Water woes - promoting integrated water resources management

Water is a prime requirement for all aspects of life. It is imperative to make certain that adequate supplies of water of good quality are maintained for all the needs of the entire population of this planet while preserving the hydrological, biological and chemical functions of ecosystems, adapting human activities within the capacity limits of nature and combating vectors of water-related diseases. Innovative technologies, including improvements in the indigenous technologies, are needed to fully utilize the limited water resources and to safeguard them against pollution.

The fast growing population, rapid urbanization and industrialization, coupled with spatial and temporal variations in water availability, water quality problems, etc. demand an integrated approach to water resources planning and management.

Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) is based on the perception of water as an integral part of the ecosystem, a natural resource and a pivot for socio-economic development, whose quantity and quality determine the nature of its utilization. To this end, water resources have to be protected, taking into account the functioning of aquatic ecosystems and the Perenniality of the resource, in order to satisfy and reconcile needs for water in human activities. In developing and using water resources, priority has to be given to the satisfaction of basic needs and the safeguarding of ecosystems.

The holistic management of freshwater as a finite and vulnerable resource and the integration of sectoral water plans and programmes within the framework of national policy are of paramount importance for action. Therefore, effective implementation and coordination mechanisms are required to remove impediments for promoting integrated water management.

Integrated water resources management, including the integration of land and water related aspects, should be carried out at the level of the basin or sub-basin. Four principal objectives to be pursued are as follows:

• To promote a dynamic, interactive and multisectoral approach to water resources management, including the identification and protection of potential sources of freshwater supply that integrates technological, socio-economic environmental, ecological and human health considerations.

• To plan for the sustainable development and rational utilization, protection, conservation and management of water resources based on community needs and priorities within the framework of national water policy.

• To design, implement and evaluate projects and programmes that are socially appropriate and economically efficient within clearly defined strategies based on a participatory approach.

• To strengthen or develop as required the appropriate institutional, legal and financial mechanisms to ensure that water policy and its implementation are a catalyst for sustainable social progress and economic growth.


In a nutshell, the centrality of sustainable management of water resources encompassing ecological, economic and ethical sustainability therefore hinges on a holistic and integrated approach involving engineering, socio-economic and environmental aspects. All the problems need to be looked at in their totality.

Development of hydropower, lowering of ground water table and devastations faced by people due to floods have to be examined in an integrated manner. Similarly, traditional system of water management through ponds and small tanks should be integrated with canal and pumped ground water irrigation. An integrated approach would minimize the conflicts among the multiplicity of agencies working in the water sector, each having different goals, motivation and dynamics.

The rationale of the future strategy is to meet the challenges in such a manner that development is sustained and the growth process does not disturb the delicately balanced environmental and ecological equilibrium which are predominantly water centric. Therefore, project-centric development that was aggressively pursued during the early plan periods for catering to specific needs should be replaced by IWRM that is better suited under the present circumstances for optimizing the water resources allocation among competing multi-sectoral water demand/uses. It is evident that suitably prioritizing the water demand from the socio-economic environmental point of view and simultaneously maintaining harmony among the different users, be it sectors or regions, should form the core of any long term vision that is being formulated for the water resources development and management.
*Inputs from the Ministry of Water Resources

