"GANGA" is not for sale
Suez - Degrémont and
the Privatization of Ganga Water
by Vandana Shiva, Afsar H. Jafri, Kunwar Jalees
New Delhi, India
The water for the Suez-Degrémont plant in Delhi will come from Tehri Dam through the Upper Ganga Canal up to Muradnagar in Western Uttar Pradesh (UP) and then through the giant pipeline to Delhi. The Upper Ganga Canal, which starts at Haridwar and carries the holy water of Ganga up to Kanpur via Muradnagar, is the main source of irrigation for this region.
The 9th August Rally at Bhanera village was the culmination of the 300 kilometer-long mobilization drive along the Ganga by the farmers of Garhwal and inhabitants of the devastated city of Tehri to liberate the river from being privatized. The rally was launched from Haridwar - one of the oldest and holiest cities of India built on the banks of Ganga - where hundreds of farmers, together with priests, citizens and worshippers of Ganga announced that "Ganga is not for Sale", and vowed to defend the freedom of this holy river. Thousands of farmers and others in villages along the route joined the rally to declare that they would never allow Suez to take over Ganga waters.
The rallyists joined more than 300 people from across the country, representing over a hundred grassroots groups intellectuals, writers and lawyers, at the 3-day Convention on Earth Democracy - People's Rights to Natural Resources, organized by Navdanya from 10th to 12th August 2002, at Indian Social Institute, New Delhi. The Convention sought to provide evidence of the state's violent appropriation of people's land, water and biodiversity, and evolve common action plans and strategies to defend collective community rights to resources.
"There is only one struggle left - the struggle for the right to life", said Magasaysay Award willing writer Mahaswheta Devi. Eminent author Arundhati Roy and eminent scientist Vandana Shiva stressed the urgent need to take collective united action to defend people's rights to land, water and biodiversity.
The farmers of western Uttar Pradesh, Tehri and Muradnagar are not the only ones whose local common resource are being appropriated by the state, to be handed over to corporations for making corporate profits. All over India, such appropriation of people's natural resources is taking place, often accompanied by state violence, as a result of unethical practices of globalization being pushed through the dictates of the World Bank (WB), International Monetary fund (IMF) and World Trade Organization (WTO). Globalization for the large majority of the poor in India has meant losing what they have in the form of water, land and biodiversity through transferring the common property of the villagers and tribals to global corporations. This is being achieved through water privatization, patent regimes and creating new property rights to biodiversity and new genetic materials, liberalization and corporatization of agriculture and liberalization of investment which is alienating land from the poorest in total violation of the Indian Constitution which guarantee's human rights and natural rights.
The water scarcity has hit the local Adivasi and Dalit community the hardest. The adivasis are asserting their primary rights to water and demanding that the Coca-Cola restore the environment, pay compensation, dose down the factory and quit the country. In another instance, Coca-Cola is also sucking about 200 cusecs of water every day through four - 20 inches pipes in Khichri Village near NTPC in Ghaziabad for its Kinley brand. Due to this the water level in this region has gone down by 10 feet.
It is also known that Coca-Cola factories at Nemam (Madurai), Athur (Chennai), in Thane District, Khammam in Andhra etc have created similar problems. The problem is not isolated nor exclusively to Coca-Cola alone, but is repeated wherever water resources have been handed over to corporations who are overexploiting it.
Ondeo Degrémont, a subsidiary of Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux Water Division, has been awarded a 2 billion rupees contract (almost 50 million dollars) for the design, building and operation (for 10 years) of a 635 million liters/day Drinking Water Production Plant at Sonia Vihar in New Delhi to cater 3 million inhabitants of the capital.
Won through the collaboration of all the Group companies, within the context of an international call for tenders, this 2 billion rupees contract is the first contract of this size in India, after Bombay, for Degrémont.
World leader in water treatment engineering, Ondeo Degrémont has a turnover of 810 million euros in 1999 and it is present in more than 70 countries with 3,600 employees while Suez operates in 130 counties in all five continents. Out of the 30 water contracts awarded by the big cities as on 1990's water privatization drive, 20 went to the Suez (http://www.ondeodegremont.com).Degrémont, on its web site, proudly state "today, the support of Suez enables Degrémont to use its know-how throughout the world: pumping water, treating and transporting it, collecting, treating and controlling the pollution of waste water are some of the company's oldest skills. This support results in a combination of technical experience and reassuring financial basis, which can be made available to fund construction and operating contracts".
