'Climate change, erosion pushing new generations to poverty along Ganga'
Climate change and vicious river bank erosion in the post-Farakka Barrage period have blurred the lines between the rich and the poor and are pushing successive generations to grinding poverty along the lower stretches of the mighty Ganga in West Bengal.
The frequent nature of erosion is induced by hydraulic control by the commissioning of the barrage in 1975 and Indo-Bangladesh water sharing treaty of 1977 and 1996, experts say.
And the famed weaver's colony (taantis) in Shantipur block of West Bengal's Nadia district along the left bank of Bhagirathi-Hooghly, a distributary of the Ganga, is one glaring example of the cascading effects of international water policies and diplomacy. The town is around 75 km from the state capital Kolkata.
"If you are living along the banks of the Ganga, you have to learn to live with it," is how Nirmal Biswas of Shantipur likes to think of climate change and river bank erosion along the Ganga.
The 66-year-old is a resident of Gobarchar village in Nadia, over 200 km downstream of Farakka Barrage Project in Bengal's Murshidabad district.
Nirmal views resilience as a way of life as the nourishing Ganga "pushes" the land inwards.
But what he worries about, like the rest in his village, is that there would be no land left to satiate the hungry river.
"In the last 12 years, we have lost over 100 feet of land mass. We have urged the local administration to do something about it, but they are yet to give it proper attention," Biswas told this visiting IANS correspondent.
Tracing the extent of the wearing away with his fingers, Biswas said the intensity has increased in the last three to four years.
"Simply placing boulders doesn't protect our land from erosion and floods which are now frequent," he said.
Traditionally fishermen and weavers, Gobarchar's 12,000 residents have had to adapt as the water plays truant with livelihoods.
"In several of these villages, along Bhagirathi's left bank, on an average most villagers lost 40 to 60 percent of land to erosion in the post-Farakka barrage period. This has resulted in a kind of negative equalisation. The social hierarchy has disappeared due to land loss," Aznarul Islam, an expert who has extensively studied the erosion and its socio-economic impacts in the region, told IANS.
As the generations extend, families are becoming poorer and poorer.
"We did an analysis of generations (1970-1990-2014) and we found that as the generation extends, deprivation increases. Around 40 to 60 per cent of below the poverty line (BPL) families were found in the erosion stretch," said Islam, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, Barasat Government College.
They are also reluctant to "grab" alternative livelihood options, Islam noted.
Gobarchar's fishermen's miseries are compounded by certain "anti-social" practices that snuff out fish in the river, sparing the prawns which fetch a higher price. The advent of power looms has worsened the situation.
"Power looms need a good amount of capital investment. With the agriculture and fishing suffering, the younger lot are migrating to cities to make money to install power looms back here in the village," lamented Jeeban Sarkar, chief of the Shantipur fishermen's community.
What is more worrisome this year is the "historically low inflow" downstream of the Farakka in the Ganga. The barrage was designed to serve the need of preservation and maintenance of Kolkata Port by improving the regime and navigability of the Bhagirathi-Hoogly river system.
Salinity has gone up and a change in livelihood pattern has also emerged in the aftermath of the Farakka project, said Khodaker Azharul Haq, President, Bangladesh Water Partnership.
"It is in India's interest to also monitor why there is so much low flow in the Farakka itself. Climate change will affect everything in every possible way," Haq told IANS.
"Farakka was not designed to handle this. In the mid-60s there were no such climate change concerns. But now, any treaty that you sign should have a built-in climate change impact," Haq cautioned.
River expert Kalyan Rudra stressed the river needs a "playground" and it should be left for it to "oscillate laterally and spill off the sediment load carried during the monsoon."
"The massive intervention at Farakka has partially rejuvenated the river. But the deposition of sediment in the estuary impeding navigational channel continues, and there remains a wide gap between targeted goal and achievement of the Project," Rudra added.
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.



In June, 7 drought-hit states short of water
Of 11 states ravaged by drought in 2016, seven - Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Telangana - had less than average water in their reservoirs in June.
Levels in dam reservoirs were no more than 10 per cent of capacity for four of the 11 states as June ended, according to the data with the Central Water Commission. This is despite the fact that eight of the 11 had average rainfall in June; rains were 30 per cent short of the average normal in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Maharashtra.
Telangana's reservoirs are at two per cent of capacity, Maharashtra’s at 5.6 percent and Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka at 9.5 per cent, which means South Central India is particularly short on water. Maharashtra, with a 33 per cent deficit in June rainfall, was the worst-hit state at the end of June.
The situation in 2016 is a reminder of the 2009 drought that wreaked havoc with India’s economy by pushing inflation to double digits. But much will depend, experts said, on how the monsoon progresses over the next three months.
Although reasonable rainfall was reported from Maharashtra’s central and southeastern Marathwada region, a traditionally drought-prone area, reservoir levels remain at one per cent of capacity - as they have been since a month - an unprecedented situation.
Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh were four of 11 drought-hit states that reported more-than-average water in their reservoirs.
The southwest monsoon hit India eight days late, breaking over Kerala on June 8, 2016, instead of June 1. It reached Mumbai on June 20, 10 days later than it usually does.
Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh received more than average June rainfall till June 23, according to India Meteorological Department data.
While monsoon rains are underway in southern and eastern India, and most of the central plains, Gujarat and Rajasthan have got little or no rain.
Despite higher-than-average rainfall in June 2015, all states reported uniform shortfalls over the 2015 monsoon season, indicating that June rainfall is not a harbinger of what might happen.
If the two water indicators - reservoir levels and rainfall (in June) - are taken together, Maharashtra, as we said, is the worst-affected state in India.
Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, both equally affected by the drought and with water in their reservoirs at less than 10 percent, have benefitted from above-normal June rainfall.
Lowest water levels in Maharashtra reservoirs in eight years: Govt
While the CWC data covers only major reservoirs in Maharashtra, the state government water resources department puts water levels in Maharashtra dams at nine per cent of capacity, the lowest in eight years.
June rainfall in 2014 was a fourth of the average; in 2016, it was half of that. The northern and eastern areas of the state, the Vidarbha region, were worst hit in 2009, sparking a wave of farmer suicides.
“If we consider the four-month rainfall - June, July, August and September - as important for agriculture, a delayed monsoon will undoubtedly reduce the June rainfall,” Ranjan Kelkar, former Director General of India Meteorological Department (IMD) told IndiaSpend. “That tells us nothing about rainfall in the remaining three months; it all depends on how strong the coming monsoon winds are.”
In April, the Met forecast above-average monsoon rainfall for the June to September 2016 season, standing by its forecast in June. As Kelkar said, it all depends on the next three months.
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.



