18,45,000 hectares (ha) to 17,92,000 ha.
“According to the website of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, which was last updated on Friday, while the main canal, of 458 km long, has been completed, 144 km of ranch canals out of the proposed length of 2731 km remain incomplete.
Then, as against the targeted 4,569 km distributaries, 4,347 km have been constructed, suggesting work for 222 km is still pending. And of the 15,670 km of minor canal…

Ceramic worker dies: 20,000 workers in Thangadh, Gujarat, 'risk' deadly silicosis

By Our Representative
Even as the country was busy preparing for the Janmashtami festival on Saturday, Hareshbhai, a 46-year-old ceramic worker from suffering from the fatal lung disease silicosis, passed away. He worked in a ceramic unit in Thangadh in Surendranagar district of Gujarat from 2000 to 2016.
Hareshbhai was diagnosed with the disease by the GCS Medical College, Naroda Road, Ahmedabad in 2014. He was found to be suffering from progressive massive fibrosis. He is left behind by his wife Rekha sister and two sons Deepak (18) and Umesh (12),
The death of Hareshbhai, says Jagdish Patel of the health rights group Peoples Training and Research Centre (PTRC), suggests that silicosis, an occupational disease, can be prevented but not cured, and the Factory Act has sufficient provisions to prevent this.
According to Patel, the pottery industry in the industrial town of Thangadh has evolved for a long time and locals as well as migrant workers are employed here. There are abou…