Cocktail of Water Mafia includes Media

The churning of a lethal cocktail of arrogance and dishonesty by academicians'
research, motivated reporting by corporate-religious media(Indian Express-India TV etc)
and the official view is a recurrent phenomenon like flood and drought all through
the history of water resources development projects.

The mega dam projects are ridden with half truths, falsehood and promises of
a fantasy land.

Take the case of Dr Rajendra Prasad's role with regard to embankments.
Britishers had embanked the river Damodar in Bengal as an experiment
in flood control in 1855 but regretted their decision because of its adverse
consequences. The terrible floods of 1933 in Hwang Ho river had caused more
than 50 breaches of the dykes and caused major disaster.

In those days Dr Rajendra Prasad was known for his anti-embankment views.
His assertions are available in the Proceedings of the Patna Flood
Conference, 1938.

This is not sursprising since in 1938, the Chiang Kai Shek government
had ordered the opening of the dyke on the south bank of the river
Hwang Ho which led to a major change in the course of the river that
left some lakhs of people dead and affected millions. Chinese
government and people were sick of the Hwang Ho embankments.

In the year 1945, the Bihar Government proposed to the Delhi
government that the Kosi be embanked. The proposal was rejected on the
ground that controlling floods through embankments was an outdated
technique.

The floods of 1953 made the Government sanction the Kosi embankment as
an obvious solution in December 1953. This was a political decision,
it needed to be invested with technical legitimacy and therefore, in
order to seek retrospective legitimisation two engineers, Kanwar Sain
and K.L. Rao went to study the performance of the Hwang Ho embankments
in China in 1954 so that they could make appropriate recommendations
for the Kosi Project. These engineers omitted to mention the
disastrous consequences of such embankments in China.

Although the expert from UK who had studied the Kosi refused to
endorse the project still the government decided to go ahead with the
plan.

The same Dr Rajendra Prasad after he became the president of the
country, went to North Bihar in October 1954 advocating the cause of
the embankments along the rivers, requested people to contribute to
this 'noble and national cause.' He laid the foundation stone of the
Eastern Kosi Embankment in March 1955 in Bairia village, near Supaul.


Therefore, sanity demands that one should be skeptical of oficial versions
and the views which support the officials.

The report of Comptroller and Auditors- General (CAG) analysed below by
Himanshu Upadhyaya, a Public Finance and Accountability
researcher underlines
how the true cost of Sardar Sarovar Project has been hidden by both
Congress and BJP with support from academicians, engineers and media persons
of easy virtue.

The story below gives an idea about how are these decisions to promote large
dams taken and who profits from them and who pays.



Sardar Sarovar Project � dam minus drinking water

We witness the drowning of reasoned arguments under the din of
propaganda masquerading as opinion of honourable academicians

# While there have been reports that Gujarat has failed to utilise the
impoundment in the reservoir, academicians choose to ignore them
# Shortfall in capacity utilisation due to unexecuted distribution
networks, canal works and pitching work
# Ignoring the protests will pronounce the deathknell for the last
straw of democratic ethos

The protest demonstration by Narmada Bachao Andolan entered the 29th
day on Saturday. Meanwhile, the ongoing construction work to raise the
height of the Sardar Sarovar dam from 110.64 to 121.92 metres continues.

Following a field visit of a few affected villages by three Ministers
on April 12th, the Centre called for a meeting of the Review Committee
of the Narmada Control Authority. (The meet held on Saturday ended in
a deadlock, prompting Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz to
recommend to the Prime Minister suspension of the work on the
project.) Once again we are going to witness the drowning of not just
fertile farmlands and thickly populated villages in the Narmada
valley, but also of reasoned arguments under the din of propaganda
masquerading as opinion of honourable academicians who argue that
raising the dam height to 121.92 metres is the only way to bring
drinking water benefits to millions.

While there have been reports from civil society organisations and
Comptroller and Auditors- General stating that Gujarat has failed to
utilise the present impoundment in the reservoir, honourable
academicians choose to ignore them. From 1991, Gujarat has used the
emotive power of thirst to push the dam ahead and create a rift
between achhatgrast (scarcity affected) and asargrast (dam affected).
However, it is time to wake up to the truth that these hollow claims
do not bear the scrutiny, and endless repetition of propaganda will
not quench the thirst of Saurashtra and Kachchh.

The ambitious Sardar Sarovar Narmada Canal Based Bulk Water
Transmission Project began in 1999-2000 and was scheduled to be
completed by 2002, but was lagging behind due to "defective planning
and lack of coordination among different agencies" and not because of
litigations or non raising of the dam height, as borne out from the
findings of the CAG reports for the year ending March 31, 2003 and 2005.