The lining of the canal to prevent recharging of groundwater has terrified the farmers of the whole region of western UP. At a meeting organized by Navdanya on 21st July at Chaprauli, the land of Choudhury Charan Singh, ex-Prime Minister, farmers stated, "we will not allow the Canal to be lined and supply water to Delhi. Instead the government should link the Upper Ganga Canal to the Yamuna Canal passing through this area to tackle the severe drought."
Privatization of water has been justified on the ground that full cost must be paid when water giants get water markets whereas with water privatization they demand a full price from the people. However, as the case of the Delhi Water plant shows, the corporations get the water for free without paying for full social and environmental cost to those rural communities from whom the water is taken.
The country has got into huge debt for the loans taken from World Bank for the Ganga Canal. At the same time the giant 3.25 meter-diameter pipe is being built through public finances. In effect the public pays the price while transnational companies make the profit.
Private Public Partnership is the buzzword in the water privatization. They are also the dominant theme on the up coming World Summit for Sustainable Development at Johannesburg, 10 years after the Rio Summit. Delhi water privatization is a clear example that shows that private public partnership in water amount to public cost and private gain. Delhi Jal Board's proposal to meet the needs of the entire population of Delhi includes activities centered around the public-private partnerships models as propagated by the World Bank, with an emphasis on commercialization and cost recovery.
Delhi Jal Board (DJB) claims that they have no intention of raising the water rates for the time being. However, as has been seen in the case of Enron with electricity, the Orissa Lift Irrigation Corporation in Orissa, and other cases, privatization leads very quickly to a steep rise in the price of water and electricity. With regards to concession to the poor, DJB said there would be no such proposal. DJB will continue to deliver the water to Delhites and maintain infrastructure i.e. burst water pipes, billing etc. Thus the people of Delhi will not just be paying Suez and the Jal Board for the water directly, they will be paying through taxes to maintain the infrastructure, thus freeing the corporation of any expenses which might detract from their profits.
Delhi receives its water from 3 sources:
Apart from groundwater, Delhi gets its water from the Ganga Canal, the western Yamuna canal, the Bhakra canal and the Yamuna.
The process for allotment of contract for the Sonia Vihar Plant to Ondeo Degrémont has not been without controversy and objections by senior DJB members. Of the 3 companies that bid for the tender, Ondeo Degrémont was chosen despite being higher in cost than the two other contenders, and allegedly an inferior technology. It was also known that Ondeo Degrémont had already experienced problems with previous contracts in Surat and Delhi (Ohkla) where they were 2 years behind in the project.
Jagdish Anand, a member of the Opposition party, has accused senior politicians of trying to bribe him into silence. Earlier also I had exposed the irregularities committed by the Jal Board and its officials with regard to the allotment of Sonia Vihar 140 MGD (million gallons a day) plant ... (they) approached me on more than one occasion. They independently requested me not to expose the working of the Delhi Jal Board.... They also tried to tempt me with suitable reward and my adjustment in lieu of my not exposing the irregularities being committed by Delhi Jal Board.... (The Hindu, New Delhi, Nov. 28).
Yet another accusation was against the politicians and senior DJB members of pushing through a contract to Larsen and Toubro for laying of water pipeline in Sonia Vihar at a cost that was approx. Rs 30 crore more than the justified amount. The clear water transmission mains will supply water from Sonia Vihar Water Treatment Plant to different parts of Trans-Yamuna-Delhi.
Former mayors of Delhi Yog Dhyan Ahuja and Shakuntala Arya (both members of D]B) said that though the appropriate amount for laying the 33.94X km long water pipeline within Delhi was about Rs X5 crore the contract has been awarded for Rs 111.31 crore.
Out of the four firms that were short listed, two did not even submit their tenders and the lowest tender bid was as high as Rs 14X crore. Though a final offer of Rs 111.31 crore was made by Larsen and Toubro only on February 27, 2001, the technical committee had already given its approval a month earlier.
Tehri, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Garhwal on the banks of the Ganga in the Himalayas, is in the process of being submerged as the tunnels of the controversial Tehri Dam are being closed. More than a hundred thousand people have been displaced by the dam, costing thousands of crores. In 1994, a budget of Rs. 6000 crores had been earmarked for it. The figure must have escalated substantially since then.
The main stream of the region's Bhagirathi River reversed the direction of its flow after officials shut the gates of two water tunnels.
