Geography

How does El Niño affect the Indian monsoon?

Introduction

The El Nino and La Nina are atmospheric oceanic phenomenon driven by atmospheric circulation and is better called as El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The Southern Oscillation was discovered by Gilbert Walker over seventy years ago. It is an oscillatory pattern of weather between the Pacific and the Indian Ocean extending from Africa and Australia. It was discovered that when the pressures tended to be high over the southern Pacific they tended to be low over the Indian Ocean. The average period of this oscillation is 3 years, but it ranges from 2 to 10 years. The Walker circulation is a convective cycle/cell that owes its origin to the gradient of sea surface temperatures along the Equator in the Pacific Ocean. The Walker circulation is driven by major east-west pressure gradients set up by differences between air rising over heated continents and the warmer parts of the oceans, on the one hand, while air subsiding over continental areas where deep high pressure systems have become established, and in association with subtropical high pressure cells, on the other. Near the South American coast, the winds blow offshore, blowing the surface water westward away from the adjacent continental margins. To replace the blown away surface water deep cool water replaces the blown away surface water. This is called as upwelling. The air above this cool water gets stable because of cooling from below, convection is suppressed and thus, it cannot rise and join the normal meridional circulation. Instead, it flows westwards where it flows as South East Trade windsacross the South Pacific to warm the western Pacific where it gains moisture and also gets warmed. It then rises and flows eastwards to complete the cell. Each year in October, however, the Trade winds become weaker and the upwelling is reduced. The warm tropical surface water that was blown up against the western margin begins to flow back eastwards across the ocean’s eastern boundary, it further suppresses the normal upwelling along the coast. The weakening of the trades is related to the movement of the Indian low-pressure cell to the east, beginning in October and November. At the same time along with the eastward shift of this low pressure cell is the movement of the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) towards south. The ITCZ’s normal seasonal migration is from 10°N latitude in August to 3°N in February, but during El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events it may move south of the Equator in eastern Pacific. This shift causes the weakening of the Trade winds.

The warm surface waters remain off the South and Central American coast for an entire year or longer. Upwelling continues to be suppressed and reduced by the overriding warm surface water and the failure of the Trade winds to blow it away. The effect is called as El Nino “Christ Child” in Spanish). This appearance causes the air pressure to drop over large areas of the southeast Pacific near El Nino appearance while pressure rises over western Pacific near east of SE Asia. This see-saw variation of air pressure is called the Southern Oscillation. It has been known for some time that an El Nino has very different effects on the south-west and north-east monsoons. This abnormal warming of the equatorial waters of the central and eastern Pacific has often been associated with failure of the south-west monsoon. But the very same phenomenon appears to have just the opposite effect on the north-east monsoon, leading to more bountiful rain. Normally, the equatorial regions of South American coast are under the influence of the easterly trade winds. These winds drive a northward flowing cold ocean current. This is the Humoldt or Peru Current. it flows northward to about 5° S before turning westwards. But, once in a few years the trade winds suddenly weaken and even reverse their direction. The Humboldt Current then weakens and there is little or no upwelling off Peru. Upwelling refers to the ascent of deep, cold, nutrient laden water towards the surface layer of the sea usually by diverging equatorial currents or coastal currents that pull water away from the coast. It may occur anywhere, but is most common along the western coasts of continents. Driven by winds, blowing towards east, the surface waters of the Pacific basin tend to pile up near the western sector of the basin in normal years. The sea levels near Indonesia, for example, are nearly a metre higher than over Peru. But in an El Nino year they become nearly equal. And, there is a corresponding reduction in pressure over the southern Pacific because the easterly trades are weaker. This in turn influences the Southern Oscillation. The phenomenon occurs around the advent of Christmas. There have been years of deficient monsoon rainfall, which were not EI Nino years. This suggests that there are other factors, apart form an El Nino, which lead to poor monsoons over India. The relationship between the two is not very firm, but generally an El Nino is associated with a poor or different monsoon. As pressures are inversely related to rainfall, this suggests that when low pressures prevail over the Indian Ocean in the winter months, the chances are that the coming monsoon will be good in terms of rainfall. This fact is still utilized in long-range predication of monsoon rainfall. The Effect of El Nino on Indian Monsoon (top), Normal Condition (Below).

Is diversity really the strength of India?

