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Creative and imaginative governance needed to manage water

Water is an issue that cuts across all aspects of social and economic life in India. Compartmentalized responses are unlikely to be adequate to address the current crises. There is a need for an integrated approach, which addresses source sustainability, land use management, agricultural strategies, demand management and the distribution and pricing of water. With growing pressures due to climate change, migration and population growth, creative and imaginative governance are needed to manage this precious resource.

The death toll from a fresh spell of monsoon-driven floods in India has jumped to 190 and affected more than a million residents. Heavy rain and landslides have also forced hundreds of thousands of people in southern and western India to take shelter in relief camps, while train services were cancelled in several flood-hit areas. Every year, hundreds of citizens shed their lives, many migrate and some suffer entire life, the loss of beloved ones is n irrecoverable injury. India’s monsoon season lasts from June to September. It sees heavy rains, which refill the country’s water reservoirs and are vital for agriculture, but cause immense destruction and loss of life. Dozens died in floods in India every year, particularly in the eastern states of Bihar and Assam, with the inundation causing heavy losses to farms, homes and infrastructure. It is due to rising deforestation, poor urban planning and increased urbanization as the reasons behind the rise in the intensity of the floods.

India suffers in two extreme conditions, one is heavy pour and another is drought, at least 330m people are likely to be affected by acute shortage of water. As the subcontinent awaits the imminent arrival of the monsoon rains, bringing relief to those who have suffered the long, dry and exceptionally warm summer, the crisis affecting India’s water resources is high on the public agenda.

Unprecedented drought demands unconventional responses, and there have been some fairly unusual attempts to address this year’s shortage. Perhaps most dramatic was the deployment of railway wagons to transport 500,000 litres of water per day across the Deccan plateau, with the train traversing more than 300 km to provide relief to the district of Latur in Maharashtra state. The need to shift water on this scale sheds light on the key issue that makes water planning in the Indian subcontinent so challenging. While the region gets considerable precipitation most years from the annual monsoon, the rain tends to fall in particular places – and for only a short period of time (about three months). This water needs to be stored, and made to last for the entire year.

In most years, it also means that there is often too much water in some places, resulting in as much distress due to flooding as there currently is due to drought. So there is a spatial challenge as well – water from the surplus regions needs to reach those with a shortfall, and the water train deployed in Maharashtra is one attempt to achieve this.

Kolhapur is a city on the banks of the Panchaganga River. Continuous discharge of water from the Almatti dam in Karnataka brought down the water level of the Panchganga River in Kolhapur where it was flowing above the danger mark. Kolhapur and Sangli districts have been battling unprecedented floods in August following heavy rains in Konkan and western parts of the state where 40 people have lost their lives in the deluge. The Mumbai-Bengaluru National Highway No. 4 was shut for six days due to flooding.

Nearly 4.48 lakh people were so evacuated from flood-hit areas across the state, including 4.04 lakh from Kolhapur and Sangli. They were shifted to 372 temporary camps and shelters, a senior state official said on August 11.Rescuers, including the NDRF and military personnel, received kudos from locals for the relief work.

Some women and girls tied ‘rakhis’ on the wrists of jawans of the Navy, Army and NDRF on August 11. Around 35 people have been killed in rain-related incidents in five districts of western Maharashtra in a week, including 17 who drowned after a boat capsized near Brahmanal village in Sangli. Four lakh people have been moved to safety from the flood-affected areas of Maharashtra, officials said adding 761 villages in 69 tehsils are affected by the deluge.

Meanwhile, death toll in Kerala floods mounted to 72 even as rains abated in August after pounding the state for days, while the situation remained grim in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat where 97 people have lost their lives so far due to the monsoon fury. All rivers are in spate in Karnataka where the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) world heritage site in Hampi, on the banks of the Tungabhadra river in Ballari district, has been inundated after over 1.70 lakh cusec water was released from a reservoir. Tourists in Hampi have been shifted to safer places, officials said. The unprecedented deluge has left 31 people dead and displaced four lakh people in 80 taluks of 17 districts in Karnataka. Continuous discharge of water from Almatti dam in Karnataka brought down the water level of the Panchganga River in Kolhapur where it was flowing above the danger mark.

Meanwhile, in the state of Kerala alone, at least 76 people were killed in rain-related incidents. Many deaths have been reported in rain-triggered landslides in Wayanad and Malappuram districts. Over five-lakh cusec of water was being discharged from Almatti dam on the Krishna River in neighbouring Karnataka to ease the flood situation in western Maharashtra. In Kerala, over 2.51 lakh people have taken shelter in 1,639 relief camps. The toll in the flood fury has gone up 72 while 58 people still missing. The Railways announced waiver of freight charges for transportation of relief materials to Karnataka, Maharashtra and Kerala, where over 10 lakh people had to be shifted from their homes to escape inundation.

The Ballari district administration in Karnataka has asked people living along the riverbanks to move to safer places as all 33 gates of the Tungabhadra Dam were opened in the wake of incessant rains. The preliminary estimate of flood-related loss in the state was Rs 10,000 crore . Heavy showers continued to lash parts of Gujarat taking the toll in rain-related incidents to 31, including 12 deaths were reported from Saurashtra region.

Orissa has another tragedy; this state is always under casualty. The 482 km long of coastline of Orissa exposes the State to flood, cyclones and storm surges. Heavy rainfall during monsoon causes floods in the rivers. The flow of water from neighbouring States of Jharkhand and Chattisgarh also contributes to flooding. The flat coastal belts with poor drainage, high degree of siltation of the rivers, soil erosion, breaching of the embankments and spilling of floodwaters over them, cause severe floods in the river basin and delta areas. In Orissa, rivers such as the Mahanadi, Subarnarekha, Brahmani, Baitarani, Rushikulya, Vansadhara and their many tributaries and branches flowing through the State expose vast areas to floods. In Orissa, damages are caused due to floods mainly in the Mahanadi, the Brahmani, and the Baitarani. These rivers have common deltas where floodwaters intermingle, and when in spate simultaneously, wreak considerable havoc. This problem becomes even more acute when floods coincide with high tide. The water level rises due to deposits of silt on the river-bed. Rivers often overflow their banks or water rushes through new channels causing heavy damages. Floods and drainage congestion also affect the lower reaches along the Subarnarekha. The rivers Rusikulya, Vansadhara and Budhabalanga also cause occasional floods. The storms that produce tidal surges are usually accompanied by heavy rainfall making the coastal belt vulnerable to both floods and storm surges. People die; livestock perishes; houses are washed away; paddy and other crops are lost and roads and bridges are damaged. Property worth crores of rupees was destroyed in the floods. People are trying to cope up with challenges, what is needed the most is human support. We all should approach fellow human and make them sustainable.


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Dr Vaidehi Tamanhttps://vaidehitaman.com
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 14 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazine Beyond The News (international). She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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