Dilution of values: Short term gain and long term pain

Human beings take a sanguine view of the long-term future, believing that life will take care of itself. It is the immediate future that bothers us more. In his famous book, Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman documents the human tendency to emphasize the ‘peak-end’ experience rather than the average experience over its duration”. 


According to Kahneman, human beings are inclined towards what they refer to as “the instant high”. Consequently, we prefer decisions that improve the short-term prospects, even at the cost of creating fundamental, structural long-term problems.


The financial crisis of 2008 was rooted in overleveraging and excessive risk taking. Despite clear evidence having emerged of high, unsustainable levels of debt, the financial markets kept encouraging more and more risky debt.


Post crisis, when reduction of interest rates has not succeeded, central banks have introduced negative interest rates. When QE1 (Quantitative Easing1) did not have the desired effect, we had the QE2 and QE3. When the first Greece bail-out did not succeed due to lack of fiscal discipline, providing a financial relief package was considered more critical than getting that country to avoid financial profligacy. It was only German insistence on financial discipline that prevented European Central Bank (ECB) insanity. Such examples can be easily multiplied manifold.


Ideas to resolve a specific problem often get abused through inappropriate application to different scenarios, purely based on convenience. The most abused proposition has, of course, been that of providing fiscal stimulus as a onetime palliative to overcome the recession in the 1930s.


Keynes had proposed fiscal stimulus as a onetime solution to a specific problem that confronted the global economy, but never as a generic antidote to underutilization of economic capacity. The proposition has, however, been used to justify persistent fiscal deficits the world over to such an extent that such pump priming has become almost a moral duty of governments. This, of course, is music to the ears of the politicians who can merrily engage in indiscriminate spending, without any qualms. Why worry about the long term implications such a policy may have? We can always take recourse, again inappropriately, to another contextually specific statement from the great man (Keynes, of course) that in the long run we are all dead!


There is a case here for a concept, which economists have termed as ‘moral hazard’. Moral hazard refers to any situation where one person takes decisions about how much risk to take and someone else bears the cost if things go wrong. Insurance is an area where moral hazard is a common phenomenon. We are likely to take better care of an asset that is not insured, compared to an asset, which we have insured. Similarly, insurance of deposits encourages banks to take greater risks in investment. They enjoy higher returns on investments; whereas being insured, the tab for any losses is picked up by the insurance companies.


As often happens in governance, the impact of a policy, good or bad, manifests itself only after a lag, by which time the government may have changed and the costs are borne by the new occupant. Alan Greenspan was not around to pick up the tab for his eventually rather disastrous policies that were responsible for the financial crisis. Nor was the cost of the financial crisis paid by the bankers and the shareholders of banks, but by the public at large in the form of government bailout, which in itself has created significant moral hazard.


Choices we make now come back to haunt us later. Support for dictatorships at various times has reduced the credibility of the US. Going to war against Saddam Hussain, without sufficient proof of possession of chemical weapons, has turned a large part of the Muslim community against the US and the western countries. The current terrorist activities are, in some sense, an outcome of such policies. Lower savings may increase demand temporarily but the long-term impact will be reduced investments and inflation. Ignoring climatic concerns today jeopardises the future of the planet and our children. Pump priming by the government may help generate demand in the current recessionary conditions but comes back to bite later with higher inflation and unsustainable debt. One of the major reasons the world has not been able to recover completely, even eight years after the financial crisis, is the inability to deleverage and relying on politically palatable, loose monetary policy rather than tougher structural changes. 


Ultimately, the future of mankind will be determined by the choices we make. Do we continue to succumb to the easier and expedient policies or does humanity have the courage to abide by basic principles and values that may be a little inconvenient but have stood the test of time.


(This is the concluding part of a 2-part series by the author.)

Here is the first part that you may also want to read: 

Dilution of values: Has the wisdom lost its sanctity in economics?


We are listening!

Solve the equation and enter in the Captcha field.

To continue

Sign Up or Sign In


To continue

Sign Up or Sign In



The Scam
24 Year Of The Scam: The Perennial Bestseller, reads like a Thriller!
Moneylife Magazine
Fiercely independent and pro-consumer information on personal finance
Stockletters in 3 Flavours
Outstanding research that beats mutual funds year after year
MAS: Complete Online Financial Advisory
(Includes Moneylife Magazine and Lion Stockletter)