A. N. Sinha Institute of Social Studies
How difficult it is to snap the bond between the words 'river' and 'flow' ! The very utterance of the word `river' evokes the image of something on the move all the time. There is nothing still about it. Boats, canoes, flowers offered in obeisance, the paper boats set off by children, the earthen lamps flown in `donas' in the memory of loved ones, none of them is motionless. All of them get moving the moment they are in touch with river. The free flow of rivers has been an instrument of human well-being throughout the centuries. If rivers came to a halt, society too would come to a standstill. Perhaps this was the reason our forefathers never forgot to invoke the rivers Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Saraswati, Narmada, Sindhu and Kaveri before starting off anything auspicious; they would always sprinkle their holy water all around. While the great Vedavyas has portrayed the rivers as the mothers of the entire world- ‘Vishvasya Matarah'; the great sage-poet Valmiki has depicted lord Ram as bowing twenty times over before the river Sarayu in obeisance. The river Ganga carries the epithet `tripathagai—the one which flows through the three worlds of sky, earth and the lower world (patala). And the Indian ethos has that whosoever hears her name, desires her, has a look at her, touches her water, drinks her water, has a dip in her, or even chants her name mentally well, the Ganga absolves him of all his sins. Whereas the Ganga attained the status of mother in the Indian tradition owing to her virtue of being fondly devoted to her off-spring, the Kaushiki (Kosi) came to be the elder sister of Vishvamitra. Says he to lord Ram : “O ! Raghunandan, I have a deep affection for my elder sister Kaushiki, and hence I reside on her bank close to the Himalayas with great pleasure observing all the rites strictly. Virtuous Satyavati is steeped in righteousness. The immensely fortunate lady devoted to her husband is present here in the form of Kaushiki which is pre-eminent among rivers.' The river Markandi, on the other hand, was a childhood mate of a river-adorer like Kaka Kalelkar who used to play around with him. While the Markandi is a childhood playmate owing to her small size, the Brahmaputra is something of a patriarch (baba) owing to its mighty dimensions. So, that's how it has been with rivers : you strike up a relationship with them as your please.
The rivers have been a power of creation, not of destruction. Whenever there is a flood in Assam, and the waters of the Brahmaputra and the Dibang start out flowing into each other, people donot forget to put betel nuts, grains of rice, clothes and even ornaments into the rising water before seeking shelter for protection, because they regard it as a wedding of the rivers Brahmaputra and Dibang, and no one goes empty-handed before the bride and the groom on that occasion ! Many regard the Kosi as a virgin river, perhaps because she does not look grave and subdued with a deep sense of family obligations like a married woman. She is flashy and fickle. When her waters rise up, that is, when the virgin maiden becomes a bit too self-willed, the women folk drop a little bit of vermilion into its stream, dropping a message thereby that if she did not check herself even then, she would be married off ! And the Kosi recedes out of a fear of marriage ! After all, why should one lose one's freedom? And so, our relations with rivers have been very tangible and vibrant. Chanakya even goes to the extent of prohibiting living in such a place where there is no holy river along with merchants, Brahmins well-versed in learning, the king and the physician ! `Natatra divasam vaseta'-one should not live in such a place even for a single day he enjoins.
Starkly opposed to this, the British have had a sinister and lecherous eye on our rivers. Talking about the flashily shifting course of the Kosi, one of them said that 'the Kosi is like a libertine woman who changes her bed every night.' The river Damodar foiled this foul intention of theirs when they tried to mend the ways of rivers by embanking them in 1854. They realised their mistake by 1869; and hence they set the rivers free; and further they swore not to make the mistake of embanking any Indian river ever again; and, thanks to their sagacity, they did not do so till 1947. Although the British went off, but they left behind them the fad of controlling the rivers Damodar and Kosi and the modern Bhagiraths took the charge thereupon. This time the Damodar group of rivers were controlled by dams at Maithan, Panchet, Tilaiya, and Konar, but what fell to the lot of the Kosi were the embankments which had turned out to be worthless along the river Damodar in the last century. And then started the rapacious hunting of rivers on a large scale.
Massive construction of embankments was taken up in the fifties in India, following her independence, for flood control. The total length of embankments along the Brahmputra-Ganga system of rivers (1987) was about 14,511 kms. Of these about 4448 kms. are there in Assam, 974 kms. in West Bengal, 2756 kms. in Bihar, 1711 kms. in U. P. and 1007 kms. in Orissa. In Bihar it has risen to 3465 kilometres in 1997. The embankments worked reasonably well during the earlier years following their construction but the limitations of the technology started manifesting itself in early seventies. The river beds started rising and the drainage was impeded. Sluice gates started getting jammed and defunct and the breaches in the embankments started becoming routine affair. People, although they were used to face floods, were not prepared to face the surges that used to emanate from the breach points. Waterlogging was on the rise because of indiscriminate construction of roads, railway lines and canals which affected agriculture adversely and in turn, led to rising unemployment. A feeling started gaining ground that it was better not to disturb the rivers but it was too late for the realization to come. Rivers were now spreading water rather than draining it out and the people living along the rivers got divided into two blocks of those living within the river embankments and the one outside them. When the flood water rises within the embankments and threaten life, the only course left to those living within is to breach the embankment and allow the water to flow outside. And should that happen, it would spell a doom on to those living outside. The net outcome of these false protections was that the people in the two blocks, who used to face each other with lathis earlier have now switched over to guns. That is the situation almost everywhere whether it is Deoria or Gorakhpur in UP, Samastipur or Katihar in Bihar or Jorhat and Naugaon in Assam. In Assam, the river maps prepared after the floods are marked with P.C.s i.e., the public cuts. That the people will cut the embankments during floods are accepted by the administration. There are many places in Bihar where those in administration supervise the breaching of the embankment. It is a different matter that all such cases are booked against the name of 'anti-social' elements.
When the embankments fail to serve the purpose, the next technical destination is the proposal for the construction of high dams on the rivers now. This was, however, been told almost since the beginning that the embankments were only a temporary solution to the problems of floods and the actual solution lay in the construction of those high dams. Unfortunately, there are no suitable locations for the dams in North Bihar, and these can only be built in Nepal. In case of Assam, such sites are located within India but U.P. is in same state as Bihar.
Ajay Dikshit, a water engineer from Nepal, maintains that at least 30 schemes of damming the rivers and 60 schemes for producing hydro-electric power from the run of the river are ready in Nepal. Of these 30 dams, height of 7 dams will be between 50 to 100 metres, 12 dams will be between 100 to 200 metres and eleven dams will have height more than 200 Metres. The power that could be produced from these schemes will be 1,45,000 GWH which will suffice the needs of 700 million families of South Asian type. This work will consume 5 million tonnes of steel, 100 million cubic metres of concrete and 1000 million cubic metres of rip-rap. These structures will trap 700 million tonnes of silt annually and the life of the dams will be over within a period of 30 to 75 years. These dams will submerge 2200 Sq. kilometres land in Nepal which amounts to 1.5 percent of its area and includes 20 percent of the irrigated land in Nepal and encompasses forests/homestead lands etc. With the construction of these dams some 6,00,000 people will be displaced which is 3 per cent of the population of Nepal. On the other side, Nepal has a hydro-power potential of 83,000 Megawatts which is almost untapped. When the concerned parties discuss dams in Nepal, it is this potential that binds them. With the main focus on power production, some 13 dams are proposed on the Kosi and its tributaries alone. Some basic details about some of these dams are given in Table-1.
One such dam proposed in Nepal, Arun No. 3 was chosen for construction first. This dam 68 metres in height and 115 metres in length was expected to produce 201 Megawatts of hydropower, in the first phase, at an estimated cost of U.S. 1082 million and was supposed to get financial assistance from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Germany, France and Sweden etc. While the construction work on Arun No. 3 started in 1992, a debate ensued between the intellectuals/activists in Nepal towards justification of the project. They felt that the scheme would not benefit Nepal and the donor countries are bent upon defending the business interests of their countries and pushing Nepal into a debt trap. They also felt that Nepal would not get her share even in employment for the labour and that the hydro-power produced will be so costly that it will be beyond the purchasing power of the Nepali consumer. They apprehended that the cost of power produced will be twice as much as an American consumer pays for it in his country and twice as much for its Indian counterpart. And if the cost were that high, the Indians will not purchase the power and it was for this reason that the dam was being constructed.
On the other hand, the dam was located in a highly seismic zone and the floods of 1993 had taught the Nepalese another lesson about sedimentation. The Kulekhani dam near Kathmandu, which was supposed to generate 92 MW of hydropower with an expected life-span of 100 years, got silted up very badly that year and it was feared that it may not have a useful life beyond 15 years. Should a similar accident happen with Arun No. 3 that will spell a disaster. Besides, no donor agency was prepared to run the risk of the events to follow if there was failure of the dam. The construction of the dams was also affecting adversely the local environment, the social fabric and the cultural set-up. Those likely to displaced were also not getting the fair deal from the project authorities. By December 1993, a majority of intellectuals and activists got together on one platform against the construction of Arun No. 3 and by December 1995, Arun No. 3 suffered the same fate as those of the dams on Tehri, the Subarnarekha or the Sardar Sarovar.
Another Nepali engineer, Shri Vikas Pandey says that should we accept any proposal for the construction of a dam just because some foreign experts say that it is good for us or that we should now be making large schemes or just as some money is available as assistance to some project, we should go on for that thoughtlessly. He insists that the Nepalese, should set their own priorities.
In India we are still passing through phase of 'There is no alternative to Barahkshetra dam' and as long as we keep on saying that there is no alternative to a particular scheme we shall never ever be able to look for the alternatives. That there will be no let off in the fury of floods and waterlogging in the lower areas of Saharsa and Madhubani districts despite the construction of the Barahkshetra dam is a fact that almost every engineer in Bihar, in private, accepts but publicly one is a great advocate of the dam. Site No. 13, near Barahkshetra in Nepal, where the dam is proposed to be located, has a catchment area of 59,550 Sq. Kilometers. Between the site No. 13 and the Bhimnagar barrage, another 2266 Sq. kilometers is added to the catchment of the river. Further down in the Indian territory, 11,410 Sq. kilometers is added to the river catchment area bringing the total to 13.876 Sq. kilometer. This is only slightly short of the catchment area of the Bagmati and almost twice as much that of the Kamla. Barahkshetra dam not withstanding, so much of water will always accumulate outside the Kosi embankments and will perpetuate the floods / waterlogging in that area just as it does to-day. Water will also continue to be released through the spill-ways of the dam and the situation within the embankments will not change much. But how difficult it is to explain this to-day those who matter.
The Barahkshetra dam was proposed in 1946 and it is since then that the people are being given assurances and it is quite an effort to pass fifty two years by just giving assurances. We are not at all advocating the cause of the Barahkshetra dam but we are definitely asking a basic question that if the dam is so good and so useful to all the concerned parties, what prevents us from going ahead with it’s construction. We have seen eleven prime ministers during this period and there is none who is not moved by the plight of the people in Bihar during floods or not issued statements in favour of pursuing the matters with Nepal but the end result is the same. The fact is that there are some serious and practical difficulties which make the construction problematic, at least, to-day. The debate that is going on in Nepal, the articles that are published in the newspapers and magazines there and the views of the intellectuals / activists expressed at different fora, gives enough indication that the Nepali people are not so enthusiastic about Barahkshetra or any other dam, proposed within their territory as we feel here, sitting here in Saharsa or Madhubani. The debate is taking place in Nepal because the size of the dams and the country are comparable and hence it acquires proportions for discussion but looking at the area, population and the needs of India, Barahkshetra is just another scheme. It is easier then to push the debate under the carpet here in India, or divert the issues and when the debate is subdued, it is always easy to dangle the carrot at assurances. Yes, it could be a matter of debate in Bihar looking into it’s problems of floods, irrigation and power needs but Bihar itself is not favourably placed within the country. The politics, however, is run on assurances and diversion of debates.
Regional co-operation over the issue of water and power production is being talked about for past some years. This is being pursued with a greater vigour following the Rio Earth Summit (3rd-14th June 1992). Agenda-21 has laid emphasis on the co-ordination of the regional programmes for the nineties and beyond, for it maintains that regional programmes on water are obstructing the way to develop water resources in an integrated fashion. Agenda-21 also maintains that, at global level, co-ordination amongst the international organisations is an important job and it must be completed with vigour.
In the context of Indian sub-continent, such regional or international cooperation is possible in case of the Ganga and the Brahmaputra basins which encompass Nepal, India and Bangladesh. There will be no two opinion over the issue that if a river basin is viewed in totality, it will be far more easy to develop all the water resources of the basin. Nature has gifted these water resources to us but we have drawn artificial boundary lines of states and until such boundaries are done away with it is not possible to plan the basin resources by one single organisation in the basin. But it is a fact that the boundaries are here to stay and then it becomes necessary that the natural resources of the river basin are tapped for the common good of all the people with the cooperation of all while recognising the geographical boundaries of the states. This will be an ideal scene where all the actors are equally benefited.
Table -1 Details About Some Dams Proposed in Nepal and North-East
Type of Dam*
Height of the Dam (M)
Power Generation Installed Capacity MW
Gross Storgages Capacity 106 m3
Catchment Area Km2
Submergence Area Km2
Total Cost U.S.$
4,100 Million (1988 Estimate)
Site is located in a highly seismic zone. Power consumption area is located far away. Inundation area population and forest is large.
1,400 Million (1988 Estimate)
Site is located in a highly seismic zone. Power consumption area is located for away. Inundation area population and forest is large.
440 Million (1988 Estimate)
India is enthusiastic but Bangladesh has not agreed.
Uttar Pradesh Border Pithoragarh (U.P) Baitadi (Nepal)
Location of the dam site on the international boundary poses problems. Nepal wanted to push Karnali first.
Karnali (Chisapani Dam)
4890 Million (1989 Estimate)
Location of dam site in highly seismic zone. At least 60,000 person will have to be resettled. Wild life will be affected.
Kosi High Dam
Barahkshetra Saptari (Nepal)
Location of site in a highly seismic zone. Bed rock is permeable. Nepal feels benefits to India are quite high and disproportionate.
It will be of interest to look at the sequence of events after the Agenda-21 was written. The development of the Kosi or the Gandak waters through dams, between India and Nepal, was almost under suspension since 1947. B. G. Verghese has indicated that whenever India took the initiative about these dams, Nepal used to put a condition of an alternative trade route onto the western coast of India and India took the stand that no landlocked country in the world has been given two corridors from the neighbouring country and that Nepal should be satisfied with the trade route on the eastern sector at Calcutta. This would lead to a stalemate. But in November 1992, when Indian Prime Minister paid a visit to Kathmandu, a softening in the stand of the two countries was observed and later when Shri Man Mohan Adhikari visited India, an agreement was reportedly signed between the two countries for the transit facilities to Nepal on India's west coast. In return India was permitted to investigate the proposed Barahakshetra dam on the Kosi. Agreements were also signed subsequently on the Mahakali project between the two countries. All this happened at the national level. The news that comes in from across the boundary suggests that the Nepali people are not very happy about the Mahakali agreement. As far as Indian people are concerned, they are stuffed with the idea that the solution to India's flood problems lay in Nepal and hence there is a general sense of satisfaction in the population here and hence the development are welcome. How far this claim is valid is always debatable. Within an year or so, the project report of the Barahakshetra dam is likely to be ready and it is expected that the resources would be mobilised and the work might start on this dam. If this is possible by 2000 AD, half the objective of the Agenda-21 would have been achieved on the Kosi basin.
The financial resource position for such projects, however, are passing through a peculiar phase. During past ten years or so, there has been a steady decline in the financial inputs given by the World Bank to such projects since, almost all the world over, large dams have come in for severe criticism and opposition by the people. It is feared that privatization will enter the financing field too. An American multinational company, Enron, had offered to take up the Karnali dam proposed on the Karnali river but has pulled out in 1998 from the scheme in view of the large gestation period of 15 to 20 years for the construction of the dam. Its capital will naturally remain blocked for that long a period. Such companies are demanding some sort of guarantee from the institutions like the World Bank for investments. They might as well get it in future. Whether this money is made available from the MNCs or by the institutions like the World Bank, a trap is likely to be laid for the people when the countries, accept the financial assistance. There are many agencies touring Nepal with their purses.
To get a glimpse of the working of these institutions, let us to our villages. After the floods are over, it is time for the youth to go to Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Gujrat or Maharashtra and it needs money to finance the trip. Some people have fixed money lenders from whom they borrow money and go. In many cases the money lender chases and lures them saying ...last year you had gone to earn but not going this time ...do you need any help ...just let me know if you need some money ...do not feel shy and so on. When the lender speaks such a language, he does not mean the well being of his prospective loanee or his family. His eyes are firmly set on the interest of 10 percent per month which his capital is going to earn. He is not interested in his principal amount also. How does a lender controls the family of the loanee is no secret. At times, the money lender does not operate directly and takes the services of brokers who do the job for him. Let us go to Nepal and watch one such broker.
Global Infrastructure Fund Research Foundation (GIFRF), a Japanese organisation, is weaving a web for the Indo-Nepal Hydro-power Projects. GIFRF is concerned that despite the assistance of the United Nations and the World Bank no consensus has been reached between India and Nepal in past fifty years over the utilization of waters of the Himalayan rivers because of the mutual distrust aided by lack of proper human and financial resources. Nepal / India / Bangladesh have a combined population of 980 Millions which is rising at an alarming rate of 2.1 percent per year and it is essential to develop irrigation and agriculture to meet the requirements of this growing population. In 1988, some 57 percent of the area in Bangladesh was submerged in floods and that must be freed from it, and the same area reels under drought once the floods have gone. It is essential to counter this situation and raise the living standards of the people. GIFRF will continue it’s efforts in the Indian Sub-continent to harness the waters of the Himalayan rivers and is committed to the cause of sustainable development in the region ensuring irrigation, flood control and power production through dams, including Barahkshetra. It will continue to work as a catalyst to initiate debate over the related issues in Nepal / India / Bangladesh. GIFRF will continue to give information about irrigation/flood control/power production to the prospective donors in Japan and strive for the flow of funds to these projects. GIFRF is eyeing on Barahkshetra dam. for the present but it has also shown interest in other projects like the Karnali, the Dihang, the. Pancheshwar, the Subansiri and the Tipaimukh. GIFRF is not alone in the field as there are many others hunting for the projects in Nepal.
Thus, on one side we have our engineers and politicians selling dreams to us about these projects and on the other we have sellers who are having dreams of the same projects. In this race whosoever gets the even ground will emerge as winner. A similar race was held in December 1996 when India and Bangladesh entered into an agreement over the sharing of the Ganga Waters at Farakka. This agreement was drawn in a hurry and it was proposed to augment the supply of the river at Farakka by bringing 370 Cumec from the Sankosh river to Farakka through the Teesta barrage with the help of a 143 km. long canal. Now that the work on the canal has started, it is revealed that this link canal will destroy 1.143 Sq. kilometres forests and 934 Sq. kilometres of Tea Gardens, and up root 21,000 persons. The link canal will also endanger the wild life and threaten rare plants. Now that the descent against this canal is simmering, it is getting difficult to locate the leaders who had promised that nothing untoward would happen if this canal is constructed. The same thing was said about the Kosi embankments some fifty years ago. We now do not find the trumpeters of the Damodar Valley Corporation, built on the pattern of the Tennessee Valley Authority, to go and look into the waterlogging caused in the lower Damodar area in the districts of Hooghly and Howrah. And if the waters of the Shrimati can not be drained into the Mahananda because of the embankments constructed on the latter, causing severe inundation in the parts of the Malda district can the problem be solved by distributing clothes and medicines during the rainy season?
There is a marked similarity between the rivers the Rapt, the Rohin, the Gorra, the Kuano and the Ami in the Saryupar plains in U.P. to those of the Kushibhadra and the Bhargavi in ,the Puri district of Orissa. In both the states the river water, instead of pushing ahead, returns backward because of the choking of the confluences due to sedimentation but the technical prescription suggests to raise the embankments and everything will then be alright. No different is the case of the Kopili, Kalang, Kiling, Pagaladiya or Jiyadhal in Assam where floods precede rains in the plains.
To-day, most of our rivers are victim of whims of some politicians or engineers. This concern was limited to our respective state boundaries until recently. The era of globalization, privatization and market economy has converted our rivers to a saleable commodity and the state boundaries are slowly loosing meaning. We already have the ruins of structures constructed on most of our rivers—somewhere, it is only the irrigation colonies or only the foundation stones that are left behind and in some cases we find brick-stacks or rusted wire nets. We apprehend that the second round of onslaught on our rivers will be even worse and whole of the Brahmputra and the Gangetic Valley will fall prey to the dam builders and the resulting matter will not be confined to only one state ora country alone. It will have far wider repercussions. The rivers which appear to be set free on bail, temporarily, are likely to be re-arrested soon.
In order to understand the different aspects of this new era we are meeting at the A. N. Sinha Institute, Patna on the 21st/22nd June 1998 so as to take this debate further and plan our strategies for the future.
BARH MUKTI ABHIYANSeminar on River Crises in South Asia21-22 June, 1998
Anugrah Narayan Singh Institute of Social Studies, Patna
The Seminar on the River Crises in South Asia started with the welcome address of a senior colleague of Barh Mukti Abhiyan (BMA), Shri Surya Narayan Thakur. He extended warm welcome to the participants who had come to this meeting from different places like Nepal, U. P., West Bengal, Haryana, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Bihar and expressed his gratitude to them for coming to Patna. He also expressed his gratitude to those who had promised to come but could not come because of their engagements in relief work in Gujarat following the cyclone, and also to those who got stranded because of the Bengal Bandh yesterday.