Tehri's main town is located uncomfortably close to the swelling waters, which have already submerged parts of the town. The only bridge linking the old town with the new, and the rest of the country, is almost submerged under rising waters. The people of Tehri say dam authorities have stopped the river's natural flow to intimidate them into leaving without staking a claim to a rehabilitation package. The 200-year old town of Tehri is expected to be totally submerged by November 2002. Incidentally this part of Uttaranchal's Garhwal region is often referred to as 'Devbhumi' or the "Abode of the Gods".
The Tehri dam project was first conceived in 1949 and was sanctioned by the Planning Commission in 1972. It is located in the outer Himalaya in the Tehri- Garhwal district of Uttaranchal. It is planned to be the fifth highest dam in the world - 260.5 meters high and spread over an area of 45 square kilometers in the Bhagirathi and Bhilangana valleys near Tehri town. The dam will submerge 4200 hectares of the most fertile flat land in the Bhagirathi and Bhilangana valleys without really benefiting the region in any way.
Ever since the dam was sanctioned in 1972, local people have been opposing the dam and offering resistance to its construction. Many scientists and environmentalists have pointed out the grave risks involved in building this dam in a highly earthquake-prone zone. But the government dismisses these allegations of risk, saying that all those who oppose the Tehri dam are "anti-development".
The huge Tehri dam is located in a seismic fault zone. This area is earthquake prone. Between 1816 and 1991, the Garhwal region has witnessed 17 earthquakes, the recent one being the Uttarkashi earthquake of October 1991 and the Chamoli earthquake of 1998.
The International Commission on Large Dams has declared the site ''extremely hazardous".
Geological surveyors have assessed that some of the mountains near the dam are very unstable because they do not have any vegetation cover. In case the dam collapses due to an earthquake or any other fault, the devastation will be unimaginable. The huge reservoir built at such a height will be emptied in 22 minutes. Within 60 minutes Rishikesh will be under 260 meters of water. Soon after Haridwar will be totally submerged under 232 meters with the next 23 minutes. Bijnor, Meerut, Hapur and Bulandshahar will be under water within 12 hours (Sunderlal Bahuguna). Thus the dam is potentially dangerous for large parts of north-western India, and large areas in the Gangetic plains could be devastated in the event of a mishap. It is also estimated that the life of the dam could not be more than 30 years because of heavy sedimentation. So far as the electricity generation is concerned. Is it worthwhile to have a dam spanning 30 years with so much ecological instability and uneconomic viability?Moreover, with the building of the dam, the River Ganga will become a dead river. Ganga is not just any river; it is a unique symbol of our ancient civilization and culture. Ganga water has the quality of remaining fresh for many years and is, therefore, part of many sacred rituals, including the pouring of a few drops of Ganga Jal into the mouth of a dying person. People come from all-over the country to perform asthi pravah in the Ganga at Haridwar. Once the Ganga is made to flow through tunnels dammed at Tehri (and also at Bhaironghati Thala dam), this sacred river will soon lose the quality of freshness and purity it is mainly revered for.
However a report by the World Commission on Dams (WCD), published in November 2000, alleges that "few dams have ever been looked at to see if the benefits - outweigh the costs". According to the UK's New Scientist magazine, these costs include social upheaval, increased flooding, damage to farmland and the extinction of freshwater fish species. The WCD report also observes that dams cause ecological damage and exacerbate flooding, and that many deliver less than half the amount of water expected. The World Bank, the sponsor of the study, is not learning any lessons of the WCD report.
Ironically, the disaster management plan submitted by Tehri Project authorities states that Tehri dam has no built-in provision for providing protection against floods and that flood management of the down-stream area is not the direct responsibility of the project authorities.
Since 10% of the dams in India and abroad have failed or collapsed, it is therefore important to make the dam break analysis and disaster management reports mandatory. In fact, the disaster management report submitted to the Union Ministry of Environment by the project authorities clearly emphasizes the need for such reports. Further the Union Ministry of Environment in their conditional clearance insisted on the preparation of such a report in consultation with the people likely to be affected in case of a major accident. However, such a report has not yet been prepared and the safety of the Tehri project have not been properly assessed.
Despite all these huge costs to the people and the government exchequer, Suez-Degrémont is not paying any of the social, ecological or financial cost for the construction of Tehri Dam. Rather it will get free water and will sell it to the people of Delhi at a very high cost.
"Glaciers in most areas of the world are known to be receding," said Kargel, an international coordinator for Global Land Ice Measurements from Space (GLIMS), USA. "But glaciers in the Himalaya are wasting at alarming and accelerating rates, as indicated by comparisons of satellite and historic data, and as shown by the widespread, rapid growth of lakes on the glacier surfaces."
