Tuesday, April 21, 2009

India's Water Mess - A Sign of the Disaster in the Making as Chhatisgarh Farmers Commit Mass Suicide

I am grateful to Dr Mayraj Fahim for the main article here as well as other pieces referenced later on in this post. This blog is about Renewable Energy but I have focused on grain storage and water conservation in the past - indeed, my interest in water conservation is one of the reasons why I personally believe that wind energy is an important way forward as far as energy is concerned. Wind turbines do not need water for cooling, making them a superb way of generating electricity in a clean manner and without using water which is already a scarce resource in several parts of India. Ask me - I grew up in Madras and while I lived with my parents at the government owned Old Tower Block, I never had to worry about water. The government keeps its own happy. The hassles came when I got married and left home - the only reason why we had water on a daily basis at Gowri Chitra Gardens where my wife and I lived before we came to the USA is that the building implemented rain water harvesting long before it became fashionable. On the flip side, in the poor state of Chhatisgarh, several farmers have committed suicide because they have run out of ground water as this article shows: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/1500-farmers-commit-mass-suicide-in-india-1669018.html This is news that you will not see in the Indian newspapers. They are too busy lying about how great life is in India. What are some dead poor farmers in Chhatisgarh when there is India Fashion Week waiting to be covered in Mumbai, with a dinner with some nubile models thrown in?

I have also talked about the fraud being committed in India not going in for a modern grain storage system both on this blog as well as in articles in the Indian media. NABARD has had over $ 200 million in funding available from Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau and the Swiss Development Corporation for non-farm sector loans for over 20 years as far as I know. I had arranged for an expert to talk to the Ministry for Agriculture in New Delhi when the current government had just been elected five years ago on this subject, without pushing any particular company or agenda. They took the information that I had arranged and did nothing. That is the Indian way - farmers commit suicide when they are in debt and pests eat three times the amount of grain that people do in India. The poor die of starvation but the Ministry of Agriculture will not implement an old plan of setting up co-operatives to run grain storage businesses and rent them to the FCI with shares given to farmers so that they have an income during lean times, and the silos actually save tens of thousands of grain. What was it about Nero playing the harp while Rome burned? India has thousands of Neros working simultaneously and in co-operation while Indians die of starvation. This country is a basket case. Make no bones about it. The following links show you exactly why:

1. http://www.marketskeptics.com/2009/04/indias-green-revolution-heading-for.html India's Green Revolution is Heading for Collapse

2. http://www.marketskeptics.com/2009/04/usdas-india-estimates-are-bogus.html A US blogger explains why the USDA's India estimates for a 2009 wheat crop are bogus

3. http://www.marketskeptics.com/2009/04/india-will-be-importing-millions-of.html This is what happens when wheat crops fail - the country is forced to import wheat. And more farmers will commit suicide . . .


Kulasekaran said...

I am afraid Mehul farmer suicides in India are old hat. It is just like the elephant in the room.
Media are content to ignore the unpleasant facts as the farmers do not fit the demographic profile for the commercials.
The leftists are more concerned about the Indo-US nuclear deal and the mainstream parties have their own agendas and that do not include water management.
Farmers in Chennai suburbs are content to sell their water to tankers as they are more profitable than farming!!

Mehul Kamdar said...

I have received another comment by e-mail from my old friend Ram Kumar:

Hi Mehul,
It s an imp. topic u ve touched upon, something in the minds of Govt. s to the common man.
Here in Tamil Nadu, mainly in Chennai the previous State Govt., led by Jayalalitha brought in a rule ..........RAINWATER HARVESTING COMPULSORY in all buildings , old and new.
I ve run pipes collecting water from my terrace to an underground recharge tank which collects all the excess rainwater during the monsoon.
Just think of the lakhs of litres of water going underground, the city s water table itself has recharged to a great extent due to this excellent concept.
I think recently Karnataka govt. too has enacted a law that the final building sanction will be given only if a rainwater harvesting system is in place.
These are a few good things a govt. does.
P.Ram Kumar

Mehul Kamdar said...

Two more links sent by Dr Mayraj Fahim are also relevant to this post and follow-up discussions on the issue at hand:

1. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn6321

2. http://asiasociety.org/taskforces/water/?=weeklydigest

My thanks to Dr Fahim for her continued support.

Mohanakrishnan B said...