DIVERSITY AS STRENGTH OF INDIA

India is a nation of festivals. No nation has as many. They mark the changing seasons, religious events, political anniversaries, and birthdays of eminent persons. And yet they are just one aspect of our amazing diversity. When we explore food, or language, or literature, or ritual, or dress, or ecology, or ethnicity or even different conceptions of beauty, we find diversity in all its glory. Diversity is India's greatest asset but an under-appreciated one. In the last sixty years we have given it the status of one half of the slogan, 'Unity in diversity', and have spent more time elaborating and campaigning for the 'unity' half, as we get about the task of nation-building. If diversity got a look in it was accompanied by some kind of subterranean anxiety as if its existence was a threat to unity, as if the fragility of 'unity' would be at risk if we stressed our differences and, worse, took pride in them. Discussion of diversity descended into a discussion of what holds us together, although we are different, and just like astronomers today who look for the dark matter that holds the expanding universe together, we spent our intellectual energies looking for the glue. Rather than marvel at the diversity we seem to have feared it. This is indeed a pity. India's strength, when seen in terms of the human story, lied in its diversity. There are many factors that have contributed to its existence from our varied geography and ecology to our long and colourful history. Factors such as accident, luck, memory, invention and design have even played a part. Looking at, and into, this diversity we find a capacious concept that needs to be inhabited by the details of our condition, by the many ways in which we live our lives, construct our systems of meaning, and conduct our social relationship. It is a concept that needs greater analytical attention. The Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS) at Shimla in its seminars, invited scholars from all over to look at the different dimensions of diversity in India. The first looked at 'Troubled diversity' that looks at India's North-East region and explores the relationship between diversity and social and ethnic conflict. Is diversity the cause of conflict or is the cause elsewhere which then uses diversity to make its case? The second was 'Managing diversity' that examined the wonderful world of an Indian election and illustrates how the Election Commission has to factor in this inherent diversity when planning the location of booths, allotting symbols, preparing voter lists, assigning observers, deciding on voting days, etc., and also how; looking at it from the other end, the electoral process consolidates this diversity. The third was 'Celebrating diversity' that looked at the eight and more food regions in India and discovers the deep interdependence between region, and community, and flavour, and favour in the preparation of food. The 'pure vegetarian' Udipi meal has had a little help from the Portuguese who have used the potato and the chilly. And lest one forget, it is the Hakim and the ageing Nawab who gave us the Kakori Kabab. Nothing explodes the myth of purity, that so dominates our social relations, so effectively as an anthropological exploration of our food history. The fourth was 'Treating diversity' where the coexistence of diverse health systems, from Siddha to Ayurveda to Folk to Unani and Tibetan, are all shown to be necessary to provide health services for our large and poor population. Allopathy has limited reach. The fifth was 'Flattening diversity' which looked at the educational domain and deliberates on the disjunction between the heterogeneous school environment and the uniform policy of DPEP/SSA that does not factor the diverse backgrounds, locales, requirements, and disabilities that are required for universal and quality education in India. The sixth was 'Mapping diversity' that will look at one region, the Himalayan region, and survey the differences in culture and ecology as we move from Kashmir to Sikkim, a fascinating story of how a diverse people have adapted to diverse ecosystems. The seventh looked at 'one Indian diaspora or many' as it journeys thorough how the different Indian communities across the world, form Malaysia to the Carribean, try to be Indian. The spelling of name would be a good place to start: Laxman (India), Lakshman (Sri Lanka), Latchmann (Mauritius), Lukshmann (Germany?)… Adapted from many Sources- Times of India, Indian Institute of Advanced Studies,

