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Papri Sri Raman. May 5. 2014.BAD SCIENCE AND PLAYING GOD


Editorial. Papri Sri Raman. V.V. XIV


Bad Science and Playing


God, Both



Papri Sri Raman-fnbworld  By Papri Sri Raman



Mining in Goa-fnbworld

In my last report, I had written about the failed, exchequer-draining Sethusamudram sea canal project, a waste of resources, which the Supreme Court has for the time being halted. It was also an easy gateway of making easy money, unaccounted for. Before that, uncontrolled and illegal mining and how again this has been an avenue of stealing the country's resource, has drawn our attention. Two things have happened between then and now. The Supreme Court has lifted the 19-month long ban on mining in tourism-driven west coast state Goa, but has put a break on the limit, allowing iron ore extraction to 20m tonnes a year. The ban affected 90 iron ore mines in this small area.

The second noteworthy event is award of the Green Nobel to Chhattisgarh’s social activist Ramesh Aggarwal who has been awarded the prestigious $175,000 Goldman Environmental Prize. This Internet café owner has been waging a one-man campaign to educate illiterate villagers about their rights in fighting pollution and land-grabbing by powerful mining and electricity companies. Among those he has won against is Jindal Steel & Power, a company led by a Congress politician, now prevented by the courts from opening a coal mine near the village of Gare in the mineral-rich state. Receiving the award, Aggarwal has said, ' makes me sad that someone in a foreign country who I don’t even know is willing to do so much for us, while so many people here don’t even know us or want to help.'


Goa Mining-fnbworld

Now we come to another hairbrained project, ripe for duping the public and draining the exchequer, the National Indian River-linking Project, at an 2003-estimated cost of Rs 560,000 crore. You can imagine what the cost would be in another say, tweny-five years, to link all of India's 50 major and medium rivers. River linking is not a new slogan, it has been there since the 1970s, surfacing consistently in some report or the other, and dismissed repeatedly by different ministries as 'technically unsound and economically prohibitive'.Yet river-linking has been a dream project for the Atal Behari-led NDA government on 1999-2004 era. And it continues to raise its head, the latest instance being its inclusion in the BJP manifesto of 2014. Mukesh Ambani too has supported such a plan.

To defend it is often quoted the carrying of Narmada river water to Gujarat's one million farmers through diversion and damming, depriving Madhya Pradesh basins and tribal settlements, through the Sardar Sarovar project. Just before elections began, the BJP-led Madhya Pradesh government flagged of the first actual river-linked service in the Malwa region. Here again, the River Narmada is being drained to take water to a dry and dwindling River Kshipra, where Narmada's water has been lifted to 350 metres and through pipelines spread over almost 49 kilometres to Kshipra river in Ujjain, the Shaivite holy town. The project will provide water to 3,000 villages and 72 towns, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has promised.The project has three more phases which will connect river Ganga to three rivers - Gambhir, Kalisindh, Parvati.

Brahmaputra and Ganga, particularly their northern tributaries, Mahanadi, Godavari and west-flowing rivers originating from the Western Ghats are said to be 'surplus' in water resources. A Kosi linked project is also on the anvil to benifit Bihar's Samastipur and Begusarai, the JDU government eager as long as it was a partner of the BJP. Now it has shown reluctance. Kaveri-Krishna linking has been on anvil for a decade now. However, linkinging rivers is not like pouring /pumping huge amounts of water from one bucket to another. Inter Basin Water Transfer is actually bad science, ecology of each water system is different, as is the fauna and flora inhabiting the basin. They will have to be engineering marvels too, gradients will have to be negotiated, wide canal networks will not only have to be laid out but maintained in perfect condition. There will not only be ecosystem displacement but population disturbances, and everyone knows project rehabilitation is not India's strong point. There is no accounting for the watershed management, ingrained in the MNAREGA scheme, what kind of guarantee will there be that a canal has been dug and is maintained to ensure transfer of a river through a canal and that it does not overflow inhabited lands? The slogan is, it will generate jobs. Unspoken is, it will provide another siphoning opportunity from the exchequer.


Activist Vandana Shiva, in a recent interview said, river linking has 'no hydrological or ecological soundness, and is just part of the corruption/construction package that has ruined India's ecosystems and life support base. This is (pushed by) the same lobby that aggravated the Uttarakhand disaster with its hydroelectric projects. The river linking project is a recipe for disaster. The project involves 200 large reservoirs, a network of canals, which will lead to mega displacement. The social and ecological impact of the project has not been done. This is a blind and mad rush to destruction of not one river valley, but all our rivers, and the entire subcontinent.

The project is aimed at taking the water from rural areas and agriculture to industrial areas and cities. This is a plan for commodification of India's waters and rivers. I have done detailed studies of the Ken-Betwa link, and the Sharda-Yamuna link. The false argument that water will be taken from regions with floods to regions with drought does not hold. When there is a drought in Bundelkhand, both Ken and Betwa have reduced flow, since they rise in the same Vindhyachal range. When Sharda is in flood, the Yamuna is in flood, as they rise in the Himalayas in the Uttarakhand region. ' She also says, it is a negative cost benefit. The project is equal to 25 per cent of the country's GDP, or two and a half times the annual tax collection. Adding to her voice have been others like Ekalavya Prasad, whose organisation points out, 'You can't play with the environment.' 

You should not. As the dams in Uttarakhand have shown us last year, this time.


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