A brief introduction of BMA was given by it’s joint convenor Shri Vijay Kumar who said that some fifteen years ago, the work done in the name of flood control in Bihar had a general acceptance of the people but when the eastern Kosi embankment breached in Nauhatta in the Saharsa district in 1984, the people started doubting the efficacy of the river embankments as a means of flood protection because now protecting the embankments was becoming an issue. That a breach in any embankment could have such a devastating effect was not known till then. The Kosi, after breaching the embankment was flowing though some 200 villages rendering eleven of them traceless. Around half a million people were physically uprooted from their homes and hearths and were forced to take shelter on the remaining portion of the same embankment which had spelt doom on them. People, then, were told by the engineers that the embankments had a life span of only 25 years which had expired two years ago and it had out lived its life for two years and that these were only a temporary protection devices against floods. We started studying floods following this disaster and had an opportunity to glance through the history, geography, engineering and technology, and the politics of the area. We studied all the possible technical ways of dealing with the floods and found that it is not only the embankments but all other structural options problems which are not only of technical nature but also have their environmental, social, economic and political implications. Having acquired this knowledge, we entered the field of public education and started an informal group of concerned people and named it Barh Mukti Abhiyan.
With the passage of time, we also developed contacts in other states and this is the reason we have many participants to this meeting from those areas. We also have contacts now in Nepal and Bangladesh. Some of our friends from Nepal are here with us today. We would like to review the events that are taking place in the world related to water in our local context and will concentrate on the Ganga and the Brahmaputra basins. Besides, the efforts are on to convert water into wealth from a resource. Now, if something acquires the shape of wealth, then the question of it’s exploitation and ownership would also arise and we would like that these points are discussed in this meeting. BMA welcomes you all and hopes that we will have a fruitful discussion in the coming two days.
Shri Dinesh Kumar Mishra introduced the topic of the seminar to the participants and said that following the Earth Summit held in Rio in 1992, a new approach has been proposed, to harness the world water resources, by the world community. The proposal is that all the countries, co-riparian in any river basin, should sink there political differences and regional aspirations and work together towards the development of water resources for the upliftment of the humanity. This is a very nice proposal and any right thinking person would welcome it. This could be a dream of any great man. The only disturbing point behind this great idea is that some merchants are also having their dreams about the same water resources and the hydro-electric power in tune with their aspirations. If we have a look at the problem in our regional context, Nepal has got a potential to generate 83,000 MW of hydro-electric power and the Indian states of West Bengal, Orissa and M.P. and the areas in Chhotanagpur and Santhal Parganas regions of Bihar have a huge mineral wealth and this combination is enough to lure anyone. Then if one tells Nepal that she has such a potential to be tapped and that there is so much shortage of power in the neighbourhood that it will be sold like hot cakes and tell India that her development is hampered because of shortage of power and if it is made available, her development will be back on the rails. If the obstructions in the path of the development of water resources are removed, these merchants will find it very easy to find a foothold in the field of water management, hydro-electric power production, construction of dams and canals, mining and industries in the region. They have set their eyes firmly on our resources and if we do not wake up to this situation immediately, any delay will cost us dearly. The rivers are ours, fields, forests and hills are ours, and so are minerals but the profits will go to them for a pittance.
The way the foreign investors are placing their pawns to harness our water resources is our concern and we have assembled here to discuss the same and I hope that when we leave tomorrow, we will have a better idea to deal with the situation.
Shri Ajay Dixit of Nepal Water Conservation Foundation and editor of Water-Nepal formally inaugurated the workshop with his brief statement. He said that, 'We have assembled here to discuss the river crises.' What river crisis is? I come from Nepal and there may be differences in the crises in your country and those of ours because the topography of the areas are different. These crises may vary but there may be some common points too. I will try to spell out the common concerns.
I feel that the first crisis is that of the data. The authentic information about the quantity of water available and its different modes of consumption are not known to us correctly. When we try to project our future requirements, it only becomes a guess work because the information about the correct use of water are doubtful and hence the projections cannot be reliable. The efforts to collect data and analyze them seriously has not been carried out sincerely, so far, and that is the first crisis.
The second crises is that of drainage. If the water comes and goes simply then there is no problem but it leaves traces of destruction behind the path it flows through. Something must be done to save the situation and the technical option available suggest the construction of dams or canals and so on. They cannot think beyond these options. But people are surviving in those areas for centuries even without these structures and then how can this be said that there is no alternative to the dams or canals. Supposing we build the dam and hold the water. What will we do with this water-they will suggest that we will release this water at the time of scarcity. The utilization of the stored water is never just and equitable. This is also a crisis.
The third point is that where such dams are built it is not only the land that exists there, it is occupied by the living beings too. There lives a society along with the flora and fauna and even a small intervention affects them all about which we do not bother. These days such societies have started struggling for their existence but earlier the governments used to some how manage them.
The benefits that accrue from any project finds a large number of claimants but what about the losses, who will share it. Supposing, we start pumping the ground water in any area for irrigation. The water table will, as a result, start receding. The resourceful person will bore further and tap the water still, but for a poor man, the situation goes out of his hands. Hence a common man is incapable of facing the consequences of a project and no one looks after him. If you keep the poor person at the centre of any proposal, your attitude towards various schemes will change. Take the case of drinking water, the governments have spent so much of money over it and yet the water is scarce and the scarcity of water affects us all. This problem was not there some years ago. Persons like us, who are closer to the society reel that people had their own wisdom and experience which should be tapped and utilized for the benefit of the society. Dug wells were used very efficiently in your country and were replaced by hand-pumps. So far so good. But no proper mechanism was evolved for the maintenance of the hand pumps and you were pushed to a situation that the wells became obsolete and the hand pumps, too, did not function. Many governments do not have the will to look for alternatives:
The Mahakali Project is on the anvil. Many people in your country are skeptical about the project and a large section of society, in Nepal, is also not very happy about it but no one is prepared to think about the alternatives. The situation is becoming more and more complex these days with the market forces getting prominence. The private enterprise is coming forward and role of the governments are receding. Now every thing is getting priced.
We have always been telling that our situations are different, surroundings are different, needs and life-style is different and hence our technology also should be different. Blind following of the western technology will not take us anywhere and the time has came that instead of talking about the alternatives, we must make serious efforts in that direction. We opposed the Arun III dam and the work had to be stopped there, we had suggested alternatives also to Arun III and had the government not been satisfied with the alternative, the work would not have stopped there. It is essential to keep the pressure mounting.
I hope that we shall have a fruitful discussion in this seminar and try to learn the related matter in detail.
Shri Samar Bagchi (Calcutta)- I thank BMA for organising this seminar. I had a chance meeting with Dineshji sometimes ago and got an opportunity to know each other and now I am here talking before you. You have worked a lot in the field of water and, especially, in the area of public awareness and that is worth imitating elsewhere.
Dr. Meghnad Saha had started writing over the issue of land and forests since 1922. Those days the problems were not so acute as these are today and the environment also had not become a cause of concern and debate. Thinkers like him could distinctly see the future and had warned about the misuse of resources and its indiscriminate exploitation. We all here have a feeling, which is also suggested by Shri Ajay Dixit, that the western science and technology benefits only a particular section of society and the entire establishment strives hard to perpetuate the process.
The government says that it has worked a lot in the field of agriculture. This is a fact because when the country became independent, we were importing grains from outside and today we are producing grains enough to feed 900 million mouths. Now, let us have a look at the West Bengal situation. In an attempt to improve agricultural production, we tapped ground water indiscriminately and millions of people are now hit by arsenic poisoning. It was only restricted to West Bengal earlier but spreading slowly into Bangladesh and other states of India. This is the price of growing more food and when it comes to paying the price, poor people have to pay it all alone.
Almost similar is the situation in coastal Gujarat where there used to be only 900 tube-wells sometimes ago. Now there are around a million. Water table receded due to excessive pumping and to fill the space left by sweet water, brackish water from the see crept in and ruined an agricultural land of about 1.25 million hectares. The benefits were reaped by the rich people who have now left the place and the poor are left to fund for themselves. Our ancestors had not given us the arsenic infected or the saline land. What authority then do we have to give such lands to our successors.
India is a vast country and very rich in water resources. We face the fury of floods on one hand and, on the other, we are confronted with drought. We must give a fresh look to this Issue.
Shri Saryu Rai, M.L.C. (Patna) - I have come from Delhi just today and got to know of this meeting through the newspaper and later received your message.
Bihar has got three distinct geographical divisions. On the north we have the northern Gangetic plains and many rivers flowing in the south or south-eastern directions join the Ganga which flows through the state from west to east and almost bisects the state. Such plains are also located south of the Ganga too and it’s rivers flow in the north or north-eastern direction to join the Ganga and is called central Bihar. These plains are dotted by the Kaimur range of mountains in some parts. The third portion is a hilly terrain of Chhotanagpur and Santhal Parganas. The economy of the central and north Bihar is agricultural mostly, being plain land, but South Bihar is famous for it’s forests, and mineral wealth and the rivers like the Damodar, the Barakar and the Subaranrekha. The geographical and the topographical conditions in these areas are entirely different.
Now let us have a look at the irrigation and flood control measures taken up in these regions. There is no difference, whatsoever, in dealing with the situation in these areas without showing any regard to their topography. It is obvious then that, despite the expenditure of billions of rupees in the irrigation and flood control sector, the situation remains unchanged and the flood situation in the state has gone from bad to worse. The donors of big projects are the real beneficiaries because, whether or not our irrigation projects work, they are assured of their interest over the capital. The Government claims that 40 percent of the agricultural land has been provided with the irrigation facilities and you may not find this claim valid if you verify the ground realities.
Almost all the major rivers of north Bihar were embanked in order to control floods. The bed of these rivers is rising because of the embankments and the embankments keep on breaching. If some alternative is not found out to deal with the north Bihar situation, the fertile plains there will be sand cast and waterlogged completely in next twenty five years.
The planners from the west view any project from the angle of power production and these projects submerge a vast area of forests which also are a source of energy. But forest’s contribution towards energy generation is always ignored in the computations. One of the country's biggest and oldest canal system, the Sone Canals, is now on the brink of collapse but, except for making plans and newer plans, nothing is happening to keep it’s benefits intact. The capacity of these canals are declining day by day. In case of new projects, one can understand if no action is taken but this is an existing project and a small care is enough to revive the project but that too is not happening. I hope all these points will come for discussions in this meeting.
Shri Ram Chandra Khan (Patna) jacketing of the Kosi was started in our area in 1955. This was an ambitious plan of Pt. Nehru although a debate that ensued in Bihar over past hundred years at all the levels, technical, social and political, was having a pitch against the embanking of the river. There might not have been such a destruction in a war that has been inflicted in the Kosi area which is caused by one single welfare measure of the Kosi Project. This project has ruined the land, forest, surroundings, environment, flora and fauna of the area together with the river itself.
It is very essential today to pre-assess as to who will pay the price for the luxuries of some, derived by the implementation of such projects, for how long and in what amount. This should be known in advance.
After air, it is water only which is available to us in-abundance. Of this, most of the life saving sweet water resource is available in Asia but because of our wrong policies and faulty management, even the drinking water is becoming scarce and a vast population is suffering from various diseaes.
Ever since the modern concept of living and the technology to entrench it deep into human life has spread it’s wings a wrought has been set in our traditional resources. The society became indifferent to wells and tanks and with the passage of time the new technological innovations have also become stale. The village tanks have become a bathing pond for the cattle and the household wastes are now being dumped into these tanks. Such water cannot be used for the domestic needs even, not to talk of its drinking water use. Hence when we talk of water management, it must start from our own surroundings.
There are two main sources of water- One the surface water and the other the ground water which is available to us since ages. Our ancestors were very careful about the use of the ground water and they used it almost exclusively for drinking purposes. For irrigation, they depended most on the rain water, tanks and the rivers. The rivers themselves acted as a store for water and its carrier.
Modern science looks at every thing as it’s enemy, every thing appears to be pitted against it as an enemy—the water, the river, the floods etc. etc. Science wants to defeat every thing and establish it’s control over it. But is water, river or a flood really our enemy and if these were our enemies, was life possible for us.
The science that is being practiced in the name of science is against human nature and we must stand united against this notion of science that is being used for the development these days.
Shri Rajat Banerji (New Delhi) I have come from Delhi and work there with the Centre for Science and Environment. Basically I am a journalist and environment is my field of interest. I have heard a lot about the Bihar rivers and their floods and I hope to learn a lot from this seminar.
Dr. Shronik Kr. Lunkad (Kurukshetra)- According to scriptures, rivers are full of juices (rasa). That is origin of the word 'Saraswati' The essence of all the properties that is contained in the river water is the power to sustain life. Rivers, in their journey from hills to the sea, dissolve minerals like Sodium, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, their corbonates or bi-carbonates etc. in the just and requisite quantities which form an elixir of life, from the rocks and the earth into their water along the banks of these rivers. All the rivers are 'Savaswati’s and many civilizations have grown and the cultures prospered along their banks. Most of our epics were written along the banks of these rivers some important portions of Rigveda were written near Kurukshetra by our Rishis along the banks of the Saraswati, a river which is now extinct due to geological reasonses confirmed by archeological findings. Along with the growth of civilizations, man discovered the five essential elements of life cycle; the earth, the water, the fire, the sky and the air. This was later confirmed by the modern science. Water has an important role to play in keeping the ecological balance.
The growth of population, urbanization and industrialization has led to unprecedented pollution of the rivers which almost amounts to their poisoning now. We are all well conversant with the pollution of the Ganga. The Yamuna has taken over the Ganga on this aspect. It will not be an exaggeration of facts that the Yamuna is now reduced to a cesspool near Delhi. Water discharged into the Agra Canal by Okhla Barrage contains more than 2.4 million coliform bacteria (bacteria contained in fiecal matter). Drinking water should be free of these bacteria.
On the other hand, floods have acquired menacing proportion all over the country due to hap-hazard and unplanned construction of dams, canals, roads, railway lines and embankments. There are 13 major and over 110 medium size rivers in India with thousands of smaller streams and most of these get dried up during the summer months. While the minor rivers get dried, the major rivers like the Ganga or the Yamuna are no exception to this general rule. Whatever little water is left in these rivers, it is so polluted that it is hard to call it water. Our greed to utilize all the available water of the rivers has prevented the rivers from flowing anymore. All the rivers in the peninsular India suffer the same fate, whether it is the Shipra, the Sabarmati, the Krishna or the Godavari.
There was a time when the verses like 'All the things in the world have their origin in water.' (Shatpath Brahman) were written because the man observed and felt that all the grains, the vegetations or the medicines are borne out of water, whether directly or indirectly. In the process of growth of relationship between human beings and the nature, first came the society and that was followed by the, market. As the market established it’s hold over the society, the seeds of corruption started germinating and the distortions in the society started manifesting themselves. But in the beginning, the man had spared two basic needs of the society; air and water, from pricing. Just as the markets grew to global dimensions, the values started declining in the developed societies. Big centres of profit and capital started springing up. With the input of the fertilizer of greed, the plant of corruption grew into a big tree and the second basic need of human beings, the water, also came into the ambit of market. The last of the basic needs, the air (oxygen), has also now been made a market commodity in the metropolitan cities.
In the complex process of world market, the third world countries are falling into a never returnable 'bebt trap' and mounting corruption courtsy World Bank and the IMF. These lords of the markets have taken the leaders, the bureaucrats and the contractors into their clutches and with their help have mastered the art of destabilizing the economy of the developing countries. These intricacies will have to be understood.
Shri Kameshwar Lai `Indu' (West Champaran)- I work in West Champaran and the Gandak enters the Indian territory in this district. This river although embanked, is not stable and it's position within the embankments keep on shifting. West Champaran boarders U. P. and Nepal and the river used to be the parting line. When the river changes it’s course, the boundary also shifts. For past four years, the river is pushing towards Bihar and it’s area is getting reduced and gets added either to Nepal or to U. P. One can say that the area of Nepal is increasing and that of India is getting reduced. If the river shifts slightly towards east, area of U. P. will increase at Bihar's cost. The situation with Champaran is such that there is no commonly accepted map of the district. As the river moves towards south, in the districts of Gopalganj, Siwan and Saran, severe erosion takes place and a vast area is lost to the river and thousands of people become victim of this erosion. There is no record kept of such incidence. Look at the western part of the West Champaran district the blocks of Madhubani and Thakaraha and count the numbers of the inhabited villages all the villages give a blank look. He, who is there to-day, may not be there next year. Nomads have a life-style of their own even that does not exist in this part of West Champaran. But on paper everything exists-the primary school, the primary health centre or the fair price shop and all this is in working order. The ration is allotted, there are teachers in the school and all the facilities are available in the primary health centres-but in reality nothing is there. Massive destruction has taken place in a 14 km. long strip in past four years. The population is on the rise and the area available is getting reduced. I am afraid, whether there will be anything left as West Champaran in the years to come. There is another river in our area called the Sikarhana, popularly known as the Burhi Gandak in the lower reaches, Altogether 37 streams join to form this river in Champaran. Wherever you go you will come across some stream or the other which get interlaced during the rainy season. One of such streams is named the Masan over which a dam is being built for past 20-25 years. Only salaries are being paid here without any output.
To cap it all there are annual floods. Roads do not exist. We are surrounded by rivers from all sides and how can we persue agriculture, one needs the seeds, fertilizers and diesel for that. How and where from this will come. There is no information available with anybody, including the government, as to how many villages are trapped within the Gandak embankments. Thus, Champaran is passing through a deed crisis-with the crisis of the rivers and with crisis of our town survival. When dams are debated, we are reminded of the Masan dam being built in our area. Small or a big dam, the sequence of events will be same as is happening in the case of the Masan dam. If a big dam is built, then a large number of people will draw their salaries sitting at home. The common man is not going to get benefited anyway. I have a feeling that similar things must be happening at other places too. I have come here with a hope to know as to what is going to happen with our rivers upstream of Champaran and the impact of the projects thus proposed.
Dr. R.N. Mandal (Katihar)- I live on the bank of the Mahananda and have come here from the Katihar district and have been overwhelmed by listening to so many experts here and I compliment BMA for doing such a good work in the field of public education. Ever since the Mahananda embankments were built, we had a feeling that something has gone wrong somewhere and we started giving vent to our feelings and BMA has helped us a lot in our efforts. We feel that a river free to flow it’s own way has always better than the embanked one. Our problems have increased many folds with the imbanking of the rivers by our planners and engineers. The Mahananda embankments are unstable and incapable of holding any floods. It is just a wall of mud which can never protect people against floods and millions of rupees that were spent on this project have been spent only for the well-being of the engineers and the contractors.
Those living outside the embankments suffered because of the perennial waterlogging and breaches in the river embankments taking place from time to time and the embankments spelt doom for those living inside them. Katihar faced devastating floods in 1984, 1987 and 1991 because of these embankments. We have toured our area after the floods and wherever we went, the people cursed these embankments for their miseries. The government spends crores of rupees for the protection of these embankments every year but neither the embankments remain safe not the people, who shift on to higher places or the embankment themselves during the rainy season for safety. Shri Dinesh Kumar Mishra has written a lot about the river and the project in his book ‘Bandini Mahananda’ which many of you might have read.
We are now constrained to believe that the people will never get a reprieve from the situation with the help of engineers and politicians. Whether it is the floods in the Mahananda basin or in other basins like those of the Kosi, the Kamla, the Bagmati or the Gandak. We should all try to educate the public about the factual position just the way BMA is doing and it’s efforts should be strengthened by each one of us. The Mahananda embankment in our area is open at three places-the people had cut it open and they are not allowing the government to plug it for past three years because there is a vast difference in the people’s thinking and the actions of the government. The floods are now reduced subsequent to the cutting of the embankment and there is a definite improvement in agricultural production. Now the flood comes and goes as was the situation in pre-embanking days. The engineers feel shy in talking to us when we show them the change that has occurred. I wish all the success to BMA in their efforts and hope that they will widen their base.
Shri Shivanand Bhai (Jamui)- I was just thinking the other day that we have not met for a long time after the Nirmali Conference last year (April 1997) over the issue of floods that I got the information of this seminar organized by BMA. We are all working in different areas but thinking alike over the issues concerning the people and that arouses high hopes. We must look at the problem in it’s entirety. The issues of water, forests and land should be taken up simultaneously so that we can keep the foundation intact over which the civilization rests. Our politicians did not see this in entirety and the distortions that we observe to-day are the result of such mistakes only. There were two developmental models available to us, the time of independence—one the Nehruvian model and the other, the Gandhian model, and we very well understand the difference between the two. The Nehruvian model got the upper hand and , as a result, all the three crises have to be faced and if we continue to pursue this policy, our situation will get worse.
It was in 1984 that the Kosi embankment was breached near Nauhatta in the-Saharsa district. I work in South Bihar but I come from Supaul district and my home is not far away from Nauhatta. After knowing that the embankment had breached and having discussed the matter with the people back home we decided to take up some relief work as the people were in distress and when we reached the area with the supplies, the people refused to accept the relief. They maintained that had the embankment breached due to natural causes they would have surely accepted the relief but the embankment had been breached to rob the project and hence they did not want relief but wanted the compensation for their losses. They told that the embankment was breached on the 5th September, 1984 and just four to five days prior to that, payments worth about 15 million rupees were made to the contractors for the works that were never done. Then the embankments were allowed to breach to remove evidences. However, the engineers and the contractors had never anticipated the extent of damage that would be caused. The surges of water passed through some 200 villages and the people came on to the streets. The breach site was located in the constituency of Shri Lahatan Choudhary who was also the minister for agriculture, relief and rehabilitation. He was gheraoed by the people once in the circuit house at Saharsa and the situation became so tense that police firing appeared imminent. Fortunately, no untoward incident took place.
We fought the legal battle later and took the matter up to the Supreme Court. It was confirmed there that the accident occurred due to negligence of the concerned authorities and the people's demand for compensation was justified. The honourable court directed the Bihar government to constitute a committee within two months and in another three months decide upon the compensation package. This judgment was pronounced in February, 1989 and no action has been taken so far. Later, we filed a contempt of court petition in 1992 in the Supreme Court but could not follow the matter because of the sudden demise of Shri Prem Bhai and the deadlock continues.
One thing is certain that except struggle, nothing can be done over the matter. Unless there is a mass movement, the problems of North Bihar will remain where they are. People are agitated but not organized. Take the example of the Kosi Project the propaganda is that there is some waterlogging only in the southern portion outside the embankments. We tried to hold a meeting over the issue in Raghopur and had apprehended that we will not get the public support there. Shri Ram Chandra Khan went to that meeting, there was some delay in reaching there but the people waited for us and heavily garlanded Shri Khan after the meeting was over. Therefore, we must now prepare ourselves and proceed.
