Rivers, floodplains, cities and farmers

(The Hindu)

 

Fifth Column

(The Indian Express)

Rivers, floodplains, cities and farmers

(The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issues of Conserve and use plan.

(GS paper III)

Overview

 

  • Floodplains of rivers can provide a new source of water, they are a local, non-polluting, perennial and non-invasive source of water for urban centers. The work and research on the Palla floodplain scheme which was launched by the Delhi Jal Board in 2016 is a tangible realization of this idea. The scheme (on a 25 km stretch of the Yamuna) is currently running at half its potential and providing water to about one million people in the city of a daily requirement of 150 litres per person.

 

Conservation

 

  • Floodplains are formed over millions of years by the flooding of rivers and deposition of sand on riverbanks. These sandy floodplains are exceptional aquifers where any withdrawal is compensated by gravity flow from a large surrounding area. Some floodplains such as those of Himalayan rivers contain up to 20 times more water than the virgin flow in rivers in a year. Since recharge is by rainfall and during late floods, the water quality is good.

 

  • When we conserve and use the floodplain, it can be a self-sustaining aquifer wherein every year, the river and floodplain are preserved in the same healthy condition as the year before. The ‘conserve and use’ principle demands that no more than is recharged by rain and floods each year can be withdrawn from this aquifer.

 

  • This ensures that the groundwater level in the floodplains remains steadily above that in the river in the lean non-monsoon months when the river is often polluted. Drawing out any more water than is recharged can contaminate and eventually finish off this precious resource.

 

 

  • Rivers today are facing problems of abysmally low flows due to an indiscriminate extraction of water for use in cities, industries and agriculture. They are also highly polluted because sewage and effluents are being released into them. But a floodplain ‘conserve and use’ scheme, which is a socio-economic-environmental scheme, can provide water to urban centers along rivers; it can also engage farmers by providing them an assured income and restore rivers to a healthy condition.

 

 

Example

 

  • The Tamirabarani river in Tamil Nadu which flows for 100 km through two urban settlements, Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi. For the population of close to a million people in these two cities, the water requirement of both towns combined is less than 54 million cubic metres (MCM) per year, when calculated at 150 litres a day per person. Leaving out the area of the river banks that is built over, we are left with 75 km of river length which is agricultural land; 1 km of this stretch on both sides of the river can be preserved as a water sanctuary and used to provide water to towns.

 

  • This floodplain (75 km) absorbs about 50% of the rainfall (about 100 cm/ year) and saturates during floods late in the monsoon. Flooding can cause an approximately 4 metre rise in the water level which allows us to dewater about 3 metre depth of floodplain. The specific yield of this aquifer is about 15-20% of its volume and hence we can draw about 75-90 MCM of water from the floodplains in a year.

 

 

  • Floodplains have more water than the needs of cities. Half the water can be drawn and provided to meet the needs of cities by developing a grid of about 120 wells, each of which operate at 0.3 million gallons a day. If priced at the domestic Delhi Jal Board tariff of ₹30 per kilo litre, we can sell the water for ₹162 crores a year.

 

 

Farmers

 

  • Preserving the floodplain in its entirety is critical for this scheme to work. This can be done by engaging farmers whose land will have to be leased for such an effort. Farmers today have an erratic income and this scheme can be realised through a public-private partnership, where farmers on this land tract of 1 km on either side of the river can be provided an assured and steady income of ₹30,000 an acre which would amount to ₹112 crores a year for the first 10 years for the entire river length (75 km) that is not encroached.

 

  • In addition, farmers can grow a food forest, fruit orchards or nut trees but not water-intensive crops on this land. It would guarantee not only a good farming income but also great earnings from the water for the farmers without taking the ownership of the land away from them. The capital cost for building such a scheme would be minimal (a few hundred crores) and the revenue generated would be able to pay for the costs and for farmers’ income without any subsidy. It would also generate substantial revenue for the cities.

 

  • Ecologically, a water sanctuary would prevent erosion, heal the river ecosystem, and restore the ecological balance in floodplains. Even after withdrawal, floodplains would have enough water to slowly release back into the river in a lean season. This scheme would help curb illegal extraction of water, stop pollution by local agencies and industries and also encourage cities to be more responsible in their waste management.

 

Question The ‘conserve and use’ scheme will also help improve the quality of rivers, quality of life for citizens, and at the same time guarantee farmers a healthy fixed income. This is a new scheme of living.

 

Fifth Column

(The Indian Express)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issues recent case of re-examination by CBSE.

(GS paper III)

Overview

 

  • The decision of reexamination by the Central Board of Secondary Examinations (CBSE) yet again shows that Indian children have been punished for the criminal incompetence of officials paid to provide them a decent education. But this time, the injustice was so barefaced, it brought students onto the streets in angry protests. The minister of Human Resource Development tried to cover up for the carelessness of his officials by announcing inquiry commissions and special task forces into the leak of examination papers.

 

Assessment

 

 

  • The official in charge of the Central Board of Secondary Examinations (CBSE) are personally culpable for those examination papers being leaked, but has behaved as if nothing of any consequence has happened. CBSE mentioned to ensure that whatever was done would be in the interest of the children, and dates were announced for students to retake the exams they have just given. it seemed not to notice that this amounts to students being punished for something that was no fault of theirs. As usual, officialdom failed to hear what the students were saying.

 

 

 

  • For decades children and their parents have pleaded with officials to do something to improve the abysmal standards in government schools. Their pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Officials could not care less since their own children usually go to expensive private schools.

 

 

 

  • The schools they bestow upon the people are so bad, especially in rural India, that ‘English-medium’ private schools have sprouted everywhere. They are often better than government schools but many were forced to close because then government gave us the Right to Education law. It is a useless law that has served only to increase official meddling in the working of private schools, while doing nothing to improve government schools.

 

 

  • Most Indian children, whether they go to government schools or ‘English-medium’ private ones, enter universities and the job market severely handicapped. The country continued to produce generations of young Indians who are supposedly educated but in fact not educated at all. The Prime Minister often boasts about India’s youthful population, and it is true that with most countries ageing rather than growing younger, this could be India’s greatest advantage. But only if these children have the educational skills needed to compete in a world in which you are considered illiterate if you cannot use a computer.

 

Conclusion

 

 

  • The leaked examination papers prove more than anything is the total absence of even minimal reforms. Fine schools and colleges need not just fine teaching standards but fine standards of administration, and what we have seen in this case is an administrative failure of monumental proportions.

 

 

 

  • There is no point in announcing inquiry commissions and special task forces to investigate which officials were responsible for what happened. We know who they were, so what we need to see urgently are heads rolling.

 

 

Question Officials need exams, not students, analyse the problem faced by Indian education system and suggest some measures.