Monday, November 12, 2012

Water Security in Peri-Urban Khulna: Output of the Sharing Meeting with Khulna City Corporation

A one day long research dissimination and sharing meeting of the peri-urban project was held at Khulna City Corporation (KCC) on October 15, 2012. The Institute of Water and Flood Management (IWFM) of BUET, Environmental Science Department of Khulna University, Institute of Livelihood Studies  (ILS) and the Khulna City Corporation (KCC) jointly organized this sharing meeting to discuss the research findngs of the IDRC funded action-research project - “Water Security in Peri-Urban South Asia: Adaptining to Climate Change and Urbanization”. The KCC Mayor invited Ward Councellors of 31 wards in KCC to discuss the research findings and water security issues in Khulna.  

In the opening session, Project Leader Professor Dr. M. Shah Alam Khan discussed the research agenda and briefed the project overview to the invited participants. Professor Khan said that they were very happy to see a positive response of the KCC on the research findings of the project at Khulna. We are really thankful to him and for his active support in the research process.  

KCC Mayor Mr. Talukder Abdul Khaleque (left) giving his speech to invited Ward Commissioners in the research sharing meeting held on October 15, 2012 in Khulna

Professor Dr. Dilip Kumar Datta of Khulna University presented the research findings in the sharing meeting and called for a stategic action to save the river Mayur which helps in providing  water security to peri-urban Khulna. Prof. Datta also conveyed that the groundwater resources of KCC contain very high amout of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) and surface water bodies are highly polluted due to solid waste and wastewater discharges form the KCC area. He added that illegal encroachment of the natural Khals ( or canals) and drainage canals have been causing serious water logging problem in the city and the periphery. Professor Datta also said that KCC has no other alternate way but to save the river Mayur for long term water security in Khulna. 

KCC Mayor Mr. Talukder Abdul Khaleque, Ward Commissioners and civil society people discussing on ‘Save the Mayur’
Mayur River is a surface water source in Khulna, said Professor Datta and his research team. Professor Datta also added that his reaearch team had already conducted several studies on Mayur, and now from their research findings it is very much evident that Mayur River can no longer be used as a potential surface water source in Khulna. Various studies on geo-chemical, geomorphological, wastewater characterization, hydrochemistry, conflict in water use and cost-benefits analysis of Mayur river have already been completed. Thus, Proffesor Datta on behalf of the peri-urban research team announced that if KCC authority is willig to take up activites to save the river, the research team is ready to provide research and other technical support to the KCC. 

About 31 lakh gallon/day effluent is discharged from the KCC into the Mayur River system. However, it is advised that this huge effluent should be treated before final discharge to the Mayur River. Considering this case, a small scale ETP could be an effective option for KCC.

In the discussion session, KCC Mayor Mr. Talukder Abdul Khaleque expressed their commitment to save the Mayur and other natural Khals in the KCC. He said that some powerful land-grabbers with political support destroyed the KCC’s Khals in the name lease. He clearly expressed his desire in saving Khulna and its people. He told that  KCC is taking action without political consideration and hopes that it does so every time. He informed that he already aksed the District Commissioner permission for excavating conneting canals in KCC and he believes that within his time period; he will be able to save 22-Khals from the grabbers. He claims that KDA has a Master Plan but it is not put into action. There are no activities to implement the Master Plan. He requested the ward councellors to motivate local people against any illegal work that could harm the peoples’ interest and their environment. Mayor also requested the research team to discuss the same issues and research results with with KDA and other authorities. Mayor ensured that he will help the research team to implement any work in future that will provide benefits  for Khulna’s people.