Answering a question raised by Shri Nalini Kant that many Gandhian institutions are organising to launch a movement against iodized salt recently and that is now taking some shape also. Was it possible to raise the issue of water in a similar fashion and bring it within the orbit of a movement, Shri Shivanand Bhai said that he was given a pamphlet some three years ago which contained lot of praise for the iodized salt. Slowly, these advertisements got sponsoring by the government and in the last January (1998), there was a notification that he who stocks or sells ordinary salt after 28th May will be liable for punishment. The fact is that it is only in the Terai areas that one out of every two thousand persons is affected by goiter and deficiency of iodine is said to be it’s reason. Only for such a small problem, the whole country will have to consume iodized salt, the cost of which is Rs. 6 per kg., just twelve times more than that of the ordinary salt which used to sell at 50 paise a kg. Iodized salt alone will dupe the country annually of Rs. 2,500 Crores. Gandhiji used to say that air and water has been provided free of cost to everybody by nature and salt also should be available free of cost. This was one of the basics of the Salt Movement. Now you have to import Iodine, the technique to make iodized salt, and the machines and hence pay a price of Rs. 6 per kg. Our government's call themselves welfare governments and such a big fraud is perpetuated right under their nose. The multinationals are tightening the noose around us in such a way that even the governments are helpless before them. This issue can be resolved only through movements.
As regards the matters related to water, I must say that we started thinking over the issue since 1984. Mishraji went to Saharsa with me and subsequently started working on floods and has been feeding us with all the information since then and, slowly, the people are also realising the problems. The process should riot get restricted to water or salt alone, it concerns us in entirety and should be attacked in entirety. If one door toward movements is opened by iodized salt, the other issues like land, water and forests will also come up and we must act together over these issues.
Fr. Robert (Taru Mitra Patna) I complement BMA for their efforts over the issue of floods and water during past five-six years. But today many students had come along with me and went back during the lunch-break. l asked them why they are leaving. they said that we are fed up listening about the floods and embankments over and over again and there is nothing new here and hence they wanted to go.
The fact is that our rivers are embanked and their bed level is rising. It has risen to about 12-15 ft. at places. This is a reality that we are faced with and we have to seek a solution to that. Similar conditions had existed in China also when vast area was waterlogged along the embankments but they have experimented on growing paddy in such lands and have succeeded also. We must carry out similar experiments in our country-also so that we can expand further from here.
Shri Dinesh Kumar Mishra Fr. Robert has raised a very good point that BMA is working for past many years but things have stonewashed and something new is not emerging. I would like to add here that when floods used to come some ten to twelve years ago, people used to console themselves calling floods a natural calamity. Due to the efforts of BMA, a sizable section of the society now understands the reason behind such a calamity. They do not only understand that this is a man made affair but in many cases, even know the men who are behind it. The Bagmati embankments which breached at 7 points in the floods of 1993 remains open even today. Despite all the allurements and threats, the people have not allowed the government to plug these breaches. I feel, this has happened because of a better understanding of the situation. Dr. Mandal was telling in the morning that the Mahananda embankment was cut by the people at three places in the Kadwa block and they have successfully prevented it’s plugging by the government. The people there know where lie their benefits. We also have examples from the Kamla basin below Jhanjharpur. The embankments breach here quite often and in reaction to that, people also cut the embankments and they are not all 'anti-social' elements. The people have taken their own decisions depending upon their own distress conditions and all the credit goes to them but, certainly we have made a small dent by educating people.
Just go to Manihari (District Katihar). People there cut the embankments regularly much before BMA was born. BMA has only gathered these experiences, documented them and used then for creating public awareness over the issue. It has not done anything new nor it can create new ideas frequently. Such fete can be performed only by poets who can create new ideas frequently and have entirety different platform for the recitals.
As regards working on alternatives, we wholeheartedly welcome the suggestion. We have certain ideas and projections which we would like to be seen implemented and we are prepared to share it with anyone. This, however, is an institutional affair and we do not have any institutional base. We are a very loose frame work of concerned individuals and groups interested in the issue of floods and water. That is one of the reason we are unable to make headway in that direction.
The third question that we are often asked is whether the embankments should be demolished. I would like to say here that there is no need to demolish the embankments as the rivers are doing this job free of cost for us but whether a breach will be plugged or not, that decision should be taken by the locals. BMA knows a number of people in administration and with the government who have organised cutting of the embankments, un-officially, in their own presence. They have not only cut the embankments but also improved over the primitive technology of cutting the embankments. As a matter of fact, this is such a question whose answer cannot be given in 'yes' or 'no'. But when the planners give a blanket suggestion for controlling floods in all the situations and in all the places, one is left with little option than to oppose it. This whole issue needs a wide open debate.
Shri Tariq Rehman (Sahyog-Goarakhpur)- I have come from the Sarayupar plains of Uttar Pradesh. It is possible few years ago that flooding of our area was a welcome event but this cannot be called a pleasant experience anymore. We started working on finding a solution to the problem ever since we started investigating floods and taking a stock of the rising trend of losses in floods. Floods are not something new or an unexpected event in the eastern plains of U. P. and there may be many reasons that cause it; be technical, social, economic or political. We started a network of about 40-50 organisations in 1992 and named it Sahyog, to meet the challenges posed by floods. We have our head quarters at Gorakhpur and we take it as our primary responsibility to create awareness over the issue of floods and waterlogging.
The issue of floods is not confined to any particular province of the country and requires regional co-operation which becomes essential in many aspects. We have our own needs but our rivers come from Nepal and that compels us to depend on her. At the some time there are many issues over which Nepal has to look towards us for help. This underlines the need for a co-operation between the two countries. We have taken some initiatives in this direction through our net-work. There are three major rivers in our area namely the Gandak, the Ghaghra and the Rapti, but we have started our efforts on a relatively much smaller river called Rohin which passes through the Maharajganj district and has it’s origin in Nepal. We collected lot of information about this river with the help of our young friends and the people living in that basin and noted that many changes have occurred in the size and the path of the river. We tried to go into the details of these changes. There have been many changes in the flow path of this river in past 30-35 years which enters the Indian territory from Nepal. Excessive rains in the catchment of this river in Nepal is the basic reason of the change in course of the river. To further strengthen our knowledge base, we contacted our friends in Nepal and took up a Padyatra from Vasantpur in U. P. to Butwal in Nepal along the Rohin river. On the entire route of this Padyatra we organized seminars, meetings and consultation camps. While we were passing through the Indian portion, people told us that the flood in this area is caused by the surplus water coming from Nepal and if the river is embanked in this portion, the problem could be solved, to an extent. As we proceeded in Nepal, the river started narrowing. Affluence from a sugar mill are discharged into this river in Nepal. After this Padyatra we felt that there is a lot of confusion among the minds of the people across the boarder and attempts should be made to correct this situation. This should be done making full use of facts and figures based on scientific data and not by emotions. It pays to have a solid base of information and it becomes easy to convince others if we have the requisite data. We are trying to work in this direction.
After Shri Tariq Rehman completed his speech many participants asked him questions. This included (i) We are able to locate our problems and can also identify the forces that we have to confront. In that context what could be our expectations from each other, (ii) We are told about the co-operation between U. P. and Nepal groups. Sometimes in future, there may be co-operation between Bihar and Nepal groups, too, but there is also a need to establish link between, say, U. P. and Bihar or Bihar and West Bengal. Please let us know if there has been some initiative in that direction. (iii) Do you see any role of the international financial institutions or the multinational companies in the context of regional co-operation.
Shri Tariq Rehman replied that we have progressed reasonably well in the direction of collecting data, both in India and Nepal and have installed rain gauges at many points and are monitoring rainfall. Sometimes in future, we will also try to measure the river discharge of Rohin. We will have reasonable data after sometimes to draw our own inferences.
Question was further raised before Shri Tariq Rehman that the kind of data you are collecting are mostly technical and the technical people have their own vested interest in the problems. They are capable of making any problem so complex and mysterious that they rule the roost and then they present themselves as experts and establish their own superiority. You will collect the data for certain and will again fall into the trap of the engineers for interpretation. What measures you have taken to protect yourself against the trap.
This question was answered by Shri Rajesh Kumar of People's Science Institute--Dehradun. He said that the PSI and Sahyog is working jointly over the issue and we have installed altogether 9 rain-gauges of which 7 are installed in Nepal and two in the Indian territory. We can measure the rain-fall in the catchment and relate it to the discharge in the river. Further, we can also try to measure the incoming silt in the river flow. We had taken the Padyatra along the Rohin, from Vasantpur to Butwal, This entire route can be classified in three main portions. At Vasantpur, the river water contains fine silt and it is because of this that there is a good kharif crop in the area. The same fine silt gets converted to fine sand as we move upstream of Vasantpur. This is followed by coarse sand and then gravel. I have seen the Kosi area and I am in a position to compare the situation at both the places. I have a feeling that the way in Kosi area has deteriorated in past 30-35 years, a similar situation will occur in the Rohin area if the river is embanked. Since the immediate benefits can be visualized if an embankment existed there, people are demanding embankments. If it is possible to take these people to the Kosi area and they be shown that the Kosi area was also in the same situation 30-35 years ago and if the embankments are built there, the situation in the Rohin basin also would be the same in days to come.
Shri Tariq Rehman further said that the efforts of working through Sahyog has yielded results and we have had an opportunity to understand the problem of each other and one thing is obvious that without a dialogue, no problem can be solved, whether it is inter-state or international. We are in constant touch with Nepal and will try to develop similar relationship with other neighbouring states.
Intervening in the debate, Shri Ajay Dixit said that at the national level only three rivers, i.e. the Karnali, the Gandak and the Kosi are being discussed between India and Nepal. There is no another river being discussed at the moment. We thought to study a river which would never become a topic of discussion between the two countries at an official level. That is the reason we chose the Rohin. We thought of working on this river at the people's level and involving the local group working in those areas. The main point of concern is that people in India have a feeling; that Nepal has excessive water and that is the reason for the high floods here while in Nepal, the general feeling is that India has become very prosperous because of the Gandak and the Kosi Projects and this prosperity is at the cost of Nepal. We want to clear this mist and it is essential to carry out a scientific study to achieve this objective. This is also essential first to have a feel of our collective strength and to identify the forces that one will have to confront. Further, a false propaganda is made in India that there has been a massive deforestation in Nepal and that causes heavy floods in India. I can say this with confidence that the forest area in Nepal is now 10-15 per cent more than what it used to be some 10 to 15 years ago. There has been a wide-spread afforestation programme in our country during this period.
Shri Kemeshwar Lal `Indu' wanted to know that severe erosion is taking place below the Gandak Barrage and the villages are being lost to the river and thereby our area is shrinking. As long as the barrage was not there, there was some sort of balance and the problem was not that acute. He wanted someone from Nepal to comment over the situation.
Shri Nalini Kant repeated his question that the data-base that Shri Rajesh and Shri Rehman are talking about is too complex and mysterious. That there should be a data-base, is essential and without any dispute but we have serious reservations about the way this is going to be used or presented. He further said that he had seen a report today on the drainage problem of the Kosi prepared by two of our colleagues with Mishraji and had no hesitation to say that he could not make out even a word out of it and returned it. If this report is of no use to him, what a common man was going to do with it, he added and maintained that is should be our common concern that the data-base should not be allowed to have the upper hand.
The debate came to an end with the intervention of the chair and the question of the role of financial institutions and the multinationals remained unanswered but not before Shri Vijay Kumar of BMA making his statement. He said that we must glance through the events in our own country before talking about the international or regional co-operation. While the Cauvery dispute was at it’s peak, Mr. Devegowda-then chief minister of Karnataka, who later became the prime minister of the country, had said that he will not give a drop of extra water to Tamil Nadu and when he was shown the drying paddy plants from Tamil Nadu had re-iterated that he would pay the compensations for the loss of crop but not give any water to Tamil Nadu. In that back-ground, we must put our house in order first and work for an accepted National Water Policy that such questions are not raised in future.
Shri Ajay Dixit intervened once again saying, I am engineer and I want to say something about mystifying the data. It is true we have been trained in a fashion that we mystify the whole thing and then occupy the prime slot. But, even in our fraternity, there are people who are not convinced of their traditional role and want to break these boundaries. We have started this study to make the matter simple and not to complicate it. The other point is that there is an inherent feeling in Nepal that India is a big country and she keeps on reminding others of this virtue. I do not say why it is there or whether is it right or wrong and, probably, nobody has an answer to this problem but it is a fact that such feeling exists in the minds of an average Nepali citizen.
Shri Girin Chetia (Jorhat - Assam) I have come from the north-eastern part of the country and people in our area suffer from a feeling that whatever that happens in this country, they are left behind. I have some language problem and you will have to exert to understand my Hindi. We are discussing today the river crises in South Asia and we are restricting ourselves to the rivers of the Himalayan region. Just as the rivers are different, we must appreciate that their crises also should be different. Where rivers are embanked or some flood control measures are taken, those areas have one set of problems but where such works are not done, the problems are different there. People elsewhere believe that Assam is a land of slow motion-everything moves there very slowly. I do not understand how do people nurse such ideas about us and it is increasingly difficult for us to convince them otherwise. We have got a large number of rivers and, probably, that is the reason that the embankment builders operated here with all their might and, as a result, Assam has the longest length of embankments compared to any other state in-the country 4470 kms. And when you have so much length of embankments, the flood problems are also not going to be any shorter. When these embankments did not exist, our state had around 3,000 villages that were prone to flooding, now we have 5,600 villages. Almost whole of Assam was drowned in 1988 and that is history now. There are 23 districts in Assam at the moment and 21 out them were affected by floods that year. Therefore, when we talk about the crises, we must keep these points in our mind. The nature of rivers also is different. Almost all the rivers in the country are called 'Mothers' but our Brahmputra is a patriarch. We call it Baba the grandfather.
We must have a look at the Assam valley which is around 800 kms long and 90 km. wide. Of this 90 km width, the Brahmaputra occupies 10 kms. Thus only 80 kms is the effective width of the valley and rest all is hilly. Some 104 streams join the Brahmaputra from north and south making the area most river dense area in the country and, in the event, flood is an essential phenomenon in this part of the country. Our traditional life style was in tune with this sort of flooding. Now come the engineers and experts on the stage who can see the floods but do not have the patience to see our traditional life style. They see water and the hills and their instant reaction is power production and their minds start calculating the megawatts.
You must have heard about the Brahmaputra Board which is our institution of experts. They keep the account of water that flows down the Brahmaputra and as is the expectation from them, they have kept the master plans ready for the construction of 16 large dams in the valley to produce around 50,000 Megawatts. The discussion start from floods and invariably end up in power production. You might have heard about the Dihang dam this will produce 20,000 MW of power and the Subansiri will produce 4,800 M.W. and like wise we have other dams and none of them is likely to produce less than 1,000 Megawatts of power. Assam needs today only 500 to 600 M.W. because industries are not there and villages are far flung and remote and it is difficult to electrify them. But experts have a dream of their own. Wherever they will see water and hills they will always think of power and a desire to lighten whole of South Asia will fill their hearts. After that, whether Assam sinks or floats, it is none of their business. I am told that, in Bihar, BMA has launched a campaign against the embankments and at many places people, being sick of the performance of the embankments, have cut them also and these embankment busters include those who are in the government or administration but the question remains that why the people cut the embankments at all. This is, probably, because nobody is prepared to listen to their plight and when their patience is lost, they cut the embankments. People cut the embankments in Assam too as the conditions are precisely the same as you have here.
This is the situation in Assam today. There are some 400 gaps in the embankments today and nobody is concerned about it. The experts have only one point programme build the large dams. This is June now and Assam has already faced two round of floods and will face it many times more. I request you all, who have gathered here, not to forget Assam while you discuss floods.
In an answer to a question Shri Girin Chetia said that the location, where Dihang dam is to be built, lies in a highly seismic zone. In 1950, there was a severe earthquake in this region which is rated as one of the biggest in earthquake ranking and had devastated the whole area. Some 2,500 earthquakes are recorded in this area in past ten years of which over 100 were more than five on the Richter Scale. Earthquake was a big issue in case of the Tehri dam and there has been no common agreement among the experts so far there, but in our places the information and public awareness is so much lacking that committees are being constituted for the speedy construction of these projects. We propose to start soon a public awareness campaign in our state and seek your co-operation in the matter.
Shri Vijay Kumar of BMA said that Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Vahini of Bihar had, in past, not only extended it's moral support to the students' movement of Assam but it has also given its organisational support to them.The government that we have today in Assam is an outcome of the same movement. We had taken out a Padyatra, from Patna to Guwahati, those days in support of the student's movement and if there is any movement related to water in Assam, we will surely extend a helping hand there.
Shri Arjun Prasad Singh (Lok-Sangram Samiti - Patna) We have had some serious discussions about the water management here and I have a feeling that rivers can never cause injuries to human beings, they are, infact, a blessing for the humanity. Whatever problems are being faced, these are because of the poor handling of the water resources. The forests also have been ruthlessly demolished and it’s combination with the poor handling of water resources has created the crisis. It was reported that by 2020 there will be a world wide crisis of even the drinking water. Now whether you build dams, break embankments or collect data, the problem will have to be faced. The key to successful implementation of water projects or it’s management lies always with the rulers and unless the politicians belonging to the ruling class are mobilized, nothing worthwhile is likely to happen. Therefore, we must also consider the ways and means to mobilize politicians round the issue.
Shri V. Mohan Reddy (Hyderabad) I am listening to the debate very carefully since morning. I feel that the main issue is of agriculture which is surfacing here in the form of floods or power production, whenever governments think of any project, the main issue always remain that of power production and anything else is of secondary or tertiary importance. It is altogether a different matter that what is served as the primary issue. Look at the Devegowda package for Assam wherein he had made a provision of Rs. 6,000 Crores in Assam and you see this package, almost entire allocation was made on power production.
I was a student in 1984 and got an opportunity to attend a seminar in India International Centre at Delhi which was organized by some Japanese group. The main emphasis of this seminar was to prove that by 2005, India will emerge as a super power. This, they had said keeping in view of the agricultural production of India. The Japanese also maintained that they had already convinced Mrs. Gandhi. They had plans that there is lot of ground water in the Gangetic plains of India which should be tapped and utilized to enhance the agricultural production in India and so also to set up the Agro-based industries in the country. Having said that, they opened the Pandora Box of power production. The Japanese had their eyes set on the coal that was available in Bihar and proposed setting up of thermal power units to produce electricity. Their plans ran into difficulty because the British and the Americans wanted to achieve the same target through hydropower production as, according to them, thermal power plants have more polluting effect. The Hydro-power plants have come for discussion once again following the Rio Earth Summit. The main issue according to them, is that when power supply is assured, the farmers of Bihar will get more ground water and their production will increase and they will prosper more than the farmers of Punjab or Haryana. That was the time when the Japanese and the Americans were talking about enhancing the agricultural production but now there are apparent changes in their thinking process and now they are talking about industrial production and their enthusiasm about the farmers has subsided. We have an example of Andhra Pradesh before us. This state tops the list of all the states of India in taking foreign aid. In Andhra Pradesh, it is the World Bank which is ruling and not the elected government by the people. This is the only state in the country whose master-plan for the development is made by the World Bank.
It is a very superficial argument that the subsidy given to farmers affects the economy adversely. The farmers in my state have to pay 13 paise per unit for electricity and when the subsidy is withdrawn, they will have to pay Rs. 3/- per unit. It will not be possible for the farmers to pay this amount and the aspirations are being nursed that the industrial houses should come to this area and take over farming. The farmers and the labourers should now think that they can never remain the farmers or the labourers even. Now, they have to decide whether they will arrange the electricity for themselves or hand over their fields to the multinationals.
What is true for Andhra Pradesh is also true for the other Indian states and Nepal. 1 want to say this emphatically that the Govt. of Andhra Pradesh has already taken a loan of Rs. 17,000 Crores from the World Bank and it is negotiating further a loan of another Rs. 10,000 Crores. Whatever money we get from the World Bank, we return 60 percent of the same as interest and the remaining 40 percent would benefit only two dozen industrial houses of Andhra Pradesh.
Some voluntary groups in Andhra Pradesh have challenged the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and the World Bank that if they are given the rights over the forests, tanks and water and the other of common property resources, the will be able to repay all the loans and will double their income in five years. I have only this much to say at the moment and I hope that you will understand the conspiracy.
Dr. S. K. Lunkad stressed that the conspiracy is being hatched and we all should understand the game. The carrots that are dangled before us are for the benefit of some one unseen. The amount of ground water available in the Gangetic plains is not clearly known but it is definitely not unlimited and we must very carefully define the use of every drop of water. There was so much irrigation done in Punjab through canals that the ground water table rose by leaps and bounds and the land was getting destroyed due to waterlogging and salinity and then it was proposed to tap the ground water for irrigation and thus lower the water table. The situation today is such that virtually all the ground water in Punjab is now pumped out. In Haryana, this tapping is done to the extent of 70 percent. Therefore, whatever is being proposed or advertised in the name of tapping the ground water is very misleading and if any proposal or demand is made regarding the use of ground water, we should exercise utmost restraint.
Shri Bhuwaneshwar Singh (Siwan) supported the views of Dr. Lunkad and said that last year he had gone to Andhra Pradesh in connection with his personal work and found time to go around thirty Grape Farms in the Hyderabad and Mahaboob Nagar districts. The owners of these farms were generally Gujrati businessmen who had started grape farming few years ago. The irrigation source was obviously the ground water for this crop. For some years, the business flourished and then the ground water receded. The irrigation slowly became costlier and now the production has come to a grinding halt. The labours that were employed on these farms are either idling or have left the place for good. The farmers who were able to irrigate their fields earlier cannot do it anymore and this has led to massive unemployment there.