UTTARAKHAND FLOODS & LANDSLIDE

Uttarakhand, the Himalayan state is rugged has a fragile geophysical structure, very high peaks, high angle of slopes, complex geology, variable climatic conditions and active tectonic processes. 1. Himalayas formed when the Indian plate collided with the Eurasian plate 55 million years ago. The Himalayas are continuously rising as plate convergence between India and Tibet continues. The collision makes the Himalayas an unstable zone. This triggers earthquakes, fracturing and shearing of rocks, making the Himalayan slopes unstable. The process of formation led to rivers forming gorges through rising mountains. It is in these rivers that huge silt has been deposited. At the same time, steep slopes, cliffs were created, especially in and around the Alaknanda-Bhagirathi systems. All this leads to the Himalayan Mountains slopes to be fragile. To cap it all the westerlies collided with the rising air stream of the monsoons to lead to intense rains 2. During April-June strong westerlies are generally active over the mid-latitudes (areas between the tropics and the polar regions, approximately 30° to 60°lat). In May and June the westerlies, which flooded central Europe, reached and were responsible for very heavy rainfall and flooding in central European nations, such as Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic to the Himalayan states via Afghanistan to collide with the monsoon, triggered deadly rains. Driven by westerlies, western disturbances, swept into the north Indian hilly states around mid-June, where a monsoon-related low-pressure system had already moved in from Bay of Bengal. In general, the monsoon is relatively weaker in the Himalayan region, which is located near the "periphery" or the northern limit of the monsoon that brings up to 80% of India's annual rainfall. When westerlies encounter the monsoon, they stagnate. The westerlies virtually locked on to the monsoon system, the two systems feeding moisture into each other gave rise to intense interaction. While monsoon currents progress from south to northwest, western disturbances move across north India from west to east, driving up pressure. In fact, in some Himalayan areas, the monsoon is activated by western disturbances. The unusual combination of westerlies along with monsoons led to intense upliftment of moisture-laden winds and deadly cloudburst. That caused excessive runoff, triggering landslides and flooding. Such mechanism of excessive rainfall is not unusual for the Himalayan region, nor such type of flooding is unusual as such an event takes place in one or another region of the Himalayas. 3. It was GLOF (Glacial Lake Outburst Flood) that caused Kedarnath floods. Kedarnath floods 2013 were caused by the burst of Chorabari Lake or Gandhi Sarovar. Gandhi Sarovar or Chorabari Lake is located at 3,900 metres is a permanent water body on the side of the Chorabari glacier and has been in existence even in maps of the area from 1962. The glacier is about two km upstream from the Kedarnath temple. The lake is surrounded by hard rock on one side and a lateral moraine on the other. The lake is fed by snow and not by the waters of the Chorabari glacier which has receded over the years. The lake was full to the brim and burst its moraine barrier since there was no natural drainage. That outburst is what caused the most damage on June17 and the tons of sediment and water wreaked havoc down the valley. The over 300 mm of rain recorded on June 15 and 16 accelerated the snow melt into the lake. The rain was too early and too heavy causing this extreme event. Although floods are natural and are part of the hydrological cycle, and floods must also occur and that they must take place because it cleanses the entire system. But, floods also become a hazard when the hydrological cycle is destabilised and the humans interfere with it without having known the dynamics of nature.

A man made disaster

Uttarakhand has an unplanned settlement, an ever increasing population, weak economic condition and a low literacy rate. Apart from these factors, resource constraint, the lack of technical manpower, the lack of public awareness, very remote, rural and difficult geo-physical situation of the country, absence of modern technology and so on are other factors Uttarakhand prone to disasters. The recent Uttarakhand floods were more manmade than natural. It was not a natural event or phenomena, it was a man-made disaster. The Uttarakhand floods were caused by many man made events one above another in their intensity of effect. 1. Unplanned growth and rampant felling of forests responsible for this scale of disaster. The Himalayan water divides and slopes have witnessed unprecedented deforestation over a long period. Forest cover depletion has loosened soil, and this leads to frequent landslides. Landslides block the natural flow of water leading to inundation or constriction of the river path. While official estimates say forest cover has increased in the Himalaya, observations and facts do not give credence to this claim. The fact is that forests have been actually diverted for a host of land use activities such as agriculture, human settlements and urban built up area expansion for infrastructure development such as hydropower construction as well as road building. Scientific studies indicate that at the current rates of deforestation, the total forest cover in the Indian Himalaya will be reduced from 84.9 per cent (of the value in 1970) in 2000 to no more than 52.8 per cent in 2100. Dense forest areas, on which many forest taxa (groups of species) critically depend, would decline from 75.4 per cent of the total forest area in 2000 to just 34 per cent in 2100, which is estimated to result in the extinction of 23.6 per cent of taxa restricted to the dense Himalayan forests. Vegetative cover slows the speed of falling rain and prevents soil erosion and gully formation - the precursors to landslides and floods. Dense vegetation, by evapotranspiration, also stops nearly 30-40 percent of rainwater from falling to the ground, thereby significantly reducing run-off. Besides holding the soil together, forests and soil soak water from the rain, release it slowly and prevent water flowing as run-off, So, deforestation brings about slope destabilisation which leads to landslides. The landslide and debris flow downstream add enormous load to the streams causing the valley volume to decrease and spilling of the rivers causing flood. 2. Conversion of Pine to Oak Plantation. These parts of the Himalayas that once boasted of oak forests had turned into pine woods. Oak is an un-exploitable tree for commerce compared to the pine that has a variety of uses. From pine resin to its wood, everything is used profitably by man. Pine is profitable for man but it is not profitable for the Himalayas. The oak is a wonderful tree that in fall over years and decades creates a layer of black subsoil that nourishes the thickest undergrowth one can ever see. These scrubs and brushwood feed on rainwater that seeps down to create an organic whole, a sort of natural masonry that toughens and fortifies the soil against erosion caused even by heavy rainfall. Pine trees, unlike the oak, do not grow leaves, but needles that fall and form a smooth dry bed that does not soak water. This prevents the soil from developing underbrush. Oaks are not protected by law enforcers. In any case the forest department, comprising no doubt some prized ignoramuses, do not mind this because they watch the pines creep up where once were oaks. Oaks are not protected by law enforcers as it does not ensure that profitability. In order to Green the Himalaya, the forest department greened the Himalayas s all they wanted was a Green cover, irrespective of the type of the tree. Pine is chosen as it spins out more money. 3. Erratic rain pattern which may have been a product of climatic and weather aberrations led to intense bursts of rain first, and then its subsequent slowdowns causes the Himalayan rocks to be loosened flooding of silted rivers. Some recent studies, pointed out that Himalayan ecosystems have experienced faster rates of warming in the last 100 years and more than the European Alps or other mountain ranges of the world. In such a scenario, a faster melting of glaciers is expected with a higher water discharge in the Himalayan rivers. 4. Series of dams have upset ecological cycle and hill slope stability. Construction 70 hydro-electric projects recently, including 37 in high landslide susceptibility zone increases the instability of slopes. Large-scale dam building in recent years has caused massive land use changes with ensuing problems in the Himalayan watersheds. Hydropower and allied construction activities are potential sources of slope weakening and destabilisation. Most downstream damage in otherwise flood-free areas is caused by dams and barrages, which release large volumes of water to safeguard engineering structures. Dam operators often release more water during rains than the carrying capacity of downstream areas, causing floods, increasing erosion and destabilising the base of the slopes further. 5. Pilgrimage are responsible for significant human movement into the Himalaya beyond the region's carrying capacity, whether it is Amarnath in Jammu & Kashmir Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Hemkund inUttrakhand. Commercialisation of pilgrimage routes with encroachment on river banks, forests and dangerous slopes increased risks manifold. The heavy pilgrim population has also resulted in the mushrooming of shanty towns, cheap accommodation and numerous ramshackle buildings along river banks. Huge building construction, cheap hotels and individual dwellings at Uttarkashi, on the banks of the Assi and Bhagirathi rivers have been allowed. There is hardly any buffer between the river and the human settlements. While it is important to appreciate the aspirations of the local people and their economic activities, there cannot be a lack of enforcement of land use control laws on the part of local governments and officials. 6. A complete neglect of urban planning has led to settlements coming up in danger areas in Rudraprayag, Joshimath, Chamoli etc. These settlements havent followed a simple rule-‘Where the river has its way, stay out it.’ Whether it was Kosi sometime back, and now Alaknanda or Bhagirathi, the rule applies to all. 7. The illegal sand mining that is so common and rampant both of it has removed the protective cover at the base of the slope increasing its vulnerability to various types of mass movements, landslides and slippages. 8. 3 yrs ago, while auditing hydel projects in Uttarakhand, CAG had warned about severe ecological hazards. Its report ignored.

