Water And Politics
12th August 2005
Andhra Pradesh has been receiving heavy down pours this season. If we remember last season was a good season for rain and crops, and probably impacted the voter’s decision to bring YSR and congress into power. Lot has happened in the past year and some months. The new government has done I think the best it could with projects, politics, promises and scandals.
In recent weeks lot of rain has been falling and adding to the flow of rivers and filling the reservoirs. Godavari and Krishna and other rivers are over flowing and filling all the water reservoirs in their way. Dams, canals, waterways, reservoirs, water projects and anything to do with water are full and overflowing. I am hoping the season will be great for the farmers of the state. I hope the good corps will eliminate a bit of debt, give enough to survive the next year or until the next crop comes, and save enough to send kids to school and save for the next years plans. I am also hoping the good rains and good crops will stop the farmer’s suicides. I am also hoping that the cost of money goes down to pay off the debts the farmers and small businessmen had to take. I am hoping that the rains will wash away the dirt and grime and pollution and make the villages smell nice and clean the cities.
Setting out to write the article, I really thought of two big ideas for the current government:
1. Water management
2. Politics of Water Management
YSR government as did all the previous government’s has been announcing and inaugurating a bunch of projects. They have been accusing the neighboring states of depriving our state’s people of the heavenly gift of water. Every project seems to have the name Rajiv or Indira or some of the congress leader’s of the past. Big projects with big names have been launched with big celebration throughout the year. For each project started with fanfare, the opposition has raised entertaining questions in the assembly and after the assembly in the media. During the summer the water shortages were a topic and now the heavy rains seem to have stopped the opposition hue and cry over the projects launched. I am guessing it is a temporary lull in the daily rhetoric of the opposition on the water projects launched.
Water management probably is the most important aspect of managing the needs of India. In July I was in India and enjoyed the heavy (heavenly) rains for the weeks I was there. Two instances that stand out the same day I was in Hyderabad were:
· It rained all day but the guesthouse I was staying did not have water. Imagine my plight with upset stomach and a lot of work to do, and it was pouring all day outside, but no water in the home.
· The same day one of the guys calls and says his motorcycle was washed away. It rained and rained and rained and the rains were heavy. People spent hours just going from place to place and stalled the way of life in Hyderabad. But no one seems to worry too much about missed meetings or not making it to the other side of the city. They just said it will stop and things will be normal.
Although simple instances on a rainy day in Hyderabad, it kept me thinking of how simple it would be to manage the resources that are raining on us.
Politics of Water Management
Be it YSR or Babu or any other leader of our state will not be able to build the necessary infrastructure to store, manage and reap the benefits of the rain god’s mercy on our state or our country. Five years will not be enough to build the dams, water management projects, canals and manage them to the best use as needed by the people and farmers.
It will take probably decades of improvements to the infrastructure that was outdated at the independence of India and continues to fall behind the ever rapidly growing population and its growing demands on resources. I can’t even reflect on how far behind the infrastructure is as it will be wasting effort. We all know we are behind. Even the most advanced infrastructure of the USA sometimes gets floods and water into the cities. No amount of planning or infrastructure can stop the nature’s fury. We can only manage the resources to the best our ability.
Here were some simple things I thought the current government and perhaps the future governments could work on despite the opposition’s rhetoric on wasted money or cheating.
· Build water tanks, lakes, systems and purification units for every conceivable human habitation. I mean even for the smallest village to the biggest cities. However small or big start building storage and purification facilities and keep them clean.
· If the government cannot do it let people do it for themselves and devote voluntary or charity to build water facilities. Perhaps government can offer tax incentives for such works undertaken by the general public.
· NRI folks make water management number one in every village or town you come from. Perhaps as we did with scholarships, water projects should be funded regularly to maintain clean and usable water. Let us try as we did with education and medicine and water will add very high value to the life of our state.
· Government try to build a water storage project in every 50 KM or so, and build interlinking systems to make sure that the water is not wasted. It is ambitious but the water projects will bring employment in all wakes of life.
· Develop the current projects to their maximum and implement the plans that were drawn for big projects like Nagarjuna Sager and Mylavaram and Srisailam, while building the next round of big projects. Build their offshoots, draw simple water saving plans and deploy them. When people see the benefit of such projects they will appreciate the vision of your past actions.
Water, water and water should be the top agenda of the government. Maximum utilization of the monsoon will maximize the value of our lands and people and health. Imagine the clean water that will eliminate the need for plastic that we are using for bottled water, and the cost of recycling and the trash that is all around the state. Many benefits of water will begin to show in the way of life. The current government may have to make hard decisions in starting to get water management as their number one priority, but the benefits of next year will present great rewards for both their political and personal legacy. No one will ever forget the continued need for clean water and creating sustained water supply will be the greatest legacy of our leaders.