Agriculture is the mainstay of the livelihoods of 60 percent of the population of the country yet apart from paying lip service the Government does not do anything to put it on a more sustainable basis by switching subsidies from chemical agriculture to organic agriculture. Consequently, farmers continue to use chemical fertilisers and pesticides to grow hybrid varieties of wheat, maize and cotton in our area even though they hardly yield any income after their harvest. And they consider our efforts to farm organically to be so much balderdash!! Obviously, we are making even more of a loss than they are but that is because there is no subsidy for organic farming whatsoever. Nevertheless, one successful initiative of ours was the cultivation of a special variety of Bajra or pearl millet that has whiskers that prevent birds from eating the ripened grains on the cobs as shown below.
Associated with the crisis of agriculture is the equally serious problem of water scarcity. Both surface and groundwater availability is going down. The logical thing to do is to promote communitarian soil, water and forest conservation to augment water availability. However, once again the Government is paying only lip service to this. Indeed, in the matter of groundwater, which caters to most of the water needs of the people of this country the Central Ground Water Authority has come up with a farcical and dangerous notification of guidelines recently which has been ably critiqued by Himanshu Thakkar in his blog -
- The guidelines to come into force from June 1, 2019 (why should it not be immediately implemented?). Groundwater use for Individual households for drinking water use for supply line up to 1 inch diameter supply line (Section 2.2.1) does not require mandatory rainwater harvesting. Installation of digital water meter is not mandatory in this case.
- Section 2.2.2, applicable to infrastructure projects/ industries/ mining/ public water supply agencies for drinking/ domestic water use upto 12.5 m3/day water. They do not mandatorily require use of recycled/ treated sewage for flushing/ green belt etc. Installation of piezometers not mandatory if extraction below 10 m3/day. Installation of Digital Water Level Recorders shall not be mandatory for projects requiring ground water upto 50 m3/day in safe and semi critical assessment units (no telemetry for water use upto 500 m3/day) and upto 20 m3/day in critical and overexploited assessment units (no telemetry for water use upto 200 m3/day). No condition for compulsory treatment and recycle of sewage.
- Section 2.3.1 for water use for industries: industries abstracting ground water to the tune of 500 m3/day or more in safe and semi critical and 200 m3/day or more in critical and over-exploited assessment units do not require water audit. Those that require water audit, need to get it done through “CII/ FICCI/ NPC certified auditors”. How can that be credible? It says “industries except those falling in red and orange categories as per CPCB” to implement Rain water harvesting. Why should the red and orange category industries exempt from Rain water harvesting?
- Major concession: “Existing industries, which have already obtained NOC and have implemented recharge measures as specified in the NOC, shall be exempted from paying WCF. However, if the industry is going for expansion, WCF will have to be paid for the additional quantum of ground water withdrawal as per applicable rates.”
- Section 2.3.3 for Infrastructure projects: Wastewater treatment and recycle measures not mandatory.
- Shockingly, no impact assessment, no public consultation, monitoring or compliance mechanism for any of the massive groundwater extraction proposals, in any of the above.
- Why should monitoring records be retained only for up to two years?
We also built a rain water harvesting tank in our office in Indore. We had been recharging all the rain water into the ground before. However, with the increasing withdrawal of ground water by others nearby our borewell water level has gone down and with rains being less and less the water level will go down further. Water recharged into the ground by a single house is not enough in the absence of others doing the same. So we built the tank to store water to be used in the crucial summer months when the borewell supply goes down. Our neighbours came and saw the massive tank being built underground below the car garage and said that it would be better to collectively urge the municipal corporation to extend the supply of the Narmada water to our residential layout!! Water is pumped up from the Narmada river over 50 kms away up a height of 500 meters at great expense for Indore and it is a highly unsustainable system both economically and environmentally. But since there is no effort on the part of the Government to encourage people to harvest, recharge and reuse water, an unsustainable system continues to be used.