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Guest Posts

Churning the earth: The making of global India – Ashish Kothari talks about his recent work at a book release event in Udaipur, Rajasthan

At a book release event organised jointly by Dr Mohan Singh Mehta Memorial Trust (MSMMT) and Society for Promotion of Wastelands Development (SPWD), Udaipur on 23 March 2013 at Vidhya Bhawan Auditorium, Udaipur, Ashish Kothari, founder of the environmental group Kalpavriksh spoke on his recent work ”Churning the earth: The making of global India”. Co-authored with Aseem Shrivastava and launched in May 2012, the book presents evidence on the predatory nature of India’s economic rise and questions its political and ecological sustainability.

The book urges a “fundamental shift towards a range of policy, grassroots and conceptual alternatives that are necessary to forestall the descent into sociological chaos”. Amitav Ghosh in an advance praise of the book notes that it “cuts through the hype to tell you what is going on… the only work I know of that provides a comprehensive account of the enormous social and environmental costs of the developments of the last fifteen years… substantiated with a great deal of data”.

cover page

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A commerce ex-lecturer from Karnataka's Udupi district converts 25 acres of barren land into a lush green farm through rainwater harvesting

Guest post: Aarti Kelkar-Khambete

This story of the tremendous grit and determination of a commerce ex-lecturer to convert twenty five acres of a barren piece of land into a self sustainable green farm, provides an ideal example of a model for rainwater harvesting and demonstrates how persistence and the sheer determination to go on till the end can yield miraculous results.

AR farms, Udupi districtAR farms, Heroor village, Kundapur, Udupi districtRead More


Residents of Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh, resist public private partnership in their water supply project- A press release by Manthan Adhyayan Kendra

With no single example across the world to cite for successful model of water privatisation, the irony remains that it continues to grow in developing countries. India is witnessing a range of private sector participation in various water schemes, these come under different forms and shapes but the motive remains the same- make profit out water.

Almost all privatisation endeavor in water sector has met with obstacles, Khandwa is no exception! The teething problem of the project doesn't appear to settle as the rising discontent and resistance among people continues to grow.

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Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme given near-exclusive priority in 12th five year plan, but will it solve India’s water problems?

Guest post: Amita Bhaduri

There is a palpable sense of a looming water crisis in India. Conflicts across competing users and uses are on the rise. In the irrigation sector, it is widely felt that “paucity of resources and poor performance of existing major and medium irrigation systems are the two main problems”(1). More recently, the sector has been faced with a spate of allegations of poor irrigation facilities created at inflated costs resulting in demands for a realistic assessment of its various programmes.

This article gets into the nitty gritty of the Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP), a programme specially initiated by the Government of India in 1996 to provide financial assistance to the States to complete various ongoing multipurpose and irrigation projects in the country. The scheme aimed to create irrigation potential of the projects and thereby to extend irrigation sources (major, medium and minor) to more areas.

It was extended subsequently to cover surface water minor irrigation projects in special category States such as in the North East, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, and such projects satisfying specified criteria in some other States. 

This review looks at the changes in the AIBP programme over time and whether the created irrigation potential under the programme has been fully utilized. It attempts to find out if the programme has been successful in building water infrastructure and institutions and if this has helped in poverty reduction in the irrigated regions.

SRSP dam

Pochampad dam, Sri Ram Sagar Project, Andhra Pradesh; Phase II of the project is being funded under AIBP

Image: Amita Bhaduri, March 2010

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Salt water all around, yet, lots of sweet water to drink ! - The story of Dhanushkodi, a cyclone hit town where reality coexists with myths, mysteries and miracles

Guest post: Aarti Kelkar-Khambete

A visit to Dhanushkodi makes one wonder as to how such  peace and tranquility can at times, also unleash such fury and destruction, but then life goes on, as does for the small section of the fisherfolk who continue to inhabit the island and depend on it for their basic needs of food and drinking water, which the island continues to provide for them, often in miraculous ways!


A map showing the location of Dhanushkodi island (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

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Water management - Mounting challenges and responses - A report on the three day seminar jointly organised by KSCSTE and C Achutha Menon Foundation, Trivandrum from the 21st to the 23rd December 2012

This three day national seminar was jointly organised by the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE), Thiruvananthapuram, and the C Achutha Menon Foundation (AMF), Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala and included presentations and discussions on a range of water related themes such as water scarcity, water conservation, commercialisation of water, water conflicts and water management.

The seminar aimed at creating awareness and triggering a dialogue among scientists, academicians, researchers, activists, as well as lay people on the emerging challenges related to water resources, water quality and water conservation in the state of Kerala. The seminar was inaugurated by Shri V M Sudheeran, Ex MP and former speaker, while Dr Rajasekaran Pillai, Executive Vice President KSCSTE, delivered the keynote address with the felicitation by Shri M P Achuthan, MP.