Technological Developments for connecting the disabled

By - M.I. Habibullah
The key to the information society is universal access. Everyone must have equal opportunity to participate in the digital age. And no one should be denied the potential benefits of new information and communication technologies (ICT), not least because they are hampered by their disabilities.
Believing this, International Telecommunication Union (ITU) this year has adopted the theme: “Connecting Persons with Disabilities: ICT Opportunities for All” to mark the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day. It is aimed at empowering every citizen with information and knowledge, improving the lines of communication to the remotest and most vulnerable groups, and building an inclusive information society geared towards the advancement of a better, more peaceful and productive world.
This would not only ensure an inclusive information society, but would also enable ITU Member States to meet their obligations under Article 9 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2006.
In India, the tremendous technological developments in the field of rehabilitation of the handicapped have made the legless (Amputees) people walk like normal people and the armless people shake hands with their friends by wearing/fitting latest technological limbs. They drive motorized or non-motorized tri-cycles and even cars which are fitted with special appliances. Nine varieties of such cars are manufactured in India by the Maruti Udyog Limited. Another example of the Technological innovation in this field is the use of plastic in place of steel for orthopedic instruments.
Plastic has many advantages over steel like it allows patients to bend their joints more easily. According to the Census 2001, there are 2.19 crore persons with disabilities in India who constitute 2.13 per cent of the total population. The mentally retarded persons are 22.64 lakhs and constitute approximately 0.23 per cent of the total population in the country. The total population of mentally challenged persons as per census 2001 is 22,63,821.
The physical, social and psychological empowerment of persons with disabilities is promoted through Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS) and Assistance to Disabled Persons for Purchase/Fitting of aids/Appliances (ADIP) Scheme. The seven National Institutes also take up programmes for empowerment of persons with disabilities through their outreach programmes.
The Government has been promoting self-employment of person with disabilities by providing vocational training and loan on concessional rates through National Finance and Development Corporation (NHFDC). Braille shorthand machines used by the visually handicapped which were earlier imported are now manufactured in India by the Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation (ALIMCO), Kanpur. One of the items manufactured by ALIMCO which requires special mention is an artificial hand that can hold a pen and write and even lift light weights. These are designed and developed by the National Institute for the Visually Handicapped (NIVH), Dehradun. Recreational kits like chess, playing-cards, drought-boards and puzzles for the blind children are also designed and developed by them.
NIVH developed a Hindi Code for visually handicapped Stenographers in 1981, thereby opening new vistas for the blind Stenos. People suffering from congenital deafness or loss of hearing by disease or drug toxicity can now feel the ‘sensation of sound’ through an electrical devise developed by the Indian scientists. It consists of a specially designed electronic circuit, which generates a specific pulse train. Last year, the NIVH developed a computerized add-on interface which enables blind operators to handle large manually-operated telephone exchanges. This devise had already undergone field testing at the central public sector undertaking, the Pyrites, Phosphates and Chemicals Ltd. (PPCL), Dehradun. The NIVH is now engaged in developing a Braille mathematics code and teaching device, which will enable the blind to study mathematics in higher classes.
The Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment has recently provided computer facilities to all the national institutes for the handicapped. The computers located at Dehradun for the visually handicapped, Calcutta for the orthopedically handicapped, Mumbai for hearing handicapped and Secunderabad for the mentally handicapped are linked to the main computer at the National Information an Documentation Centre, New Delhi. In the past, limb-affected handicapped (amputees) people could walk properly and fully used sticks even for a short-distance walk. But now, due to technological developments, amputees use artificial limbs and walk like normal people. They ride motorized/non-motorized tri-cycles.
Above all, the Maruti Udyog Limited manufactures hand-driven/leg-driven cars according to the particular disability of a person. Now, India manufactures Braille shorthand machines for the betterment of the visually handicapped stenographers. These machines are manufactured at the Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation (ALIMCO), Kanpur and designed and developed by the National Institute for the Visually Handicapped (NIVH), Dehradun in Uttarakhand. To help all-round development of the handicapped, the Government has instituted three National Awards for technical invention that would help the handicapped stand on their own feet. The Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, introduced a new insurance scheme for the mentally retarded (MR) people, called “Nirmaya”, which is a free insurance scheme.
The National Institute for Visually Handicapped (NIVH), Dehradun has also developed a “Braille” mobile phone for the all-round betterment of the visually handicapped of India.
* The writer is Freelance Journalist, Pudukkotai, Tamil Nadu
Courtesy PIB

Towards a New world Environment Order

India has once again proved that it can protect its own and developing countries’ interest at international fora. It all happened at the Indonesian holiday resort, Bali, where about 190 countries from across the globe entered into a roadmap to take action to reduce greenhouse emissions in the atmosphere forcing climate change.

