Relearning the role of water in our cities

Rain is the modern-day tragedy in our cities: we desperately wait for the monsoons and when it rains, we weep because roads are flooded, life is disrupted. Mumbai, just a few months ago, was so thirsty for the monsoons that it was close to rationing its water supply. But then the rains came. The city did not rejoice. Instead, it went under water, all mixed with sewage and garbage, drowned in bad health. This scene is not very different in Delhi or any other city you can think of.

But the real tragedy is that in a few months, after the rains, our cities will be thirsting again. But then, rain is not part of our plan.

We believe we are all-powerful. Water greed will make us draw water from surrounding areas. Today, our cities get their water supply from further and further away – Delhi gets Ganga water from the Tehri dam, Bangalore is building the Cauvery IV project, pumping water 100km to the city, Chennai water will traverse 200km from the Krishna, Hyderabad from Manjira and so on. The point is that the urban industrial sector’s demand for water is growing by leaps and bounds. But this sector does little to augment its water resources, it does even less to conserve and minimize its use. Worse, because of the abysmal lack of sewage and waste treatment facilities, it degrades scarce water even further. But even after all this, its water greed is not met. Groundwater levels are declining precipitously in urban areas as people bore deeper in search of the water that municipalities cannot supply.

So, when it does not rain it cries and when it does rain, it cries. The cycle of water deprivation continues and we have done nothing to change our tomorrow.

This when we can do so much more. The water imperative is that cities must begin to value their rainfall endowment. This means implementing rainwater harvesting in each house and colony. But it also means relearning about the hundreds of tanks and ponds that nourished the city. Almost every city had a treasure of tanks, which provided it the important flood cushion and allowed it to recharge its groundwater reserves. But urban planners cannot see beyond land. So, land for water, has never been valued or protected. Today, these water bodies are a shame — encroached, full of sewage, garbage or just filled up and built over. The city forgot it needed water. It forgot its own lifeline.

Lakes are the vital sponges of the city. Every city gave its land for rain. Bangalore, at the beginning of the 1960s, had 262 lakes, now only 10 hold water. The Ahmedabad collector — on directions from the high court — listed 137 lakes in the city but also said that over 65 had been built over already. In Delhi, 508 water bodies were identified — again on court orders — but are not protected.

But to rethink the role of rain in our city, will require new learning in society. Just consider: builders and architects have simply never been taught how to hold water. They have been trained to see water as waste and to build systems to dispose of it as quickly as possible. German cities are learning from our experience. To save investment in building stormwater drains, the city charges a tax based on how much rainwater has been harvested by the household.

But this even this will not be enough. Each of our cities will have to learn the real value of rainwater: we will have to minimize water use and work on conservation and reuse. We will have to take our sewage and treat it so that we can recycle it — either for recharge or to make it fit for drinking.

Otherwise we will be the ultimate lost generation, which has forgotten the art of living with water. Our tragedy and our water crisis.

SUNITA NARAIN –  (The author is director of Centre for Science and Environment) – TOI

Monsoon slows, reservoirs dip 1%

New Delhi: As monsoon makes a sluggish progress, the combined live storage in 81 major reservoirs of the country dipped by one per cent in June to stand at 12 per cent of their designed capacity.

According to latest figures released by the Central Water Commission (CWC) today, the combined live storage in the 81 reservoirs at the beginning of monsoon on June one was 13 per cent of their designed capacity, but dipped to 12 per cent on June 24.

Out of the 81, there are 43 reservoirs where this year’s storage is 80 per cent or less than the average of previous 10 years. In the remaining 38 reservoirs, the storage is more than 80 per cent of the average of previous 10 years.

The storage position in Narmada, Cauvery and Krishna basins is better than average of previous 10 years.

West-flowing rivers of South and rivers of Kutch are flowing close to normal, but the storage position in Ganga, Indus, Mahanadi, Tapi, Sabarmati, Mahi and Godavari basins is deficient, the CWC said.

