ADI GANGA & WETLANDS : Heal the broken link for a flood resilient Kolkata

ADI GANGA & WETLANDS : Heal the broken link for a flood resilient Kolkata

Adiganga and the wetlands; we are near the point where the loss of little more will trigger a final countdown; Kolkata stands third in the world flood risk, as revealed in studies by the World Bank and University of Leeds.

South Asian Forum for Environment, SAFE in collaboration with U.S. Consulate General, Kolkata and International Water management Institute, IWMI on 28th Feb, 2017, at American center, Kolkata organized a symposium to interweave the broken link between Adiganga and Wetlands for a flood resilient Kolkata.

Mr. Cory. D. Wilcox, Senior management Officer,
U.S. Consulate, Dr. Priyanie Amarsinghee, Senior
Researcher: Hydrology & Wetlands, IWMI, Mr. Subhas Datta, Environmentalist & Reformist, Mr. Kallol Basu, Advocate, National Green Tribunal, NGT, Mr. Tapas Kr Mandal, Nodal Officer, Tolly's Nullah Project, Kolkata Municipal Corporation, KMC, and Dr. Dipayan Dey, Chair SAFE, with conscious citizens joined to interweave the save action plan from scientific, legal, social, and administrative viewpoints.

Mr. Cory. D. Wilcox, Senior management Officer, U.S. Consulate in his welcome speech appealed to the citizens to act for conservation of Adi ganga and Wetlands. He said, “I grew up in rainforest, South Eastern Alaska, and there it rained every day, and despite strict environmental guidelines there have been some issues, and I know problems are felt keenly in wetlands, be in Kolkata or US. He further added, “We have to learn to live in harmony with wetlands, and need to conserve it for us”.

Dr Dipayan Dey, Chair, SAFE in his discussion focused on the diminishing flood resilience efficacy of Kolkata city due to the vanishing wetlands and the main river of the city, the Adi

Ganga, which now flows much below the environmental volume and is overloaded and choked with solid waste and untreated sewage. He mentioned, “Kolkata has lost 53% wetlands in the last one decade and the southeastwardly growing sprawl of the city, where land subsidence is higher, will have the maximum threat of flood if wetlands are not conserved and drainage system scientifically revamped. 100mms of rainfall in one day shall bring 60% of Kolkata water logged that is the level of risk if the wetlands and Adi Ganga are not functional”.

Dr Priyanie Amerasinghee, emphasized on the conservation of wetlands as the hydrodynamic

stability of the city depends largely on wetlands. She mentioned about the importance of environmental flow regulation that keeps the wetlands alive. In this regard she endorsed the significance of Adi ganga which used to be a flow- in path of water to the East Kolkata Wetlands Ramsar site. “The flood resilience and ecology of wetlands must always be looked through the science of hydrology”, she told.

Mr. Subhas Datta shared his experiences in conservation fight for the Adi Ganga and mentioned about the horrifying status of the river at present and also mentioned his suggestions in revitalizing the flow through interventions at public-private interface. He said, “The solid waste

management and encroachments on the banks of the river are the most serious areas that needs to be addressed immediately and KMC has not done enough on it. Surprisingly, KMC does not have any master plan for drainage in the city and the old British lay-outs are still obeyed very loyally, ignoring the obvious changes owing to anthropogenic pressure and urbanization. This increases the city's flood risk multifold and one of the important ways to save Adi Ganga is its immediate desiltation”.

Mr. Kallol Basu raised issues referring to the legal framework for facilitating environmental conservation. He said, “Ramsar Convention is not a legal binding for the state; rather it is a green gesture, but the state laws are legal obligations and must not be violated”. While answering the questions in the forum he mentioned, “The verdicts from the apex court, if not followed then a legal move as contempt of court may be made, but any movement in the ground with the communities who are actually the victims of it or the citizens who's right to life is questioned, shall be much more stronger avenues to address the issues”.

Mr. Tapas Kumar Mandal showcased the initiatives that the Kolkata Municipal Corporation,KMC is planning to undertake for Adi Ganga with the support from World Bank. Mr. Mandal said, “The Project undertaken by KMC with

support from World Bank, 'The National Ganga River Basin Project' will be executed through a short term action plan (1 year) with 'quick gain' activities which can achieve perceptible improvement in service delivery, resulting improvement in water quality and handling of solid waste. There are medium (3years) and long term plans (5 years) for further improvement of the same goal, i.e., reinstatement and transformation of Tolly's Nullah and simultaneous upgradation of local environment”.