While winding up the debate, Shri Mohan Reddy said that last year some 200 farmers committed suicide in the state. The reason for this suicide was that almost 50 percent of them had taken loans from the banks for purchasing pumps. Despite deep borings these farmers could not strike water and the crops were lost. The loans were mounting and the corp. had failed, that resulted in suicides. The other reason was that the power supply was erratic and it's supply was never timely. Hence wherever water was available that also could not be tapped properly. Instead of solving this problem, the Chief Minister is enhancing the price of the electricity and that is enough to eliminate the small farmer and as a result, the farmers have committed suicide. While all this is happening at one end, a propaganda is made that the corporate sector abroad produces large quantities of apples from the farms that are of the size of 20,000 hectares or more and this implies that the farming of the small farmers is made unproductive first and then the land is handed over to the corporate sector which will not only be able to pay the revised tariff of the electricity, but will also be able to prove how useless was the traditional agriculture.
Shri Samar Bagchi (Calcutta) pointed towards a dichotomy in the views. He said that in the beginning Shri Mohan Reddy bad said that the multinationals or the World Bank are shifting the emphasis from agriculture to industrial production but when corporate farming is brought into focus, we are talking about the strengthening of agriculture instead of industry. Shri Reddy opined that when the companies talk about the industry, it is not that they will totally ignore agriculture but it will occupy a place of secondary importance only. Because when we are talking about the possibilities of producing 83,000 M.W. in Nepal and another 50,000 M.W. in the Brahmaputra Valley, the emphasis is bound to be on industry to be followed by agriculture.
Dr. Ajay Kumar (New Delhi) I have come from Delhi, at the moment, but I originally belong to Bihar and I am residing in Delhi only for the past two years and hope to return to my state very shortly. My own area is one that of waterlogging and I was lucky to have got an opportunity to work in a similar area after completing my studies in agricultural sciences. These programmes were supported by the Ford Foundation. I had some learning about agriculture in waterlogged conditions in my own village from the farmers, unconsciously.
We are discussing a subject which is very wide in it's scope and I can see two very distinct aspects of it. Firstly, there is a scope for struggle and organizing people against the faulty policy and it's implementation which is what Mishraji was telling as to how the people cut the embankments at various places. The other aspect of the same thing is to work on the alternatives which also includes relief and rehabilitation. Many local and foreign relief organisations are working on this aspect and they have done a commendable job in the waterlogged and flooded areas. Constructive work is just an extension of this work.
We have a small experience in the field of farming in the waterlogged area. This work was started in the states of Bihar, West Bengal. Orissa and eastern U. P. with the help of Ford Foundation in 1985 and was first of it's kind in the flood prone and waterlogged areas in which we tried to grow different varieties of paddy in varying conditions of waterlogging. Such experiments were carried out earlier in the laboratories alone and we grounded these in the fields. In Bihar this experiment was done in Vaishali district where vast chaur area lies fallow.
When we started this work, we realized that it is one thing to have a laboratory experience, but it is entirely a different thing to replicate it in the field conditions and if we have to work with farmers, we must make use of their experience and know their expectations. We stayed with the farmers in their villages and defined the problems first and fixed up the priorities. We identified the farmers and their land where we wanted to conduct our field tests. We also took care in selecting those chaurs which were relatively deeper. We were of the view, and this was reinforced by the farmers views also, that we must make full use of the moisture available in the land where from the flood water recedes first and to the final depth to which it recedes. We tried to grow wheat on such lands and grew it successfully, though attended with some minor troubles in the beginning.
In the stagnated water zone we tried to grow paddy although we could not succeed to the extent we did in the laboratories. But the achievement was there. These varieties of paddy are now being widely used in different places in North Bihar and the production is slowly improving.
I also feel about the dearth of data, and it is heartening to note that the NGOs of U. P. and Nepal have started collecting and exchanging the data. The other point I would like to emphasize is that no significant work has been done so far for the development of wetlands. I would suggest that whenever you raise the question of floods or waterlogging, please, also raise the question of the development of wetlands.
Shri Dina Nath Patel (Kabiradhap-Saharsa) I come from the area that is located within the Kosi embankments and comprises of about 300 Gram Panchayats of the Saharsa, Darbhanga, Madhubani and Supaul districts. In fact, we can not describe in words the hellish conditions in which we live. We are not certain about our agriculture and I do not know whether I will find my house intact when I go back or it is consumed by the river. Our crops are washed away annually. We do not have buildings of our schools and the teachers, naturally, do not come. There is no health centre within the embankments and even if one exists somewhere, it is useless because no health worker mans it. It is hard for us to tell our woes. For six months a year, we only pray before the Kosi and ask her to go.
Shri Madan Mohan Thakur (Naugachhia-Bhagalpur) Naugachhia is located between the Kosi on the north and the Ganga on the south. Around two months before the flood season, the people in our area start moving to safer places with their belongings, cattle, birds and essential commodities and stay there for a long time. Surrounded by water and filth on all sides, they are often attached by Malaria and Cholera. Agriculture is in shambles and resorting to crimes is our main occupation. Boys remain unmarried for a long time because no one wants to dump one's daughter to our area.
I was listening the deliberations very carefully since morning with the hope that some solution to our problem might be suggested by somebody but I am disappointed not to get one. We are small workers and you may call us a Mistry and we find it hard to absorb what the seasoned workers, the Shastris, have to say. All that I have understood is that creating public awareness over the issue is what all we do and will can do it when I go back to my village.
Shri Suman Singh (Garkha-Saran)- I have come from the area located between the Ghaghra and the Gandak and we are sick of the chaurs in our area and the stagnating water in them all the year round. We are all the victims of the Gandak canals which deliver water into our area only during the floods and the water is not to be seen in these canals when we actually need it. The drainage of rain water is badly impeded due to these canals and I hope that we shall be discussing the waterlogging further in this seminar.
After the statement of Shri Suman Singh, Shri Priyadarshi (in chair) commented that some 120 persons have registered their presence in this meeting and at any given time, in this hall, the attendance never fell below 90 and that shows the concern of the participants over the issue. He further said that we are listening to almost same kind of views from the speakers who are expressing their concerns but there may be the other side also which is concerned about these concern's and a clarification to that effect may be needed. He asked Shri Dinesh Kumar Mishra to wind up todays debate of the second session. Shri Mishra said that the session had started with the presentation of Shri Kameshwar Lal 'Indu' who had suggested to intensify the struggle while Dr. R. N. Mandal talked about the problems in the Mahananda basin. Shri Shivanand Bhai explained the Kosi situation. The Kosi ought to have got more time but since were trying not to deviate much from the main topic today, the Kosi did not get the attention it deserves. We might meet shortly to discuss these problems separately. Fr. Robert expressed his concern about the stagnation in our approach and we welcome his apprehensions. Actually, ever since we started raising the flood and waterlogging issue in North Bihar, we have not observed any significant change in the rainfall, rivers, embankments, floods, waterlogging or the flood policy of the state. In the situation we add new people to our fold and new events that add to our knowledge base but the basic problem remains the same what it used to be ten years ago. And if the same situation continues, it is unlikely, that there will be any change in ten years more to come. All that we can say that the open spaces in the embankments of the Bagmati, Kamla or the Mahananda, which the people did not allow to plug, are not just simple gaps but these are the question marks on the entire floodcontrol mechanism of the state. Some people might take this positive development and the others may just turn their face. On that count, we are surely not saying anything new.
The history of exploitation and deprivation might be as old as that of the human beings but until today neither this process has stopped nor has the struggle against it. In this confrontation only the balance tilts from this side to that side sometimes. Our efforts should also be viewed in that background. We will continue to press upon this point till we realize our goal. We are conscious of the experimenting on the alternatives and we promise to work in that direction.
Our friends from U. P. made a very good presentation about the regional co-operation and their efforts of working together with Nepal groups is a praiseworthy exercise. Although, we in Bihar are a bit skeptic about the some aspects of regional co-operation. Should an opportunity occur in future that the Bihar and U P. groups work together, we hope, we will come much closer. Shri Girin Chetia unfolded the Brahmaputra valley 'situation before us and we find a striking resemblance between the Bihar and the Assam situation and I hope, we will be in a better position to co-operate in future over the issue of water.
Shri Mohan Reddy, citing the examples of Andhra Pradesh, gave an insight into the regional co-operation in the field of exploitation and we hope that this point will come in for further discussion to-morrow. Dr. Ajay Kumar emphasized about drawing a balance in struggle and the constructive work and establish the identity of flooded and the waterlogged areas. We must work on the alternatives and expand into construction work. He also talked about raising the issue of wetlands along with floods and waterlogging.
As a matter of fact, whenever water and its use is discussed at the national level, one gets the impression that the entire country is reeling under drought. The flood prone and waterlogged areas are simply ignored as most people feel that water is in abundance in those areas and there may not be a dearth of anything there nor there can be any problem. I was invited to a meeting last year in Bhopal, where water was the central theme. There were around 60 participants in this meeting. 59 were from the water scarcity area and I was alone representing the floods and waterlogged regions and there was no representation from the far east or north-east. I said that if this workshop continues for three days, then justice demands that I should be given one and half days to cover my area and I got just 20 minutes to speak. I told the gathering that each one of you is busy developing the wastelands of your respective areas but I come from a place where developed land is being wasted. I got the personnel applaud but not a place in the report and our problem remained where they were. We must raise the issue of wetlands whenever we get an opportunity.
Shri Dina Nath Patel talked about the life within the embankments and Shri Madan Mohan Thakur extrapolated the same by citing life within two rivers.
Shri Suman Singh talked about the waterlogged areas in Saran district of Bihar. The issue of the Kosi remains the permanent feature of any such meeting which was dwelt upon by Shri, Ram Chandra Khan in the morning to-day and I hope will be able to talk about it further tomorrow.
Second Day 22nd June 1998First Session—Chair-Shri Rameshwar Singh
Shri Nalini Kant
Shri Rameshwar Singh called upon the participants that, ' we had taken ahead the debate of the river crisis to some extent yesterday and to-day we shall endeavour to discuss the issue further. He said that the plans are afoot of gag the rivers in different areas in many ways and the financial institutions and the multinationals are casting their evil eyes on them. It is not the intention of the companies to develop the backward areas in any developing country as they profess, but it is the cheap labour in these areas which they are aiming to exploit. They do show in their financial statements that they have invested so much of money in a particular factory within a country and have earned so much profit out of it and the rest of the money is utilized for the general well being of the people of the country where this money is invested. The truth is that it is one -similar company which supplies raw materials/ machines etc. to the MNC, the second looking after the marketing of the finished goods, the third looking after the consultancies and so on benefiting only a handful of persons who operate virtually as brokers of the parent body and make profits in turn and become advocates of the MNCs. The poor get only the spills. 1 will request the speakers to kindly elaborate these points in detail along with the possibilities of initiating a concrete effort in driving these exploiters out of the country.
Shri Pawan Rana of Pithoragarh (U. P.) was the first speaker to-day and was introduced by Shri Vijay Kumar of Barh Mukti Abhiyan. He said that, 'we met Shri Rana at Pokhra in Nepal sometimes last month in a workshop. He is working in the Indian portion of the Mahakali Project area. We found striking similarity in his approach with that of BMA and our friendship grew and, as a result, he is here with us to-day. The Abhiyan extends warm welcome to Shri Rana to this meeting.'
Shri Pawan Rana 'I have come from Pithoragarh in U.P. and working in the Mahakali area where the Pancheshwar dam is proposed to be built. Last year the Mahakali Treaty was signed between India and Nepal which paved the way for the construction of some 56 small and big dams in our area. The first dam that is proposed will be 288 meters high and will be constructed at the confluence the Mahakali and the Saryu. The second dam is proposed on the Sharda (name of the Mahakali in the Indian portion) near Purnagiri. The combined power production capacity of these two darns is said to be 6,000 Megawatts (MW), although the targets are very much doubted in the concerned circles.
The details of the Mahakali Treaty is not available with us but we understand that there is a lot of resentment about this treaty in Nepal. Irrespective of the provisions of the treaty, we feel that constructing so many large dams on the river is generally not in the interest of public. If we trace back the history a bit the mist gets clear slightly. There was a lot of study of water resources in U.P. during 1974-75. Areas deficient in water were located and so was the availability of water in the state and it was resolved that the areas deficient in water will be supplied by storing the available water. Resolutions were passed in the Vidhan Sabha to that effect and that laid the foundation for the construction of large dams in the state. It was around this time that water supply in the hilly areas was taken upon a mass-scale but all this was being done at the instance of the donor agencies. Jal Nigams were being established at various places for drinking water and the peoples' control over their: drinking water resources started slowly slipping out of their hands. We will have to continue out struggle against this.
If these dams are constructed, not only a large number of villages will get drowned in the submergence area behind these dams but a good amount of fertile land will also have to be sacrificed. According to informed sources, some 120 Sq. Kilometers of fertile land will get submerged under these two dams and this means that around two lakh people will be displaced in the Indian portion alone. There will be an added displacement in Nepal which we are not aware of. Even to-day, these areas do not have water or electricity and even ration availability is quite scarce. Administration tells that whosoever is displaced, will be granted land and people become complacent just on this assurance, There are about 4 million people left in this country waiting for rehabilitation and we apprehend that if we are not cautious at this stage, the Pancheshwar people will also join this crowd. This was the motive behind our visiting Patna for this meeting so as to tell you aboutour situation and explore the possibilities of some joint action in future. But before starting any struggle we need information or at least, a right to information. Whatever is going to happen is tilted heavily in favour of power production and is not aimed at improving irrigation or controlling floods. The proposed power exceeds our demands and is meant for industry and, in turn, the MNCs. There is no space for the common man in these projects.
Dr. T. Prasad (Patna) I have the background of a civil engineer and have worked mainly in the field of water management and will talk to you on that aspect of water with emphasis on the water resources, irrigation and floods if the state of Bihar. If we look at thepoints separately, we do not get the proper perspective and hence it is essential to treat the subject in it's totality. I would also like to add and emphasize here that it very essential for us to continuously have a dialogue with persons like you who are working at the other end with the community and the common man. In the absence of such a dialogue neither we can appreciate the people's perspective nor they can understand what science and technology can offer to them. That leads to the segregation of views and indifference towards each other. Hence it is very essential to have a dialogue between us.
Water is a wonderful and an important life saving thing. Look at anything and you can trace it's relationship with water. The physical and chemical diversity of water is no less amazing. When we look at water as a resource, it is seen quite different from other resources. Nothing can be produced without water. Whether it is grain, a machine or even power all these need water which becomes the most essential component, at times. On the other hand, the quantity of water to be utilized for a particular purpose is fixed. You cannot use water at your will or in the quantities that you desire. Take, for example, agriculture for the healthy growth of any crop, the amount of water and the time of its application is pre-fixed. The third specialty of water is that it is a dynamic resource. When we talk of forest or land as the resource, we know that these are static resources. The land or the forest does not move but the water does, irrespective of its location, whether on the surface or underground. You can see water in form of clouds in the sky or a river on the ground but it is on the move everywhere. Sometimes it is seen in the form of steam and at times, you see it as liquid or in solid form as ice. It is this mobility of water which influences it's use very much. At the same time, availability of water is no less amazing. The mobility and availability of water put together, decide the extent and the kind of the use of water.
When you disturb the mobility of water, differences of opinion crop up. Some people would say that water should be left to its own devices and its flow should not be obstructed, while the others maintain that physical conditions in the surrounding we live may change, like a drought may occur and if thy; water is allowed to flow it will only be to the detriment of the crops. There may be flood and, if the water is not stopped, it may endanger human life and property. Now, if one is confronted with such a situation, some thing will have to be done. If irrigation is needed, water will either have to be stored or diverted and you may have to make canals to train water to fields.
Similarly, if the floods are to be countered, you may have to intercept and store the surplus water so as to prevent it from causing more damage. To achieve this, you may have to construct dams or else, construct embankments and ring bonds around the towns to fight the floods locally. You also have to option of raising the village above the flood level. Hence some interventions in training the water will have to be done if you are trying to protect yourself. The problem, however, is not much of intervening with the water but the real problem lies in facing the consequences of such interventions. And this consequence of disturbing the tranquility of water, sets the limit to the kind and extent of humansintervention.Whenever we disturb or try to tame the nature to benefit ourselves, there is always a reaction from the nature. It is essential, therefore, to clearly and correctly assess these adverse effects and make an attempt to eliminate these adverse effects or, at least, try to minimize these to the extent possible. Any decision to tame water should be taken only after the impact assessment is done.
Before we tap our water resources, we should be clear about the use of the tapped water and having decided on it's use, we should try to decide the kind of intervention most suited to meet our requirements so that there is less and less of adverse impact of the scheme. It is only in such conditions that we choose the right intervention and the right technology. It is only then we teach our students whether they should propose dams, embankments, channel improvement or drainage ‘,, for flood control. Or, whether it is advisable to go in for flood-plain zoning only. The problem does not limit itself only to floods., We must ensure that the other resources like agriculture are not affected by our controlling the floods. While working on flood-control, another aspect of water strikes our minds. Water is surplus when floods occur in a particular area and the rains are spread only over three to four months of the rainy season in our country. In fact, about 87 per cent of precipitation takes place only during this part of the year, then, whether it is possible to store this surplus water and use it during the lean periods when water is scarce. It also leads us to think that if the water can be stored, why not generate hydro-electric power. This is how we look upon the problem in totality. Can we transform the floods in such a way that instead of being a force of destruction it can be converted into an asset for the benefit of the masses.
We had committed a blunder in our rivers and that is for certain. We only looked into the damages caused by the floods but never into the benefits that the floods give. We did not take care to look at the science and nature together and took a narrow vision to find solutions. We did not utilize science in it's full form and the problems that we are facing to-day are just the result of this half hearted approach. Indisdriminate construction of embankments along the North Bihar rivers has made the flood situation even worse. Where there used to be lush green fields with bumper crops and the floods creeping in only slowly, we now face some sort of a deluge.
Now, it is the need of the hour that, at least, now on, whatever plans are formulated, they should be integrated and must encompass all aspects of the floods, droughts, agriculture, power, industry, drinking water and entertainment etc. and for such comprehensive plans, the funding arrangement must also be made comprehensive without leaving anything to chance. Science, which used to be restricted to books, laboratories or the official files should now be brought to people and the scientists should also come out of their self imposed seclusion to learn from the experiences of the masses. This will lead to the enhanced participation of the public so that they will be able to own these projects.
We should be very cautious with the fall-out of the projects. If any dam is built in an earthquake zone, the extent of all the accidents should be thoroughly investigated and accounted for. Similar is the question of sedimentation of the reservoirs. If a reservoir gets filled up in, say, ten years time, what we are gong to then. The benefits likely to be accrued from a particular project should be known in advance. We will have to pay not only the financial costs but also the social costs and both must be included in the project cost. For the upliftment of the masses, we must look for the logical utilization of science and technology.After Dr. Prasad finished his speech, Shri Rameshwar Singh complimented Dr. Prasad for his presentation but maintained that, 'Dr. Prasad has very meticulously placed the version of scientists and engineers but, unfortunately, Barh Mukti Abhiyan is opposed to any unwarranted use of technology and so also it's process of application in the background of the feed-back it has about various projects. Dr. Saheb has conceded that only one sided picture of the prevailing situation was seen before the embankments were constructed along the North Bihar rivers and that neither the problem was viewed in totality nor the solutions to those problems were sought in totality. But who will decide whether this is done now or will be resorted to in future. Before the construction of the embankments, along our rivers, flood problem was taken as a technical problem and the suggestions for a possible way out was entrusted the engineers who, in turn, either in collusion with politicians or under their influence, eulogized the embankments and the result of which is now before us. Many of those engineers were internationally acclaimed. Dr. Prasad also admits that the flood situation's has worsened now following the construction of the embankments. Now, when the high dams are being debated, this will, obviously, become a technical matter and the decisions again will be left to the engineers. The real question is that what guarantee is there that the engineers will not fall prey to the allurement of the politicians or play a subservient role vis-a-vis politicians. And then, after fifty years from hence, a group of people will sit here in this hall and decry the role playe by engineers in constructing the high dams, precisely, in the same fashion as we are decrying to-day, their role in construction of the embankments. If the engineers or the governments are so serious that there should be a multi-pronged attack over the problem, why are they shying away from a public debate and suppressing thel.' information. The debate on floods in not merely academic, it concerns people directly and a public debate is the need of the our. Just about ten years ago our views about flood control, in general, and embankments, in particular, were an object of ridicule but today the government is saying the same thing and the engineers are very closely following the suit. And that makes us redundant.'
Shri Vijay Kumar also commented on the speech NL-1 made by Dr. Prasad. He said that, 'some mistakes arecommitted unconsciously but some are deliberate. There was a fierce debate about the efficacy of embankments during 1854 to 1954 and it was more against the embankments than in favour of them. For us this is a hackneyed story now and we do not want to repeat it hear. Let us give a benefit of doubt to the engineers and planners that they had not foreseen the after effects of the embankments. In our area, Western Kosi Canal is being constructed for well over thirty years now. This canal runs from east to west and the ground slopes are from north to south. This canal serves as a bund for it's full length to the run off traveling towards south. Whenever there is a heavy rain, this canal is breached at many places. Similar condition had prevailed in Tribeni Canal also which was constructed some hundred years ago. Annual reports of the P. W. D. of the undivided Bengal province are full with the stories of the successive failures of the Tribeni Canal and the damages caused by the breaches but that did not deter the Water Resources Department from constructing this canal with an unscientific profile. Why did any engineer not appreciate this problem. In the Gandak Command Area, the waterlogged area is one and half times the area that the canal irrigates, according to official sources. Do we have any way out against such fallacies.'
Dr. Lunkad had a question for Dr. Prasad. He said that, 'Dr. Prasad told us that water is located around us a source of life. The way the plans are made these days, entirety is a much talked about word and that, I presume, includes geography also. This means that water now not only belongs to the village but it is acquiring international status after graduating through the district, state and national boundaries. When the plans are made on such high platforms, the right of the village over the water will be the first casualty and there will be international claimants over our village water. This danger will always persist as long as MNCs are there. How do we go about it.
Shri Dinesh Kumar Mishra poser to Dr. Prasad was that the rivers are being internationalized and when that happens, the financial institutions, who will put money on the projects on the shared rivers, will strengthen their grip over our water resources. If we look at the South Asia perspective, then Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Bhutan will come within this periphery. What cover do we have to counter the machinations of the international financial institutions and the MNCs.
