Karnataka

Now, it is for the tribunal to suggest a way out of Mahadayi row: Rajendra Singh

Narendra Modi’s talk on micro irrigation and water conservation now is just a “show-off”, says Rajendra Singh.

Narendra Modi’s talk on micro irrigation and water conservation now is just a “show-off”, says Rajendra Singh.  

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Water conservationist Rajendra Singh has been associated with several community-based water harvesting and management initiatives across India. Considering the ongoing farmers’ agitation for over 250 days on the issue of Kalasa Banduri Nala Project, he recently made a conciliatory effort to get the three riparian States of Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra on the same board.

In an interview to The Hindu on the sidelines of the 92nd birth anniversary celebrations of cooperative leader K.H. Patil in Gadag, during which he was honoured with the K.H. Patil Rural Development Award, Mr. Rajendra Singh spoke on the farm issues, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s farm emphasis and related issues.

Excerpts:

Q: Mr. Modi is now focussing on micro irrigation projects. How will it help in improving the water scenario?

A: Of course, Mr. Modi’s talk of farming, micro irrigation and water conservation now is just a “show-off”. The Prime Minister’s intention is not matched by his action, Or, the works on watershed development would not have stopped. If he was really serious on what he is talking about, then the budgetary allocation for irrigation and rural drinking water projects would not have been cut.

Q: Does that mean it will not help the community?

A: I don’t think it will help the larger community because he is basically a corporate man and is doing what the corporate houses want him to do. His steps will ultimately lead to corporatisation of water management and not to community-driven water management initiatives, that are needed for the country.

Q: You say there is urban-rural divide even in water…

A: Yes, definitely it exists. Studies have revealed that non-availability of water is the reason for displacement of 30 per cent of the population, which migrates to the towns. You have water in towns and cities and villages don’t have it. Unless you ensure equal rights over water or water security for everyone, the scenario will only worsen.

Q: What about the groundwater?

A: It is the most unmonitored segment, which has resulted in overexploitation of groundwater by those who have money and power, while the poor remain neglected. In the existing set-up, those who overexploit groundwater, pollute our water bodies go unpunished, while commoners suffer. Only effective implementation of law and more stringent clauses are the solution.

Q: You were against river-linking projects but now support the Kalasa Banduri Nala Project which is also a water diversion project.

A: My opposition to river-linking projects is basically because of the corporate interests involved in it and corporatisation of water management. But under Kalasa Banduri, it is ultimately the commoners and farmers who will benefit.

Q: But the Goa Government says that if your stop water entering the sea it will create ecological disaster.

A: I would have opposed it if it was the case. It is not an ecological disaster but a safe diversion of water. The quantity of water requirement for the sea is debatable and moreover, the project does not stop all the water flowing into the sea. It is also not right to say that all water should go to the sea. Ecological justice demands that those who are dying because of water should get water and at the same time, there is water available for other components of ecology.

Q: What is the solution now then?

A: As far as Karnataka is concerned, it should first get its stand clear. It should come out clear on a policy that will enable it to harness every drop of water available in its territories and then it will be able to approach the other riparian States. We made an attempt at conciliation, while Karnataka and Maharashtra evinced interest, Goa did not. There is a need to rise above politics. Now, the tribunal should give a suggestion. And since we are not a political party, we can extend assistance to provide sustainable solution, if the tribunal allows it.

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Printable version | Dec 14, 2019 1:04:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/now-it-is-for-the-tribunal-to-suggest-a-way-out-of-mahadayi-row-rajendra-singh/article8398449.ece

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