The seminar included discussions under five different themes related to water issues that included water scarcity, water conservation, commercialisation of water, water as an new area for conflicts and water management.

Seminar on water management

The three day seminar on water management at the Achuta Menon Foundation, Trivandrum, KeralaRead More


Reviving a lake transforms 120 acres of barren land into a self-sufficient organic farm: The story of Rajesh Naik and Oddoor farms, Mangalore, Karnataka

Guest post: Aarti Kelkar - Khambete

A visit to Oddoor farms near Mangalore, Karnataka, provides an inspiring example of the efforts made by Rajesh Naik ji to transform 120 acres of barren land into a lush green farm through his persistent efforts of creating a two acre and fifty feet deep lake, which has not only transformed the surrounding area, but has also helped in improving the water table in the surrounding village, besides helping in the development of a self sufficient organic farm and a dairy.

Oddoor farms, around 25 kilometres away from Mangalore city is a great example of a very successful effort made by Rajesh Naik ji who has transformed 120 acres of barren land into a self sufficient organic farm by developing a 50 feet lake on two acres of land.  The journey has been a long one and not without its share of challenges, but persistence and constant optimism and hard work to overcome challenges has reaped results in the last twenty years, informs Rajesh Naik ji.

Oddoor farms

Rajesh Naik ji near the lake he has developed at the Oddoor farms near Mangalore

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Toilets in the making: Delhi Urban Art Commission (DUAC) designs eco friendly and low cost public toilets for Delhi


Delhi lacks adequate public toilets especially in the slum areas and unauthorised colonies. To improve the sanitation and hygiene in the capital, Delhi Urban Art Commission (DUAC) organised a design competition for public toilets and dustbins and finalised 4 designs and prototypes of ergonomically designed, on site assembled, high tech toilets.

Hi tech toilet

Hi tech, pre-fabricated, affordable toilet design (Image courtesy: DUAC)

These toilets are pre fabricated, easy to install & maintain and can be built at relatively affordable rates. Offers for prototype have been invited from agencies and the designs are available to all to mass replicate, provided the individual cost of each toilet stays under Rs 1 lakh.

Bamboo tiolet

Eco friendly, cost efficient bamboo toilet (Image courtesy: DUAC)

One innovative design is that of a bamboo toilet, which is a sustainable and cost efficient design solution. It is eco friendly, easy to build and also keeps in perspective the needs and behaviour of the end user in locations such as slums and kachi bastis

The major highlights of the other toilet designs include: 

  • Solar panel on roof, to provide electricity for the toilets
  • Clean natty look using epoxy painted steel and acrylic panels or laminated glass, with a front panel for advertisement space
  • Wastewater from the toilets to be re-used for flushing
  • Water tanks on roofs to make the units self-sufficient
  • Aims to incorporate a ‘dry cleaning’ system, where the dirty water is recycled and used for cleaning purposes

To download the accepted designs by DUAC,  for high tech public toilets and dustbins, click here.


How to grow food on your roof ?: Video interview with Dr Vishwanath Kadur, an expert on terrace gardens

Do you crave for home grown, pesticide free, healthy greens on your plate? Does lack of land stop you from soiling your hands and farming your meals?

Read on and learn to grow food on your terrace itself !

Interview with Dr Vishwanath Kadur, a terrace garden expert ( Source of video: Getta India)

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Videos: Resurgence of the ahar pynes - Magadh Jal Jamaat helps revive 2000-year old flood water harvesting systems in Gaya, Bihar

Magadh Jal Jamaat, a loose network of progressive individuals in Gaya has been successfully able to revive over a dozen abandoned water sources and have instilled in people the need to create, clean up and conserve several lakes and ponds in the region. The problem of water scarcity had been of late afflicting the region, which once had a good system of ponds.

It is in this background that the group scripted a unique success story when they revived the Saryu talaab in 2006 and later on the Jamune Dasain in Gaya city with the help of Army Service Corps Gaya, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), police officials, professors, students, doctors and farmers. The revival of this pond set in motion a surge of constructive forces in the region and soon the effects ping-ponged into the revival of ahar pynes, the traditional water harvesting systems in the region. Around seventeen panchayats benefitted from the revival of the 28 km long Chapardha pyne, which carries greater discharge than the Son canal, the main public irrigation system in the area.

"Apna Pani - Apni Pahal" - A film on Magadh Jal Jamaat's work on reviving the ahar pyne systems in Gaya, Bihar - Part I

Magadh is centrally located in the present area of South Bihar. Its southern part is undulated and rocky while the northern part comprises of plains. There are plains ensconced within the undulated areas too where good agriculture has prevailed through the millennia. An elaborate network of ahar pynes have provided irrigation to the region, which was able to support the ancient Nalanda University and feed over fifty two water bodies in the area, which is constantly swarmed with pilgrims.

