Tag Archives: Tamil Nadu

Whatever happened to the Cauvery riots?

Wasn’t it just a storm in the teacup? Do we even remember the riots and the thousands who thronged Bangalore on the Cauvery issue? 3 days after the mass protests, the river waters reached a level of 110 feet against the capacity level of 124 feet. Either the river heard of the challenges that people were creating or Cauvery just got its regular rainfall in September. The state government will in any case now be forced to issue regular instructions for releasing water the moment it crosses 120 feet for it cannot hold anymore.

Is this a question of shallow politics, and of a few political leaders gaining mileage in constituencies where they need to be battling it out in the coming year? What are the real issues that need to be tackled?

The fact that this dam was built in 1920 to address cultivation water and irrigation water challenges is almost entirely forgotten. Today Cauvery offers up to about 300 million liters a day for Bangalore City. But still accounts for less than 10 per cent of the Cauvery’s primary purpose of irrigating farmlands in the districts of Mysore, Mandya, and neighborhood and of course releasing waters for farmlands downstream in Tamil Nadu.

The issue of water for Bangalore can be addressed differently. In the 1970s, planners in their innocence and drawing from the linear knowledge of the West, came up with these solutions that meant exploiting long-distance sources of water. It seemed the easiest thing to do.

The Cauvery issue is clearly not about water to another state. It is about skirting the real challenge of long-term pragmatic planning, which politicians are either not capable of, or do not want to address, or they seek justification in not having the capital resources needed to build the natural ecosystem of Coorg and the Wynaud region in order that the health of the Cauvery watershed is restored and healed, with a process of reforestation that will take years but will restore the vast swathe of skin of earth in the entire region, now-fragile mountain ecosystem that is the source of the river.

There will then be the question of who spent how much of such money, and bickering upon how much should Tamil Nadu bear as cost in order to enrich the forest ecosystem of Coorg. Are we willing to analyse how much of the degradation of lands in Coorg has been thanks to tourism—the tiny district of Coorg received more tourists last year than all of Kerala, it was reported last year. There were massive protests from landowners in Coorg when efforts were on some months ago to get the western ghats declared as a Heritage Zone. For that would have meant a fall in land costs and less economic opportunity for the minority rich. Coffee prices have remained stagnant, fertilizer input costs have risen, and has led to planters wanting no longer to continue to farm coffee and other plantation crops.

Some day, when the government as well as people have the vision and fortitude needed for a complete to enrich the Coorg ecosystem and its depleting watershed, is when there will be the balance restored – with positive yields, and more water to slake Bangalore’s thirst, and water Tamilnadu’s crops. Even with the best of intentions and the most earnest of efforts starting right now, this will take 8 to 10 years that such natural processes for improving water catchment is achieved.


Bangalore will also have to work on a plan that is easy to implement: demand side management that will drop the quantum of water by every one of us to as little as 50 or 30 per cent of the current demand of 1000 million liters. Will the government have the courage to introduce legislation to ensure that there is 100 percent reuse of sewage treatment plants water, of rainwater harvesting, of reinstalling a new generation of water fixtures that save up to 70 per cent?


Politicians, the media, and people simply are not willing to wake up to these very simple, doable realities. We can only shrug and hope that the crises that will befall us will be serious enough to have these people galvanize themselves into action. And that will mean you and I, all households and offices and hospitals and hotels. It will mean a government that is led by value-based governance objectives, and not by some populist acts that will win some more votes.


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Power & water crisis-III: Get your home in order, will you?

Litre LightPaintingThe cost of power

There is also the cost the government incurs to generate energy. It is way beyond what we pay. In Pondicherry, people pay a paltry Re.1.50 per unit consumed while it costs about Rs.18 per unit for the government to produce/procure the power. Who bears the deficit? In Bangalore we pay Rs.4 per unit on an average. In Gujarat, Kerala and AP, people pay a little over Rs.8 a unit used. In Tamil Nadu the tariff for homes is about Rs.5. These deficits in cost recovered will guarantee that this route of power generation and distribution with massive subsidies will not sustain for too many years. Continue reading

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One reason to love nature

View of western ghats section in Karnataka.

View of Western Ghats section in Karnataka, India.

It’s one of the best carbon sinks we have. Forests in the US, Europe, and Russia socked away more than 700 million tons of carbon a year during the 1980s and 1990s. Continue reading

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Drumsticks don’t just make for great taste in cooking…

Drumstick grows widely in India. The potential somehow remains unrealized of using the seed to clarify water.

Just two of a drumstick’s seeds can clean a liter of turbid water. Its beans and twigs are almost magical. You can extract oil, provide nutrition when you eat and when you can serve as a useful medicine.

The seeds have an inherent ability to purify water. The dried beans when ground to a powder, work as natural flocculation agents.

Flocculation is the first step in water purification and the plant’s seeds provide an alternative to alum, iron salts, and even synthetic polymers. These chemicals harm both environment and health. Alum salts have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

A drumstick seeds is an efficient coagulating agent when extracted. In parts of Botswana, water purification has been done with the seeds for many centuries.

It’s not as if the government is not aware of its potential. The department of drinking water supply in India compiled a two-volume compendium of rural water supply and sanitation research projects. One of the sanitation studies tested the efficacy of drumstick seeds as a purification agent in a Tamil Nadu village some years ago. Three villages along the River Bhavani were selected as they were drinking the river’s low-quality water.

Drumstick seed power significantly reduces water turbidity and bacterial count.

It’s not a complete solution, however. It cannot guarantee potable water and some additional treatment will be needed. But the important thing is that it reduces turbidity of water with bacterial reduction of above 90 per cent.

Before doing it at a village tank, a simple jar test can be conducted with seed powder with 100, 200, and 400 mg per liter of water. The jar should be stirred vigorously for a minute, followed by a gentle steering. The sample is allowed to settle for 60 minutes. The lowest and best clarification dose is chosen by the village health workers.

The government is not willing to accept it yet. It remains a viable local low-cost alternative, but outside of the government’s schemes.

(Pic source: food1.com)

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In Vidarbha, women design a toilet their way

One village in Vidarbha came up with its own solution. Women spoke out against a public toilet design that the district authority had provided through the state government. The women decided to scrap it. They wanted isolated blocks, with just a 4-feet wall to cover the portion of land that they used to their business. And they wanted short walls around the sitting area. The official showed good sense and adapted that design to what they wanted. Community toilets in Vidarbha have followed that pattern for women.

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A new kind of riot in the making

We have been familiar with riots of farmers who dispute Cauvery water being offered to Tamil Nadu or TN farmers staging protests of how Karnataka is not giving them water.

There is a different kind of riot now in the making over the next ten years. Continue reading

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