Audit scrutiny also pointed out a clever trick of the establishment to
hide the true costs of the gigantic Sardar Sarovar Project. It was
found during the audit that expenditure on the drinking water supply
is being booked not on the balance sheets of the Sardar Sarovar
Narmada Nigam Limited, but on the balance sheets of the Gujarat Water
Supply and Sewerage Board and the Gujarat Drinking Water
Infrastructure Limited.

The Saurashtra Pipeline Project was first brought to the drawing board
in 1996 with a master plan that talked about augmenting the Mahi
Canal-based Water Supply Schemes by supplying 211 MLD (million litres
a day) water from Narmada Canals to 1860 severely affected villages of
Ahmedabad, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts. Similarly a second route
was based on the Maliya Branch Canal of the Sardar Sarovar project
with a distribution network through 869 km-long pipelines to supply
500 MLD water to 1342 villages/ towns in Jamnagar, Kachch and Rajkot
districts.

Audit scrutiny of the implementation and performance of these projects
pointed to the failure of Gujarat to utilise the water available from
the impoundment created. As per the CAG report on Gujarat (civil) for
the year ending March 31, 2003, "The gross average daily intake during
the two years of its operation (December 2000 to November 2002) was
119.80 MLD against the envisaged capacity of 287 MLD (i.e. 42 per cent
of capacity utilisation) only. Of the envisaged coverage of 1860
villages/ towns, benefit reached only to 543 villages. So, even after
two years of execution, at the cost of Rs. 464.17 crores, benefits
could be derived to the extent of 44 per cent of the envisaged
population only." Further putting a scanner over the utter failure of
Gujarat to provide hygiene to its people, the CAG report goes on to
state, "of the 1.51 million beneficiaries, 1.42 million (i.e. 94 per
cent) in 503 villages/ towns was supplied with raw water as there was
no filtration arrangements at the headworks, exposing them to the risk
of contacting water borne diseases."

The major contention of the audit findings was that shortfall in
capacity utilisation was thanks to "a large number of unexecuted
distribution networks, canal works and pitching work at Pariej." The
CAG report clearly pronounced a note of despair when it said, "there
was no prospect of optimum utilisation of the capacity of 287 MLD
created, in the foreseeable future." Answering this contention, the
Gujarat Government took a position as late as on July 2003 that,
"network systems are lengthy and it would take more time to
implement," while on the lack of filtration facilities, it said,
"funds had to be mobilised for creating filtration facilities and
these works were in progress." A government that boasts of being able
to mop financial resources necessary to raise the dam height by five
or 10 metres at a regular interval every year was facing financial
crunch when it came to provide filtration facilities, even after two
years of execution of the drinking water supply project! And yet, if
honourable academicians like Y.K. Alagh are to be believed, we shall
ignore the protests by affected persons whose homes and hearth are
going to be drowned, since thousands of villages in Saurashtra and
Kachchh have started getting Narmada water! Three years have passed by
since the audit report making these comments on the Saurashtra
Pipeline Project entered the public domain, without much furore in the
Gujarat Assembly, and honourable academicians kept arguing in favour
of raising the dam height.

Delay in execution

The CAG report on Gujarat (civil) for the year ending March 31, 2005
covers the implementation and performance of the second route of
Sardar Sarovar Canal-Based Bulk Water Transmission Project. In Para
3.2.8.3 {lt}http://3.2.8.3{gt} the CAG mentions that due to the delay
in the execution of distribution works, "only 29 per cent of the
installed capacity of water was used and only 415 of 1342 targeted
villages/ towns (i.e. 31 per cent) were covered. Elaborating on this,
the CAG states, "as a result of the delay in the execution of the
distribution works, the gross daily intake from May 2003 to June 2005
was 145.17 MLD (29 per cent) against the envisaged capacity
utilisation of 500 MLD." The report also put under the scanner six
water supply schemes, taken up for execution during the period of the
audit review that were incomplete.

Ineffective control

Putting the blame on the failure of the GWSSB as well as the
consultant in the monitoring and execution of works, the CAG held them
responsible for "ineffective internal control resulting in cost and
time overruns and deprival of benefits to the targeted population."
And still, honourable academicians like B.G. Varghese would quote
verbatim from the official propaganda to impress upon the readers that
affected people protesting the raising of the dam height without
rehabilitation and resultant submergence are the ones to be blamed for
cost and time overruns!

The decisive moment has arrived in the Narmada debate, and ignoring
the protests of displaced people from the Narmada valley would
pronounce the death knell for the last straw of democratic ethos. If
the state decides to be indifferent to the Gandhian way of struggle by
an indefinite fast and crush this non-violent protest by midnight
swoops as we witnessed last week and put charges of attempt to suicide
on fasting satyagrahis, while stopping the ongoing dam construction,
then by default it privileges and invites violence.


The Hindu

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