The Gangotri glacier between Kashmir and Nepal is retreating at an accelerated rate. The Gangotri glacier-and many others-feed the Ganga River Basin, upon which hundreds of millions of people, including those in New Delhi and Calcutta, depend for fresh water. The glacier, spread over an area of 260 sq.km, is of great significance for maintaining the water balance in north India.
Observations on the retreat of the Gangotri go back to 1842, and between 1842 and 1935 the snout of the Gangotri glacier was receding at an average rate of 7.3 m a year.
Indian scientists echoed the same in Current Science January 2001 issue. A group of geologists from HNB Garhwal University, who conducted the study revealed that the retreat has become much faster than it was before 1971. Reporting their findings the scientists say that data for the last six decades - 1936 to 1996, clearly show that the glacier had receded by 1,147 m, with the regression assuming alarming proportions particularly over the last 25 years. It has retreated by more than 850 m between 1971 and 1996 alone, as against a total of 2000 m in the last 200 years. The study has also found out significant changes in the shape and position of the glacier, which is 30 km long and with a width varying from 0.5 to 2.5 km. In May and June 1999, the scientists found that the glacier's snout changed its shape every day, with huge blocks of ice getting detached on a daily basis.
The findings of HNB Garhwal University scientists are based on investigations over three and a half years, between May 1996 and October 1999. The aim of the Garhwal University group was to establish evidence for the increased rate of retreat seen in the earlier data sets of other research groups in terms of the geomorphological characteristics of the glacier.
However, some of the regular visitors to Gangotri have also observed the same. According to them the 26-km-long Gangotri glacier in Uttaranchal has been shrinking by about 18 metres a year. Swami Sundaranand, a priest and ecologist, who has lived alongside Gangotri for over half a century is one of the first to point out that Gangotri Glacier is retreating. "Over the past five years or so, the Gangotri glacier has annually receded at a rate of nearly 10 metres'', said the Swami.
Geologists do not rule out the possibility of the holiest and greatest of all Indian rivers, Ganga, doing a vanishing act in coming years. If the glacier could recede two kilometers over some 150 years, the future may be gloomy for the mother of all Indian rivers.
According to climatologists, mountain glaciers, such as those in the Himalayas, are particularly sensitive indicators of climate change. While ice reflects the sun's rays, lake water absorbs and transmits heat more efficiently to the underlying ice, kicking off a feedback that creates further melting. According to a 2001 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, scientists estimate that surface temperatures could rise by 1.4°C to 5.8°C by the end of the century. The researchers have found a strong correlation between increasing temperatures and glacier retreat - (Cynthia.MOCarroll@gsfc.nasa.gov - 29 May 2002).
Glacier changes in the next 100 years could significantly affect agriculture, water supplies, hydroelectric power, transportation, mining, coastlines, and ecological habitats. Melting ice may cause both serious problems and, for the short term in some regions, helpful increases in water availability, but all these impacts will change with time. This would only benefit Suez Degrémont which would encash the increased flow of water in the Ganga and diverting them to Delhi through Upper Ganga Canal for selling it to elite Delhities.
Not only the Gangotri Glacier but also several other Himalayan glaciers are melting fast. The melting glaciers of Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal have rung alarm bells among environmentalists. They fear this might result in unprecedented floods and thereafter acute water scarcity in the plains.
The Bara Shigri glacier in Himachal Pradesh and the Pindari glacier in Uttaranchal are shrinking at an alarming rate of about 36 metres and 135 metres per year. The deep cracks in the Chhota Shigri glacier of Himachal indicate that it was receding. Studies indicate that it was shrinking by 6.7 metres per year and the Trilokinath glacier was receding by 15.4 metres. The size of the Bara Shigri glacier reduced by 650 metres between 1997-1995, while the Trilokinath glacier got reduced by 400 metres between 1969 to 1995.
Despite a severe winter in 1997, the 5-km-long Dokriani Bamak glacier in Himachal Pradesh shrunk by 20 metres, while its average melting rate had been 16.5 metres a year. The glacier might soon vanish in the case it continues to melt.
Studies have indicated that almost all 335 glaciers in the Sutlej, Beas and Spiti basins were receding. These have created artificial lakes which might cause floods in the low-lying areas (Source: The Tribune Online Edition, 26 May 2001).
Water is a prime resource that fulfills a number of significant functions. It can be used lavishly or efficiently, but cannot be replaced. It is an indispensable, finite and vulnerable resource. Virtually no activity in society or process in the landscape or in the environment would be possible in the absence of water.