In this UN conference on climate change India achieved a tough deal. It forcefully argued and defended against imposition of binding targets on developing countries and made the rich, industrialised nations to provide fund and support transfer of clean technology to poor and developing countries. Timely initiative by India at the fort-night long meet ensured that the developed countries cannot simply put the onus on the poor nations. Accordingly a decision was taken at the extended session where leaders have decided to adhere to new set of principles, that will, over the next two years, help the countries decide a post 2012 deal.

By next two years, the deal will be drawn making it clear what is expected from each country.

Under the United Nations Treaty called the UN framework on climate change, there is an existing deal called the Kyoto Protocol. It demands that the 36 big emitters, mostly industrialised nations, reduce their emissions by a fixed percentage by 2012. Bali conference was to discuss what happens after 2012. The Kyoto protocol expires in 2012. At present only the rich nations, responsible for more than 70 percent of emissions, are expected to cut carbon emissions.

But they demanded that after 2012, even the developing countries also start some kind of emission cuts. This means a complete u- turn of the existing treaty. India and other similarly placed countries contend that such a step will pose a hurdle for economic growth. India argued that the rich countries who are the worst polluters should take responsibility. This argument has been taken care of and a roadmap for the future course of action finalised.

An Indian delegate at the end of the conference said, “fourteen days of negotiations, running deep into mid-night on several occasions, finally brought us to the showdown. So, the rich nations should support a fund and clean technologies to make the not so rich to cut emissions. This will help these countries not to sacrifice their economic growth which is vital”.

The Science and Technology Minister Shri Kapil Sibal said, “it was a hard fought win, but we have secured India’s position in the two year negotiations that delegates have agreed at Bali and which will be completed by 2009”.

Explaining the 90 minute high drama on the last day of the meeting, an Indian official said that a critical resolution demanding that the rich work on transferring clean technologies and fund such mechanisms for the sake of developing world was left out at the discussions and instead an American resolution demanding commitments from the developing world got floated.

At this point India intervened to put forth its position and the European Union supported it besides the developing nations. Finally it was agreed that such countries would undertake climate change mitigation along with rich nations passing on technologies and funding that would help them to pursue economic growth and also cut emissions.

Environmentalist who heads the Nobel Prize winning inter governmental panel on climate change, Mr.R.K.Pachauri said, “the future is going to be a low-carbon society and those who accept the fact are going to be the winners and those who don’t will be left behind. The Indian industry will be the vanguard of this change. There is a need to bring about a technology revolution in India in the sectors like transport, power and building. India needs to make judicious use of water, electricity and build more rural infrastructure”.

China and the entire G-77 and the EU have supported India’s brought amendment at the Bali conference of the UN framework convention on climate change. All nations have agreed on an action plan on a war-footing for combating climate change.

The UNFCCC has agreed to help protect forests through special funding, as part of Bali roadmap. India on its part has taken steps where-ever possible and which are within its reach. If all countries follow such actions a successful climate framework will be just two years away.

Cooperation and coordination are needed at this hour to face the alarming consequences of climate change. These should come from both the rich and the not so rich nations world-wide. Any backing out of the consensus reached at the Bali conference will only put the entire world into a boiling point.

by Smt. Sumathi Vishwanathan
*A Retired Indian Information Service Officer

Rabindranath Tagore: a poetic genius

Rabindranath Tagore is no more a monopoly of the Bengalees. The new copyright formulation ending the monopoly of Vishwabharati over Rabindranath Tagore’s literary and other creations has led to a better understanding of Tagore and his works. A visit to any book fair finds young people, before bookstands, picking up Tagore’s books in their own languages and in Hindi too.

Sahitya Akademi in 1961, the centenary year of Rabindranath Tagore, published Tagore works in transliterated form. They are original Bengali works in Devanagri script. One can read the original books via their knowledge of the Devanagri script.

The question, why this craze to know Tagore? In literary creations, Rabindranath Tagore is looked upon as one of the greatest men of letters in the world. He coined approximately 1.5 million words to create all kinds of literature. These include about 55 books of 100 poems each, drama, dance-drama and plays numbering 47 titles, 20 novels, and 45 books of essays and volumes of letters of literary and civilisational value. Most of these were written in Bengali and English.