Suggestions

1. Increasing literacy rate and train the people to rediscover their local wisdom, and civilisation. As a part of literacy, and school education, disaster management course should be included in the school and university curriculum. It is also necessary to train school teachers, selected students, women leaders, health workers and social workers to educate others in measures to prevent or mitigate the natural disasters. Such types of program may convince people to believe that natural disasters are not an act of God, rather it is a product of peoples’ action who lose their respect for environment and natural surrounding. To attain all this, there is the need of the strong political determination, pragmatic policy formulation and quick decision making. It is also needed very much to think on improving road infrastructure without slope destailisation and other alternatives to road transport such as ropeway; improving communication facilities to carry out rescue and relief works effectively and efficiently. In order to prevent inappropriate construction of buildings, the building code should be strictly implemented. 2. Afforestation and Species Composition Change. Planting oak by the removal of pine. The oak is ecologically wonderful because its fall over years and decades creates a layer of black subsoil that nourishes a thick undergrowth. These scrubs and brushwood feed on rainwater that seeps down to create an organic whole, a sort of natural masonry that toughens and fortifies the soil against erosion caused even by heavy rainfall. 3. Independent and serious monitoring of the catchment area treatment plans proposed by Forest Departments with funds from hydropower companies needs to be carried out and reported to the Green Tribunal. 4. Himalayan State governments need to consider imposing high environmental tax on visitors, particularly during summer and monsoon months. Heavily sizing down pilgrim numbers in fragile areas must begin 5. All vulnerable buildings need to be either secured or relocated away from rivers. Governments must impose penalties on buildings structures within 200 metres of river banks. 6. Hydropower policy must consider building fewer dams and prioritise those that have the least environmental and social costs. 7. This increasing variability and intense downpours are consequence of temperature changes and other weather aberrations, due to the capacity of warmer air to hold more water vapour. It happened last year inUttarkashi, it's occurred this year again. It's going to continue to happen, frequently. This raises three issues. 8. Surely adaptation means not just desperate evacuation during and after extreme rains, but preparing for them. Experts suggest prior warning systems are feasible, with reasonable investment. Given there was no warning from the IMD, what technological or administrative improvement do we need to ensure that advance warnings are issued before such future events? 9. Two, that needs not just technology but political will. We need to collectively challenge the callous indifference that most political elites have for the lives and livelihoods of the poor 10. And three, even assuming a best-case scenario of capacity, efficiency and political will, what impacts and devastation are inescapable in a difficult and mountainous terrain? What we are currently experiencing is in a world 0.9°C warmer than pre-industrial temperatures. Due to the lag between carbon emissions and global warming, a significantly warmer world is inevitable, as are more extreme events.