The area receives an annual average precipitation of over 1100 mm most of which falls during the monsoon months from June to September. Drawing upon centuries of experience, people built ahar pyne systems, to divert the floodwaters through pynes and stored them in ahars. Ahars are reservoirs with embankments on three sides and are built at the end of drainage lines such as rivulets or artificial works like pynesPynes are diversion channels led off from the river for irrigation purposes and for impounding water in the ahars.

It is mostly to the credit of these systems that paddy cultivation has been possible in this otherwise relatively low rainfall area, when compared to North Bihar. The system attained its highest development in the district of Gaya.

While the state had a role to play in the construction of the systems they were largely managed by the people in a collective mode. Modern development brought in hand pumps for drinking water purposes but very soon the decline of the aquifer led to them going defunct. The ahar pyne embankments got dilapidated, pynes became conduits of waste water and ponds became the new dumping grounds for solid wastes.

Rivers became big sewer lines and its beds were encroached for real estate purposes. The lakes meant for pilgrimage too got fouled and their water was no longer of bathing quality. Dug wells that brought up the water with diesel-powered pumps too started drying up and the supply of its water for the kharif season crop declined. The land could no longer support the families who lived on it, and this led to widespread migration. People got ever more alienated from community institutions which became weaker. They did not have time for community work such as maintaining ahar pynes, a final blow that rendered the systems defunct.

Religious tourism also played a significant role in hurrying this process. To tackle these, while in some villages people made efforts to revive these traditional systems, a tipping point that brought some of these systems back to life. But at most places they hung around waiting to be a part of the Son canal or Indrapuri barrage command area.

"Apna Pani - Apni Pahal" - A film on Magadh Jal Jamaat's work on reviving the ahar pyne systems in Gaya, Bihar - Part II

The state on the other hand was content at making laws. The Bihar Irrigation Act was enacted in 1997. Promila Pathak, Magadh Jal Jamaat has analysed the Act and is of the view that the provision of the Bihar Irrigation Act brings about privatization of state canal irrigation systems as well as ahar pynes. She says that as per the Act “all rights in the water of river, natural stream or natural drainage channel, natural lake or natural collection of water shall vest with the State Government subject to the provisions of Article 262 and Entry 56 of List of seventh schedule of the Constitution of India... Further, when the State Government proposes to construct a canal it shall publish a notification declaring its intention and indicating the site of the head work. And most importantly, no rights shall be acquired against the government under the provisions of the Indian Easement Act, 1882 in these waters."

Attempts have been made to privatise the traditional irrigation systems during the period 1997-2008 and the Magadh Jal Jamaat has been creating awareness about the consequences of this and the need to successfully restore the systems on a collective basis. While the state has been creating grounds for bringing in new policy and legal framework, Magadh Jal Jamaat has formulated a Water Policy for the Magadh region based on wide consultations.

Magadh Jal Jamaat came up with a booklet titled “Gaya shahar ki jal vyavastha: Samasya evam samadhan”, which attempts to deepen the understanding of the city’s physiography, hydrogeology, present status of water availability, its potential and based on these suggests water management measures that should be taken. It notes that the city when compared to places in Punjab and Gujarat is better endowed in terms of water availability but has highly inadequate water storage and distribution mechanism. The crisis according to Ravindra Pathak, Magadh Jal Jamaat is man-made and the problem has been plaguing the city in the drought years of 2006 and 2010.

While the State Government had rights over the water, the Bihar Irrigation Act also delegated the Collector with the authority to engage any agency to repair or construct the water systems whenever it is unable to do so on its own and this is one point which Magadh Jal Jamaat has utilised. In this locale, where agriculture is increasingly becoming unviable and irrigation costly, Magadh Jal Jamaat has created a momentum by focusing on smaller barrages on streams and calling for renovation of the system through regular removal of sand through reviving collective means like the traditional system of gomam (community labour), which had till some time ago seemed to have been washed away with the top soil.

They are actively working in close collaboration with the State Government to facilitate the creation of community based organizations for undertaking large-scale ahar-pyne renovation programme in the area. Ravindra Pathak notes that “so far the group has revived over a dozen abandoned water sources including Saryu talab in Gaya and has created several new ones”. 

Please find below two documents (in Hindi) by Magadh Jal Jammat -

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Gaya shahar ki jal vyavastha - The water systems of Gaya, Bihar - A booklet by Magadh Jal Jamaat14.38 MB
Magadh ki jal vyavastha - The water systems of Magadh region, Bihar - A booklet by Magadh Jal Jamaat58.16 MB
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