Shri Kameshwar Kamati asked that when it is accepted that embankment construction was wrong, will the engineering community take the moralresponsibility of the debacle because it was on their recommendation and strength that the embankments were constructed.
Ms. Joya Mitra commented that if what Dr. Prasad has said is followed, this will lead to centralization of resources but the established principle is that in order to benefit the common man, it is essential that decentralization is practiced to the extent possible. Otherwise also, in a centralized system, it is very difficult to be heard. What could be the mechanism, in such a system, that the dissenting voices of the people are heard, at least.
Shri Ram Chandra Khan expressed his double and difference of opinion with Dr. Prasad in following words. He said, 'Dr. Prasad has talked about the floods, science and the scientific interventions. The basic question is whether science should at all intervene in floods. What is the attitude and understanding of science towards floods. As far our understanding goes floods are just an annual event and nothing more, in which some excess or surplus water over the capacity of a river comes into an area, the distribution of which is not possible and nor is it possible to send it to some other areas. Floods cannot come unless aided by weather, a hot summer and rains from above. It is altogether a different matter that floods appear as consequence of breach in some embankment, a darn failure, a natural calamity or the excessive melting of some glacier or it's subsequent failure. Such floods which are a subject matter of study of water management or water utilization, diversion of water or the inter basin transfer, or of digging new channels or a network of new channels why we are always obsessed with the t utility part of it. The basic question that what should be the application orthe intervention of science and equally important is the question of the progress of the community and the means by which water is made available to it whether by a dam, a canal or any other source.
Take the example of the Kosi in flowing through our area. It was only for two months a year that the Kosi used to spill it's banks. It was a rare event that excess water was seen in the third month in the quantities to cause any concern. And the Kosi was not alone, there were other rivers too, like the Kamala, the Balan, the Bhutahi Balan etc. But only the Kosi was singled or and massive falsehood was spread about it's floods in a very organised manner. The river used to flow through so many of it's channels spread over an amplitude of about 200 kilometers and such a glorious river was forced to flow through a particular channel within the embankments and all the other channels were discarded to embrace their deaths slowly. If any channel survived, that too was silted up soon. After the British occupation of the country, the Kosi and it's floods were a continuous source of attraction to the planners who were at a loss to suggest anything tangible in dealing with the silt and water of the river but the embankments in the river never found favour with the colonial rulers. After their departure, science turned sides and the river was embanked. Is there no science that suggests co-existence with the river waters ? Has science fallen captive to dams and embankments alone. Do people not have some science of their own. Science manifests itself in many ways—one form of it is the traditional science of India, the other is the science borne out of experience and the third may be the science as practiced by the common man. Does the science, which Dr. Prasad is talking about, not take any cognizance of these sciences.I am afraid, science can be applied without any bounds in places where there are no human beings but when an area is under human occupation, one should exercise utmost care in applying science. I am saying all this because the application of mutilated science, has robbed us of our river, the Kosi. The life and the land of the people of that area is at stake now. Their neighbourhood, their crop-cycle, their flora and fauna, their fishes, their cattle, their seeds, their markets, their places of worship everything is ruined. All this existed there as long your science had not reached there. The Kosi does not irrigate the fields to-day, nor it's sand reduced to sit anymore. Plants also do not grow on that land anymore.. If you want to have a feel of devastation without a war, come to the Kosi area. This application of science is the recent times has displaced about two million people, this is not a displacement in it's regular ,meaning simply said, it is uprooting the people. Would you believe that girls in the Kosi area, remain unmarried till the age of thirty years and above just because nobody would marry them. This has happened because of the intervention of science in that area. Floods and science are two different things and if someone feels that embanking the Kosi was a scientific input I, for one, would never agree to that.'
Dr. Prasad replied to the points raised by various speakers. He said that, 'as far as floods are concerned the rainfall pattern in our country is unique. About 85 to 90 per cent precipitation takes place in the three months of the rainy season. Floods are observed in other countries also, even in U.S.A, but the rainfall pattern there is quite different. It rains almost all over the year there and they do not have a rainy season as we do. And our rivers always fall shortof capacity to drain their discharges and hence spill their banks. Besides, the vast mountain range comprising of Mt. Everest drains it's water into the Bihar rivers. This area alone is about 250 Km. wide and contributes to the flow of our rivers. Just as the hills in Nepal are too steep and high, the water reaches the plains with a very high velocity. The rivers in the plain area can neither hold w. this gravity of water not can cope up with it's velocity and vast areas come under a sheet of water in the is plains. If you are staying on a higher land in a protected area then this flood water or the speed of it, will not ''- affect you at all and any plan to control floods will just be of little and hypothetical consequence to flood. But the area which are engulfed in flood waters, and I must remind you that the population density in the northern plains of Bihar is to the tune of 800 to 900 persons per square kilometer, face the fury of floods and the life there is thrown out of gear. It is for these places and for such times that something will have to be done and intervention becomes necessary because agriculture also its threatened.
Secondly, we hear a lot about the time-tested techniques. Are these techniques really that time tested as these are made out to be. We, in Bihar, are said to a, be rich in the water resources within the nation and it is here that there was no institution to teach water* resources until recently i.e. till 1980. Fortunately, we have one now and are trying to develop water management in relation to our local conditions.
I am not fully satisfied with the inputs that we have made for the development of the water. It is a fact that we had not studied the effects, or I must say the adverse effects, of the embankments on the river regime. The extent of waterlogging, the rise of the floods within the embankments that will follow the construction ofd the embankments was also not studied.
I am definitely an advocate of science and technology but I do not approve of the half-hearted application or analysis of science. I am also opposed to indifference, towards science. In a province like Bihar, there was no institution to teach water management till 1980- is this not a case of indifference towards science. The water resources over which the life is sustained in this province, the development of which can bring prosperity to the people, it's teaching was ignored in this province until recently. If that is the given condition, the application,of mutilated science should not astonish any one. The freedom to apply science never existed here. When you raise the point of embankments, then to say that they were totally useless will, probably, be unfair but I will repeat that they were not properly investigated. But you are thoroughly justified when you say that the vested interests like those of the engineers, politicians and the contractors, joined hands later.
If we travel back through history we will find that till 1000 A.D., water resources in our state was quite developed and there are examples available. It is not only the water resource but the science too, was quite developed. It was for this reason that we were occupying the top place in the world. And to-day, we are on the brink of disaster just as we have neglected science. The multi-facet development of science, which ought to have taken place, did not keep pace with time and that has resulted in our pathetic condition to-day.
I have never said that the embankments on the Kosi are justified but the aberration in their performance is definitely due to negligence of science. The demand of entirety which is valid today was just as valid fifty years ago that the Kosi Project should bring prosperity through the development of agriculture by providing assured irrigation, it should produce power and save people from floods. To achieve all this, the Kosi High Dam was proposed which was likely to take long time to construct but the time was running out and the embankments were resorted to, instead. Thus, the-entirety approach was sacrificed and the embankments came into being. It is this half-baked application of science that I have been indicating to you an along. Water is the basis of life and nothing can grow without it and hence we must very carefully weigh the pros and cons of any intervention. Further, there is lot of ground water available, at least, in North Bihar and when one talks of entirety, one should not forget this very important resource. And when it comes to fixing priorities, drinking water must be our prime concern.
Regarding decentralization, I must say that we should think globally and act locally. When we make plans, we must give due importance to our local environs and water resources are no exceptions to their general rule. Our techno-economic thinking must be of world standards but when it comes to grounding these ideas, we must act locally.
As regards the financial assistance to be taken from the institutions like the World Bank etc. I will suggest that we must keep our house in order firstly and if we are able to do that, external pressures will wither away on their own.' The session ended with thanks giving by Shri Rameshwar Singh to Dr. Prasad to have come to the meeting and spent time with Barh Mukti Abhiyan.
The next session was attributed to media to know their views over the theme of the seminar and also to explore the possibility of the help that the media could provide to Bath Mukti Abhiyan in furthering it's campaign. This session was not chaired by anyone but many of our friends in media very activity participated in the deliberations. This session was conducted by Shri Pramod Kumar Singh.
Shri Arun Shrivastava 'The establishment has got it's own way of operating and the departments concerning the water resources are also a part of the same set up. If something wrong or redundant is being done that should be countered, but the point is how do you go about this counter projection. It may be easy for us to project the other side of the coin but the difficulty we face is that the establishment is not going to sit quietly and watch the situation. They are more organized. They are the one who make plans, they implement it and they alone have the resources. When you suggest alternatives, the establishment starts patting it's own back with extra vigour. It becomes even more important to counter this new situation. Dr. Prasad has just said that the right kind of technology was not fully put to use in case of developing water resources of the state or that the pros and cons of the embanking technology were not assessed properly or that the problem was not looked into in it's entirety, and so on. I have a feeling that the things are not that simple as these are made out to be. There is a well planned policy, the execution of which will benefit a particular section of the society and they have a vested interest in all these projects. We have a role here also as to how to expose these elements whose real interest in these schemes lies somewhere else.
The role of the multinational corporations is also of the same variety and their modus operandi is no secret now. These MNCs have not yet come openly in the field of water resource development in India but their knockings at the door can be heard very distinctly and we must identify and expose the persons who are working for their promotion.'
Shri Arun Singh 'The issue of floods or water resources is of prime importance concerning the common man, but it has not received the attention it deserves from the media. I myself come from a village whose entire population along with the neighbouring villages,numbering around fifty thousand, has been uprooted due to erosion of the Ganga and a vast area is consumed by the swirling water of the river. This entire episode 'did not find a mention in the press. The concern that should have been shown for the rehabilitation of these victims was also missing. The trauma of being uprooted can be appreciated only by those who have gone through this experience. The sympathy that was due to my village, Mathurapur, from the media was not extended. I am in media and despite that I could not do anything for my village. Whenever I go to my village now, and see whatever is left as remnant, I find it hand to control my sentiments. The places where I spent my childhood are not there. Every thin9 is reduced to sand. With that background when I was listening to the deliberations here, I was thinking that someone is saying something Which, precisely, I wanted to say. My family is now disintegrated and my playmates in childhood live in different villages, miles away from the original place. Now, if we want to say something about our agony, a programme will have to be arranged or a function held to express our grief. Otherwise, nobody would listen to us.Let us come back to our rivers now. There are calamities which can be bracketed as natural but it is interesting to watch as to how the politics creeps in. I have a feel of this too, and just because I have the first hand experience of it, I will cite only this example. When my village got eroded and some news of the sort appeared in the press, our the then M.P. Shri Surya Narayan Singh of C.P.I. took the initiative and it was because of his efforts, spurs were built in the river and further erosion was checked. Everything remained normal for sometime but the erosion by the river set in again. This time the M.P. was a different person and when we approached him for help, he pleaded helplessness in view of the budget constraints and, as a consequence, no work could be done. Now, my village is a piece of exhibition. Media continues to be indifferent and it is, probably, this indifference that we want to discuss here. If you look at the newspapers these days, you will find that the news concerning the peoples' well-being are themselves displaced. There is no space left for such issues in the newspapers. Ever since this process of liberalization has started, those having sympathy with the common people are slowly getting marginlized. I must point out that there is, surely, some hidden power which is pressurizing the media from above, and also from within, and we must try to identify these forces. Within the media there is a state of dichotomy and we, in media, are passing through that experience.
Let us now look at the NGOs now. Whatever is true for the media is true for NGOs too. A lobby of NGOs has come out in open advocating the cause of the MNCs, the new economic policy and the liberalization because it is they who have the financial resources. Now, we must try to locate these forces who are operating amongst us but serving the interests of the foreign countries. Quest of knowledge or extending a helping hand to the needy is all good but the nations' interests should not be mortgaged and we must be careful about it.'Shri Ratan Ravi 'Many things were said by our senior colleagues and they have also dealt with the dilemma and dichotomy of our profession. I feel that there are two major objectives of journalism. One, the people must know what is happening around them and two, they should be given the food for thought. It is very easy for us to give the news and the views separately but we are at our wit's ends when these two start infringing into each other. Supposing we want to give a publicity to the views but, there also, a lot of confusion prevails amongst the thinkers themselves and there is no clarity of thought there. Quite often we go to meetings like the one we are here to-day. You have here a good number of people who have similar ideas and vision and have a definite opinion. Now, if we go from here to another meeting conducted by the scientists and technocrats and they are also expressing themselves with equal sincerity and forcefulness as your are doinghere and now it will be expected from us to prepare your news according to your ideas and their news according to them. You will kindly appreciate that journalists also are a part of the same society which we all belong to and where from the news is emanating. We always try to be impartial and try to high light theachievements in any field, be it your achievement in the crises theme or the one in the field of science and technology.'
Shri Dipak Mishra 'I do feel that the role of media is slowly diminishing when it comes to thereporting of the plight of the common man. Even if the reports appear in the press, these are only sketchy and without any depth. The presentation lacks the seriousness and sharpness of the earlier days. We ought to revise the spirit of reporting with in-depth study of the situation.'
Shri Pramod Kumar Singh—'i feel shy in calling myself a media person the way it is understood currently, although I have been writing in newspapers for a long -- time. We used to read about the North Bihar floods inour childhood which were slowly extend to Central Bihar. My real experience, however, is of working in the mining area of Chhotangapur region and I am concentrating my efforts over the problems of that area. The kind of extensive and unscientific mining that is taking place there, I am afraid, will lead to a situation that within a span of ten years or so we will hear about the floods in South Bihar too. There are many surface mines there and the huge pits that are dug for excavating minerals are left as it is, and the loose materials like gravel/sand spill out of these pits during the rains and flow into the rivers. These loose materials will get deposited in the river bed and choke it eventually, blocking the flow of river water in days to come. One of the best agricultural lands of Chhotanagpur is located along the banks of these streams and nallahs. As the waterway of the river is getting reduced gradually because of sedimentation, the soil eroded from the mining pits is getting deposited over the low lying fields spoiling the crops and rendering them unfit for agriculture. An extended version of this deposition will be manifested as floods sometimes in future. The farmers have already started bundling their fields to prevent the river water from entering theirfields in the area where I am working. This, however, is treating the symptoms. Mining continues unabated. Thus, while there is a direct loss of agricultural land due to mining, there is continued degradation of land elsewhere because of careless and reckless handling of mining.
My own village had a big all season tank (Ahar) and was quite effective in providing irrigation to paddy fields. Slowly this Ahar got silted up and the channels got choked resulting in the loss of the paddy crop. This is not an isolated case of my village alone. This is happening everywhere in some form or the other. The rate of siltation has increased alarmingly in past over the years thereby raising the river beds. This eventually leads to floods.
Many speakers have talked about the situation in North Bihar and I would not like to add anything more but there are indications of multinationals coming in a big way in the field of mining. The problem is that many business houses who own the newspapers are collaborating with the MNCs also and are obviously, influenced by them. Such newspapers will always try to suppress the news that goes against the interests of the MNCs. I always try to write in the newspapers which are independent of such influences.
It should be our endevour to arouse the interest of the media over the topics concerning the welfare of common man and try to take a team of the media persons to the affected areas so that more and more people know of their plight and a pressure could be built on the establishment. It is our privilege to have concerned journalists among us. Our senior colleague, Hemantji, has been writing on floods, environment and irrigation etc. relentlessly and we should make use of their presence in our campaign.'
This session ended with the concluding remark and thanks giving by Shri Rameshwar Singh.
The next speaker was Shri Ajay Dixit of the Water Conservation Foundation, Nepal. The audience wanted to know about the internal and practical difference of opinions between Nepal, India and Bangladesh from him. Shri Vijay Kumar of Barh Mukti Abhiyan requested him to give an insight into the events taking place in Nepal via-a-vis water related projects along with the in Nepal over the Mahakali treaty. He was also requested to give the details about the proposed Barahkshetra darn as no information is available regarding this dam in India. Shri Dev Nath Devan added that this world was not created by the people but they surely did the mapping of the world depending on their occupation of the land. He wanted to know if attempts are afoot to map water also and lay a claim according to one's-occupation of the same. It is becoming increasingly clear that water will not be available free of cost any more. He wanted Shri Dixit to bear this constraint to mind too.
Shri Ajay Dixit I thank you all for providing me an opportunity to discuss the river crises in detail and what is the current thinking of Nepal as a state, he plans, and the common man there. I had briefly discussed the river crises yesterday and I will build upon it to-day. The river crises cannot be seen in isolation, there are four other aspects to it. Thefirst crisis is that of information and the second crisis is of efficiency. Let us take irrigation schemes, for example. The crisis is everywhere, whether it is Nepal, India or Bangladesh. Of the water that is available for irrigation, only 50 to 70 per cent quantity actually reaches the fields and rest all is lost in transit through seepage. Not more than 30 per cent of the available water is utilized this is the problem Only this much water is available to the farmer but does even that happen in practice. When the farmer needs water for his fields, the canals remain dry and when he does not need any water, the canal runs to their fun supply depth. What is the use of having water, the availability of which is not reliable.
The third crisis is that of equality in sharing of water. The inequality is a problem related not only to the water resources but any other resource, for that matter. The benefits of water are cornered by one section of the society while the losses go to the other. The fourth crisis is that of politics. There is a poster on the wall, here on my left with a `Shloka' written in Sanskrit over it. It says that The Bagmati flows down the high peaks of Himalayas and its water is hundred times more holier than that of the Bhagirathi. He, who takes a dip in the sacred water of this river will find a place in heavens.' This Bagmati flows through Kathmandu in Nepal and it is in such a wretched state these days that if somebody takes a dip into its water, he will surely be pushed to the heavens immediately. Bagmati water is so dirty these days that you can call it a cesspool. Just as the society is getting modernized, the rivers are falling into crisis and to understand this process, we will have to go back in history by two hundred years. When India came under British occupation, the colonial rulers set their eyes on the water resources of this country and generate revenue out of it. They started taking up large irrigation projects and flood control schemes. They failed miserably on the flood-control front but earned a lot from the irrigation projects. They ignored the traditional wisdom of the people and developed science in their own way. They took all the benefits from the irrigation projects but gave just a lip-service to the problem of waterlogging and successfully established the principle that the benefits will come to the Government but the loses will go to the people.
Perpetuating the same principle, the work on the Kosi Projects starts in your country in the 1950s which is neither capable of irrigation nor controlling the floods. Having failed to make the arrangement for water the Government tossed up another project, i.e., the Kosi High Dam although it is said that the original proposal to tame Kosi was that of the Kosi High Dam alone. If you raise the question of the Kosi High Dam, then surely you will have to discuss it in the shadow of the performance of the Kosi embankments and hence the worthlessness of the Water Resources Department. You will have to discuss about the politicization of the projects and so also about the vested interests. There is nothing new to this. Even in the U.S.A., there is very powerful lobby of the army engineers, bureaucrats, contractors and the politicians who take decisions over these projects in their own way. Once a celebrity from Bihar visited Nepal and we got an opportunity to meet him. During our discussions he said once that there exists only one solution to the problem of irrigation and flood in Bihar and that is the Barahkshetra dam. I asked him as to what was the basis of his belief. He said that there is a technology available which will make this possible. I asked him to tell me if the Kosi embankments and the canals were made without any technology. The technology was definitely there and despite that why thebenefits of the Kosi barrage and the embankments could not be reaped. To this, he criticized to irrigation department to the hilt and said that the people working there are irresponsible and careless. They do not work, and do not maintain the canals properly, the embankments are in a bad shape of repairs and that the irrigation is not possible etc. etc. I asked him again that why these people did not work and he answered that most of the work is done through contractors and there is a lot of political interference in their working. I then asked him the last question that what was the guarantee that this political interference will disappear if the Barahkshetra dam is constructed, and he had no answer.
Such is our political system and engineering or technology is the conductor of our society. It has to carry the society along with it. And this colonial system of water management has no space for a dialogue between the science and technology on one hand and the society on the other.
Dr. Prasad was telling this morning that our weather conditions are different and the water remains here just for three months as long as rains are there, and then there is a dry season for nine months. This basic approach is wrong. We are quite rich in our water resources. Our weather is entirely different to that of Europe and the U.S.A. In U. K., it rains round the year. A person coming from such a place will always say that you have rains only for three months and then on it is a drought. When this is repeated before us over and over again, we also start saying the same thing. Then he offers his technology which we gladly except without it asking any question. If our weather is different than that of Europe or the U.S.A., our technology also should be different. Whatever our problems are, we must accept them but why should be accept a solution imposed on us by the dictates of European or the American technology. We have never attempted to develop our own technology depending upon our local conditions and environment and look towards them for every solution. And then they do not have any package other than a dam, a barrage or an embankment go and take it. Unless we take into account our surroundings, our environment, our weather, our needs and our capacities and then develop a technology, we cannot succeed in our venture.
Now I will tell you something about the plans proposed in Nepal. In Nepal, we have our own forests, hills and the rivers but the plans are not being made by us, the others are doing it. It is a general feeling that we have abundant water and a vast hydropower potential of 83,000 Megawatts. Suggestion are made to us that Nepal should produce power and India will readily purchase it. Having produced so much of hydro-electric power Nepal could become very rich by earning Hydro-dollars just as the Arabs have become rich by earning Petro-dollars.
The reality is, however, different. We are trying to study this reality for past five to ten years. Whatever we can see or think is a very simplified version of the events to come. Taking advantage of this simplified thought process; the capitalists, the multinationals or the international financial institutions—call them by any name you like, are pushing their plans ahead. They alone are inducing us to initiate the Mahakali Project, the Karnali Project or the Barahkshetra Project and maintain that unless these schemes are taken up Nepal will remain what it is. After the Mahakali Treaty that paved the way of the construction of the Pancheshwar dam, we had been told time and again that this treaty will have to be ratified by the parliamertt and that there is no alternative to it. If Nepal aspires to become the Asian Leopard, it can become only if Mahakali Treaty is ratified. We cannot become Asian Tiger because that post is already held by someone else.which we all know and we also know where this tiger is lurking these days. That is why they want us to become Asian Leopard. After that, foreign capital will come to our country., we will see the development, and then our thinking will also get westernized instead of remaining oriental. Then the sun of the development of western thinking will rise in the east and in one stretch, we will reach there from here.