After World War-I, the European countries and the Latin American countries translated Tagore’s books in their own languages. An average of 40 titles each of Tagore have been translated in English, French, Russian, Spanish, Italian, German and other languages. Details of these translations are available with UNESCO.

In the present day era of linguistic watertight compartmentalism, people wonder why there should be so much of interest in knowing Tagore, the ‘Gurudev’ of Mahatma Gandhi. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who sent his daughter Indira to Tagore’s Shantiniketan for schooling, once said: “Gurudev Rabindranath was a great poet, a great artist, a great patriot but he was, above all, a giant in a world of pigmies… Tagore and Gandhi, each in his different way, was the symbol of India, steeped in her ancient culture and drawing strength and sustenance…”.

Tagore is the only poet who composed and tuned national anthems of two free countries – India and Bangladesh. The Indian National Anthem ‘Jana Gana Mana’ (in Bengali Jono Gono Mono) was written by the Nobel Laureate. It was first sung on December 27, 1911 at the Calcutta Session of Indian National Congress and later officially adopted by the Constituent Assembly as the National Anthem on January 24, 1950.

The Sessions of Parliament begin with ‘Janaganamana’ and its closure is announced with ‘Vandemataram’.

A multi-faceted personality, Rabindranath Tagore was a man with endless qualities. He was a thinker, a teacher and an educationist. He led the cooperative movement, implemented his format of rural work and development and at later stage of his life, kept himself busy in churning international conscience and warning world leaders of the “Crisis in Civilisation” as an anti-war thinker. In politics, he did not involve himself actively but did not remain far away.

Born on May 7, 1861 to Debendranath Tagore and Sharada Devi at Jorasanko in West Bengal. He did his schooling in the prestigious St. Xavier School. He has written thousands of Poems and lyrics and about 35 plays about 12 novels, numerous short stories and a mass of prose literature. He was called as ‘Vishwa Kavi’.

Besides the famous ‘Gitanjali’ for which he won the Noble Prize in 1913, his other well known poetic works include ‘Sonar Tari’, ‘Puravi’, ‘The cycle of the spring’, ‘The evening songs’ etc. The names of his well known novels are: ‘Gora’, ‘The wreck’, ‘Raja Rani’, ‘Ghare Baire’, ‘ Raj Rishi’ etc. ‘ Chitra’ is his famous play in verse. ‘ Kabuli Wallah’ and ‘ Kshudita Pashan’ are his famous stories.

In 1901, he founded the Vishwabharati University- earlier known as Shantiniketan at Bolepur in West Bengal. This was founded with the aim of evolving a world culture, a synthesis of eastern and western values.

by Nikhil Bhattacharya*
Special Representative, Dainik Sambad

ROADS FACELIFT RURAL TRIPURA AND ITS ECONOMY

By - Subhasis K. Chanda**
*Media & Communication Officer, PIB, Agartala


“We never thought of such a road between the hills and forests”, said Minati Bala Bhowmik, a resident of East Buradikhi at Matabari Panchayat under South Tripura district. The slightly grey haired lady was searching for her cow while she was walking down the concrete road which goes towards Dhupkuchi. Some steps ahead, there was Dulal Ghanta who was walking with loads of wood on both his shoulders. He echoed the same sentiment. He said : “This road was a brick-laid road earlier with big holes in between. One auto was enough to occupy the road and no space had been left even for a bicycle. Now, heavy trucks move along this road.”

The National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC) has constructed the road from eastern side of Bura Dighi to Dhupkuchi, Brahmachara and Bhumihin Colony. under the Prime Minister’s Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY). Now the drains on both sides of the road are under construction. For the 2.91 km long road, Rs. 1 crore has been sanctioned. When asked about the road, the residents of Brahmachara, like Suresh and Jaylakshmi replied smilingly, “We don’t know about other places, but Brahmachara has been benefited a lot.” Earlier, if anyone fell ill, there was no alternative but to carry the patient on shoulders. Now, ambulance or other vehicles can easily ply over the road from the doorstep of the houses of the villagers. This road which is very near to the Agartala-Sabroom National Highway 44 has lessened the hardships of tribal as well as non-tribal people living in the villages.

