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VAK's Engagement with Water Issues > What's been in the Newspapers > March 2008

"Narmada waters to reach Rajasthan this month", 4 th March 2008, The Indian Express

Finally the Narmada waters are expected to reach the neighbouring state of Rajasthan by the middle of the month, with the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) authorities having started releasing the waters in the 458 km long Narmada Main Canal (NMC). A team of SSNNL engineers was sent to north Gujarat to monitor the flow of waters in the NMC. The engineers will also visit the Rajasthan border to conduct tests and supervise the whole operation. Under the Narmada Tribunal Award, Rajasthan's share of water is 0.5 million acres feet (MAF) while two other participatory states- Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have been allocated 18.25 MAF and 9 MAF of water respectively.

The SSNNL officials state that the Narmada dam project will provide irrigation benefits in 17.92 lakh hectares of land spread over 75 talukas and 15 districts in the state. It is also envisaged to provide water for domestic as well as industrial use in over 8,215 villages and 135 townships across the state. The Socio-Economic Review 2007-08 prepared by the Gujarat Directorate of Economics and Statistics says that the Irrigation Commission defines three-fourth of the command areas as drought prone. It says that out of the total 38 branch canals of the Narmada project, work has already been completed on 24, while work on 9 branches is in progress and remaining five will be taken up in the coming year. The document further states that the revised estimated cost of the entire Narmada Dam project at 1991-92 prices is Rs. 13,180 crores.

"UPA mega drinking water scheme is also going down the corruption drain ", 4 th March 2008, The Indian Express

"At the current pace, on each day of the year, 290 habitations are provided with drinking water," announced the government in the Budget session to showcase the "impressive progress" made under the UPA's flagship Rajiv Gandhi Drinking Water Mission (RGDWM) meant to provide "safe and sustainable drinking water sources" to villages. What the Government glossed over is the official reality check - Rs 427.47 crore has been diverted in 16 states, says a performance audit conducted by the Comptroller and Auditor General of a quarter of the districts in 26 states. Given that the money earmarked for this for next year is over Rs 7000 crore, the CAG's audit calls for "immediate and swift action" to plug the holes. The report will be sent to the Rural Development Ministry - under which the program falls - which will forward it to all states for feedback.

The audit - just like the one of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme - found that the water mission, via the Accelerated Rural Water Supply Program, is fraught with diversion of funds, corruption and waste. Not just this. The draft report, a copy of which has been obtained by The Indian Express, says that in many places where water is being supplied, quality is rarely monitored. Despite clear guidelines, states have failed to establish district and state-level labs and neither have they put in place trained staff.

Consider its key findings:

•  Madhya Pradesh: Rs 3.85 crore was spent on 705 tube wells in fully covered habitations at the instance of influential persons.

•  Maharashtra : Rs 13 crore released in Amravati district in contravention of guidelines during 2005-07.

•  Meghalaya: Rs 52 lakh spent on pipe procurement on the basis of fictitious certificates

•  Assam : Rs 97 lakh diverted in Silchar Public Health and Engineering Division.

•  Himachal Pradesh: Rs. 1.41 crore diverted in Paonta Sahib division during 2002-07 for water works not approved.

•  Karnataka: Rs. 3.62 crore diverted to works under calamity relief.

•  West Bengal: Wasteful expenditure of Rs 61 lakh in West Midnapore district laying pipes in a place without sustainable water source; in Bankura and Alipore, Rs 1.29 crore diverted for providing drinking water in urban areas; in Bankura and Barasat , Rs 10 lakh spent on paying office bills, hiring of vehicles .

•  Orissa: In Biswanathpur village, Rs 4.15-crore worth projects for 20,000 people could meet the demand of barely 10,000.

•  Jammu & Kashmir: Rs 19.56 crore released for 50 unapproved projects on recommendations of MLAs

•  Chhattisgarh: Rs 1.59 crore was spent on 317 tubewells in fully covered habitations in Jagdalpur district.

•  Punjab : fictitious expenditure of Rs 1 crore on works not executed

•  Arunachal: Rs 2.35 crore spent in uninhabited or non-existent villages

•  Jharkhand: purchase order worth Rs 3.44 crore placed in May 2006 while the scheme was sanctioned later in December for 24,650 deep tube wells, no execution.

If these are specific cases, the CAG lists the generic problems that run across most states:

•  Little attention to Annual Action Plans based on detailed and comprehensive habitation-wise analysis; data collected on who needs the water and where is thus not authentic.

•  So targets are fixed on a numerical basis and works taken up in an "ad hoc fashion, without a clear, structured approach, based on complete and reliable data."

•  Several instances of drinking water money being spent not on "need basis" but under the influence of influential people including MPs, MLAs and MLCs.

•  Despite the programme clearly prioritizing ongoing schemes before taking up new ones, states have done just the opposite. Most of the states have gone on approving new projects with little funding and leaving the ongoing schemes to suffer.

"Finally, Rajasthan to get Narmada water today", 27 th March 2008 , The Hindustan Times

After four decades of acrimonious debates on environmental hazards, human resettlement problems and inter state disputes over water and power sharing formula, the desert state of Rajasthan would finally get its first share of water from the multi-crore Narmada dam project. Conceieved in the time of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the project raised a lot of environmental concerns which led to even the World Bank to scrapping the loan. The issue of resettlement of oustees had kept the project under litigation. The first flow of initial 300 cusecs of water from the Narmada dam would enter southern Rajasthan from Banaskantha district of North Gujarat. Rajasthan is expected to irrigate 2.5 lakh hectares in its two southern districts after the completion of the Narmada dam. The state will not get any of the 1,450 megawatt power that the dam is likely to generate.