INTERLINKING OF RIVERS

In the light of water scarcity that has plagued Maharashtra, a lot of talk is going to revive the interlinking of the rivers plan. The interlinking of rivers offers some solutions, but comes with a big load of problems

Environmental:

1.Inbuilt in the linking philosophy is that the rivers flooding is a disaster and that it should be curbed. 2.River flooding, in lowland areas particularly, is good for agriculture and ecology. If all human civilization and development are due to sustainability of agriculture then there is no earth process that is more beneficial to mankind than natural river flooding. 3.Floods are a constructive geological process, Floods are responsible for alluvium deposits in the Gangetic Plains. The floodwater brings along nutrient rick sediments, which get deposited in the plains, a process so crucial to agriculture. 4.River flooding created fertile plains, by depositing nutrient-rich sediments, which had acquired the textures and mineralogy to hold enormous quantities of water and nutrients. River flooding as a constructive geological process will be eliminated once interlinking takes palce. 5.Allowing the rivers not to flood will cut down the sediment supply and this could cause coastal and delta erosion by waves and longshore currents. 6.On a geological timescale, this will result in a loss of productive farmland as well as small-scale sea transgressions. If the global warming is a reality and taking place, with a consequent sea level rise on the east coast, the cumulative effect of coastal erosion due to reduction of sediment supply and the sea level rise could lead to large scale sea transgressions into the coastal areas. 7.The floodplains allow the rivers to store store the excess water in these floodplains and deltas during monsoons and release it during dry periods to maintain the minimum flow and to sustain agriculture. The floodplain formation will stop once the rivers are linked. 8.Whenever water goes through any living body, the chemistry of its dissolved solute changes. The entire ecosystem along a river and at its mouth has evolved in response to the natural and dynamic changes in the chemistry of flowing water as well as small-scale physiographic changes along the river and its adjacent region. This chemistry will change in case of river linking.

9.There is a strong symbiosis between marine and land life systems on earth. The hydrologic cycle provides fresh water to the land from the oceans. Water, fallen on land either as rainfall on snowfall, weathers rocks on land and picks up the nutrient elements as dissolved solutes, and carries them through surface run-off (rivers) as well as subsurface flows to the sea. The linking of rivers would cause little water to be returned back to sea. If only little water is returned to the oceans there are at least two major consequences. 10.Marine life is deprived of nutrient supply and marine productivity could get adversely affected. 11.The Bay of Bengal (BoB) is uniquely characterised by the presence of a less-dense and low-saline layer of water. The presence of this low-salinity layer helps in the maintenance of high sea-surface temperatures (greater than 28°C), a requirement though to be responsible for the intensification of summer monsoon in the BoB. A very large part of the Indian subcontinent gets summer monsoon rainfall because of the development and maintenance of a low-pressure system in the Bay of Bengal. Monsoons can get adversely affected if floods dont take place. 12.Once reservoirs and virtually a country-wide network of canals are created, this will play havoc with this ecological role. It will not only impoverish river valleys and the prosperity, it will lead to systained displacement of local communities. 13.As one sees in Punjab and Haryana, it will lead to waterlogging and salinity in the absence of proper drainage that rivers provide. 14.It will fragment wildlife habitats: Animals require corridors to connect them to far-flung forests, and these will be severed by the construction of reservoirs and canals.

Political:

Moreover, this river-linking plan can become a potential source of perennial conflicts at various level: centre versus state, state versus state, state versus people, urban versus rural etc.

Constitutional:

The National River-Linking Plan is a blatant violation of constitutional provisions, especially in two areas. 1.First, it is a cryptic effort to circumvent states’ control over water and placing it in the hands of the centre, de factor.

2.Second, it wipes out all the ambiguous and unresolved issues or rights over water, forest, and land, in just one stroke. This second aspect poses a great threat to the functioning of thousands of field-based smaller action groups engaged in empowering local communities, mostly rural, voiceless and marginalized. It therefore becomes pertinent that such groups have adequate information of the river-linking plan and keep updating it from time to time in the future, as and when the complete picture begins to unravel, especially those groups working in the areas falling under these 30 river links.