Just a few days ago, Mahakali Treaty was signed here in Nepal. According to the plans, a large dam will be built over the river Mahakali to produce 6,480 MW. of hydro-power. Then there is Western Seti Project which has a target to produce 750 MW. These projects will be developed by Australian Snowy Foundation Corporation. The power produced, thus, will be sold to India and the Corporation will pay tax to Nepal over its income.
There are plans to produce 10,800 MW. of hydro-power by constructing Chisapani dam over the Karnali. This will be done by an American company, Enron. This is the same Enron against which you are agitating at Dhabol in Maharashtra. This power will not be sold to India but Enron will sell this power to China, some 3,200 kilometers away, after crossing Himalayas. This power can also be reached to Sri Lanka and Malaysia after detouring . The Nepal Government will also get taxes from Enron. This project was widely discussed in Nepal and we opposed it and the proposal is withdrawn. Enron had given a clarification that the investment climate in South Asia is not favourable and hence the scheme is being withdrawn. Now a fresh debate starts in Nepal that such a big American company was coming here, billions of rupees were likely to be invested, the country could have progressed, but those opposed to it have spoiled the show. Fortunately, out energy minister, who also happened to be our deputy prime minister is a woman of substance. She maintains that we do not need a big company or a big project. What we need is, assured supply of irrigation to the farmers and electrit,itv at cheaper rates for them. There is no investment forthuoining for these schemes for the betterment of the masses but they have their eyes firmly set on the large structures just as legendary Arjuna had set his eyes on the eye of the bird. If they build anything it will be the large dams or else, nothing. The intentions of the investors get clear only with one example. If there is going to be any benefit, it is theirs not ours.
There are two other schemes over which an agreement had been signed between India and Nepal. Barahkshetra dam on the Kosi is included in. this. A very big organisation of Japan, Global Infrastructure Fund (GIF), is taking interest in Barahkshetra Dam. GIF is also keen on making a very big project and it wants to work on developing the Water resources in South Asia. Their enthusiasm is quite exaggerated for the projects like Tipaimukh dam in India, Ganga Barrage in Bangladesh and the Kosi High Dam in Nepal. They have held many meetings in places like New Delhi, Kathmandu, Dacca and even Boston. They invited me to one of their such meetings. I do not know why. When I started presenting my views, they did not like it and I had to stop half way through my presentation. That is about the Global Infrastructure Fund. Earlier, they were interested only in the Kosi High Dam but now they are looking much more beyond that. Their agreement on the Kosi is not yet finalized and they are expanding their business in other places too.
The crux of the matter is that almost all the contracting companies which used to build dams are not getting business in the west anymore and then they are busy locating sites where such dams could be built. They are also inducing the governments to build these structures, and they have their own vested interests in these dams.
This portion of the world comprising of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh was called a poverty triangle until recently but then the west realized that this was probably, unfair and they started calling it a growth triangle and they talk about developing this area. They do not talk much about water anymore and the focus has now shifted to power production. This, according to them can be done only through dams. The problem is that these people and the companies are fully ignorant of the ground realities. When people like us talk about the ground truth in meetings and seminars etc. the audience is rendered still. No one speaks a word. I once proposed in a meeting that I will give India and Nepal ten million dollars to do any thing they like relating water and asked for proposals. No body said even a word because their brains are stuffed with moneys like Rs. 200 billions or Rs. 300 billions or so. They cannot think of small money. Give me ten million dollars and I can tell you so many things that could be done. Our fight earlier used to be with the governments but now it is with the 'market' because there is a nexus between the traders and the governments.
In the given scenario we must search as to where we and our movement, if there is any, is placed. On one side there are governments, traders, multinationals, Enrons, Snowy Foundations, GIFs and on the other we are there along with the poor and the resourcelessness. What can we do if the setting is so adverse. We have some experience in this matter. If we want to meet their challenge, we must speak the language they understand. You talk of earthquakes, they will say that this has been provided for in the designs. You raise the issue of rehabilitation they will say that allocation of funds, in excess of the requirements, has been made. This is their domain and it is very difficult to tame them there but if you could drag them to the economic and financial analysis of their plans, then their throats get choked. When the economic structure of any project is challenged, then only they are prepared to discuss something across the table, otherwise not.
We must look for the solution of our problems in our own framework. We hear quite often in Nepal that whenever North Bihar is flooded, the politicians and engineers tell people that because of the water coming from Nepal our area is flooded. Nepal is located upstream and water is bound to come from Nepal to India and this is not coming from to-day, it is coming since the ages and will continue to come. It is expedient to pass.A the buck on to Nepal than to find a solution and present your problem as that of Nepal. Same thing happens in Nepal also, whenever there is a flood in the Terai area, the blame is squarely passed on to the hill areas. As a matter of fact, exporting one's problem to other areas is basic human instinct. He does not want to face the problem.
If you want to search for solution, you might as well travel up to the debate of usefulness of the higher technical education. I am an engineer and so is Mishraji, who is hear with us. Whenever we are viewed as an engineer, in the strict sense of the current meaning of the word, we are told that we area slur on our profession, that we are cutting the branch of the tree on which we are sitting, and so on. I studied engineering for full five years here in Rourkela and not even once during theses five years, we were told about our society. They taught us everything surveying, drawing, designing, construction, computers and what not. What they did, not teach us was that where you are going to practices all the wisdom bestowed on you, there lives a society. What ever you do, will affect the society and we were not told to exercise care in dealing with the society are not to loose track of sympathy. Hence, when we are looking ahead we need a new insight. I had suggested four crisis earlier but the education itself is the fifth crisis.
We can look for alternatives in the back-drop of these constraints. People ask us what we would do we do not build the Kosi High Dam? And they themselves suggest that we must be advocating many small dam instead of one big dam. Small or big the dam haunts them all the time. I ask them about our problem simply put, is it not only an assured and timely irrigation together with cheap electricity?
Let us talk about our priorities. We all will agree that drinking water is our top priority. And if that be so, what authority you have to waste 15 liters of drinking quality water on every occasion to you flush the cistern of your bath room? If a person pulls this chain five times a day, he will waste 75 litres of purified water without drinking. We are not talking of his entire family. In India, four units of electricity needs to be produced to give one unit to the consumer. Rest all is lost transit. Why should this be allowed to happen. The publicity machinery is so strong that it does not allow a common man to ask these questions. It prepares people to pay whatever price that is demanded for the construction of the large dams.
Hence, I will repeat that the search for alternatives is linked with our society, our surroundings, our environment and our capacity. Your produce 6,000 M.W. of power in Nepal and bring that to India and it is 1,500 MW only that you will receive. Your Government in Bihar and, for that matter, any other state government is fed up with such leakage. Your actually consume one unit after producing four. Correct your system so that you can consume two units after producing four. The power available to you will be just double. Hence the changes will have to be affected at the grassroots and the society level on one side and on the political level on the other. Then only some thing tangible will happen otherwise not. It is very essential that a beginning is made at the political level.
Shri Dixit finished his speech and there were many questions from the audience. Shri Vijay Kumar said that, 'India, firstly the information about the projects is not available. Even if it is available, one is not sure how reliable is the information. In Nepal, it seems, the information are available and the citizens have the nynt to information which is a healthy trend. Is it possible for us to get information about the projects that concern India so that we can get a base for public education.'
Shri Dixit replied that when they were contesting Arun III, the Honourable Supreme Court in Nepal had granted them the right to information and this had certainly benefited them. The information that were available with them, they were always prepared to share with the Indian counterpart. Information in Nepal are not that secretive and people do not bother much about it.
Shri Harihar Singh (Sultanpur, U.P.) asked that 70 percent of water released from the canal head work does not reach the fields and is lost in transit. If the canals are run round the year, without closure, people will get displaced with the resulting waterlogging alone. There will not be any crops if the canals are not closed during the summer months. The farmers do not have less scientific attitude but no one bothers to listen to their views. They should be heard first, he suggested. Shri Nalini Kant wanted to know the methods by which the persons attached to propels' movement in Nepal collect information in Nepal and their modes of functioning.
Shri Ajay Dixit replied that ,'wherever large irrigation schemes were taken up; severe waterlogging has appeared as a corollary. There are no large dams in Nepal as yet, nor do they have large irrigation schemes and hence the Nepali experience of waterlogging is very limited. We hear very carefully the stories coming out of India about waterlogging because our Terai area is susceptible to such menace if large irrigation projects come up there. Whatever irrigation set up we have in Nepal to-day, we are trying to involve the farmers there and the suggestion of Shri Singh is valid that the farmers involvement must be ensured in the irrigation projects.'
Regarding the other question Shri Ajay Dixit said, 'many people and group are working over water related issue in Nepal and, generally, we do not approve of the large dams proposed over our rivers. But if you oppose the large dams, you get branded as anti-development while we also want development and are opposing only the large dams. Hence, for the present, we are supporting small dams and small projects because it takes less time to construct, capital cost is less, there is a better social control and the benefits are available earlier. We, however, do not want to get bogged down in the controversy of small and big. We surely, plead against the construction of large dams but are using small dams only as means to take the debate in the direction where, we feel, alternatives are available. We have hit the large dams through economic and financial analysis.'
Shri Girin Chetia (Jorhat) asked that, 'you base your inference on the economic and financial analysis to attack the large dams and have succeeded in pushing your arguments. Now, if somebody proves with the help of the same economic and financial analysis that the dam is viable, does it mean that the project could be justified. Why can't we say that water is meant for the common and the poor man and not for power production. When will we be able to ask that direct question whether this particular scheme is meant for the poor or not ? This is a question not only to Shri Dixit but to.the house as well,' said Shri Girin Chetia. Shri Mohan Reddy asked if there was some system like tanks and lakes in Nepal. If she had one such system, what was there condition now. If such a system did not exist, was there any possibility of introducing one. The community could exercise direct control over these structures. In India there was a great tradition of such lakes and tanks.
His second question was that, 'For past few yearsthere has been a growing tendency to free the nationalized assets. It is a fact that the grip of the multinationals over these resources will increase with the withdrawal of nationalization. Let us take the area of social forestry where organisations like the World Bank have done a lot of work in India as well as in Nepal. These works are being carried out under the supervision of the respective Governments but basically these are the operational programmes of the World Bank in which it's own workers are involved. In this era of liberalization, all these works might slip from the hands of the World Bank to the corporate sector as was discussed yesterday in this house.'
Dr. S. K. Lunkad (Kurukshetra) while participating in the debate said, 'I will like to deviate slightly from the main debate. There are only some ten to twelve major rivers in North India but the number of their tributary is much more. Even the Kosi, which has been discussed in such a great detail here, is a tributary of the Ganga. There is no law concerning the utilization of water of these rivers. Let us take the example of the river Shipra. This is the same Shipra, sitting on the bank of which, Kalidas wrote Meghadutam. The Shipra group of rivers join the Chambal first and then it's water joins the Ganga through the Yamuna. The place where the Shipra has its confluence with the Chambal, the Shipra cannot be called a river and it is merely a dirty drain, the water of which can be seen for a long distance as it flows into the Chambal. After seeing these rivers getting transformed into cesspools, I feel that some restrictions must be imposed over the withdrawals of water from such rivers so that the identity of the river is kept intact, at least. Adding fifth to the river should be declared a crime. You can feel the difference once you see the Shipra at it's origin and the same river at it's confluence with the Chambal.
When it comes to the project plans, I must say only those schemes can achieve something which have direct links with the people, their participation ensured and some labour contributed, at least. The schemes should be free from the influence of the institutions like the World Bank and IMF. I will go to the extent that if any plans are made for the Shipra, it should be made with the consent of the local people and not those of Bhopal and never those of Delhi. We can also think of some law concerning the water ways of the rivers with a provision that not more than sixty percent of the river water will be with drawn and forty percent of the flow will always be maintained so that the river does not loose it's identity.'
Shri Karuji (Gaya) said, 'I have been listening since yesterday that embanking the Kosi was wrong. I once went to the Kosi area with Devanji where people had breached the Kamla embankment. I saw an old man, aged around sixty there, whose house was being swept away. But he was very happy, virtually dancing with joy. I asked him the reason for being so happy to which he replied that he was living on doles for the past twenty years and looked for relief grain in the rainy season which never exceeded four kilograms. Now this waterlogged land will get filled up and new silt will cover it. I can cultivate my field and produce grains according to my need. I got my answer but the questions remains here that is it the solution to allow the Kosi to flow freely or there is something else that could be done. I fail to understand all this. You do not want to revive the old thing and retraining from telling something new while talking about the World Bank and the IMF. I had the expectation that some experts would come and will give some solution to our problems, some research papers will be read and some document concerning the South Asia river crisis will be presented but nothing of the sort is happening here. Only stray thoughts are coming as to what should be done with the Kosi. Whether it should be dammed above or the embankments be demolished. What is the solution that you have please spell that out.
Shri Dixit replied that, 'some question are local in nature and I would like that some local person like Mishraji answers those questions. But the general questions I will try to answer. We have built a dam on our Kulekhani river with a benefit cost ratio of 2.54. We had a major flood in 1993 which brought 5 million cubic meters sediment and filled this dam. The dam was expected to have a life span of 100 years which is now reduced to just thirty and the benefit cost ratio is reversed. This is what a report of World Bank says. We tried to investigate this debacle as to how, just within a span of 13 to 15 years, the benefits which were to accrue over a period of hundred years have been converted to losses. We dug out the design prepared by the Japanese and wanted to know their views on the sedimentation rate. Their report clearly mentioned that the silt deposition will not pose any problem to the dam and concluded that there was no need to be unnecessary worried about the silt. But as one reads the report further, it says that no data is available about the incoming silt in the Kulekhani. Now if you are writing at one place that no data is available about the incoming silt then how can you conclude, in the absence of thesedata, that the silt will not pose a problem to the dam. If only the people had known it earlier, they would have surely objected to the proposal but now we are all helpless. We, however, take it as a bitter pill that the life of the dam is reduced to a quarter of it's estimated life. Similarly, if 6,000 MW is added to your grid from Nepal, do you have the capacity to take this power.to the desired places and utilize it. As far as our information goes, you may not be able to handle more than 1,0000 M.W. in Bihar, at the moment. These things should come from your leaders that arrangements must be made and made faster, to utilize 3,300 M.W. or 6,000 M.W. when it is available but they have not said it so far. I will repeat here once again that unless there is a , change in the political thinking, no development is possible.
We do not have a chain of tanks or lakes but we do have springs and waterfalls and we use these resources for irrigation. Of the total land irrigated in Nepal, around 20 percent is irrigated through springs and water falls. There is a lot of scope to improvethis sort of irrigation together with an urge to protect this tradition and we are trying to do this.
You can call it a good fortune of Nepal that despite many difficulties, very good work has been done in Nepal in the field of social forestry and we have a grip over the entire programme. We are in a position to claim success in this area although this is not my field.
When we talk about the small rivers then it is a fact that small rivers benefit the populace more than the big rivers but it does not benefit the state as much and that is the reason that the state does not attach importance to small rivers.
As regards the problem of the Kosi raised by Karuji, Is must say that it is not possible for me or anyone else to enumerate the solutions. Some fifty years ago some engineer came forward and offered to give a solution and the embankments were constructed along the Kosi, and as a result, we are observing a public mourning here of the embankments to-day. No scientist worth his substance will ever say do this or do that, or this is right and that is wrong. It is the society which will decide what is right or wrong for it not the scientists or engineers. Science can only give a situation analysis, suggest remedies but it cannot pronounce judgments. That is the prerogative of the society. Ask any scientist about the solution to the Kosi Problem, he will never say this is the solution but he will always put the facts before you.
' Shri Dinesh Kumar Mishra Have you ever taken a patient with an incurable disease to a doctor. If you have that experience you might remember that you had entreated before the doctor to do something. You must have requested him for some medicine which would relieve the patient of the pain, knowing fully well that the disease is incurable. You never tell a doctor, '...Give the medicine not sermons' or 'What kind of professional you are if you do not know the treatment of this disease.' You do not use such words fora doctor because you fear that some day some one else might bring you on a wheel chair to the same doctor. Your courtesy is not natural, it is a compulsion. Then, if the doctor says that cancer is incurable, AIDS is incurable or the arthritis is incurable, you return overwhelmed telling everybody that so and so is a very good doctor but what the poor fellow can do if there is no medicine for the ailment.
An engineer is never entitled to such sympathies within the society. People are only used to issue orders to him, whether elite or illiterate including the self-proclaimed leaders. He only receives orders to prevent the spills of some river or to free some area from floods. And if the engineer suggests, even politely, that the actions taken would aggravate the problem or, at best, transfer it else where, everybody is on his toes to denounce him. Many politicians in our country, whether in past or at present, claim that they are not used to listen to 'no` from anybody and if it is engineers never. Who made you an engineers— is a remark that the engineers are so often hurled at. Can the same terminology be used for a doctor or even a lawyer. Every member of the society is virtually scared of these professionals for one does not know when and where and in what condition one is going to meet them again. b. Engineers, unfortunately, do not fall into this category.
There is another difference between the mistakes is committed by a doctor and an engineer. Should a patient die due to the mistake or carelessness of ate'` doctor, within a maximum period of two days or so his body is consigned to flames or buried under the earth, never to be seen again by others. When an engineer commits a mistake, the body remains and it lives even afterthe death of the engineer and so does the memory. We have heard so many times since yesterday - ‘go and see the Kosi Embankments.' This mistake was committed some fifty years ago and the embankments would live for centuries to tell their stories. Engineersare made to work under pressure and the society has got no patience to listen to there reason. Most of his decisions are taken in haste. The engineer finds himselfplaced between the fire and the frying pan. On one side you have the pressure from the politicians and, on the other, there is emergency. In the given situation, only solution like the Kosi embankments can emerge. When a person is surrounded by political pressure, emergency, social ungratefulness and utter disregard; the conditions are ripe enough to breed vested interests. A healthy thinking just cannot grow in this situation.
When the old man in the village close to Devanji's village is dancing with joy after seeing his house floating in water, then, I feel, Karuji is himself suggesting the solution. I can also say the same thing from the dais but my only apprehension is about the generalization of the solution. People will raze the embankment to ground even if it is useful somewhere. I am raising this point because, subsequent to the construction of the Kosi embankments, almost every major river in North Bihar was embanked without any reason or rhyme; without any debate or planning. I will not suggest repetition of the folly. But if the people want that the embankments should not exist, they should not exist.As regards alternatives, the engineers and politicians have a three word alternative to the Kosi embankments the Kosi High Dam which will take, at least, thirty years to construct, if the work proceeds smoothly. What will you do for thirty years to come. This dam will not be able to hold the Kosi floods and this point was discussed at great lengths in the Nirmali Conference last year and I will not repeat all that here. We had a very old and rich experience of handling the Damodar floods which was throttled by the British and I will tell something about that here. The British, however, had written off this river calling it the 'Sorrow of Bengal'. The early immigrants among them were essentially the traders and the sailors who had little to do with irrigation or flood control. They were, however, inspired by the Yamuna canal built by Feroze Shah Tughlaq in the 14th Century, which lay in abandoned state and renovated if for irrigation. This fetched good returns and they started learning and developing irrigation engineering. They were awestruck by the floods in the Ganga and the Brahmaputra basin and thought of taming the rivers to prevent their spills and tax the beneficiaries for providing flood control. Once the rivers are prevented from spilling, artificial irrigation would become a necessity and that paves the way for further collection of revenue. They chose the Yamuna, the Ganga and the Indus for the development of irrigation but for flood control their choice fell on the Damodar in 1855. It occurred to them that the Damodar can be tamed by constructing embankments. It was it around this time that the first freedom struggle of India started in 1857. They had to develop and extend roads and rail lines to push in armed forces to quell any rebellion and while Damodar embankments were being constructed, they had to raise and strengthen the G. T. Road together with constructing the Asansol-Howrah rail line. This rail line was completed in 1860 and the very next year, in 1861, malaria spread as an epidemic in Burdwan of which no medicine was known then. The v reason was later found that the railway line had obstructed the free flow of rain water and stagnating pools were formed all along it resulting in a favorable condition for mosquito breeding. On the other hand the flood level between the Damodar embankments rose alarmingly and the embankments breached at many places. The 'natives', too, cut them at innumerable places. On the whole, the situation became too chaotic to handle.
The people living in the Damodar valley had their own ways to deal with the situation which was backed by centuries old traditions and experience. They used to construct very low height bunds along the Damodar. With the onset of monsoon, water used to get collected in the fields in which they would broadcast paddy seeds. The paddy seedlings used to grow along with the larvae of mosquitoes and with advancing monsoon the flood level in the river to used to rise. By the time of transplantation, the small bunds along the river used to breach on their own or, else, a large number of cuts used to be affected by the people themselves to allow the river water to rush to their fields. This water used to contain the fertilizing silt of the river and so also a large number of fingerlings. With the spread of this water over the fields, the demand for the fertilizer was met and the carnivorous fingerlings, which used to live on the larvae of the mosquitoes, never allowed mosquitoes to grow. Whenever the river used to spill, and it used to spill at many places and many times, the silt and the fingerlings were pushed to the country side. Paddy and fishes used to grow simultaneously. To take care of any long dry spell the 'natives' had constructed a large number of ponds all along, where the fishes could take shelter and the irrigation water drawn from in case of need. There was no malaria thus, and a good & paddy crop along with fishes was almost a certainty every year. After the rains were over, the bunds along the river were restored. This was the reason that Burdwan district of the Damodar basin was one of theme most prosperous areas within the country.
The British could not understand the thoroughly scientific and the practical ways of the 'natives' ofdealing with the floods and thought that the 'anti-social elements' were responsible for cutting the embankments and they made foolproof arrangements of dealing with the situation by constructing sturdy embankments along the river. These embankments ran in east-west direction and so did. the Grand Trunk Road and the Asansol-Howrah rail line. The Eden canal, too, ran in the same direction while the land sloped from north to south. All these constituted the 'five satanic chains' in the path of rain water and the breaches in them became the order of the day.
The flood level within the Damodar embankments grew alarmingly and just as the out side water could not enter the river because of the embankments, the so called protected areas were devastated by floods. As a last resort, the British started demolishing the Damodar embankments and by 1869 they had done away with nearly 32 kilometer length of the constructed embankments. Simultaneously, they made arrangements for adequate drainage through the Eden Canal, G. T. Road and the railway line and swore never to embank a river, a promise that they kept till they left the country in 1947.