Monsoon rains, crucial for the country’s trillion-dollar economy, have been 16 per cent deficient and stagnant over central India so far this season but meteorologists are hopeful of a revival soon.

According to statistics released by the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the monsoon rains have been 16 per cent below normal for this season, mostly due to sluggish progress. The annual rains have not advanced since June 18 when they covered half of the country.

Financial Express

NCC cadets take out rally to save Cauvery

For a cause: Air Wing cadets taking out a rally in Tiruchi - Photo: M. Moorthy

TIRUCHI: NCC Air Wing cadets from various city schools and colleges took out a rally here on Wednesday as a campaign to save river Cauvery from pollution.

The ‘Save Cauvery River Rally’ was flagged off by R. Chandrasekaran, Headmaster, Srirangam Boys Higher Secondary School at the Amma Mandapam bathing ghat in Srirangam.

Around 100 Junior Division and Senior Division NCC cadets participated in the rally that was taken out via Gandhi Road to the Srirangam Boys Higher Secondary School.

Pamphlets distributed

The cadets distributed pamphlets to the public containing messages to save the river.Earlier, they undertook a cleaning operation at the Amma Mandapam bathing ghat area and appealed to the public to keep the river free from pollution.

Wing Commander M.S. Rao, Commanding Officer, 3 TN Air Squadron (Tech) NCC, Tiruchi and Associate NCC officers of schools and colleges participated.

From THE HINDU

Karnataka, where the mahseer is safe…

Fishing camps along the Cauvery have helped safeguard the habitat of the mahseer. Also, most of the poachers have been rehabilitated and are employed as guides and guards to patrol the river stretch at the fishing camps, reports Susheela Nair

Hurtling from the high mountains of the Brahmagiri range in Kodagu district, the bountiful Cauvery river flows across Karnataka, snaking through forested hilly tracts and agricultural fields. Some stretches of the omnipresent Cauvery between the Shivanasamudram waterfalls and Mekedatu, shelter the giant mahseer, the legendary sport fish of India. On the banks of this stretch of the river are three fishing camps Doddamakali, six km upstream, and Galibore, 16 km downstream of Bheemeshwari and all run by the state-owned Jungle Lodges and Resorts Ltd (JLR). These camps are all within a few hours drive from Bangalore. Anglers from all over the world make their annual pilgrimage to these exclusively reserved stretches to pit their wits against the mahseer while non-anglers revel in nature’s bounty.

Angling history can be traced back to the pre-independent days when the British used to ‘catch-and-kill’ the mahseer. With the construction of dams in the adjoining areas, the migration of the fish was restricted and even blocked in some places.

This contributed to the decline of the mahseer population. Moreover the villagers, mostly settlers indulged in netting, poisoning and using ordinary detonator with safety fuse thus destroying all aquatic life forms including fish fingerlings.

Explains Arun Srinivasan, President, WASI, “Realising the need to safeguard the habitat of the mahseer fish and the adjoining riverine stretches of forest, Wildlife Association of South India (WASI) set up temporary fishing camps in the mid-seventies. For the past thirty years, we have been involved in the protection of this stretch of the Cauvery river.”

Bheemeshwari

Catch-and-release practice
“In the light of decreasing sizes and number of good specimens, we adopted the ‘catch-and-release’ practice, thus giving a fresh lease of life to the mighty mahseer. We have been protecting mahseer fishing by adopting conservation, stocking and management measures so as to stem the decline of mahseer population,” the WASI president adds. Subsequently JLR took over the river stretch by setting up a camp at Bheemeshwari in 1984.

The mahseer is the pride and joy of the Cauvery and Asia’s premier sporting fish. It is believed that the name has been formed from the Hindi words maha (great) and sir (head). It could equally have been derived from the Persian mahi (fish) and  sher (lion) but either way, the mahseer retains its status as king and the prize catch for all committed anglers.