Another road which is three kilometers away from the National Highway, has tied all the adjacent tribal villages together. This 10-km road from Sindhukpathor under Satchand block to Bishnupur not only facilitated the daily transportation system of about 12,000 people but also tied the Satchand and Rupaichhari blocks in a single knot. Soon, heavy vehicles will run along the road, said the inhabitants. In due course of time, people will be getting a vibrant life in their daily living. Inhabitants are able to easily market their produce. This road has also been constructed by NBCC with an estimated cost of Rs. 2. 41 crore.

Under ‘Bharat Nirman’ encapsulated as rural connectivity 277 rural roads will be constructed in the South Tripura district of which construction work with 138 roads with a total length of 455.469 kms has already begun. With these roads being completed, 2,26, 492 people will get road connectivity. In 11 blocks under the district, a total of 1040.56 kms of road will be constructed which will benefit 5 lakhs of people living in 320 village Panchayats and TTAADC villages.

In the State, a total of 611.88 km of roads has been constructed in rural areas and 819.33 km of road is under construction as of November 30, 2007. With these roads coming up, 4,301 rural hamlets have received road linkage with National Highway or the nearby markets. The State Rural Road Development Agency under PWD has taken up a target for construction of roads of about 1704.54 km linking 427 hamlets in 2008-09.

This is how rural Tripura is getting a facelift by the grace of Bharat Nirman and PMGSY. More significantly, this sprinkling road network has started bringing vibrancy to rural living and economics with roads getting rural hamlets linked with National Highway and the markets.

NEW FOREST RIGHTS ACT : A HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY

“For we people in this Devbhumi, the Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act has literally opened the gates of heavens”, a social worker in Nagnathpokhri, an old educational center in the interior of Chamoli district in Uttaranchal thus expressed his joy at the passage of the Act. Prophetic words and substantially achievable for people who have been wronged for centuries right from the British rule! And unfortunately, the same continued even in Independent India. The one most important contributing factor was the snapping of the symbiotic relationship between the forest-dwellers and the forests.

Since the dawn of civilization, families in the mountainous areas have been living in hamlets and villages on the periphery of forests. They needed to maintain a good number and variety of cattle for various uses and the animals needed fodder from grasslands and forests. Most importantly, forests absorbed rainwater and provided it in continuum for all types of local use, simultaneously keeping the streams and rivers full, to bring prosperity to the plains. And it is well known that the tribal people and those dependent for their sustenance on forests, never sought to destroy their closest ally – the trees. However, the colonial power either did not understand this symbiotic relationship or just ignored it in the short-term interest of obtaining timber.

By felling chir pine in large tracts of areas for resin collection, the ecology of such areas was destroyed, virtually turning such lands into deserts for locals. What to say of the former mixed jungles providing fodder, firewood and a host of minor forest produce, not even grass could grow on the floor of chir forest covered with pine needles. During the British rule, contractors were even allowed to cut one tree for themselves for every tree delivered to the department. Even after Independence, the contractors had a free run in denuding the forests, often in collusion with the officials.

Then, almost without notice, the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 was enacted. With this even the small benefits the dwellers were able to draw from the depleted forests became unattainable. Worse, whatever developmental works were going on or were planned, got halted as permission had to come from the Government. When innocent tribal people are told that work on small but important facilities like primary school, health-centre, village road etc. cannot be started as approval from the Government was awaited and repeated over and over, the feeling of alienation grows and is exploited by ultras though this realization had begun to down easily in certain sections in the Government. Nothing came of it, not even for creating annual rubber plantations on badly denuded tilla lands.

It was only in January 2008, i.e., after 28 years that these people got justice with the notification of the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act and Rules. The Act has the potential of giving a new lease of life to the most disadvantaged and poorest of poor families living from Leh in J & K to Lohit in Arunachal Pradesh across the Himalayas as also in the tribal belts in the rest of the country, where in many pockets, the deprivation and age-old frustration has also given rise to extremism/naxalism leading to unnecessary loss of precious lives. It has to therefore be appreciated by all right-thinking Indians that the biggest spin-off this legislation could deliver is an abiding peace across the entire country.