The British must have thought that whatever they were doing was an alternative to the prevailing practices and they failed miserably in their efforts. They accepted their mistakes and never made it a prestige issue. When they felt that they had committed a mistake, they stopped pursuing it any further.
In independent India the powers that be behave differently. If a mistake is committed, it becomes a prestige issue and must be perpetuated at all costs. Embankments along with 'Bihar rivers are a classic example in support of this argument.
Further, if we can suggest an alternative, who is going to implement that. The native is way of dealing with the Burdwan floods was praised by all and sundry; from Wilburn Inglis (former chief engineer of undivided Bengal) to William Wilcocks, the great British engineer who spent most of his 'life is the east'. Wilburn Inglis was the chief engineer of Bengal in the beginning of this century and was in a position to put the native technology into it's rightful place but this, probably, might have put him opposite the establishment. Higher the post a person occupies, weaker is his position in practice. He is more worried about his plans after the retirement. His pension, gratuity, provident fund and the possibilities of getting re-appointed as a consultant in the same department acquires more significance and any practical person would not like to confront the establishment at that stage. Unfortunately forthe people, he is the only person in the department who could have done something. Wilburn Inglis had the example of Robert Green Kennedy who was virtually kicked around by the Government whose only fault was that he maintained that only 28 percent of water released from the canal head-works actually reaches the fields and the rest is lost in transit creating waterlogged conditions and if the Government takes the credit of irrigating the fields and collects revenue for that then this is also the duty of the Government to own the responsibility of waterlogging and remove it.
I had read recently an article written by Shri Joginder Singh (Formerly Director C.B.1.) who said that a man in government job looses one vertebra of his spine every year. After putting in 30 years of service a person becomes totally spineless, maintains Joginder Singh. Such people are very useful for the establishment. Probably, that is the reason that the people in the top posts in the establishment understand everything but when it comes to grounding something, they are totally in effective. It is immaterial then as to who heads the department, whether it is Wilburn Inglis some hundred years ago or the person in the chair of Chief Engineer today.
Thus alternative is not something that you can go and purchase in the market. And if the alternative is so cheap and so easily available, it is not worth taking. The Kosi embankments are a case in point. When we talk of alternatives, we imply devotion to the cause.
Ms. Joya Mitra (Calcutta) I am listening about the rivers and water resources since yesterday and have added something to my knowledge. India is an agricultural country and we utilize water in many different ways and are looking for alternatives to harness this water. This is certain that our earlier generations have handled water very meticulously and that is the reason for our growth till today. But I find a dilemma in whatever br is being discussed here. We cannot go back and the ways ahead are also not clear and the debate lies ' there. However, it is very essential to know our past.
The problems that lie ahead of us was very nicely explained by Shri Ajay Dixit and his assertion that we should not forget that a society lives in the places where we want to conduct our experiments is very important. The western world education and development in it's own way and in their definitions, a poor man has got no space for himself. And when we say that we do not want the high dams, we are branded 'anti- ' development' immediately. But our question remains unanswered that whom do you want to develop and at what costs.In case of Pancheshwar we were told that a big dam is proposed at the confluence of fire rivers to produce 6,000 MW of electricity. Even if this dam is built, what benefit the last man is going to get out of it. It will take generations to produce electricity. Similar promises were made when the dams on the DVC were proposed. We have Maithon dam in West Bengal the construction of which was responsible for the destruction of the local forests and only God knows how much power the dam produces or the water it supplies. I have an example of Kalahandi before me. There were five major rivers in the district. A big hydro electric scheme was proposed on the Indrawati river in the district some thirty years ago. This was a tribal area and nobody was there to raise the voice of the Adivasis there and struggle for their rights. Plans were made to produce power and irrigate whole of the Kalahandi district.
Now, the rivers have dried there and those sitting in administration do not know even about those rivers. We say that we are opposed to these dams and will struggle against it to the extent we can because we are not prepared to accept our people as rustics, natives or the junglees. They have survived for generations without any outside help and their knowledge and experience must be immensely useful for the society and should be compiled. The present day situation of the water resources development is that the losses due to floods are increasing with the investment in the flood control sector and the drought is acquiring menacing proportion with the rise in irrigation facility. In the traditional societies land, water and forest was protected and, in fact, was not dependent on rain fall. Whether it is Nadis in Rajasthan or Pukur in Bengal or the tanks and lakes in Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka These were available for round the year use. No body would die out of thirst even in Rajasthan. These tanks used to serve two purposes. They would prevent the flood waters from reaching the river in one stroke and thus moderate the floods and serve as a store for water which was then never in short supply.
Take for example, Bengal. All the houses used to have tanks in their vicinity. Now the towns are expanding, houses are being built on the lands that were once lakes or ponds. Where the water will go now, Will it not aggravate floods and hit some where else. Unless we protect our resources, we will continue to suffer. West Bengal s sandwiched between Farakka in the east and the D.V.C. in the West. I have seen for myself, in Murshidabad district, 2,600 sq. Kilometers of land is either by erosion or by sand casting. I question those in power and in administration on behalf of the uprooted families of Murshidabad that who are you to impose such a development on to us. Give us the development that the people want because there are two ways of dealing with the situation. The first is, minimum interference with the forces of nature. For example, when pushed to borrowing, one borrows only within one's borrowing capacity, something that one can repay. Dineshji was telling about the Damodar where people use to con a small ridge along the river, then cut it and finally, replace it. This was all within their own capacity without any external help or input. That was all.
The other methods' is that of the state power detached from the people. Fully backed by external resources the technique of large dams, the technique of Farakka Barrage, the technique of producing 10,800 M.W., the technique of linking the Ganga to the Cauvery, and what not. The alternative that we are looking for is to be chosen from these two. We must put our hand on Is the one which promises wider well being of the society.
Then there is the question of right to information. Information has become a scarce commodity. Whatever information we get is not sure to be reliable. Whenever'' some dam or a power house or any other project is to be built,people do not know, for a long time, what is going to happen in their vicinity. The information that float around are either wrong or half-baked. It starts with the assurance first that everybody will be given a job here, much before they are told that they will have to vacate the place. They are also not told about the rehabilitation package. We must attempt to collect as much information as possible and must make right to 1r information a part of every struggle that we launch.
I had come here to learn something and establish contacts and I hope to go back satisfied with the deliberations here.
Dr. Basudeb. Dey (Burdwan) I have come from the Burdwan district of West Bengal. The Damodar flows through the districts of Burdwan, Bankura, Hooghly and Howrah. The river is eroding badly in Burdwan these days and many farmers residing along the banks of the river have lost their agricultural fields due to erosion while in Howrah and Hooghly, severe,. waterlogging has been created in the lower areas that continues for more than six months a years.The Governments of West Bengal and the DVC, both, are indifferent to this problem in our area. Theme Government absolves itself of any responsibility after topdistributing some relief material during the rainy season. No compensation is ever paid for the land eroded or submerged due to waterlogging.
Five dams have been constructed so far over the main river and it's tributaries for the benefit of the towns or the industrial areas. DVC had a very limited role to play vis-a-vis irrigation and flood control. Nothing has happened in the field of fisheries or navigation and the performance of the DVC over the production of hydro-electricity has been dismal.
These dams have no role in protecting the land from erosion by the river. When the attention of the Government or the DVC is invited towards the problem, it says that it is more important for the DVC to construct the remaining dams of the DVC but the Govt. of Bihar is no more interested in these dams. As a results neither the dams are built nor a solution to our problems is sought. We all have, apparently, resigned to fate and have prepared ourselves to carry this burden life long. Prof. Nageshwar Prasad of Burdwan University (formerly with Bhagalpur University) has written a research paper suggesting construction of small dams at Konar in order to get the full benefits of the Konar Irrigation Scheme. Shri Bhola Prasad Singh has suggested construction of small dams in Palamau in the last report of the Barh Mukti Abhiyan (1997). If the resources are made available, we would also like to work on similar lines.
Barh Mukti Abhiyan has a good insight into the problems of the Damodar river as is apparent from their publications. I sincerely hope that the people of Bihar will extend a helping hand to us. If Bihar could hold some water in the dams there during the rainy season, the areas of lower and southern Damodar can be spared from floods and the stored water could be utilized both by Bihar and West Bengal after the rainy season. There is a scope for the construction of small dams in the hilly areas of Bihar and hence we propose for a joint scheme of small dams over the tributaries of Damodar.
Damodar basin in West Bengal has reached a pathetic state now. DVC confines itself only to the urban and industrial areas. In the upper reaches of the Damodar the farmers suffered because their land was acquired for the DVC and they were displaced while in the lower areas the land gets flooded and remain submerged leading to deprivation there also. Since we do not have anybody to listen to us, it will be a blessing for us if some resolution is taken in this meeting towards the solution for the river problem in our area.
Shri Priyadarshi (Patna)--1 have traveled around many development schemes all over the country and I fully endorse your views on the chaos in the Kosi Project area and the distortions in its rehabilitation programme. When you talk of the waterlogging in the Gandak command area, I feel, you are raising the right issue. But the canals in Uttar Pradesh are working much better. Even otherwise, the canal setup in U.P. is quite old and far more efficient as compared to Bihar. An ordinary farmer there can produce better rice at a cost lesser than here. The agricultural production here is only 7 percent while in U.P. it is around 20 percent. The canal system in Kashmir also is very efficient. I was there once and returned with a feeling that whatever may happen in Kashmir but there will never be a shortage of food grain. People can always grow the grain to meet their demand. We always wish that the living standards of the people improve with time, that is how a civilization grows. Many civilizations have grown along the rivers by turning the rivers favourable for that growth. That is why there is so much veneration for the rivers and they are worshipped.
In the Narmada Project, the adivasis are happy with their rehabilitation and they have a good rehabilitation policy. Tribals also now aspire for a better life-style and they do not want to remain a subject of anthropological studies any more.
Even in the Narmada Project, the resentment started when the water started spreading in M.P. It was not a serious matter in Gujarat. I had observed a difference of opinion between the Adivasis of M.P. and the activists. That we will drown, that we will die or that we will not go from here-nothing of that sort really existed. They maintained that if they are rehabilitated properly, they will not mind shifting to the new place. One expects care and caution if a large number of people, say in lakhs, are to be displaced and rehabilitated. Where there are small projects going on, the displacement will take place there also and if one decides that come what may, no displacement will be allowed, then it will become impossible to execute any plan and this, probably, nobody will like to happen. I fully endorse your analysis and views that if a development work proceeds without actual development, it should be opposed but the opposition just for the sake of opposition is a matter of concern. I once again express my solidarity with you over the misgivings in the Kosi Project.
Further, a point has been raised regarding the benefit cost ratio in case of the large dams. Supposing some trees fall in the submergence area of the dams and these are valued at, say, one Iakh rupees. You may suggest that it is an under-valuation and that it should be ten lakhs of rupees and your inflated figures are accepted. Now if you insist that there would have been natural regeneration of forests because of these trees and that also should be accounted for then it becomes an endless exercise.
Earthquake is a debatable point. Just take the opinion of three professional organisations and all of them are experts on the subject. Two of them say that earthquake will pose a problem and the third says 'no'. What will you do in that situation. When you talk of the possibility of attack on the dams during a war, you are then surely trying to divert the debate to some other direction because when every country is having weapons in her arsenal, nobody will venture to blast a dam. We can accept that an earthquake of a very high magnitude will hit the Himalayas but any dam will be destroyed in war is improbable, “I will expect that Mishraji should comment on my statement.'
Shri Dinesh Kumar Mishra 'It was so nice of Shri Priyadarshi to have raised many a questions. I will talk of rehabilitation first. In our country there used to be a minister of irrigation and power at the centre, Dr. K. L. Rao, who was a very powerful minister in the cabinets of Shri Nehru and Ms. Indira Gandhi. He was the father of many engineering projects in the country and had initiated an equal number of schemes. The much talked about Ganga-Cauvery link is also his brain child. He had a very big say is ratifying the Kosi Project. It was probably in 1964 that Dr. Rao visited the Bhakhra Dam. Some villagers met him in a delegation and requested him to come to their village. This was a resettlement site and Dr. Rao was moved with the plight of the people there because he had not imagined the village to be a crammed entity. For him the villages were known to be spacious. The village was just like an urban slum. He spent sometimes with the villagers and while parting the villagers requested him that would it be possible for him to provide electricity in the village. Dr. Rao assured that this will be done.
After returning, he told the Managing Director of the Bhakhra-Beas Board to extend power line to the village. The M. D. refused to do anything in the matter because there was no budgetary provision for that work. Dr. Rao has cited this incident in his autobiography, 'The Cusecs Candidate', and lamented that despite being a central minister, he could not get this small thing done. In short, this is what we understand as rehabilitation. Dr. Rao, on whose recommendation the Kosi embankments were ratified did not recollect the plight of 1,92,000 who were trapped within the Kosi embankments.
We have only heard stories about the Narmada Project and know something about the Morse Committee report and subsequent stoppage of work there on the issue of rehabilitation only. I wish we had someone from the Narmada Bachao Andolan to answer the points raised by Shri Priyadarshi.
Rehabilitation, actually, is a peculiar issue. It is only a matter of today or tomorrow. The people want rehabilitation today and the Government promises it tomorrow. He, who agreed to believe and accepted the rehabilitation for the next day, never got it all through his life. This is what happened in the Kosi Project. If the displaced persons in the Narmada Project are getting proper rehabilitation, I must say, the foundation of their success was laid here in the Kosi or the DVC Projects. What all I want to say is that whether I am a small man or big, whatever be my religion or caste, when I am uprooted, it should be the responsibility of the Government to ensure that I am able to live in the same condition as one before being uprooted, if not better. People had to struggle so much to achieve just that little.
And what would you suggest us to do if the Government fixes one rupee as the compensation for a Lah tree in the Auranga Project in Palamu or a Shisham tree in the Mahananda basin.
Regarding the benefit cost ratio, we have kept here the status report of six major schemes of the state on a piece of cloth. If one is satisfied with the benefits and the costs, we do not have much to say.
As regards the earthquake, we have a very senior environment engineer known to us Dr. Shivaji Rao. He was for sometimes a member of the review committee of the Tehri dam and left it because of serious differences with other members of the committee. He has written a small book, 'Tehri Dam is Time Bomb' and he has reviewed the impact of an earthquake on this dam. He says that in case of any accident with the Dam, water will sweep the Rishikesh town in half an hour and wipe out Hardwar in another one hour. Then this water will travel through Delhi, Allahabad, Fatehpur and Ballia and eventual & up to the Bay of Bengal near Gangasagar devastating whatever comes in it's path. I asked Prof. Rao once that I can understand your concern when you talk about Delhi, being the capital of the country, which should concern everybody but why you are worried about Allahabad, Fatehpur or Ballia. He said that all these are the constituencies of the Prime Ministers and they should be worried about their constituencies, at least. If something goes wrong with Tehri Dam, even Ram Janmabhumi will not be there and we must think about that also, he said, Prof. Shivaji has not received answers to his queries so far.
It is possible to design an earthquake resistant structure but the question remains that what is the extent of risk one is prepared to take. The 1934 earthquake of Bihar was of 8-4 magnitude on the Richter scale and the Assam earthquake (1950) measured 8-7. If a dam is designed after providing reasonable factor of safety, the costs would be enormous and if not:then the risk will persist. Many concerned people are demanding that the cost of the disaster preparedness and management to meet any emergency be included in the project plans and the whole scheme be made public., That is where the hiccup starts.
Earthquakes have caused failure of dams and the failure of Koyna dam in Maharashtra in the 1960s is a local example for us. The Himalaya is unstable and this everybody knows.
And lastly, the riskto dams in wars. Such incidence are not only an imagination but this has happened actually. Many dams were blasted in the second world war in Germany. Civil war in Mozambique has seen attacks on the dams. El-Salvador is another venue where dams were attacked. In China in 1938, Chiang-Kai-Shek had ordered bombardment of Hwang Ho embankments to repel the attack of Japanese army. Since these examples are available, it is our duty to caution people about the stakes involved. This debate is surely a distraction from our main issue but if the related points need be debated once again, it will a pleasure for us to participate in such a debate. We are not pronouncing judgments but just as you have questions, we also have some questions which nobody is prepared to answer. We only listen that there is no alternative to such and such and project and once that is told in the beginning, it is unlikely that an alternative will really be found out.
The session ended with this statement of Shri Dinesh Kumar Mishra. Shri Vijay Kumar briefed the participants about the next session. He suggested that, 'that we shall split intwo groups, one comprising of the participants from Bihar and the other group will comprise of the participants from Nepal, U.P., West Bengal, Assam, Delhi, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh. Our suggestion will be that the meeting of the Bihar group is conducted by Shri Manthanji and other groups meeting could be conducted by Shri Pawan Rana. We will have about an hour's time to discuss the future programmes. We suggest the following points,
1. What are our expectations from each other the states amongst themselves and expectations between Nepal and the adjoining Indian states.
2. Can we proceed on working with alternatives, if so, how ?
3. Should we constitute a co-ordination committee to consolidate and further our work. Who will be the members of this committee and how will it function?
4. Where can we have ournext meeting and who will organize it.
Following is the report from the two groups. The deliberations in the Bihar groi) were presented by Shri Manthanji.
He said that, 'our group expects that we should be more equipped with the information and knowledge to strengthen our arguments as we proceed and, to achieve this, we should have a more organised procedure for the exchange of information. Our group felt that we have neighbouring states like U.P. and W.B. and Nepal is just on the northern side. If they can suggest one such centre in each state or country where we can get the information from or where we can send the information available with us, it will be ideal. If that is possible then we will have to make contacts only at one point and the others can contact us directly. Barh Mukti Abhiyan offers itself as a centre for Bihar.
The group also felt that the misunderstanding over any issue is most pronounced in the boundary areas. Therefore, if it is possible to have exchange of ideas at the group levels or at the peoples level in those places it will help a great deal in developing common and mutual understanding of the problems and reduce unwanted tension that prevails. We hope to get co-operation from others on this count.
Barh Mukti Abhiyan has been thinking very actively over the issue of alternatives to the problems of irrigation and flood control. Unfortunately, we could never ground these ideas. Many of our friends are linked to some institutions and it is essential to have an institutional framework for the constructive work. We hope to enthuse our such friends and institutions to translate our ideas into action. Should we be able to do something worthwhile in future, it will be our pleasure to share our experiences in future meetings with others.
For starting a co-ordinated effort with other states or Nepal, it was a general feeling in our group that we should allow the relations to mature further and then only constitute the co-ordination committee. We need some time more over this point.
Barh Mukti Abhiyan is thinking of organising such meetings on an annual basis and is in a position to hold the next meeting but it will always be better to have such meetings at different places so that we get a better opportunity to appreciate the problems of others. However, we are prepared to host the next meeting.
After the presentation of Manthanji, Dr. S. K. Lunkad presented the report of the non-Bihar group based on the discussions that took place there. He was assisted by Sarva Shri Pawan Rana, Rajesh Kumar and Ajay Dixit from time to time. This group passed the following resolutions.
1. To define in entirety the river crises of some particular place or area.
2. Basing on the aspects like agriculture, electricity and livelihood strategies; to lookfor the alternatives to the schemes like the Kosi Project and keep the debate alive.
3. To define the river crises like the one of utilization of water, information, environment, equality crises etc. including the crises borne out of wrong notions of scientific / technological knowledge among financially dominating class.
4. To strengthen each other by sharing information and to maintain link and contacts.
5. To educate affected people about water resources, water rights and also to obtain information from them by interacting with them.
6. To create a new vision about crises related with water resources keeping people and human dignity at the centre.
7. To specify the river valley with which concern is raised.
8. To contact people in field and to approach them with problems and their possible solutions.
9. To identify specific regional problems and to inform people about them, particularly the youth.
10. To improve / strengthen the methods of mitigating floods and coping with them.
11. Participants to leave their names and addresses specifying the field of activity with the organizer before leaving.
12. To decide the place of next seminar.
Shri Ajay Dixit suggested that there are many persons attending this meeting who have some special capabilities which can benefit others. If such persons can prepare a small note about themselves in just half a page that will be of immense help to others. Further, there should be participants from Pakistan, Bhutan and Bangladesh also in such meetings and their participation must be ensured in next meeting irrespective of it's venue.
Shri Vijay Kumar suggested the formation of a committee which will prepare guidelines and the draft paper on alternatives for the work in future. He also named the persons who could possibly be the members of such a committee. This included Sarvasri Dinesh Kumar Mishra, Ajay Dixit, Dipak Gyawali, Girin Chetia, Samar Bagchi, Pawan Rana, V. Mohan Reddy and Drs. S. K. Lunkad, Shiraz Wajih and Ms. Joya Mitra. There could be more additions to this list. If these persons could meet at some interval, take a stock of the situation and give suggestions, then the things would move in the desired direction. 'We always talk of alternatives but our achievements are insignificant. This committee could guide us' he said.
He further suggested that, 'there are many issues raised in this meeting and keeping them in focus some Dharnas must be organised in all the district head quarters. Every year, on the 6th April, there should be a meeting at Patna or any other suitable place in which we all meet to review our activities in the past year and present our plans for the future.' Shri Vijay Kumar also said that the Bihar group had not felt the need for a co-ordination committee at the moment and hence it would not be advisable to suggest one. But there does not seem to be any objection to it either and hence the committee should be made.
Shri Nalini Kant wanted that if some plans are made for co-operation between the action groups working in Saran, Siwan and Gopalganj in Bihar, and Maharajganj, Gorakhpur, Deoria and Padrauna in U.P. and a dialogue established between these groups to start with, would be very encouraging at this stage. Shri Dinesh Kumar Mishra told that unofficially, there is a contact between these groups but no formal meetings have been held between Sahyog and Barh Mukti Abhiyan but it will be a good idea to hasten this process. Similar efforts are needed on the either banks of the Mahananda between Bihar and West Bengal. The groups are in touch with Nepal but the relationship is limited to exchange visits of few individuals only.
