Parineeta Dandekar | 29th September, 2014 | SANDRP
 
Board proclaiming that Farakka is the Pride of the Nation! Photo: Author

Last Sunday of every September is celebrated as ‘World Rivers Day’. It is a recent phenomenon, but in many senses more significant than World Water Day. While ‘Water’ is seen more as a resource than the life-blood of the global ecosystem, ‘River’ provides water with its ecological, social, cultural and spiritual context.

One this day, SANDRP looks at India’s ‘National River’ Ganga. The river seems to be a symbol of all that is right and wrong with water governance in India. It depicts crystallisation of challenges faced by rivers across the country, albeit at a much larger scale. The rich canvass and the deep spiritual value of Ganga for many cultures make it more riveting.

The new government at the centre has declared that rejuvenation of the Ganga River is one of its priorities. However, in addition to several infrastructure projects planned and ongoing on the river and its tributaries (Ganga is not just 2525 kms long river, its is more than 25,000 kms long, with all its tributaries), the new Government is planing to build a series of barrages on the River to make it navigable, from Haldia, at the mouth of Hooghly, a major distributary of the Ganga to Allahabad which is some 1620 kms upstream from Haldia.

Before we go further into the advantages or the disadvantages of more barrages on Ganga, let us take a look at what one only existing Barrage on this 1620 km stretch of the river, The Farakka Barrage, has done to the river in the past 39 years since the Barrage was commissioned. Let us see how we have managed the issues which have arisen, how human lives have been impacted, what has been our response, how the main objective of building the barrage has been frustrated, how we have dealt with this realization, how the Barrage has furthered more conflicts and how a thriving fishing activity has been nearly killed by Farakka in the upstream as well as in the downstream.

SANDRP visited the region of Farakka Barrage, Malda, Murshidabad, talked with the affected people, fisherfolk, authorities at the Barrage as well as the Director and other officials at the Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute (CIFRI) to understand the complex issues. Prior to detailed analysis, here’s looking at Ganga, Hooghly and Farakka in photos.

The Hooghly-Ganga in Kolkata carries 40,000 cusecs water which has been divereted into Hooghly from Ganga at the Farakka Barrage Photo: Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP

The Hooghly-Ganga in Kolkata carries 40,000 cusecs water which has been diverted into Hooghly from Ganga at the Farakka Barrage Photo: Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP

Farakka Barrage was commissioned in 1975 to transfer 40,000 cusecs ( Cubic Feet per second) of water from Ganga into its distributary Hooghly to save the Kolkata Port on the Hooghly from silting up. The barrage is just 16 kms upstream from Bangladesh border.

Cargo at Kolkata Port is dropping streadily. The Port is silted up, dredging is ncresing down the years. Farakka Barrage has NOT controlled the silting problem of the Port Photo: The Hindu

Cargo at Kolkata Port is dropping streadily. The Port is silted up, dredging is increasing down the years. Farakka Barrage has NOT controlled the silting problem of the Port Photo: The Hindu

HooghluKol2

Hooghly at Kolkata Photo: Author

As a part of Farakka Barrage Project,  an afflux bund was constructed over several rivers upstream of Farakka, like Choto Bhagirathi, Pagla, etc., to divert water into the Barrage. The complete diversion of water killed these rivers in the downstream, severely affecting people. Here we see Choto Bhagirathi flowing after many years, thanks to a pipeline and sluice sanctioned this year to supply meager water to the river. This does not help the fish though, there are hardly any left.

Meager fishing at Choto Bhagirathi Photo: Author

Choto Bhagirathi, completely diverted for the Farakka Barrage, only flowing this year. Photo: Author

Fishing nets at Choto Bhagirathi. Fisherfolk told   us this was more out of habit, there re hardly any fish left in the river. Photo: Author

Fishing nets at Choto Bhagirathi. Fisherfolk told us this was more out of habit, there are hardly any fish left in the river. Photo: Author

Kedarnath Mondal, a noted activist working on issues related to Farakka Barrge, discussing with fisherfolk

Kedarnath Mondal, a noted activist working on issues related to Farakka Barrge, discussing with fisherfolk. Photo: Author

Not withstanding the anti-erosion works completed upstream the Farakka Barrage in Malda, the Ganga has deposited huge sediment load in the upstream of the barrage and this has accelerated the swing in its channel. The channel is swinging rapidly to the left bank, eroding and eating away thousands of hectares of villages, farms, mango plantations and chars (islands) in the way, endangering the Barrage itself. Although sediment-laden Ganga has a history of changing courses, this has been aggravated to a great extent by the sedimentation and obsrtuction caused by Farakka.

Anti erosion works upstream of Farakka Barrage Photo: Author

Anti erosion works upstream of Farakka Barrage Photo: Author

Anti Erosion work destroyed

Anti Erosion work destroyed by the river on its left bank, upstream of Barrage Photo: Author

Erosion at Malda upstream Farakka Photo: Soumya Desarkar

Erosion at Malda upstream Farakka Photo: Soumya Desarkar

Erosion and its impacts Photo: Jaideep Mazoomdar, Outlook

Erosion and its impacts Photo: Jaideep Mazoomdar, Outlook

Even before you arrive at the heavily guarded Barrage, you can see the heavily silted river, with cattle grazing peacefully on islands (chars) just 500 meters-1 km upstream of the barrage. According to River Expert Kalyan Rudra, Farakka hordes nearly 350 million tonnes of sediment flow of Ganga every year in the upstream!!