Over all, the symposium acted as a significant medium to sensitize the citizens about the gravity of the issue and at the same time brought together

important stakeholders for an orchestrated effort to save Adi Ganga, and the wetlands and thereby save Kolkata from havoc disasters.

We gratefully thank our esteemed panelists for sharing their expertise at the open forum; we thank IWMI, UROTAAR for their valuable partnership and most of all our conscious and enthusiastic citizens who made this symposium successful with their valuable participation.

Road ahead for SAFE is to trace the link of Adiganga and East Kolkata Wetlands, using GIS application and study the hydrology for rejuvenating the flood resilience mechanism, the study report will be shared with important stakeholders including National Green Tribunal.

 

Majuli

 

Majuli district in Assam is the only island district in the country. Every year 38% land gets completely submerged by flood waters for 7-8 months in Majuli and nearly 77 % of agrarian land is inundated by flood waters that compels two-third of the community to temporarily migrate. Despite this, it has been so rich in it’s nature capital, ecosystem services and diverse ethnicity that UNESCO is considering this wonder island for the World Heritage tag.

Being a flood prone area the project innovation is 'Agriculture in floating raft' and 'Aquaculture in cage' and ensure sustainable livelihood and food security for marginal farmers towards community level disaster preparedness.Total of 26 floating rafts were made and set up at both upper and lower parts of Majuli which produced 60 kgs of Maricha, 83 kgs of Beans, 190 kgs of Vendi, 42 kgs of Pudina.

Parallel capacity building of aquaculture or fish farming also developed through fish cage and pen process. This way the fishes did not flood away with overflowing water and helped in the growth of pisciculture gradually. The profit on sale of the products from both the types of farming is estimated tobe 72%. This in turn has sensitized 27 villages and 72 6- membered JLGs bank has been linked. This is 57.14% growth over 5 years. The successful piloting is now being scaled-up by 10 times for the next cycle.

 

Purulia Waterbanks

 

Purulia has a sub-tropical climate nature and is characterized by high evaporation and low precipitation. Ecologically water is critical to Purulia in West Bengal, owing to rugged terrain and over 50% run-off loss. With the rising demand, irrigation water has become a scarce commodity in Para and Raghunathpur, two drought prone blocks of Purulia district. The district is covered by mostly residual soil formed by weathering of bed rocks.

Installation of water banks by rainwater harvesting and its sustainable management by trained youth along with Participatory crop cycle management and water budgeting for each water bank is the primary focus. The other areas of this intervention includes activating user accounts in every bank for Sustainable operation and initiating value added alternative farming practices for compensating opportunity costs. Absence of water made the area of Raghunathpur, Purulia absolutely lifeless. Circumstantially they were forced to migrate.

There was no scope of agriculture due to absence of water in this area before the construction of these water banks. Now these water banks are providing around 17 tribal families the habit of farming through which after their consumption, they can sell the excess vegetables in the market which again is providing them with an economic backup which was not present earlier in the existing climatic conditions. Technological intervention like SRI, ZERO-Till, Organic Farming with Bio-fertilizers and micro irrigation has contributed equally to the incremental production of paddy, wheat & mustard. Water foot-print and rate of evaporation is reduced to a measurable limit. 5 rural indigenous villages nearly 3000 marginal farmers brought within sustainable watershed conservation and management program towards inclusive growth securing an average income of USD 80 per month. This is 57.14% growth over 5 years.

 

Bhitarkanika

 

One of the largest Mangrove Ecosystems in India, the residents of Bhitarkanika, Odisha depend mostly on aquaculture and agriculture, both of which is dependent on the mangrove ecosystem. A dramatic increase in the Shrimp farming has resulted in hectares of agricultural lands converted into saline ponds.

This unsustainable practice is causing massive crop failures, further supplemented by lack of awareness and technology available in this climate vulnerable area, placing much of the coastal zones at high risk. The main objective was to provide sustainable alternative livelihoods through Cage & Fish Pen culture, Crab fattening and collective algae culture around 7 villages in Bhitarkanika, Odisha. 80 crabs flattened in 65 days, 8 villages and 4000 households are benefited and 278 kgs of fish harvested in 100 days. 1000 saplings are planted and 3000 more saplings would be planted. During monsoon when one women's aquaculture project began to show success the other women from the neighborhood joined in to help the venture. The project outcome has been documented and developed into a framework for credit linkage with the banking institutes.

The profit share has been planned sustainably as risk coverage and spreading instruments through group insurance schemes and capital reserve.The road map ahead envisages a cooperative coming up on integrated agro-farming and coastal development.