Kashipur Solidarity Group ( Delhi )
20 May, 2008
25-35 lakh people forced to migrate from Bundelkhand due to lack of water and
work; animals abandoned: Report
A shocking 25-35 lakh people have been forced to migrate from many districts
of Bundelkhand, a region straddling UP and MP barely a few hundred kilometres
from the national capital, in recent months due to lack of water and work.
Lakes large and small, which are a major source for daily use and for
irrigation - some which have never dried since they were made hundreds
of years ago - have no water in them. For instance, Kirat Sagar, just
outside Mahoba town, the huge Bela Taal, Dharmasagar Talaab and Gadh
Kundar Talaab are among the hundreds of lakes that have dried up in Mahoba
and Chhattarpur districts. Many small rivers and tributaries, such as
Chandrawal River and Keolari Nadi, have had no water in them for several
Groundwater has fallen acutely, from about 50 ft to 150-250 ft below,
over the last 3-4 years. Hence, many hand pumps are proving useless,
and most wells, the main source of water for people's daily needs, particularly
for the poor, have dried up.
A drought-like reduction in rainfall, decline in groundwater, and the halting
of water for irrigation has meant that agriculture has collapsed almost entirely
in large parts of the region
Hundreds of deaths due to malnutrition and farmers' suicides have taken place.
Domestic animals, cows in particular, are being abandoned on a large
scale by farmers since they have no water or fodder to feed them, and
face a slow death.
The acute water crisis in the region is also beginning to hit towns, which
could face more intense migration as well in the near future.
Government schemes such as NREGA and Antyodaya schemes - which could potentially
help reduce distress migration - are barely functioning, and its benefits do
not reach those it is supposed to benefit.
These were the basic findings of a 6-member team that visited Mahoba
and Hamirpur districts in Uttar Pradesh and Chhattarpur in MP recently,
and also interviewed people from Jhansi and other districts of Bundelkhand.
The team's report, A Sinking Feeling: Behind the Acute Water Crisis in
Bundelkhand was released in Delhi today.
Impacts on People: The team found that women and the rural poor are the most
affected by this forced absence of water. For lakhs of women, the burden of
procuring water has become far more time-consuming, tedious and a source of
strife. There is a general decline in food availability, affecting elderly
women the most. The collapse of agriculture also means that is no work available;
for lakhs of agricultural workers, this is nothing less than a disaster. NREGA
could potentially have provided them with employment and been used to deepen
talaabs and wells, build micro-catchments, etc, but most people have not received
job cards and even those with job cards get little work. They are being forced,
on a massive scale, to migrate to Punjab, Surat , Gurgaon, Noida, Delhi other
towns in the hope of finding work there.
The report stresses the longer-term factors that are responsible for the acute
water crisis in Bundelkhand. One, deforestation has taken place in a very
large scale in Mahoba and other districts, which has meant greater run-off;
this has adversely impacted recharging of
aquifiers, rivers and streams. And it has only benefited the forest mafia.
Two, indiscriminate mining in Kabrai, other parts of Mahoba district, and other
districts of Bundelkhand, has intensified deforestation and also affected local
water bodies such as wells and ponds in many regions, and local agriculture.
Three, a shift to rice, mint, newer strains of wheat and other water-rich crops,
caused a more intense use of scarce water and drawing out of groundwater, facilitated
by technologies such as borewells which favour the richer farmers and accentuate
inequalities in use of water. It is obvious that these specific factors mentioned
above in the history of Bundelkhand have contributed in a big way to the present
crisis. The significance of these factors lies in the fact that all these are
part of the 'development' trajectory unfolding in Bundelkhand, and in many
other parts of India . The sharp decline in the rainfall in Mahoba, Chhattarpur
and other districts in the region over the last few years, shorter and more
intense bursts of rain and the changing weather patterns suggests a close link
between global climate change and Bundelkhand. However, more than the present
threats of climate change per se, what is pertinent here is its relationship
with capitalist interests in the present development process, which denies
the survival needs of the poor and marginalized. Hence, we seek to underline
that the unimaginable crisis in Bundelkhand today may well intensify or unfold
in other parts of the country in the near future.
What needs to be done: The situation has reached such a level of crisis in
some parts of Bundelkhand that deeper tubewells is the only short-term solution
there right now. But this needs to be accompanied by longer-term measures
such as: the growth of sturdy grasslands such as Vetiveria grasses; afforestation
on a large-scale, of traditional trees that need less water; desilting lake
beds and the cleaning and deepening of wells; promoting traditional water-harvesting
systems; building micro-catchments on slopes. We demand that NREGA be made
to function and that it be implemented for well beyond 100 days a year. We
also demand that the government should immediately review the
functioning of the PDS system in Bundelkhand so that it is accessible to the
Finally, a more sustainable use of water is only possible with more equitable
water sharing arrangements, in Bundelkhand and elsewhere. Hence, we demand
an end to the entry of private corporate interests in rivers and water, and
an equitable distribution of water in Bundelkhand and elsewhere in the country.
Dr. D. Manjit, Isha Aggarwal, Ratna Manjari, Bhasha, M.S. Sreerekha, Nagraj
Adve and others for Kashipur Solidarity
Group ( Delhi )
Tel: 9868471143, 9868120339, 26856749