In local parlance, it is known as bili meen. Catching the mahseer fish is easier said than done. The legendary fighting fish resists all attempts to catch it and there is a virtual tug-of-war between the angler and the fish for about 20-30 minutes. It can grow to over 100 lbs in weight, can easily swim upstream, against rapids, at over 20 knots, a truly spectacular sight amidst splendid scenery.

Every time a fish is caught, a camp attendant helps the angler remove it from the water, tie its mouth with a nylon rope, weigh it and pose for a photograph! And, immediately after, the rope is removed and the fish is let back into the river.

Situated on the banks of the river Cauvery, the Cauvery Fishing Camp (CFC) is an ideal picnic spot for nature enthusiasts, river lovers and a paradise for hardcore anglers. Every year, head guide of a fishing holidays company David Plummer escorts a limited number of anglers to these camps which combine the thrill of hooking one of the world’s finest game fish, the mahseer, with the rugged existence of camp life. The camp activities  revolve around the ubiquitous Cauvery river which flows sinuously through the varied terrain of Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary.  Birding, bonfire, coracle rides, camping one the sandy banks of the river, trekking, wildlife safaris, white water rafting and bird watching are all part of the wilderness escapade.

Conservation of the mahseer
According to N D Tiwari, IFS, Managing Director, JLR, “Besides contributing to the tourism coffers, angling tourism supports conservation of the mahseer.

“The setting up of anti-poaching camps along the river has curtailed poaching and helped in protection of the river and the aqua species. The size of the fish has grown over the years from 32 pounds to 106 pounds because of protection. Most of the poachers have been rehabilitated and are employed as gillies (guides) and guards to patrol the river stretch at the fishing camps.” Since they are familiar with every tract of the forests, know every inch of the river, where each eddy and whirlpool lies, where the fish likes to school, they have proved themselves able guides. “We help anglers with our knowledge of the waters as we are experienced fishermen ourselves,” said Bhola, a rehabilitated poacher-turned-river guide at Bheemeshwari.

Lured by the social acceptance, security and steady income and the fact that their future is intimately connected with the well-being of the endangered mahseer and its habitat, they are concerned and involved in the protection.

The Coorg Wildlife Society (CWS), another voluntary organisation engaged in protecting mahseer fishing in the Cauvery (i.e. Valnoor in Coorg district,) with a lease on 28 km of this river has been stocking young mahseer in this stretch since 1993. The CWS protects this stretch of the river, issues fishing licenses, organises sport fishing and maintains fish catch statistics.

According to AJT John Singh, eminent wildlife scientist, “If the grand old giant Tor mussullah still exists, it is only because of the farsighted conservation measures adopted  by JLR and NGOs like WASI and CWS with their unique eco-tourism and catch-and-release programmes. This is an excellent model worth emulating throughout the different ranges of different species of mahseer in the country, which would mutually benefit the fish, the habitat and the local people.”

From Deccan Herald

Dindigul: Drinking water project to be over by September

DINDIGUL: Combined Cauvery drinking water projects (phase II) meant for Reddiyarchatram and Vedasandur will be completed by September end, said I. Periasamy, Minister for Revenue.

He was inaugurated the panchayat union office and distributed free gas stoves and gas connections to beneficiaries at a function held at Reddiyarchatram here on Tuesday evening.

Seventy per cent of the water project work meant for Reddiyarchatram union and 75 per cent of work meant for Vedasandur was over. Pipeline was laid to a distance of 36 kilometres.

The TWAD Board was advised to expedite the work to complete it by September end. On completion of the project, drinking water crisis of these areas will be solved, he added.

Main objective of opening more and more fair price or ration shops at villages was to scale down the distance between the shops and the houses. People need not have to travel for a long distance to buy PDS goods. Moreover, distribution of PDS goods would be done quickly and people need not wait in long queues to get their goods.

To take the government schemes quickly to people, the government had created 22 taluks in the State so far.

Later, the Revenue Minister inaugurated fair price shops at Sullerumbu Kadiraiyan kulam and Thekkampatti in Reddiyarchatram union built at a cost of Rs.2.6 lakh and panchayat union office constructed at a cost of Rs.6 lakh. Free gas stoves were given to 208 families and old age pension to 529 beneficiaries.