"No prepaid water meters yet, says BMC", 27 th March 2008 , The Hindustan Times

The civic Standing Committee meeting on 27 th March 2008 put off the proposal to install prepaid water meters in slums to check unauthorised use and wastage of water. The standing committee has instead formed a sub-committee to re-examine the prepaid water meters proposal- which has been waiting for approval for a year. "The committee, comprising representatives of all political parties, will look into the entire proposal", said committee chairperson Ravindra Waikar. "There are many issues that are unclear. After the committee submits a report on the issue, a decision will be taken by the committee".

"The more you use, the more you pay for water", 28 th March 2008 , The Times of India "

Mumbaikars should get set to pay more for water if you consume more than the BMC-estimated daily average. In a long overdue move to conserve water in a metropolis whose demands have long outstripped supply, the municipality has decided to introduce a "telescopic rate structure" from April 1. According to the new rate card, those who consume water above the stipulated limit will have to pay a higher rate. The current water charges are heavily subsidised-domestic users in residential buildings pay Rs 3.50 for every 1,000 litres and slum residents pay a lower fee of Rs 2.25. Commercial and industrial users pay much more (between Rs 10.50 and Rs 38). But for no group is the cost of water linked to the quantum of consumption. The BMC has pegged the average household size at five members and has thus calculated that a family should consume 750 litres a day. Once the 750-litre mark is crossed, the charges will increase in proportion to the extra consumption.

 "Only 56% of water meters in working condition", 28 th March 2008 , The Times of India

The BMC has decided to introduce a 'telescopic rate structure' for water consumption in the city from April 1, 2008 . The biggest hurdle in the way is the dysfunctional state of the water meters in the city, only 56% of which are in working condition. The new tariff rates will apply only to building residents since the slums scarcely have working water meters and the commercial and industrial users are already paying steep tariff rates. Despite the lack of infrastructure, the new scheme is being rushed through because "every BMC Standing Committee proposal has to be implemented within 90 days", a senior BMC official said. There are 3.5 lakh water meters across the city, most being in the suburbs. About 1.5 lakh of these meters belong to domestic users. So the new system would cover 59,000 properties, most of which are in the suburbs.

"Panel to study pre-paid water meter scheme", 28 th March 2008 , The Free Press Journal

The BMC plans to install pre-paid water meter connections in post 1995 slums. It has hit a road block with the civic body deciding to discuss the proposal thoroughly before implementing it, even appointing a committee of political leaders to discuss it. The Standing Committee, insead of discussing and passing the proposal in the meeting, decided to form a sub-committee of a group of leaders across party lines to decide the fate of the proposal. The committee comprises ruling party leader Sunil Prabhu, opposition leader Rajhans Singh, NCP leader Niyaz Vanu, SP leader Asma Shaijh, MNS leader Rajendra Lad and BJP leader Yogesh Sagar and would be headed by standing committee chairman Ravindra Waikar. The proposal is a part of the civic body's 'Sujal Mumbai Mission' that entails a long term plan of providing 24 hours regular and contamination free water supply to all parts of Mumbai. Several projects will be introduced over the next few years as part of Sujal Mumbai Mission to resrtore and resurrect the city's aging water supply networks.

"New project to address water supply shortfall", 29 th March 2008 , The Asian Age

The construction of the Middle Vaitarna Project in Mumbai began on 29 th March. This will help in augmented water supply and will reduce the gap between demand and supply of water to Mumbai. The work on the project costing Rs. 460 crores is as per the recommendations of the Chitale Committee Report. The Dentral Government has cleared the project under the JNNURM. The Middle Vaitarna Project which is expected to be completed by 2011 will add another 455 MLD to the existing water supply. Thus, by 2011, Mumbai will hopefully receive a total of 3855 MLD, which is the present demand.

"SSNNL to stop water supply in areas neighbouring dam from today", 31 st March 2008, Indian Express

Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) authorities have said they would stop delivering water in the areas neighbouring the dam from March 31 st onwards. They have said their priority is to supply potable water to districts in Kutch and Saurashtra. The minor canal work is almost over and its main concern is to supply drinking water in the areas that are facing severe water shortage. The Capacity of the Sardar Sarovar Dam is around 12.87 lakh acre feet.

MLA Dhiru Bhil said," Leave apart the supply of irrigation water in villages lying in the eastern region of Vadodara and Narmada districts, even the project affected families are not able to access drinking water. Ironically, when SSNL is talking steps to supply water to Rajasthan, the villages in the neighbouring villages of the Sardar Sarovar Dam are facing water shortage.

"Mumbai under water by 2100", 31 st March 2008, Time of India, Mumbai

A report titled "Climate Migrants in South Asia: Estimates and Solutions", commissioned by Greenpeace claims that a potential increase in temperatures by 4 to 5degrees due to greenhouse emissions at the current rate would mean corresponding rise in sea levels of up to 5 metres by 2100. This in turn would imply that approximately 50 million Indians would be rendered homeless and become 'climate migrants'. However, Rakesh Kumar of NEERI claims the report to be exaggerating and will only create a fear in the mind of people uselessly. According to him, there will be submergence, but only in the low lying areas. At most the foundations of buildings near the shore may be weakened due to saline formation.


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