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As big dams fail in India, more conflicts over water are expected

 

Bhubaneswar,

Last updated 06 Jul 2016 01:02 IST

  India, water, Dam, Conflict, Ranjan Panda

At 72 per cent of the total storage capacity, India’s 85 important reservoirs or big dams sound an alarming bell, says water rights activist and WIO convenor Ranjan Panda.

 

Water crisis seems to become critical in the coming days as the storage position in 85 important reservoirs of India is less than the storage position of the corresponding time in 2013.

As per the union ministry of water resources data, Water Storage available in 85 important reservoirs of the country as on November 5, 2014 was 111.957 BCM (Billion Cubic Metre), which is 72% of total storage capacity of these reservoirs. The current storage is 85% of the storage of corresponding period of last year, 2013.

The data is provided by the Central Water Commission that monitors live storage status of 85 important reservoirs of India, which include 37 reservoirs having hydropower benefit with installed capacity of more than 60 MW, on weekly basis.

The total storage capacity of these reservoirs is 155.046 BCM, about 61% of the storage capacity of 253.388 BCM, which is estimated to have been created in the country.

“This was 128.73 BCM on 11th September last year, thus a huge reduction.  In fact, on October 01, 2014, it was 121.396 BCM which is 78% of total storage capacity of these reservoirs.  So, within a month, we have already experienced a 6 per cent reduction. Large dams continue to fail in this nation,” says Ranjan Panda, leading water rights activist and convenor of Water Initiatives, Odisha.

 

Quotation starts

Farmers and hydro power generation are going to suffer in cases such as Hirakud dam where there is already a growing conflict due to illegal and excessive withdrawal of water by the industrial houses.

Quotation ends

While Tamil Nadu alone has better storage than last year for the corresponding period, most other states such as Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Tripura, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala have lesser storage than last year for the corresponding period.

“Even though there is no data available as yet from the government that could establish the exact relationship between the reduced water availability in these reservoirs and the decrease in farming, we can assume about this especially in cases of reservoirs which are providing irrigation,” said Panda citing that “a just released information from India's Agriculture Ministry shows that Indian farmers have drastically gone down on sowing Wheat, Gram and Pulses in the Rabi farming season.”

Reduced water levels in the reservoirs would mean more conflicts between different uses.

“Farmers and hydro power generation are going to suffer in cases such as Hirakud where there is already a growing conflict due to illegal and excessive withdrawal of water by the industrial houses making irrigation and hydro power generation to suffer,” Panda adds.

As per the CWC, the Eastern region that includes States of Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal and Tripura has 15 reservoirs having a total storage capacity of 18.83 BCM. The total storage available in these reservoirs as of 5th November 2014 was 14.71 BCM, which is 78 per cent of total storage capacity of these reservoirs. The storage during corresponding period of last year was 88 per cent, which means these reservoirs are running at a capacity reduction of 10 per cent from the previous year.

Panda, who believes that the centralized large storage systems have more negatives to offer than they can contribute positively, sees a long term solution to India’s water woes in decentralized water harvesting and management through small structures that are done in ecologically sustainable models so that the entire river basins are recharged.

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