3.The plan may also lead to greater conflict at the international level. Cooperation of neighbouring countries, is crucial for the success of the river-linking project. 4.Economic-Socio-Environmental Considerations 5.It has been claimed in the official documents that no new reservoirs are planned for construction under this river network plan in Peninsular India but it seems that it is merely a technical jargon. It implies that various dam projects, pending with the government owing to various reasons, will be brought under the fold of this plan and will be put on fast track in the name of national interest. Many of these projects are delayed because of environmental and financial reasons, which mean that now these parameters will be swept away.

Macro-Economic and Financial Factors

1The two components of inter-linking, the Himalayan and the Peninsular Rivers Development will cost Rs. 560,000 crores (US $112 billion), at 2003 rates. The enormity of this can be gauged from the fact that this amount is: 2.More than the total debt incurred in last 50 years 3.It is equal to 25% of the national GDP 4.It is 2.5 times more than the tax revenue 5.More than the total market capitalization of India’s 500 biggest companies 6.The inter-linking of rivers can only be completed by taking massive foreign loans, as many of the current ongoing water development projects are being completed with similar loans. It is really essential to push the country into yet another debt cycle? Why are other successful alternatives not being given priority and tried? In this context it becomes pertinent to look at the performance of the dams. 7.In last two decades of the past century, very strong anti-dam, mass-based, people’s movements have emerged throughout the country, drawing worldwide attention on some fundamental issues related to water management. 8.As per government claims, overall 79,292 hectares of forest land, will come under the submergence of this project. 9.Secondly, there are 24 river basins in India, as per the MOER, GOI. Even a cursory look at the boundaries of each river basin is enough to tell a common man that a large number of lifts will be involved in the river linking. 10.Thirdly, each river regime is unique in its own way within its own ecosystem. Which will be disrupted

Engineering limitations

The most important of these pertains to the difficulty of lifting water from the north up to the Deccan. This will entail enormous amounts of energy much of which has to be produced by hydro power to begin with and renders the scheme infructuous from the start. It has been suggested that a Central authority should construct huge reservoirs on the Ganga and Brahmaputra and link these two mighty rivers with canals, thereby diverting surplus waters south-eastwards into the Mahanadi. Any scheme that smacks of gigantomania of this kind ought to be questioned

