RIVER AND RIVER BASIN

GANGA:

In a serious of workshops/discourses, different aspects of the issues related to the river Ganga were explored namely

  1. Ganga River Basin Management policy – Exploring new paradigms in Ecological democracy and Swaraj.
  2. Imperial Canal development in India – The case of the Upper Ganga canal
  3. A collection on the river Kosi
  4. Don’t dam the Ganga, let it flow naturally

The reports put together question the current wisdom that a central authority is needed to save the Ganga, rather it is the other way around , namely that the revival of ecosystem requires a decentralization of the power set up which will allow the multiple concerns and view points to emerge that will help us to understand what is Ganga ? What it means to the communities that depend on it for sustenance? The multifarious ecological dimensions of the Ganga of which ecological flows and the river dolphin are only a part.

  1. Ganga River basin Management policy

The main theme of the conference was to explore new paradigms in ecological democracy and swaraj (self rule). Environmental scientists, experienced social activists, research scholars from various walks of life shared their views on this issue during various sessions of this conference.

The conference pointed out many aspects of the problem related to the river Ganga which have not been given due recognition in the policy which in the main has not broken away from its British moorings. It also questioned the process of the creation of a central authority on the Ganga namely the National Ganga river basin Authority (NGRBRA) as a response to struggles like that related to the Kosi. It pointed out that this undermines the powers of the State governments and the local authorities and ultimately leaves the question of the existence of the river itself unanswered.

  1. Imperial Canal development in India – The case of the Upper Ganga canal

The different speakers at the meeting covered a number of aspects related to the historical, political economic and ecological dimensions. The British for instance saw the process of canal building a means to establish control over the production process and generate revenue for the State.  There were a number of battles with the British with respect to the control they sought to exercise. Subseqently, many political considerations have governed the constructions of canals without a proper study of the local ecology and lack of appropriate backup systems to ensure timely availability of water. This has led to many problems for the farmers who have had to primarily depend on tube wells for irrigation of their crops. The relevance of canal irrigation needs to be questioned in the light of these experiences.

  1. River Kosi

The wisdom of trying to contain the river by embankments has been brought into question due to the havoc wrought by the floods in 2009 which were aggravated many times over due to the failure of the embankments to contain the river. The traditional method of cultivation that moved with the flow of the river has been destroyed and the new method leaves the farmers more vulnerable to the vagaries of the river than they were before. The collection highlights the struggle of the farmers on one hand and the multifaceted nature of the question which has no easy solutions in the current context.

  1. Towards Ecological flow in the Ganga

The process of damming the rivers has been brought into question worldwide as a result of the failure of these multipurpose damns to perform the functions that were expected of them. The experience where damns have resulted in the aggravation of flooding, ecological problems created by irrigation, the pollution of the rivers and c are among the many issues that have led to the increasing concern and debates on these issues. The series of articles cover a number of dimensions related to these burning issues.

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