1.Time to change course (The Hindu)
2.Explained: Water security bill to ensure access of water
1.Time to change course (The Hindu)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of clearing divergence of wetland, even aware that the encroachments will endanger more than a million people. (GS paper III)
- According to the research paper Chennai is more vulnerable to climate hazards compared to metros such as Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru and Delhi, mainly due to high population density and built-up area.
- In 2015, Chennai has limped from one extreme weather-related shock to another the floods, the failed monsoon of 2016, Cyclone Vardah, and now the water crisis. Located squarely in the intervening floodplains of three rivers on a high-energy coastline, Chennai is a disaster-prone location.
- Recently the Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management Authority (TNSCZMA) had cleared Kamarajar Port Ltd’s (KPL) proposal for diverting 1,000 acres of land to construct car parking terminals, warehouse zones and a coal yard within the Creek.
- This was done despite opposition from environmental groups, which highlighted the dangers of flooding due to encroachments on the Creek. The proposal is pending Central government clearance. If permitted, KPL’s dream will turn out to be Chennai’s worst nightmare, far worse than the 2015 floods.
- Ennore Creek, a sprawling 8,000-acre tidal water body, is a place where climate change and disastrous land-use change converge. The Ennore creek and backwaters, the confluence Point of Kosasthalaiyar River, North Buckingham canal and the sea, have been systematically destroyed over the past three decades owing to industrialisation.
- Much of the creek looks dry year-round, when visible water spread is only 1,000 acres. But when cyclonic weather pushes the sea surging landwards, or when rainwaters from the two rivers come rushing to meet the sea, the water spread in the creek swells to its majestic fullness. Come rain or storm surge, the availability of room for the rain or sea water to stay is what keeps the city from going under.
- The creek buffers the rich aquifers of the Araniyar-Kosasthalaiyar Basin from the sea, and keeps salt water from invading groundwater resources that supply several hundred million litres daily to Chennai even during the worst droughts.
- In 1996, the Tamil Nadu government protected a 6,500-acre stretch of the tidal water body under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification. But more than 1,000 acres of the creek were lost to illegal encroachments that rise like dams across a river. The installations block the path of rainwaters rushing down the Arani river and the mighty Kosasthalaiyar.
- The Tamil nadu State government has cleared KPL’s proposal to construct coal yards, warehouse zones, car parking and export terminals for Ford, Hyundai and Nissan on 1,000 acres of Ennore wetlands.
- Justifying the decision, the State Coastal Zone Management Authority published a new map subsequently exposed to be a fraudulent map that denied the existence of the 6,500-acre creek.
- Two maps given to naturalists following RTI applications are contradictory. While one map, approved by the Government of India, showed the presence of Ennore Creek, spread over 6,569 acres of area in Chennai, the creek was missing in the other one.
- RTI queries have revealed that the coastal management body had used a fraudulent Coastal Regulation Zone map to facilitate KPL’s proposal to divert the land from Ennore Creek. The discrepancy in the maps was revealed after receiving two RTI replies given by the Department of Environment. Environmentalists fear that using the falsified map that denies the existence of the Creek could lead to the development of real estate on the creek.
- Environment journalist Gopi Krishna Warrier said between the 2001 and 2011 census, Chennai city recorded the highest growth in urban population in the country. Much of this new population had inhabited the low-lying areas of South Chennai, where the IT infrastructure developed in the past decade. These developments choked the water channels and storage tanks of the city, making it more vulnerable to natural disasters.
- If plans to fill the creek persist, Chennai will have no future. The precious freshwater aquifer that Chennai draws from will be lost to salt. The irregularities in the functioning of the government would directly affect the biodiversity of the Ennore creek. “If the Ennore creek ceases to exist, the city of Chennai will face severe floods during monsoons”.
Question– What is the importance of wetlands in flood prevention in the urban areas?
Water security bill to ensure access of water (GS paper III)
- The United Nations recognised the human right to clean water and sanitation in 2010,calling it “essential” for the realisation of other human rights. But more than seven years later, 76 million people still lack access to safe drinking water in India.
- Members of the civil society, have proposed a legislative intervention to ensure access to water in the country.
Interventions to ensure water availability
- The “Water Security Bill” aims to give the legal right to clean water to every citizen of India. If accepted by the government, the bill will help to ensure groundwater availability, effective protection against river pollution and guarantee clean drinking water for the population.
- Equally vital and significant as the right to food, the required impetus is missing to accept and promote the right to water as a fundamental right.
- The conservation of river catchments, abatement of pollution load on river and establishment of balance between aquifer recharge and discharge are the key characteristics on which the proposed water security bill is based.
Importance of the water bill
- The bill emphasizes on the role of local authority in maintaining records and auditing water bodies in a region. Its mandates all local authorities to publish maps of water bodies under their jurisdiction within four months of the passage of the act, and maintain their records.
- The bill also restricts the use of waterfronts and water bodies, along with giving guidelines for groundwater extraction and recharge.
- The draft says that all “prohibited activities” that may endanger a water body “shall be cognizable offences chargeable with the maximum penalties under the relevant IPC (Indian Penal Code).” Failure of local authorities to carry out their obligations under this law shall also be deemed an offence.
- The bill attempts to address issues related to water crisis, exploitation and shortage. It may serve as a remedy for India’s water deprivation and helps to combat droughts in the future.
- In the last four years, the civil society organisation has tried to bring awareness among people for water-related issues through community involvement and participation. Over 200 national workshops, seminars and public gatherings have been organised so far to address the issue. The first draft of the proposed water security bill was published in 2014 with the hope that it would be picked up by all political parties.
Question– What is the importance of water security bill to ensure availability of water?