Cattle grazing just upstream of the Barrage, indicating the enormous sediment deposition

Cattle grazing inside the riverbed just upstream of the Barrage, indicating the enormous sediment deposition Photo: Author

Sedimentation upstream the barrage can be clearly seen Photo: Author

Sedimentation inside the riverbed just upstream of  the barrage can be clearly seen Photo: Author

Board proclaiming that Farakka is the Pride of the Nation! Photo: Author

Board proclaiming that Farakka is the Pride of the Nation! Photo: Author

Farakka Barrage

Farakka Barrage Photo: Author

Jpeg

Diversion of water to Farakka Feeder Canal from right bank Photo: Author

The Barrage also severely affected navigation through the river. A separate ship lock was made on the Feeder Canal and it is managed by Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI). Hardly any ships pass through due to high sedimentation.

Condition of the Farakka Ship Lock. Secirity Personnel there told us hardly any ships pass this route, less than one ship in three months Photo: Author

Condition of the Farakka Ship Lock. Security personnel posted here told us that hardly any ships pass this route, less than one ship in three months Photo: Author

Hilsa FIshing upstream Farakka is nearly finished as the fish cannot overcome the huge obstacle. Fisherfolk have taken to fishing in the feeder canals where too the catch is meager Photo: Author

Hilsa Fishing upstream Farakka is nearly finished as the fish cannot overcome the huge obstacle. Fisherfolk have taken to fishing in the feeder canals where too the catch is meager Photo: Author

DSC00191

Any meager Hilsa catch is immediately seized by the middleman. In this case middleman gave forty rupees to the fisherman. The Middleman will get more than 300 Rs. for this same catch of Hilsa. Photo Author

Fishermen upstream Farakka are a worried lot

Fishermen upstream Farakka are a worried lot

Downstream the barrage, due to trapping of silt in the upstream, silt free water erodes banks with vengeance, especially the left bank. We saw several anti-erosion measures failing miserably in front of the river’s fury.

Anti erosion works get routinely swept away

Anti erosion works get routinely swept away

bankerosion4

Farakka has profoundly changed the character, sediment regime and flow of Ganga. It is affecting lives of lakhs of people in India and Bangladesh through cycles of erosion, sedimentation, floods and affected fishing. Our response to the issue has been dismal. We have not conducted a single review of costs, benefits and impacts of Farakka Project so far.

In addition to Farakka , Lower Ganga (Narora), Middle Ganga, Upper Ganga Barrages (Bhimgoda), Kanpur Barrage, Hydropower projects in Uttarakhand and other upstream states have affected the river in most profound ways.

If we want to rejuvenate the Ganga, we need to institute a credible independent review the existing Barrages, not plan new ones. May be we can begin with a demand for such a review for Farakka on urgent basis.

One World Rivers Day, let us wish for a long and healthy flow for the Ganga River, a symbol of all flowing rivers in India!

-Parineeta Dandekar (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

 

Dry Ganga downstream Upper Ganga, Bhimgouda Barrage in Haridwar Photo: Author

Dry Ganga downstream Upper Ganga, Bhimgouda Barrage in Haridwar Photo: Author

Original Article on SANDRP Blog

Updates

Minutes of Meeting with World Bank-2nd September, 2015
Saturday, 12 September 2015
A meeting was held with World Bank officials on 2 September, 2015. Representations: Jayanto Bandopadhyaya, Vimal Bhai, Prahlad Goenka, Bharat... Read More...
Representation to World Bank on TORs for NW-1 Studies
Tuesday, 25 August 2015
August 13, 2015 Shri Arnab Bandopadhyay The World Bank New Delhi My Dear Arnab: We write in continuation of our earlier interactions regarding NW-1.... Read More...
Comments on TOR for NW-1 Studies Submitted to Inland Waterways Authority of India
Tuesday, 25 August 2015
DR BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA Lakshmoli, PO Maletha, Via Kirti Nagar, Dt Tehri UK 249 161 Phone: 99171-44777; Email: [email protected] August 13, 2015 Shri... Read More...
IMAGE Ganga Rejuvenation Must Go Beyond Lip Service
Saturday, 18 October 2014
Bharat Lal Seth | Fri, 10/17/2014 - 3:35pm | International Rivers   The rejuvenation of the Ganga figured prominently in the manifesto of the... Read More...
IMAGE Let the River Take its Course
Tuesday, 30 September 2014
Written by Ramaswamy R Iyer | Posted: September 30, 2014 2:10 am | The Indian Express Soon after the prime minister assumed... Read More...
IMAGE World Rivers Day and Ganga: A look at Farakka Barrage and other such calamities
Tuesday, 30 September 2014
Parineeta Dandekar | 29th September, 2014 | SANDRP   Last Sunday of every September is celebrated as ‘World Rivers Day’. It is a recent... Read More...
Water resources depleting in Ganga catchment area: Study
Wednesday, 12 August 2015
B.D. Kasniyal | The Tribune | Aug 11, 2015 Urbanisation, rampant felling of trees to blame for the depletion  Over 1,500 billion cusecs of... Read More...
Boatmen demand to lift ban on boating in Ganga
Monday, 10 August 2015
TNN | Aug 9, 2015 VARANASI: After 11 days of imposing of ban on boat operations in Ganga by the district administration due to rise in water level,... Read More...
IMAGE Farakka under fire in India
Monday, 04 May 2015
Abu Bakar Siddique | Dhaka Tribune | May 3, 2015 Nine Indian citizens move an environment court, seeking over Rs3,000 crore in annual compensation... Read More...

Visitors

We have 15 guests and no members online

9.png7.png3.png8.png9.png
Today57
Yesterday139
This week440
This month2639
Total97389

Thursday, 23 November 2017 10:39

Follows us on FB

Go to top