महाराष्ट्र में पानी की कमी की समस्या

महाराष्ट्र में पानी की कमी की समस्या के विकट रूप धारण करने के परिप्रेक्ष्य में नदियों को जोड़ने की योजना पर काफी ज्यादा चर्चा हो रही है। सूखे जैसी स्थिति उत्पन्न होने के लिए नदी ग्रिड बनाने का प्रयास नदियों को जाड़ने से सूखे की समस्या का कुछ हल तो निकलेगा लेकिन इससे अन्य भारी समस्याएं भी खड़ी होंगी। नदियों को जोड़ने के समर्थन में पर्यावरण से जुड़ा एक तर्क यह दिया जाता है कि नदियों में बाढ़ का आना एक समस्या है और नदी ग्रिड बनाने से इस समस्या से निपटा जा सकता है। लेकिन बाढ़ एक प्राकृतिक घटना है- नदियों में आने वाली बाढ़ विशेषकर निचले इलाकों में आने वाली बाढ़ कृषि और पर्यावरण के लिए लाभदायक है। संपूर्ण मानव सभ्यता और विकास कृषि की निरंतरता का परिणाम है, और प्राकृतिक बाढ़ जैसी घटना से बढ़कर अन्य कोई भी अन्य घटना अधिक लाभदायक नहीं है। बाढ़ एक निर्माणात्मक भू-भौगोलिक प्रक्रिया है। गंगा के मैदान में जलोढ़ मिट्टी के जमाव के लिए बाढ़ ही जिम्मेदार है। बाढ़ का पानी अपने साथ पोषक खनिज लवणों को लाता है, जो मैदानों में जमा हो जाता है। यह प्रक्रिया कृषि के लिए महत्वपूर्ण है। नदियों की बाढ़ खनिज पदार्थों से युक्त जलोढ़ मृदा का निक्षेप करके उपजाऊ मिट्टी का निर्माण करती है। यह पोषक पदार्थ नदियों के पानी में प्राकृतिक रूप से मौजूद रहता है। यदि नदियों को जोड़ दिया गया तो नदियों में आने वाली निर्माणात्मक बाढ़ की प्रक्रिया खत्म हो जाएगी। नदियों में बाढ़ नियंत्रित करने से जलोढ़ मृदा की आपूर्ति बंद हो जाएगी और तटीय निक्षेप कम होने के कारण समुद्री लहरों से तटीय डेल्टा के क्षरण की समस्या पैदा हो जायेगी। भूभौगोलिक दृष्टि से लंबे समय के बाद उपजाऊ भूमि की उत्पादकता में गिरावट आने लगेगी और तटीय इलाकों में समुद्री विस्तार बढ़ेगा। यदि वैश्विक उष्मन एक सच्चाई है और इसका प्रभाव बढ़ा तो पूर्वी तट पर समुद्र का जल स्तर बढ़ेगा और जलोढ़ मिट्टी का आपूर्ति बंद होने से तटीय क्षरण की गति तेज होगी। बाढ़ के मैदान नदियों में आई बाढ़ के दौरान अतिरिक्त पानी को सोख लेते हैं और सूखे के दिनों में नदी में न्यूनतम प्रवाह कायम रखने एवं कृषि की निरंतरता बनाये रखने के लिए उपयोगी होते है। एक बार यदि नदियों को जोड़ दिया गया तो जलोढ़ बाढ़ के मैदानों का बनना बंद हो जाएगा। पृथ्वी पर समुद्री और भूमि के जीवन व्यवस्था के बीच एक मजबूत सहजीवी सम्बन्ध स्थापित है। जल चक्र जिस स्वच्छ जल को धरती पर वर्षा के रूप में उपलब्ध कराता है वह उसे समुद्र से ही प्राप्त करता है। धरती पर वर्षा और बर्फबारी के रूप में जो पानी गिरता है वह घुलनशील तत्वों से पोषण प्राप्त करके उसे नदियों से होते हुए समुद्र में डाल देता है। यदि समुद्र में संतुलन से कम पानी लौटेगा तो उसके दो बड़े परिणाम होंगे- समुद्र में प्राकृतिक पोषक पदार्थों की कमी हो जाएगी और समुद्री उत्पादकता बुरी तरह प्रभावित हो सकती है। जिससे जीव जंतु और पारिस्थिति तंत्र दोनों का सन्निपात हो जाएगा। बंगाल की खाड़ी की एक अनोखी विशेषता, वहां कम घने और कम खारे पानी की एक परत है। कम खारे पानी की यह सतह समुद्र की सतह का तापमान 28डिग्री सेंटीग्रेड से ऊंचा बनाए रखने में मददगार होता है,जो बंगाल की खाड़ी में ग्रीष्मकालीन मानसून को तीव्रता देने के लिए जिम्मेदार है क्योंकि इसकी वजह से ही वाष्पीकरण अधिक होता है। भारतीय महाद्वीप का एक काफी बड़ा हिस्सा बंगाल की खाड़ी में बनने वाले हवा के कम दबाव की व्यवस्था के कारण गर्मियों में मानसूनी वर्षा हासिल करता है। यदि बाढ़ नहीं आएगी वाष्पीकरण प्रभावित होगा और मानसून बहुत ज्यादा प्रभावित होगा। पूरे देश में जल संग्रहणों और नहरों के व्यापक जाल के निर्माण के कारण पर्यावरण की व्यापक हानि होने की आशंका है। इससे न केवल नदी घाटियों एवं उनकी संपन्नता को ही नुकसान होगा वरन इससे काफी ज्यादा विस्थापन की समस्या भी पैदा होगी। प्रत्येक नदी का अपना पारिस्थितिकीय-तंत्र होता है। नदी ग्रिड के कारण उसमें भी असंतुलन पैदा होगा। यह नदियों का सहबंधन जटिल पारितंत्रीय