In the end, Professor Khan said that Mayur River is not only important for water security but also its benefits are ecological. Mayor communicated that the discussion and output of this meeting will be shared with District Comissioner. He requested the research team to submit a proposal to save the Mayur.  Finally, he stated that he is ready to face any big challenge  to implement good work for Khulna and its people. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Haryana Agriculture Department – Perspectives from a Day Spent in the Government Office

My work as Research Associate at SaciWATERs required me to collect data on the groundwater quality of villages under the Peri-Urban Project.  After waiting for a while, I got a chance to speak with one of the senior hydrologists in the department. I spoke about what we (SaciWATERS) do and why we need such information. He suggested that I should sit and wait, while they process the information. This wait gave me the perfect chance to observe the problems people face with regard to groundwater and its extraction.
First a woman walked in - judging by her behavior, it felt she had made these rounds many times over. She wanted to install a tube-well; the duty officer said that it’s not possible, “the Supreme Court has banned any more borings”. She said that, “At least I am following the procedure; others just go on and install it”. He said that she should complain to the District Commissioner if someone puts it illegally, to which she replied that hurting others would not help her cause.  
Moving on further, a group of villagers walked in - they exclaimed  that sowing time of mustard has already come and wheat’s shall also come soon, thus giving rise to the acute need of boring. They pleaded for the approval to bore to which they got the standard reply of ‘it’s not allowed’.  They said that without water , survival is not possible.  The hydrologist said that he sympathized with them but could do nothing - he also said that he could have asked other departments to supply water if the need was for drinking water but in this case, they would have to explore other solutions. The people questioned if they should go ahead and bore themselves, to which he replied with a gentle smile “Take your call”. It seemed that he understood where they came from.
 Next a man walked in, he said that he lived in Sitapur- one of the various unauthorized colonies in Gurgaon. His problem was different - the pump of his submersible had gotten spoilt and the police were not allowing him to replace it. He shared that even to remove the motor and repair it, the police ask for a Rs 20,000 bribe. The hydrologist said he had heard many such complaints, and urged that a group of 10 people should get-together and complain to the District commissioner. As the hydrologist was processing this man’s complaint, it became evident that his tube well was not registered; the man being ignorant about such a process said that he has come back to his retirement home and was always away and thus, never knew of such a problem. The hydrologist said that an unregistered tube-well even if ten years old , is illegal if not registered. Again when the person asked what he should do , he smiled and said, “Do what you have to , what can I say , it’s the supreme court’s order”.  The man said that as the colony is illegal, private water tankers come in, and it’s really expensive to rely on them.
Through this ,we see how information is such an asset; surely some provision should be in place for people who could not get their wells registered for numerous reasons.
The hydrologist asked me, if I wanted a cigarette, I declined politely; he took a liking to me and asked me to come out for a walk. He expressed, “I know people will bore illegally; even I do not want to stop them. Where will they go - why did the government allow unauthorized colonies to settle? Either let them take water, or resettle them someplace else.”  We had a small discussion on legal pluralism. He opined, “Yes, it’s something like that, if the law does not seem suitable for most of the population, people will start to make their own law and undertake such activities any which way.”  A blanked ban does not seem a solution to me personally, groundwater should be accessible for drinking purposes at least.  Definitely we need differential permissions and for once let’s hope that the common man in Gurgaon can benefit more than the construction industry[1].

[1] Buildings require massive water supply during construction. The people living in such buildings are also better heeled to access private water tankers. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Media Coveragae

Sakshi news paper published about the activities of SaciWATERs taken up in Ravirala, Maheshwaram Mandal, Hyderabad, India.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Construction of a Water Storage Tank

The water supply in the village of Ravirala is very erratic. The situation is worse as this supply is dependent on the electricity. People tend to store water and use it at the time of necessity. However, the students at the school are vulnerable to this situation. After the mid day lunch, these students do not have water to wash their hands as there is no power during that time. Hence, SaciWATERs felt the need of constructing a storage tank in the school premises. With the help of Ravirala Water User Association, SaciWATERs facilitated the construction of the water storage tank. The school head master conveyed his hearty thanks to both SaciWATERs and Ravirala Water User Association for the noble work. The school children expressed their gratitude towards SaciWATERs for providing such an important facility in their school.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Water as a common good

