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Mainstream, VOL LV No 28 New Delhi July 1, 2017

Water Situation would Worsen due to Expensive, Ecologically Destructive Mega Projects

Saturday 1 July 2017, by Bharat Dogra



Recently at the peak of the heat wave situation I visited several villages of Bundelkhand region to report on the water scarcity and related problems of this region. This region, spread over 13 districts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, has often been in news due to its recurring water shortages. I found the water shortage for human beings as well as farm and other animals to be very acute in all the eight villages that I visited.

At the same time, however, people in all villages also spoke about specific local, decentralised low-cost solutions for their villages. In some cases they said that such work had even started but had been left midway because of the shortage of funds or other reasons about which the villagers were not informed. People living in the hamlet of Sahariya tribals of Kauriya village (Tikamgarh district) even pointed to the tank which had been constructed but further work had not been taken up.

Instead of giving priority focus and providing adequate attention to these low-cost and location-specific solutions, the authorities are emphasising mega projects which are extremely expensive in economic as well as ecological terms. The most talked-about such project just now is the Ken-Betwa river link project. Its budget is mentioned at present at Rs 18,000 crores and is likely to go up further. This project involves the cutting of about 18 lakh trees, apart from displacing many villagers and disrupting very badly the protected habitats of endangered wild animals and birds. This project has come under repeated criticism over the years for its unrealistic assumptions, poor survey and study as well as neglect of many adverse impacts.

Pushing of such expensive projects will eat up the available resources while leaving the basic problems unresolved. There is still time to correct such costly mistakes.

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