National River Waterway Project: Dream or Disaster?

National River Waterway Project:  Dream or Disaster?

Patna: From 2014, the government of India is reviving the idea of building big dams. It’s not a good idea, say activists. River linking also has severe ecological consequences. Fish, dolphins, livelihood are at stake, and also food on your plate will disappear, as the freshwater marine life will die due to dredging, and pollution.

National Inland Waterways conference was organized by National Alliance of People Movements (NAPM) and Manthan at Gandhi Museum auditorium. Shripad Dharmadhikary, a social activist from Pune, was the speaker. He had worked for Narmada Bachaao  Andolan and many more issues.

The program started by launching a book  National Inland Waterways in Bihar by Shripad Dharmadhikary, other senior social activists and senior journalists.

Dharmadhikary says Bihar is blessed with bounty of rivers that flows through the state. Seven rivers of Bihar have been declared as

Shripad Dharmadhikary

National Inland Waterways but the plan is to create large scale commercial shipping’s and trade with corporate motives.  At the same time rivers in Bihar and elsewhere often don’t have such depths. Creating and maintaining waterways will need a huge intervention in rivers.

The most important need for waterways is to ensure a channel of depth. This is done through constructing several barrages to raise water level, dredging, river straightening etc. so, these interventions would have a huge impact on the river morphology, hydrology and turn the ecology system.

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Dharmadhikary met some fishermen of Bihar at the forefront were fishermen and activists from several areas said species of fishes have begun disappearing after construction of the Farakka barrage.

Tthe plan for more barrages on the river as proposed in the June 2014 might cause complete disaster for the fishing community in the state.

Even Bihar Chief minister Nitish Kumar argued against the construction of any more barrages on the rivers of Bihar.

Some specific key issues related to waterways in Bihar are-

  • Impact of dredging: the dredging is done to create and maintain the channel depth but it has adversely affected the livelihoods of the local community’s fishers and marine life.
  • Transport of hazardous goods: some of the goods such as coal, oil and lubricant planned to be transported through the Bihar waterways can cause pollution.
  • Disruption of infrastructure: infrastructure like low bridges etc will need to be removed or redesigned to allow ships to pass. This can lead to a lot of inconvenience for the local people unless the alternative arrangements are not made.
  •  Big boats and ships will affect the dolphins.
  • Local transport system will be stopped due to the movement of big ships and boats, it will affect the transport system of local people.

Some of the suggestions given by  Dharmadhikary for Inland waterways in Bihar are:

  • There should be discussion and debates on the waterways between public and the government representative.
  •  Studies should be carried out to find proper solution for the problem of siltation, without which the waterways are not likely to be viable.
  • The Bihar government has also raised several objection and concern regarding the waterways. These are valid concern and they should be sorted out between state and central.
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So, we the people of Bihar need to raise the voice against this issue and question the government weather it is dream or a disaster.

 

 

Nihal Kumar Dutta

Newsnet Intern

 

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