Water as a common good

The debate on whether water should be a free resource or be subject to market mechanisms is an immensely interesting one. Many scholars have advocated that water pricing is the solution to scarcity, I am no expert in the field of water resources, but in my present visits to Budheda and Sadhrana peri urban villages, it has come across that over exploitation of groundwater is a major problem. In our country, ground water rights are attached to land. This gives us the right to extract water at will, given we have the technology to do it.  Our Prime Minister Shri Manmohan Singh echoes the thought that India is increasingly going to suffer from water scarcity due to the over exploitation of ground water. He feels that extremely subsidized electricity is the main cause for depletion. He feels that water pricing will lead to water being treated as a common property resource and improve its usage. Our constitution guarantees right to life, sufficient water is a pre-requisite for fulfilling right to life. Pricing of water  may exclude the extremely poor from accessing water and thus cannot be an effective solution from the rights perspective .

Keeping these perspectives in mind, I tried to gauge people’s responses in Peri-urban villages in Sadhrana and Budheda on their views of water pricing. A person I met said that, peoples whose borings in the fields get spoilt cannot access groundwater at all, it’s better to price it, than to completely ban its usage. Further the thought that kept echoing was that “ pakki road pani nahi peeti” ( concrete roads do not let the water seep in) . People said that with further development, the amount of water that reaches the soil is diminishing. A few said that water extraction should be priced for cities and industries, we are farmers, and we can even do without fertilizers, but at least need water. Some said that pricing water usage would be absurd , we still have to pay electricity costs for extracting water, further costs will just add up to our burden.
One day as I was going back from the village, barely a kilometer away, I saw, extreme water logging, this made me understand exactly what the villagers were saying. Although rainfall is reducing, construction that will allow water to seep in, or flow into the fields might be a considerable solution.  The solution although seems elementary, but then most problems can get solved by applying common sense or so I believe.

[1] Water logging in the peri-urban villages in gurgaon.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Water and Food Security: Key Agenda of the World Water Week 2012

 “There is no food security without water security”, quoted Jose Graziano da Silva, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), at the inaugural session of the World Water Week 2012. The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) organized ‘World Water Week 2012’ from August, 26-31, in Stockholm, Sweden. This year, about 3000 participants attended this global forum to discuss the key theme: ‘Water and Food Security’ for a hunger free world. Politicians, mayors, scientists, water professionals and leaders of the international organizations from more than 100 nations participated in the discussion sessions, workshops and other events. The main motto was to raise a common voice for ‘water and food security’. In the opening session, Honorable Mohamed Bahaa El Din Sad, Minister for Water and Irrigation, Egypt, and President of the African Minister’s Council on Water (AMCOW) conveyed that food, energy, ecological footprint and various social and economical activities have direct linkages to water resources, and its improper management in a changing climatic scenario makes the future of water and food production highly uncertain. The Honorable Minister also emphasized the need for altering water policies in order to meet the food demand of 9 billion people by 2045. He stressed further on the need for more efficient use of water and improvement in the food production systems.  Even today, while, 900 million people from all over the world suffer from hunger and two billion people face severe health risks from under-nourishment, about 1.5 billion people over-eat and one third of the food is wasted or spoilt. Estimation has shown that demand for food is likely to increase by 70 percent mid of the century, and without intervention, untenable pressure on water resources in many regions will threaten food and water security.

Poster presentation by Uthpal Kumar in the World Water Week 2012.

I got an opportunity to present a poster on “Opportunity and Adverse Impact of Wastewater Reuse in Agriculture in Peri-Urban Areas of Rajshahi, Bangladesh.” I received positive responses from water resources experts, who gave countenance to the understanding that institutional framework for the wastewater reuse system goes a long way, not only in reducing human and environmental risks, but also in formalizing the system for sustainability in food security in urban and peri-urban areas. During the closing session, development partners raised their voice for better co-operation across all societies for water and food security around the globe and requested for more investment funds to increase water use efficiency with the latest technologies that also help in conserving the Mother Earth.  

Follow-up discussion with an Indian Scientist on scope of an institutional framework for waste water reuse for agriculture in the developing countries like India and Bangladesh.