There was an article in the Times of India (Chennai edition)a few weeks back.They had many brands of packaged water tested and they found that almost all of them were lacking in some way or the other. Most samples were found to have faecal matter.Today there was a warning by Gastro-enterologists about the dangers of drinking contaminated water,fruit juices from roadside vendors etc now that Summer is here.Most of the brands are not treated to anything let alone UV light as claimed by the manufacturers.I bought a can of water which tasted just like tap water.Probably they just filled it from the kitchen sink and sealed it.When I complained they started giving me a brand where the water tastes as if it has been treated.The can in which the water is supplied is a different matter.Most of the time it is grimy with dirt both within and without.I suppose that I should feel happy that they refer to this water as packaged water and not mineral water as they used to a few years ago.Small mercies.The packaged/treated water business is the most lucrative business at the moment and a money spinner for all concerned except the consumer and the delivery person who peddles with his load under a blazing sun.Profits,thats what this world is all about.Profits at any cost and the devil take everything else.

Mohanakrishnan B said...

Interesting scoop on the groundwater levels in Chennai in the Deccan Chronicle(Chennai Ed)dated 25 April 2009.Though the CMWSSB insists that there is no cause for alarm,studies indicate that the average groundwater level has dropped from 2.66 metres(below ground level)last year to 3.31 metres this year.In March 2008 Chennai received 123mm of rainfall.This year it has received only 1.6mm.Rainwater harvesting has helped to a certain extent so the city can manage this summer as well.The Neer Exnora Chairman feels that desilting and deepening of lakes is also needed.Hope this helps.It would be nice if more of your readers would offer their opinions on possible solutions instead of keeping mum.

Mehul Kamdar said...

I have one more comment received by e-mail from Kamla Ravikumar:

Hi Mehul.

I think Chennai is one place that Rain waterharvesting has been done as a sincere effort by all resident associations.We have been able to tide over the water problem to a great extent.You should meet Mr Shekhar Raghavan of the RAIN CENTRE,Chennai who has dedicated his entire life for propagating Rainwater Harvesting in Tamilnadu.


Mehul Kamdar said...

I have received one more comment from the friend of a good friend of mine, Mr Satish Dulpati as follows:

Dear Mehul,

My take on water conservation efforts and water contamination – BACK TO THE ROOTS.

1. We have been expecting politicians and bureaucrats to do something about everything since the time of our independence. We have been disappointed with a lack of response but we continue to expect. We were earlier expecting Kings to do something then the British and now our politicians/bureaucrats. The fundamental mistake lies in expecting and not with them. They are being their usual self-centred creatures. WE have to change. That is the only thing we can control.

2. Media, Politicians and Bureaucrats are hand in glove. Expecting media to highlight the shortcomings of politicians and focus on relevant issues is like asking them to throw their revenue stream out of the window. Media is not a not-for-profit organization. It is a business.

3. Water conservation starts from the individual. Leaking pipes at home / office are repaired last. How many of us walk past a leaking pipe at office and report to administrative department? Office has all the resources at its command to repair the same but how many of the officers treat repairing a leaking water pipe as priority and a matter for follow up.

4. A novel charitable organization must be formed by well thinking citizens to buy waste lands, dig a large lake, store rain water on a sustainable basis. Create an ambience with garden around the lake for tourists to visit the spot. The revenue collected can be used to maintain the water resource. At this stage involving the government would elicit a better response than sending them written proposals which is consigned to the dustbins. In the long run many such lakes can be inter-connected. Inter-linking lakes is an easier task than inter-linking rivers. Such inter-linked lakes will create agrizone around them since there is sustained water for cultivation. Smaller (nuclear) projects have greater chance for succession than mega projects which have a built in resistance due to negative thinking and opposition from many vested interests.

5. There is an easy way of boiling water at home and drinking which our ancestors taught us. We are plain lazy to do the same. It is our laziness which has been encashed by the myriad water supply companies

Best Regards,

Satish .V. Dulipati

My thanks are due to Mr Dulpati and to my friend Mr Shahul Hameed for introducing us.

Mohanakrishnan B said...

An update to my earlier comment.In todays Times of India there was a report that 7 people died and 162 people were hospitalised from drinking water contaminated with sewage in Hyderabad.

Mehul Kamdar said...

Pity, isn't it, Mohan - both the water and the sewage could be separated and used as a resource. Mixed, they are deadly. Separated and they can be a tremendously valuable resource. Our government and large businesses would rather let people die than separate water and sewage and provide water, electricity and fertilizer and improve peoples' lives . . .

I must add, and make money for themselves in the bargain!