समस्याओं को जन्म देगा- नदियों के निचले तटवर्ती भागें में जैन विविधता की कमी आ जाएगी, बहुत से जीवों की मृत्यु हो जाएगी। यदि ऐसा होता है तो गंगा नदी के निचले भाग सूखे की चपेट में आ जायेगें। नदियों में जल की मात्रा, इसका वेग, इसका रसायन शास्त्र, इन सभी में परिवर्तन के कारण नदी के जैविक समुदायों पर प्रतिकूल प्रभाव ही पडे़गा। राजनीतिक रूप से भी नदियों को जोड़ने की योजना से अनेक विवाद पैदा होंगे। इससे केंद्र एवं राज्यों के बीच, राज्य और राज्यों के बीच और सरकार तथा जनता और शहरी तथा ग्रामीण के आधार पर मतभेद और बढ़ने की आशंका है। नदियों को जोड़ने की योजना से संविधान के प्रावधानों का, विशेषकर दो क्षेत्रों में सर्वाधिक उल्लंघन होने की आशंका है- सबसे पहले इससे जल पर राज्यों के नियंत्रण का अंत हो जाएगा और इस पर केंद्र का नियंत्रण हो जाएगा। दूसरा, इसके कारण केवल एक ही झटके में जल, जंगल और जमीन पर से सभी सार्वभौम अधिकार समाप्त हो जाएंगे। इसके कारण ग्रामीण और दूरदराज के क्षेत्रों में स्थानीय समुदायों के सशक्तिकरण के लिए काम करने वाले छोटे समूहों के लिए भी खतरा पैदा हो जाएगा। इसका सबसे ज्यादा शिकार गरीब, वंचित और उपेक्षित ही होंगे। इस योजना के कारण अंतर्राष्ट्रीय स्तर पर भी काफी विवाद पैदा होने की आशंका है। बांग्लादेश और पाकिस्तान इससे कुप्रभावित हो सकते हैं। नदी ग्रिड परियोजना की सफलता के लिए पड़ोसी देशों का सहयोग भी काफी अधिक आवश्यक है। आर्थिक-सामाजिक-पर्यावरणीय दृष्टि से भी यह परियोजना किसी भी तरह व्यावहारिक नहीं होगी। आधिकारिक दस्तावेज में यह कहा गया है कि नदी ग्रिड योजना के तहत प्रायद्वीपीय भारत में किसी भी तरह का जल संग्रहण भंडार बनाने की आवश्यकता नहीं होगी लेकिन यह केवल एक तकनीकी शब्दजाल है। सरकार ने कई बांधों के निर्माण की जिन योजनाओं को स्थगित कर रखा है उन सभी को इस योजना के अंतर्गत लाकर राष्ट्रीय हित के नाम पर उनमें तेजी लाई जाएगी। इनमें से कई परियोजनाएं वित्तीय और पर्यावरणीय कारणों से रुकी हुई हैं। विस्तृत आर्थिक और वित्तीय परिप्रेक्ष्य में देखा जाए तो भी यह योजना बहुत व्यावहारिक नजर नहीं आती है। हिमालयी और प्राद्वीपीय नदियों को जोड़ने की लागत 2003 की दरों के आधार पर 560,000 करोड़ रुपये है। यह रकम- पिछले 50 वर्ष के कुल ऋण को चुकाने के लिए पर्याप्त है। यह राष्ट्रीय जीडीपी का कुल 25% है। यह कुल कर राजस्व के करीब 2.5 गुने से ज्यादा है। यह भारत की शीर्ष 500 कंपनियों की कुल बाजार पूंजी से भी अधिक है। इसके अलावा नदियों को जोड़ने की योजना को विदेशों से भारी ऋण लेकर ही पूरा किया जा सकता है। हाल ही में कई जल परियोजनाओं को इसी प्रकार से पूरा किया गया है। क्या देश को फिर से एक नए ऋण जाल में फंसाना आवश्यक है। क्यों नहीं अन्य सफल और वैकल्पिक उपायों को प्राथमिकता दी जाती है या उनको क्यों नहीं अजमाया जाता। इन सबको बांधों की सफलता के परिप्रेक्ष्य में देखा जाना चाहिए। पिछली सदी के अंतिम दो दशकों में पूरे देश में जन आधारित बांध विरोधी आंदोलनों ने पूरी मजबूती से अपनी लड़ाई लड़ी है। इन आंदोलनों ने जल प्रबंधन के कुछ मूल अधिकारों के संदर्भ में पूरी दुनिया का ध्यान अपनी ओर आकर्षित किया। सरकार के दावे के अनुसार इस परियोजना में 79,202 हैक्टेयर वन भूमि डूब क्षेत्र में आएगी। भारत में 24 नदी घाटियां हैं। यदि सभी नदी घाटियों की सीमाओं पर ध्यान दिया जाए तो एक साधारण व्यक्ति भी कह सकता है कि नदी ग्रिड बनाने में काफी अधिक लिफ्टों की आवश्यकता पड़ेगी। तकनीकी तौर पर भी देखा जाए तो इसमें सबसे बड़ी समस्या उत्तर भारत से पानी को लिफ्ट करके दक्कन में भेजना है। इसमें काफी अधिक ऊर्जा की आवश्यकता लगेगी जो कि इस परियोजना के शुरू में उत्पन्न होने वाली ऊर्जा से काफी अधिक होगी। यह कहा जा रहा है कि एक केंद्रीय संस्था गंगा और ब्रह्मपुत्र की घाटियों में विशाल जलाशयों का निर्माण करेगी और अतिरिक्त जल को महानदी घाटी में भेजा जाएगा। इस योजना में इतने विशाल पैमाने पर निर्माण करना होगा कि इसकी सफलता में संदेह पैदा होना स्वाभाविक है।