Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Create a Problem and then Aggravate it!!

Water has become a bone of contention in this country. Either it is in short supply or it is in excessive supply. Mostly because of the tendency of the big dam lobby consisting of engineers, contractors and politicians who are more interested in the huge sums available for scamming from such mega investments rather than in husbanding this vital resource for the benefit of all. Well the Ministry of Water Resources of the Government of India has now put out for public discussion two sets of draft legislations which seek to centralise the management of water even further and thus aggravate instead of solve the problems that have been created -
1. The Draft National Water Framework Bill
2. The Draft River Basin Management Bill
A lively discussion ensued on these documents in the online forum UN Solution Exchange Water Community and the consolidated and detailed report of this discussion can be accessed here.
While most other discussants have pointed out the many flaws in both conception and detailing in these bills my take as an anarchist obviously is that the management of water should primarily be done in a decentralised manner and so such centralising legislations should be thrown out lock stock and barrel!! Below I give an edited and revised version of my own comments in the above discussion -   

Being a grassroots water rights activist the question that I want to raise is what is the need for a National Water Framework Bill? The second of the Dublin Principles for water resource management which were first adopted in the Conference on Water and Environment organised in Dublin in 1992 under the aegis of the World Meteorological Organisation and which have since come to be universally accepted, states -
"Water development and management should be based on a participatory approach, involving users, planners and policy-makers at all levels".
"The participatory approach involves raising awareness of the importance of water among policy makers and the general public. It means that decisions are taken at the lowest appropriate level, with full public consultation and involvement of users in the planning and implementation of water projects."
Now in the Indian Constitution there is a clear demarcation of responsibilities regarding water management. The Eleventh Schedule of the Constitution which lists the responsibilities of the Panchayats and their Gram Sabhas includes the areas of minor irrigation, water management and watersheds. The Twelfth Schedule which lists the responsibilities of urban local bodies includes water supply and sanitation. Thus, in accordance with the Dublin Principles and the Constitution of India the management of water resources should be in the hands of the Panchayats and Urban Local bodies. This is environmentally sound also because any river basin consists of many small watersheds beginning from the uppermost ridges down to the river valley and so logically water resource management should begin at the watershed level and move down to the river. This will ensure both that water availability and potability is ensured at the local level and also due to adequate base flow from the groundwater aquifers, which have been recharged sufficiently through watershed management, at the river basin level. Proper forest management, soil and water conservation and sustainable agriculture which are also the responsibility of the Panchayats as per the provisions of the Eleventh Schedule will ensure that flood management also takes place in a decentralised manner as more of the water gets recharged rather than running off.  
Once the Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies have taken care of water resource management at their level, then the residual water has to be managed by the State Government according to the provisions of List II of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. Only after this can the Union Government step in when there is a dispute over river basin management between two State Governments as per the provisions of List I of the Seventh Schedule. 
It is because the Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies have not been empowered both politically and technically to manage water resources sustainably and instead unsustatinable agricultural, water resources and forest policies have been implemented through Central diktat that we are today faced with a water crisis of gargantuan proportions. Instead of abiding by the Constitution and the Dublin Principles and decentralising the management of water resources, these new bills seek to further centralise the management of water resources and aggravate further instead of solve the water crisis. 
Therefore in my humble opinion these bills should be summarily trashed and instead the provisions of the Constitution of India with regard to devolution of funds to PRIs and ULBs and providing them with adequate training and human power to carry out sustainable water resource management should be implemented instead.
There is a Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974, there is also an elaborate process for sanctioning of construction projects on rivers after assessing their environmental and social impacts in the Ministry of Environment and Forests and there is the Central Groundwater Board and various State rules and notifications to bring about more sustainable use of groundwater and ensure better recharge.
However, all these existing laws, processes and rules are being blatantly flouted by the Government and Corporations bent on earning profits only, to the exclusion of any concern for the environment and the plight of the common people. Under the circumstances legislating new national water framework and river basin management laws without any hope of strict implementation is not going to serve any purpose. The proposed River Basin Management Bill  seeks to create a super authority to control River Basins with punitive powers that can overrule and penalise State Governments not to speak of Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies. In short this whole exercise of centralising the power of control over such a crucial resource as water at a time when it is urgently necessary that it should be managed in a participatory and decentralised manner is a dangerous retrograde step that needs to be opposed with vigour.

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