The TWAD Board had already implemented Rs.100 crore Cauvery drinking water project for Dindigul and neighbouring town panchayats including Natham. Second phase of the project was under progress to supply protected drinking water to residents in Vedasandur and Reddiyarchatram.

From THE HINDU

Mettur water release unlikely on June 12

CHENNAI: Opening of the Mettur reservoir on June 12 for kuruvai cultivation in Cauvery delta districts may not be possible this year in view of poor storage.

On Tuesday, the storage was 38 thousand million cubic (tmc) ft as against the capacity of 93.4 tmcft. Only if the level on June 12 is at least 50 tmcft or more can water be released.

Every year, the reservoir is opened on June 12 for kuruvai cultivation on about 1.2 lakh hectares in the delta districts.

Last year too, the reservoir could not be opened on the scheduled date as the storage was only 23 tmcft. Kuruvai crop was raised on about 55,000 hectares with the help of filter-point wells.

Hopes on monsoon

Public Works Department officials here say though the south-west monsoon has set in, the reservoir may not get sufficient water before June 12.

At present the combined storage in Karnataka reservoirs is 26 tmcft as against the capacity of 114 tmcft in Kabini and Krishna Raja Sagar and its suppliers Harangi and Hemavathi.

It has been the practice of Karnataka to release water for Tamil Nadu only after its reservoirs are full.

As of now there is no possibility of the State getting water from Karnataka, which will build up storage in its reservoirs to the extent possible.

Tamil Nadu can, at best, get water from the Kabini reservoir in the immediate future as its storage is somewhat better at 6.6 tmc ft compared to the capacity of 19 tmcft.

Tribunal order

As per the interim order of the Cauvery Water Distress Tribunal, all reservoirs in the Cauvery system should be closed for irrigation on January 31 and there should not be any water release till June 1. But, Karnataka continues to violate the order and has been drawing water from its reservoirs for summer crops.

In the current year too, the Karnataka reservoirs had a combined storage of 68 tmc ft and the storage at Kabini was 13 tmcft. But, in the last four months, Karnataka withdrew about 42 tmcft of water for the summer crop.

S. Vydhianathan From THE HINDU

Cyclonic Storm – ‘Laila’ brings heavy rain – May 19th

Heavy rain and squally winds lashed the coastal districts of Tamil Nadu on Wednesday even as cyclonic storm ‘Laila’ was expected to hit neighbouring Andhra Pradesh in the early hours of Thursday.

Two deaths were reported by evening, taking the death toll to six in Tamil Nadu.

Widespread rains pounded the Cauvery delta districts, including Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur, Thanjavur and Tiruchirappalli. A Jet airways flight with 70 passengers on board from Madurai to Chennai on Tuesday night survived intense wind turbulence while flying over Cuddalore district, sources said. A fisherman was dragged away by a huge wave in Ramanathapuram district, while a 24-year-old techie was electrocuted after she stepped on a live wire that had snapped following heavy winds in the Chennai suburb of Vellachery.

Large parts of arterial roads were under knee-deep water with the city recording a maximum of 8 cm rainfall. CBSE students, keen to check the Plus Two results announced on Wednesday, were hampered by water-logging.

Power supply and transportation in different parts of the State were badly hit. Over 140 boats including an Indian Coast Guard vessel and two boats of the Tamil Nadu Police’ Coastal Security Group, suffered heavy damage as strong winds lashed the coast on Tuesday night near Rameshwaram.

The Andhra Pradesh Government has put all the nine coastal district administrations on a high alert as the cyclone intensified, bringing heavy rain, gales and thunderstorms that have claimed about 25 lives in the last two days.

Nine teams of the National Disaster Response Force and CISF have been deployed in the coastal districts, relief camps have been set up and necessary relief materials are being mobilised.

Chennai/Hyderabad, May 19, DHNS: From Deccan Herald