India is one of the few countries in the world endowed with abundant land and water resources. Water is basically required for domestic consumption and agriculture. Apart from this water is used by industries. Diverting water from domestic and agriculture to industries poses serious problems. Presently per capita availability is about 2300M3/p/year, which is going to decline 1400M3/p/year by the year 2050.
Of the 187 MHM (million hectare metres) of water 60 MHM of the surface water and 43.2 MHM of ground water are available for use. The present utility is about 60 MHM for various purposes.
Since the population is likely to stabilize at a maximum of 1640 million by 2050, the country will have to plan for increasing the food grain production from the current level of 200 MT to 450-500 MT by 2050. Also the production of vegetables and fruits should be increased as the production at present is not even sufficient to the minimum requirements of the people. To achieve the objectives, the current irrigation potential of 96.9 Mha (million hectares) (gross area) will have to be increased to about 140 Mha.
The plant roots suck or extract water from the soil to live and grow. The main part of this water does not remain in the plant, but escapes to the atmosphere as vapor through the plant's leaves and stem. This process is called transpiration. Transpiration happens mainly during daytime. Water from an open water surface escapes as vapor to the atmosphere during the day. The same happens to water on the soil surface as to water on the leaves and stem of a plant. This process is called evaporation.
The water need of a crop thus consists of transpiration plus evaporation. Therefore, the crop water is used for "evapotranspiration".
The water need of a crop is usually expressed in mm/day, mm/month or mm/season, or cm/hectare.
Suppose the water need of a certain crop in a very hot, dry climate is 10 mm/day. This means that each day the crop needs a water layer of 10 mm over the whole area on which the crop is grown. This means that this 10 mm has to be supplied by rain or irrigation every day.
There is a large variation of the total growing period not only between crops, but also within one crop type. In general, it can be assumed that the growing period for a certain crop is longer when the climate is cool and shorter when the climate is warm.
As said earlier the 635 million liters daily (MLD) of Ganga water will be diverted from the Upper Ganga Canal to Delhi, which would affect the agriculture potential of the canal and the food security of the region where the canal had been irrigating since more than one century.
Some of the major crops in the area, which is irrigated by Upper Ganga Canal are Wheat, Rice (Basmati), Rice (Coarse), Sugarcane, Maize, Potato, Gram and others.
Briefly, the water requirement for cultivation of any crop and its productivity depends on several factors, such as
According to experts, it is a complicated procedure to calculate this water requirement for any crop, however an effort has been made to estimate the water requirement to grow different crops on the land irrigated by Upper Ganga Canal. The water requirement to grow 1 kg. of a particular crop would facilitate to estimate the implications on agriculture sustainability if water (6350 lac liters per day) is drawn from Upper Ganga Canal at Muradnagar.
Similarly we may calculate the water requirement to grow rice.
The annual water diverted to Delhi from the Upper Ganga Canal at the rate of 635 million liters per day will result in critical reduction in the production of food crops in the region, and thus possible destruction of national food security.
This massive diversion of water would have produced in a year
Alternatives to privatization of Ganga and meeting Delhi's water needs (1)
At present Delhi has allocation of waters from the Yamuna, the Ganga and the Beas (Bhakra project), in addition to ground water resources, with the total availability, as follows:
The above capacity can be reinforced through the following means:
It can be seen that the above measures would yield an additional 1.011 BCM of usable clean water, giving Delhi sufficient waters to meet its increased requirements of the next century and obviating the need to bring Tehri dam waters to Delhi.
The Water Liberation Campaign (Jal Swaraj Abhiyan) which had already organized a study tour of farmers from Tehri in Uttaranchal to Delhi for World Water Day is committed to stop the water theft by global water corporations in the name of public private partnership.
Specific demands to the Delhi Government are
The water liberation movement will continue to carry out independent studies and continue to do public awareness to ensure that water is not stolen from the rural poor and sold to the urban elite through water markets under the control of water giants like Suez.
Navdanya is a programme to conserve agricultural diversity. It places the farmer at the center of conservation and empowers to take control over the political, ecological and economic aspects of agriculture
Navdanya means nine seeds and these represent India's collective source of food security. It connotes a diverse ecological balance at every level, from the ecology of the earth to the ecology of our body.
Footnote 1. This section has been prepared by Cdr. Sureshwar D. Sinha of the Paani Morcha. Delhi, and has been taken from their website www.paanilllorclla.org
Published in In Motion Magazine, October 20, 2002
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