Shri Ram Baksha Singh—(Sant Kabir Nagar, U.P.)—'A meeting was called by Sahyog : Gorakhpur last year which was attended by many participantsfrom different provinces. It was proposed in that meeting that Sahyog and Barh Mukti Abhiyan will prepare a network in which the groups from West Bengal and Nepal would also precipitate. It was also decided that the groups of U.P. and Nepal will study a river jointly. Similar expectations were there from the groups of Bihar-Nepal, Bengal-Nepal, Bihar-U.P. and Bihar-Bengal. A step in this direction has been taken between U.P. and Nepal. In U.P. we face severe floods and waterlogging from Lakhimpur Khiri in the west to Maharajganj in the east. We can, probably, develop the art of living with the floods in these areas by establishing a dialogue with the people. If Barh Mukti Abhiyan takes some initiative in this direction, we would surely extend our helping hand.'Shri Shivanand Bhai (Jamui)--It is about the time that we come out of the frame work of seminars and conferences and shape our efforts into a people's movement and take that to its logical conclusion. It will be essential for this that,
1. We create organisation set ups at the district level for educating people and creating awareness amongst them.
2. Let the sufferers take the lead following this principle let us create an environment for initiating a movement with the farmers organisations.
3. We must prepare factual status report and should try to come out with pamphlets / posters etc.
4. It will be nice to have a state level co-ordination committee and it is now essential to have a contact office at Patna. I wonder if it would be possible to come out with some news bulletin of our own.
5. It will be good if people like Shri Dinesh Kumar Mishra or Shri Ram Chandra Khan tour the area extensively and create a ground for this movement.
6. Sometimes next year, a large convention be held at Patna.
After the suggestions of Shri Shivanand Bhai, Shri Nagendra Prasad Singh, a senior colleague of Barh Mukti Abhiyan proposed the vote of thanks. He said, 'I am working in the field of water since 1964. Shri Dinesh Mishra had come to me in 1985 and the chain of struggle has not broken, thus. When you set on to a journey to struggle you come across a variety of impostors and that is no secret.Megasthanese was coming to tour India and happened to come across Seleucus who told him that if he was going to India, he must meet Acharya Chanakya. He is a person of amazing qualities. Megathanese, thus, came to see Chanakya at his residence. It was now dark in the evening and Chanakya was working in his room in the light of lamp. When told that somebody had come to see him, he asked the visitor to wait, put off his lamp and lit another one. It was then that he asked the visitor to come in. Changing of the lamp was a mistry to Megasthanese and he asked Chanakya why he did so. Chanakya told him that when he had come, he was doing some work of the state and the lamp that was lit then, belonged to the state and it was the state's oil that he was being burnt there. Meeting the visitor was his personal work and so he lit his own lamp and put the other one off.
I just wanted to bring this point home that Chanakya was also a politician, and very powerful at that but he was very conscious of the affairs of the state and his personal one. The kind of politicians that he have to-day, do not have the patience even for a day and have no hesitation in swindling anything that comes their way. That is the character of the people you are pitted against, whether they are politicians or a public servant. There are only just a few persons in politics or administration who are still not corrupted and it is only because of the grace and the good work of such people that the country is still surviving.Now let us talk about our own problems. The problems of Nepal and India are quite different. Even if we treat irrigation as the common denominator, there cannot be a single solution to the problem because of the differences in topography. Just the presence of water is not a solution to the problem of irrigation. Those who say that by constructing high dams in Nepal, the problems of Bihar will be solved, have not studied the character of our rivers carefully and the kind of the sediment load that these rivers bring. The Kosi alone brings 96,000 Acre ft. of silt annually. Then there is a series of Himalayan rivers, from Mahananda to Ram Ganga to spill sand/silt into the Ganga. All this sediment load is going to get deposited behind the dams. What would be the life of the dams?
However, this is not the time to discuss all these points in detail. Barh Mukti Abhiyan extends it's heartfelt and sincere gratitude to everyone of you for have taken all the trouble to make this meeting a success and hope that your co-operation will be extended to us in future also.
With the vote of thanks Shri Nagendra Prasad Singh the meeting ended.
After the meeting ended formally, some friends of Bihar and so also from other states sat for an informal discussion.
Shri Shivanand Bhai repeated that, 'we mustintensify our .efforts and involve more people.' Shri Nalini Kant observed that, 'some changes have occurred in our style of functioning for sometime and some new relationships are also being built up. We have come closer to groups in Nepal, Bangladesh and other provinces. We must try to evolve a common agenda and work on this but without loosing the site of our own local agenda. Also, we hold such big meetings at some intervals and I have a feeling that with the passage of time when we start feeling that nothing worthwhile is happening, we cover it up by holding a big meeting. However, we have discussed the common issues at length and for a long time and our grip on the analysis of the situation continues to be sound. Alternative is a very side term and we should start with the working on some aspects of it.'
Shri Rajendra Jha (Saharsa) opined that, 'it is wrong to say that not much is happening at the field and we are constrained to hold big meetings at certain intervals. Meetings are being held regularly in our area and elsewhere too. Unfortunately, we do not have the mechanism to propagate our work nor we have the resources.' Shri Bhuwaneshwar Singh (Siwan) and Shri Jitendra Kumar (Saran) also supported Shri Rajendra Jha saying that many meetings were held in their area but without much of publicity.
Shri Vijay Kumar said that, 'when we talk of trans.-boundary areas, in case of water, then the whole problem precipitates down to the question of up-stream area and down-stream area. Take any combination whether it is Nepal-India or India-Bangladesh. These are all linked by that relationship. The same thing holds with Indian states too. If you want to deal with the matter in entirety, it is essential that we know the view point of the other side. Sometimes, the roles are reversed, for example, India is down-stream to Nepal but up-,:ream to Bangladesh and I had proposed in this context only that if a study is to be made in entirety, it will be better to have to a co-ordinating committee. For our local programmes, we do not need any such committee, that we are competent to handle independently. Be it Cauvery, Ban Sagar or Farakka, all are examples of up-stream and down-stream conflicts and in such cases we will need a co-ordination committee, that is my feeling.'
Shri Rameshwar Singh maintained that, 'this meeting was the first meeting of it's kind at the Bihar level, or even at our level, in which the issue of regional co-operation is raised. Some of our people might have gone to such meetings here and there or might have met in Pokhra. As far as my information goes, this is the first meeting on the subject and in no way it should be taken as the follow up of Pokhra meeting. We have always held divergent views about regional co-operation in past and still not very much prepared to jump over the idea. We should be very clear about the issue and analyse the programme, Yesterday evening Mishraji was telling that we have held this meeting one year in advance and this he said because we had assumed certain things, implying that we should have worked over the issue for a year and then held this meeting. What I gather is that holding this meeting was pre-mature move and apprehend what you say will might also result in the same.' But just as the house had agreed to the formation of such a committee, it should be made.
Shri Nalini Kant said that, 'we must try to fix up our roles because the time has come that the role of researches/publications or documentation etc. will now become secondary and consultative while the emphasis should now be on the organisational work and movement. Hence we should also know in advance who could do you what.' Shri Kameshwar Lal `Indu' said that, 'irrespective of who is invited to our meetings and wherever we might go to attend the meetings, the fact remains that we have our presence only in Bihar. Barh Mukti Abhiyan has a co-ordination committee and if its feels that we should extend our activities in a particular direction, we should. The documentation work should continue and let the other programmes also continue and, in fact, it does continue round the year. We all keep going to the meetings. Mishraji, Vijayji and Rameshwarji devote most of their time over the issue but it should be streamlined now. When you make programmes at district level, you will find your self strengthened and you should make a calendar accordingly.
Shri Shashi Bhushan (Saharsa) said that, 'we have done documentation, awareness building, along with organisational work. We have some information which we have given to the people although most it we had got from them only. We have learnt a lot in the process and a lot more is left to be learnt and that is the subject of traditional wisdom. Just let 5 to 10 years lapse and you will not people to tell you about this, they will be no more. All other things can be postponed but not this. We will only repent if you do not take it seriously. This can only be done by concerted effort and prolonged involvement. We must try to strengthen our base.'
Shri Pramod Kumar Singh offered to provide any information that can be collected at Patna level.
Shri Ram Chandra Khan while thanking personally Shri Dinesh Kumar Mishra for organising this seminar minced no words in expressing his apprehensions. He said that, 'some people are past-masters at taking a long leap. The flight from micro to macro is very fascinating. Much before we develop an understanding of the problem on the ground, we start dreaming about big things. For example, we have not yet touched the problems like poverty, unemployment and economic disparity for last fifty years—in your language they are making embankments and science is being applied in a wrong way. I have opened my mouth against the misuse of science after studying for years. The question arises, who was wrong the man or the science.What kind of people were they who were making a bee line around the Kosi embankments. This project exposed all the fallacies of science.
Mishraji, I want to say many things to you. You have organised this convention and with that you have taken a very big leap, you are no more one amongst us, you have become an international figure now, you have detached yourself today from the miseries caused by the embankments, from the devalued humanity, from the misuse of science and from the tragedy of inter-relations of human beings and science and have taken a big leap into fame. Now you are worried about the global water resources and the state of Asian waters has started worrying you now. The state, for past fifty years in India, having misused the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act framed in the nineteenth century, prepares plans like the Kosi Project after destroying the entire land of the area, it's water, habitat, flora and fauna and the system of rivers you have used it as a platform Mishraji ! to launch yourself. You started your journey from micro and have now become macro. I am afraid, the place where your thinking process was aroused, in 1984—on the banks of the Kosi, where millions people were subject to destitution, on the banks of the Subarnrekha vvinera so many people were rendered homeless and from every corner of Bihar, where massive displacement took place you will now turn your eyes to their plight. You will no more be able to see the waterlogging, the displacement, the breached embankments and the Kosi area which is site where modern science and technology is smashed into smithereens.
We were all jointly demanding the farewell of science and technology from our area and are you left with any role in those efforts. We wanted the Kosi returned to us in all it's glory, along with all it's channels, we wanted our Kosi to flow freely.
Whatever you and your colleagues are doing Mishraji ! attempting to become macro from micro, our poor, displaced and the destitute people will be left wherever the are. You stood by us all along to decry the selfish technology, the Government, the financial institutions and the engineers and keeping them away from our rivers, we are pained, you have vacated the field to-day. We had high hopes that you will live with the people and develop their science and technology but to-day you packed off for your journey to Nepal and Bangladesh. You have made a declaration to that effect and have left forward to-day. Some day you will organise the Asian Conference and then a World Summit and leave the people of the Kosi area into and endless wait. I appreciate that the problem is not there only in our villages or the district but is equally bad elsewhere but is not the destitution exemplary in our places. You will have to keep the sense of proportion in allocating your time as to how much of it you devote to the international problems and how much of your time you give to those, whose plight had pushed you to a virtual state of renunciation. You will now try to solve the world problem forgetting about the fire in your own village. I will advise you that you will take precautions that in an attempt to become and international celebrity, you should not get debased from your footings and you will never forget the sense of proportion.'
Shri Dinesh Kumar Mishra in his reply to the points raised by Shri Ram Chandra Khan said that, 'the foundation for this seminar was being laid since two years and it is a result of studies over the subject during this period and also the dilemma that we were facing. I keep going to my institute at Kharagpur at an interval of a year or so and glance through the articles published in technical journals over the period. Whatever articles I find interesting, I get them Xeroxed and bring back. I was going through one such article in the December 1995 issue of the International Journal of Water Resources in the month of May 1996 in the library` of I. I. T. Kharagpur. This carried an article titled `International Co-operation in Water Resources'. This was written by an eminent Indian engineer who also had been the former Chairman of Central Water Commission.You might remember that in June 1992 there was a mighty Earth Summit held in Rio in Brazil in which a large number of people from the Government and Non-Government Organisitions had assembled and had widely discussed the utilization of the natural resources of the world. Water was one of them. All these information are available in UN document as Agenda 21. I had heard of Agenda-21 but had never read the document. The article would not give what the Agenda-21 was but surely suggested how this can be interpreted. According to this article, water was treated as a world wealth, on the strength of this Agenda-21, and should be utilized for the betterment of mankind. All the countries should join hands to develop this scarce resource, sinking all their differences, because unless the problem of water is not looked in entirety, stray efforts by different nations are not going to yield desired results. It was suggested in this article that it is essential that the dialogue at peoples level is a must to clear the mist of differences between the nations so that the work in the development of water resources could be proceeded with. The author had very emphatically underlined the role of the NGOs because the nations had their own political compulsions but the NGOs have better grip over the society and it is a easier for them to mobifize masses over any issue.
Later I got an opportunity to go through the Agenda-21 and as far as my understanding goes, there seems to be nothing tricky in it that could worry somebody. All good things are written there, world as one family and uplift of mankind etc. etc. everything is there. But it's interpretation and inferences are entirely different.
You might remember that it was only after that Shri Man Mohan Adhikari, former Nepalese Prime Minister, visited India and the agreement between India and Nepal was signed over the passage facility to Nepal on India's western coast. This was the major Hitch between India and Nepal over past fifty years in the development of water resources between the two countries. In return, Indian team was permitted to investigate the Barahkshetra dam in the Kosi. This was followed by the negotiation over the Mahakali and the Karnali Project. All this was moving at a speed which could never be imagined on past. I have a feeling that as long as India and Nepal were free to decide things on their own, they did not sign the agreement but just as the pressure mounted up from outside, the agreement was signed without making any fuss. Agreement in sharing of Farakka waters, which was languishing for past so many years was also signed. The realization come to me only after reading this article which had opened my eyes that once all the differences are resolved between the co-riparian states and a congenial atmosphere is built. the institution like the World Bank etc. will get an even field to play their games. Once their role is over, the NGOs would be either co-opted or kicked. Thew definition of NGOs does not include groups or people like us but they include big professional and technical NGOs who will either build the large structures in future or offer technical advice to such projects. Our role is limited to creating an atmosphere conducive to such ventures. But the society knows both of us as NGOs and by the time one realises that one has committed a mistake, one's utility is over and the stage will be handed over to the other NGOs. Then you will have the option for shouting at the top of your voice about the things that had gone wrong without any listeners and if you are practical, you will meekly surrender before these technical/professional NGOs to retain that name of NGOs.
For past some years we have received so many offers from many organisations that if are doing such a good work why not work on international co-operation and network. Personally, 1 treat the word 'networking' as an abuse and the way 'regional co-operation' was flooding the market, made me suspicious because whosoever you meet, you find him working on regional co-operation and traveling to Dacca and Kathmandu. To me this was a living example of 'Development Tourism'. I had heard NGOs talking about sharing and use of water. I can understand usage of water as a concern but what is the role of NGOs in sharing of water, because as far as my information goes discharge of rivers in the Ganga-Branhmputra valley continues to be a secret in India. Unless this knot is removed how can NGOs talk about the sharing of water. We raised this issue in many meetings and seminars with little success because of limited audience and time and then we decided to hold a meeting ourselves where we will have our own time and our own audience and we held this meeting with full preparation and the series of articles, that we have circulated in this meeting are a guide to our stand.
I and all my colleagues have a question. Has Cauvery issue been resolved or the Ban Sagar or the Narmada Water Dispute resolved. If we are serious about regional or co-riparian co-operation, it should start here, from our own house. Why this haste about Dacca and Kathmandu. This question of ours has not been answered even in this seminar. Rameshwarji was telling just now that we should have held this meeting after a year. We had a feeling that a great amount of debate had taken place in Bihar over the new economic policy, privatization or liberalization and it would not be very difficult for us to highlight the problem of water in this background but it did not happen. We had to caution the speakers many time yesterday and to-day that they should speak to the point and that we are not discussing the local issue this time. We deliberately did not want to discuss our ownproblems in this meeting but wanted to see them in a wider perspective.
We are going ahead with our regular meetings and have no intention of diluting our efforts on that front. Now we will have to put in more efforts and energy in exposing the game that is being played by the MNCs and the World Bank etc. and the impact it is likely to have over our water resources. This is the first meeting of it kind and is as important for us as our earlier meetings and this is now our additional• responsibility.
I and my friends will like to assure everybody that whenever we talk anything, either here or elsewhere, we talk placing ourselves at Ghonghepur (This village is the end point of the Western Kosi embankment and remains surrounded by water for most part of the year) and that gives a feeling to the outsiders that we are exaggerating things but we find it hard to dissociate ourselves from that village.
It is a definite advantage of such a meeting that we, at least, know what is happening in Nepal because our Water Resources Department does not want to talk over the issue. The copies of lndo-Nepal agreement on the Mahakali Project is available on the pavements of Kathmandu or the Farakka agreement in Dacca, in then original form, but in here in India, we are not entitled to know anything. Hence we make use of such meetings to enrich our information base while realizing fully that the basis of our strength is the contact with public here in Bihar and our own organizational work.
An other concern is that now the venue to admire or oppose any project is going to shift. When the Kosi embankments were built, these were built on our own land in our own villages and people could oppose it because it was there right before them. In that situation person like Bahadur Khan Sharma or Parmeshwar Kunwar are able to do something but now the projects will be built 100 to 200 kilometers away from our villages, in such places where you cannot go and offer Dharnas, no even five persons together. When you take out a procession in protest you will be stopped at the boarder, the sovereignty of a country will come to play its role and your voices will not be heard. Let people at least know all this. I assure you that neither we will leave our area, nor slacken our efforts and will surely keep the sense of proportion is allocating our time.'
Shri Ram Chandra Khan welcomed the assurances given by Mishraji and said once again that, 'ours is a country of bullock carts and cycles where from people leap into aircraft and never bother to look towards the bullock-cart. If you can hold on to it, then only we all can be benefited.' One senior colleague Shri Surya Narayan Thakur also expressed his caution that, 'regional co-operation should be there but we should not engage ourselves only in that at the cost of our own work. I doubt, sometimes, that the emphasis that this issue is given is aimed at dislodging those who are doing some good work in their area and nullify their efforts. There is need to exercise care over this issue.'
Shri Jayanta Basu (Calcutta) told about a meeting held recently in which he was asked to talk over the Farakka Barrage. 'The topic was partition of the country, communalism and the Civil Society. Farakka issue was related to Civil Society but the role of partition and communalism was diffibult for me to understand. The role of Farakka barrage would be the same even if some country, other than Bangladesh, was located there. As long I kept talking about the background of the Farakka Project, people listened but when I started talking about the issues related to the barrage, the economic exploitation and the role of MNCs there was restlessness among the audience because I was saying something contrary to what people wanted to listen and I had to stop half way through.'
Shri Nagendra Prasad Singh also cautioned about the regional co-opereation issue and said that there are conspiracies at every level and we will to confront them.
It was decided in the end that there was difference of opinions in the Bihar group over the constitution of the committee while the other group did not touch this point at all. Therefore, As far as the formation of the committee to draft the paper on the alternatives was concerned, it was reaffirmed that Mishraji should contact concerned people and seek their opinion and if the consensus emerges then such a committee, comprising of the people of the different interests and expertise, be constituted to give the guidelines for future work.
After taking this resolution, this informal meeting also was declared as over.
APPENDIX -1MAYURAKSHI BACHAO PRASTUTI SAMITI P. O. Bhadrakali, Dist.
The problem and condition of the Mayurakshi is wretched and acute. The bank side-area of the river is in a very alarming condition. To assess and collect the facts and figure, an N. G. 0. central team should be sent in this regard. The team will make spot inquiry and meet the people of the area. Last year, three members of N. A. P. M. Calcutta came here and visited the dying Mayurakshi and her bank-side area. Those areas are under the jurisdiction of Khatanga Anchal Panchayat, Suri, Block-1, Birbhum, West Bengal. They also saw the embankment of the river.
These members were the Convenor, Sri Sukhendu Bhattacharjee, Sri Sandip Das, Ex-M.L.A. now Professor and Sri Gobinda. Within a short time, they formed a committee from among the people of the area called it 'Mayurakshi Bachao Prastuti Committee'. But the committee is not functioning. The political atmosphere is the main factor. On the other hand, my personal problems are such that it is not possible for me to do all the works of the committee, hence my proposal for a permanent central body. This body will go there from time to time and look into the affairs. In 1978, there was a devastating flood in the area, which caused heavy damage to agricultural lands and *felling units. It was a man-made event. Again, in 1995, a devastating flood occurred, which broke up the weak embankment resulting in heavy damage to cultivated lands and sand-casting it. The affected cultivators submitted a joint petition to all concerned, even to Prime Minister, but in vain. The vested interests, with the help of a political party and bureaucrats are creating all the problems.
There are two dams or barrages on the Mayurakshi, one at Massanjore near Dumka in Bihar and the other at Tilpara near Suri, Birbhum, in West Bengal. Before the construction of the dams, specially at Tilpara, the people of the area had never faced any floods.
For last ten to twelve years, dredging of the sand from the bed of the Mayurakshi is being done by the State Government. The dredging of sand from the river should been done from the mouth of the dam (Tilpara) which is 3 to 4 km from our embankment site but instead of that it was being done from the inside bed nearthe breached embankment. This unscientific policy, that has already destroyed the huge area of agricultural land of the poor cultivators, is being persued knowingly. In side the said embankment, there was a vast square heap of sand standing like a hill, which has been protecting the embankment, is being dredged. This was the main reason for the breach in the embankment of the Mayurakshi in 1995. It is not known how much revenue from the sand mining has been earned but the flood is there for a long. It is a man-made flood.More over illegal brick fields have been started since long time and are gradually spreading within the area destroying the agricultural lands. These vested interests are violating the rules and regulations ignoring the norms of environment of the area.
There is no organization to protest for the fear of a political party and its government. I took some initiative but I have been threatened several times and also insulted. Still the poor cultivators, met the D. M. Suri, Birbhum W. B. for taking some suitable action but in vain. Even Pollution Control Board of West Bengal has been of no avail.
Last year, we were informed that an N. G. O., Khadi Gramodyog of Bankura, West Bengal is willing to help in lifting sand of one Mouza, submerged under sand by flood of the Mayurakshi in 1995. We are surprised that nothing has happened in this regard.
In view of the fact, if the destruction in the name of development is allowed to continue, the Mayurakshi will soon turn into a desert and the area into a lake. This is the picture of the Mayurakshi and her surrounding areas.
Sabita Kumar Roy