Wednesday, 4 July, 2007

Madhya Pradesh: Water Becoming Reason Of `Civil War'

Mandideep is a big industrial area just near the capital Bhopal and not in some other remote place of the state. The state government has not left any stone unturned to nurture the capitalists in this area. But, when it came to providing drinking water to the common people working in these big industries, the government almost turned Nelson's eye towards the issue. In a locality where drinking water is supplied just once in ten days, it is natural that the people would run helter-shelter to collect water. Among the 16 existing tube wells, water levels in four have gone down drastically while others are marred by power supply problem. It is dangerous to assume that a good rainfall or Monsoon will help us in resolving water crisis. We need to review and critically examine behavior and values towards the use of Water.
A dangerous indication is lurking in Mandideep and this indication is regarding collective right on water. The Mandideep Municipality had demanded drinking water share from the Betwa Barrage near the industrial area, but the Water Resources Department made it clear that only the industrial units have rights on the water of the Barrage. Owing to rampant exploitation of groundwater and bad management, the water level in the entire area has gone down by four meters, but in government records, it is yet considered a water-secure area. The reason being that even if the residents don't get enough drinking water, the water utility in the area is 40 litres per person per day, not to mention that 37 litres of this water is used by the industry.The matter of surprise is that before the onset of summer, the water resources minister had proclaimed at Ratlam on February 24, 2007 that since the monsoon last year was good, the state would not face any water crisis this season. This makes it clear that the government does not attach any importance to management of water but only depends on the amount of rain during a particular monsoon. But this government attitude is very dangerous for the society because the way the environment has been harmed and the way it is being manifested in global warming, even good monsoon would not be able to help.
Rampant stop dams were constructed across the state in the name of water conservation and still dams are being constructed, but the president of the Harda Municipality, the councilors and the local people demolished a dam on the Ajnal River on May 4, 2007 as due to the dam the water distribution system was hugely affected leading to lowering of water level near the Birjakhedi Pump House and people stopped getting drinking water. Owing to destruction of forests, urbanization and bad management of water, the rivers in Madhya Pradesh have started drying up and thus the dependence on groundwater had increased multiple times. The government is also working in a contradictory manner. On one hand the government made provision of Rs 90 crores in the 11th five year plan to increase the groundwater level and on another it has decided to spend more Rs 180 crores for exploitation of groundwater.
As per the present economic and industrialization policy, the state government has shown a commitment to provide power and water in subsidized rate. But as far as the common people are concerned, they would have to be always dependent on tankers for water supply. This year the government would be spending Rs nine crores on providing 30000 tankers of drinking water, but the common people have already privately spent Rs 3.5 crores on fulfilling their own drinking and domestic water demands.
The most basic need of life is water, without which it is difficult to maintain one's entity and because it is the biggest need of life, it has become a commodity of profit in the market. Also, government has allowed the markets to take benefit of the situation. On one side the industrial units are exploiting water excessively and rampantly and on other hand the multinational and even the domestic companies are using 41 litres of water to produce one litre of cold drink.Ironically, the state government that swears by the teachings of Babas, Swamis and encourages Yoga education does not believe in the traditional methodologies of water and environment conservation. However, the executive chief of the state and the ministers certainly make foreign `study' tours along with the bureaucrats. The situations that are developing owing to scarcity of water in the state are really worrying.
It is said that the next world war would be fought for water, but there is a need to change this thought. Actually, water would lead to civil war. In the year 2005, as many as 2007 cases of clashes due to water were registered, the figure rose to 303 in 2006 and by now in 2007, already 587 cases have been registered. This year even the people's representatives of local civic bodies in Shivpuri, Harda and Indore came out on streets to protest state government's policies. According to the latest figures of Central Ground Water Board (government agency monitoring/analyzing ground water situation), groundwater levels in 22 districts have decreased by two to four meters while in 14 districts the drop is more than four meters. But we are yet digging deeper into earth for water as a result of which the issue of quality of water is becoming very important.
Bhopal is considered the worst endemic city for gastroenteritis in the country and in 22 districts the amount of fluorides in water is above permissible limits. As per a study, 16000 children in Seoni district and 120 villages in Guna district are affected the flourosis. Children do not get clean drinking water in about 30118 schools.
As per the Public Health Engineering Department of the state government, out of the 8192 water taps and other schemes supplying surface water, 1507 schemes are not working while as many as 9988 handpumps have also been closed down due to lack of water. What more could be expected from the state when as many as 24517 human settlements are such where the government has not been able to provide the minimum need of water. Most of these settlements are three to five km away from water sources.
In reality, the problems of livelihood and employment are marring the lives of more than three crore people in state and now they are not even getting enough water. In such situation the state government would have to remember that it should not allow the limits of the basic needs and basic rights of people to become so restricted that people get suffocated. Scarcity of water is not something that the people would accept silently. This would lead to reactions. Presently, the struggle is divided, but the struggle would get unified and this would not be a communal or casteist, but in this case, the common people would be confronting the government.

By Sachin Kumar Jain

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