For various concerned State Governments as also the historically wronged sections of their populace, the Forest Rights Act presents a great opportunity to redress the wrong and put these people on a path of development, growth and happiness. However, it will be an extremely challenging task for the governments, especially the Departments of Tribal Affairs, Revenue and Forest as also the beneficiaries. It is also important that while no entitled family is left out, only genuine families are vested with forest rights and such families must clearly understand and carry out duties with regard to “strengthening the conservation regime of the forests” (second para of prologue to FRA). Next, but the most significant step would be the role of Panchayati Raj institutions.

Apart from the Scheduled Tribes, “other traditional forest dwellers” are also covered in the Act. They are defined as those who have for at least three generations (75 years) resided in and have depended on the forests for bonafide livelihood needs. Forest rights include occupation for self-cultivation, collection/processing etc. of minor forest produce, conversion of land pattas into titles, intellectual property and traditional knowledge rights, in-situ rehabilitation including alternative land use etc. The traditional right of hunting etc. has been excluded.

A list of 13 items are incorporated in Sub-sec 3 (2) like schools, dispensary/hospital, electric and telecom lines, water supply/pipelines/water harvesting, skill upgradation training centers, roads etc. for which the government would provide for diversion of land subject to some conditions. Chapter III provides for recognition, restoration and vesting of rights and related matters. The next Chapter is about Authorities and Procedures for vesting of forest rights and the details are contained in the Rules notified on January 1 this year. The entire process starts with convening of the meeting of Gram Sabha and constitution by it of Forest Rights Committee which shall prepare a list of claimants of rights containing all details, pass a resolution and after giving opportunity to interested persons and authorities, forward the same to Sub-Divisional Level Committee (SDLC). It will also prepare a resettlement package if required; will form Committees for protection of wild life, forest and bio-diversity. The SDLC to be constituted by the States will be chaired by SDO (representing revenue department also) and have members representing forest and tribal welfare departments and three members from Block/Tehsil level Panchayat to be nominated by District Panchayat. It will arrange to provide all the documents/data, hear and forward the claims with the draft record of proposed forest rights through SDO to the District Level Committee (DLC).

The DLC will be chaired by the DC (head of land revenue in the district) and composed of District Officers from Forest and Tribal Welfare and three members of District Panchayat and will finally approve the claims and issue directions for incorporation of forest rights in relevant government records. States will also constitute a State Level Committee (SLC), chaired by the Chief Secretary, six members representing heads of concerned departments and three ST members of State Tribal Advisory Council (TAC). Where there is no TAC, three ST members nominated by the State Government will monitor the entire process and furnish a six monthly report to the Nodal Agency, viz. the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

These details needed to be mentioned here as it is necessary for the State Governments at both political and administrative levels, also for Panchayat Institutions and finally for the hitherto deprived but entitled people to appreciate the golden opportunity presented by this Act and to immediately constitute all Committees and make the Gram Sabha and its Forest Right Committee start its work. The pace of implementation would vary from state to state. In states like Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh etc, which are totally scheduled tribe populated and where there would hardly be any forest dwelling families of 75 years and above vintage, the processing would be simple and quick but the existence of community ownership of land/forests would have to be factored in. The second group of states would be Chattisgarh, Orissa etc. where there are compact tracts predominantly inhabitated by ST but there could be areas of mixed ST and eligible forest dwellers. The process could take some more time there. The third category may be states like Rajasthan, Uttarakhand etc. where the mix is widespread. The sieving and determination of individual families may turn out to be more complicated and time-consuming in these. The acid test for all States would be as to how quickly the process takes off at the Gram Sabha level. Most importantly, what type of leadership is provided at the highest level. The state administration, the Panchayati Raj institutions and the prospective beneficiaries must join forces, move forward speedily and provide forest rights to the wronged poorest of poor people so that they could start life anew and in turn, help bring peace and prosperity to the entire country.

By - N. P. Nawani
*The author has worked as Secretary, Tribal Affairs, Tripura and as Planning Adviser to North-Eastern Council at Shillong. He was Founding Chairman of Public Service Commission of Uttarakhand.
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