Sabyasachi Patra

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 4 Issue III

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 4 Issue III

In this issue of IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 4 Issue III, we examine the Interlinking of rivers which has been recently given the go ahead by Supreme Court.

India is at cross roads!

There is an acute shortage of leadership and that reflects in the Governance. The legislature is thoroughly discredited. To fill in the vacuum, rises the Judiciary. Honest in its intent and with the power of conviction that it needs to act, the Judiciary has passed many strictures and orders that have made the Government work. However, is the Supreme Court infallible? Alas! Even Gods commit mistakes!

Recently, a three judge bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court has given a go ahead for the river linking project. The impact is going to be irreversible.

The basic premise of river linking scheme is that water which is “wasted” in one river can be channelized to another river in another part of the country and hence it will help in agriculture. This is a grandiose plan which seems no brainer on the surface. So many persons of repute – like our former President Shri Abdul Kalam – whose claim to fame is not their knowledge of environmental issues, jumped to support the river interlinking idea.

What is not understood is that river interlinking is not like transferring money from one account to another account electronically without any apparent problem. However, this doesn’t take into consideration that water is only “surplus” in some areas because, dams have been built and the downstream suffers due to lack of water. So the underground acquifiers are not filled. When heavy rains lash upstream and there is more water, the sluice gates of the dams are opened and then water rushes away. That doesn’t lead to percolation and charging of the water table. Also many rivers are dying because there is rampant sand mining by the mafia. When there is no sand, there cannot be percolation and it leads to the death of a river. Can any State Government control this issue, especially in the southern states that are always at loggerheads with each other for water?

The river linking scheme will sound a death knell for the people near the coastal areas because decreased flow in the river due to interlinking will result in increasing salinity. This will impact cultivation and there will be a forced migration of people. Migration of people is always associated with distress. It is important to take this into account before taking any such step.

The other question that has not been considered is the cropping pattern. Why cash crops requiring high amount of water is cultivated in drought prone areas and demand is raised for creating canals and bringing water from other areas? Unless cropping patterns and methods are tuned to suit the climatic conditions, water will always be in demand. The Government ought to focus its energy on the demand side by suggesting cropping patterns based on scientific analysis of soil, rainfall patterns and climate so that there is no unnecessary increase in demand of water.

Simple traditional solutions like creating bunds and check dams for water management is often forgotten. Rainwater harvesting is not promoted. At a time when our ground water level is depleting at an alarming level, this will alleviate the water problems to a big extent. Unfortunately, these small practical solutions are not eye-catching in a politicians speech and it seems “BIG is Beautiful” bug has caught up with everybody. In such a scenario, how can the Hon’ble Supreme court judges be immune to it?

The fact that the Hon’ble Supreme Court in October 2011 had said that their only consideration in evaluating the river linking project is cost and it had asked a special report from the Government. I am not sure what was reported back to the three judge bench of the Supreme court regarding cost, however, this clearly indicates that the deleterious environmental impact of such a scheme has not been taken into consideration neither has the Hon’ble Supreme Court insisted on end-to-end studies to find out whether there is really a surplus of water in any river and whether there are any other ways of achieving our needs.

Unfortunately, no study has been done to completely examine the water availability in each river basin from the origin to the downstream area.

Our rivers have their own unique ecosystem with various organisms big and small depending and living in it. Some of these flora, fauna, fishes and other organisms are endemic or unique to that riverine ecosystem. With the change of river, the ecology of the entire landscape will change. Many species will be lost forever. Has anyone given any thought to it? Unfortunately in a country where EIAs (Environment Impact Assessment) are done in such a shoddy manner that presence of even large species like elephants and tigers are not mentioned, it is anybody’s guess whether anyone is concerned about the health of our riverine ecosystem. For further details on the massive threats of invasives please check here:

The interlinking of rivers will also result in about 1 lakhs hectares of forests being gobbled up. In an era when we are already experiencing the impact of climate change, can we afford to lose our forests which help in carbon sequesteration and act as our lungs?

The interlinking of rivers will also result in human displacement of huge proportions to the tune of 15 lakh people. I am sure this number would have increased manifold by now. We have seen huge protests due to R&R (Relocation and rehabilitation) with people succumbing to police bullets. The authorities are still grappling with relocation of villagers from the core areas of National Parks and tiger reserves, despite the promise of ten lakh rupees per family. This number at 50,000 families is small change when compared to the number of people who are going to be displaced by the interlinking of rivers. Still the Government hasn’t been able to provide budgetary allocations for shifting of all the villages. Year after year we have seen that the Government has failed to curtail its fiscal deficit and budgetary allocations for good projects have suffered. In such a situation, I am surprised that a three member bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court has given this go ahead.

We demand that all the information pertaining to whether any environmental impact assessments have been done in all the 30 pending river interlinking cases to be made public. When this hair brained idea is going to create havoc with our lives, it is imperative that the billion plus population of this country be aware and be allowed to decide whether they want this or not.

Other Conservation Issues:
Leopard Suffocated to death by Goons

Sandalwood trees: need for action

Panna Hand reared tigress gives birth: success story?

Sariska Tigers: Miscarriage due to stress

Wetland Near Cochin Port Trust in danger:

General Discussions
Similarity between humans and Gorillas

Natural History
Country Note book: Shri M Krishnan’s writings

Equipment Discussions
I am inundated with personal emails asking for equipment buying suggestions. To reduce my effort and for others to also benefit from your queries please post your questions and opinions in the Equipment discussions by clicking in this link:

Wildlife Photography
Brown-headed Gull by Sadanand Koppalkar

A sunset in his eyes by Arijit Banerjee

Big Fat Munching Machine by Abhishek Jamalabad

Chamelion by Sarma Vemuri

Fat Tail by Joshi Bhavya

The River Flows by Kaustuv Chatterjee

Early Morning Winter Light by Kaustuv Chatterjee

Leopard at Kabini by Sarma Vemuri

Asiatic Water Buffalo by Dipankar Mazumdar

Gaur Calf a portrait by Deepak Ramani

I look forward to your inputs and your support in preserving the last tracts of wilderness and wildlife left in this beautiful country. For other interesting articles and photographs please check:

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