News Wrap


The water is not fit for drinking, in almost the entire stretch of the Ganga downstream of Garhmukteshwar, as the river meanders through towns in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Bengal. The map posted by the Central Pollution Control Board, indicates that only eight sites, between and including Gangotri and Garhmuk-teshwar have water fit for drinking. The water is unfit for drinking at more than 70 downstream sites from Bulandshahar (Uttar Pradesh) to Patna (Bihar), to Uluberia (West Bengal). The CPCB criteria for drinking water is more than 6 mg per litre dissolved oxygen, less than 2 mg per litre biochemical oxygen demand, less than 5000 coliform bacteria per 100 ml, and a ptt range between 6.5 and 8.5. In the plains, Arrah-Chapra Road Bridge (Koilwar-Banura Chapra Road), is the single site with water fit for drinking. Alt all other sites, including Darbhanga ghat, Punpum ghat, Gulbi ghat in Patna and Gorabazar, Nabadwip Ghospara, Dakhineshwar, Garden Reach, and Howrah-Shibpur, the water is totally unfit for drinking.

Abandoned Nepalese
A sizeable number of Nepalese labourers work in the orchards of Himachal Pradesh. When they are no longer fit for labour, the old and the ailing Nepalese workers are generally abandoned. They are left to fend for themselves outside hospitals in Shimla. A Nepalese help who is yet to be identified, is in a comatose, owing to brain hemorrage, is in Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC). As per police records, the labourer had met with an accident, resulting in head injury, and was left on the roadside. Doctors are finding it difficult to raise funds, for his treatment, as the injured patient has no guardians. Generally unclaimed patients from migrated labourers are brought to hospitals by local police, local residents and NGOs. Such patients treated at hospitals are deprived of post-hospital treatment like rehabilitation, emotional support, and therapies at home. On an average the IGMC receives about ten Nepalese aged labourer patients every month. Arranging funds for surgeies for Nepalese workers who are without money is a difficult task. There is no "Holding Zone" at hospitals for abandoned patients, where concerned therapists are available under one roof.

Vembanad Lake
The Central Water Commission (CWC) has found the carrying capacity of the Vembanad Lake in Kerala, could only absorb a fraction of the water that drained into it, from overflowing rivers which made the Kerala floods and landslides in August 2018, starker. Kottayam and Allapuzha districts were severely inundated. The Vembanad Lake absorbed only 0.6 billion cubic metres (BCM) of the 1.63 BCM caused due to excessive rainfall, and inundated over 480 sq km, and inflated to nearly three times its size. The flooding was worsened due to high rainfall during this period, and lack of reservoirs in the upper reaches of the rivers, that drain into the lake. Capacity of Vembanad Lake could not absorb rainfall run off, and the lake inflated 2.78 times. Now there is a suggestion for increasing the capacity of the spillway, through which rivers such as Pamba, Manimala, Achenkovil and Meenachil drain into the lake and the barrage through which the lake spills into the ocean. Vembanad Lake is a coastal lake, which also interacts with the backwaters. Capacity of the lake is less due to the siltation, which is a natural process. There could have been backflow, because the outlet was unable to discharge as much into the ocean. Dredging of the lake may be difficult, since it is an eco-sensitive zone.

The Kerala floods of August 2018, which claimed at least 500 lives and caused widespread damage, was accelerated by two spells of intense rainfall over a two-day period (08-09 August), and later a three day period over 15-17 August. Over 50% of the rainfall received beteween 01-19 August, fell over a three-day period. For Kerala dams, with live storage of over 200 million cubic metres, there has been no review of rule curves of all the large reservoirs, to assertain how much water should be released when the reservoirs reach certain levels. There is no scientific dam water management across India, and no big reservoir has a decision support system. The flooding conditions may not have changed drastically, even if the water in reservoirs was much below Full Reservoir Level, due to the storm conditions. Idukki dam absorbed much of the run off, and the outflow from the dam was less than the inflow, during the intense spell of rainfall. Gates of 35 dams in Kerala were opened in August 2018, to deal with the massive inflow. The topography of Kerala allowed travel time of the runoff in the catchment area, barely a couple of hours, long before the water reached the reservoirs.

Of the three million Indians in Dubai, 80% are from Kerala, India's Prime Minister Modi's sanction of Rs 600 crore as immediate flood relief was grossly inadequate. Kerala Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund was able to mobilise Rs 1026 crore, with 417,000 donations made online, in a short completely bypassed the state, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has no presence in the Kerala Assembly. Modi rejected the Rs 700 crore financial assistance from the United Arab Emirates. Section 9.2 of the Union Government of India's National Disaster Management Plan (2016) states, "As a matter of policy, the Government of India does not issue any appeal for foreign assistance in the wake of a disaster. However, if the national government of another country voluntarily offers assistance as a goodwill gesture in solidarity with the disaster victims, the Central Government may accept the offer". The central government is wrong in denying foreign assistance to Kerala, facing an unprecedented calamity. India is a signatory to the Sendari Framework, a UN initiative for disaster risk reduction. Adopted in 2015 by all member-nations, the framework envisages efforts to cope with disastes, in any part of the world.

Bolsonaro victorious
Jair Bolsonaro has claimed victory in Brazil's presidential election on 28 October 2018. Social media has brought Mr Bolsonaro, a far right Congressman, from the political fringes, to the presidency of the world's fourth-biggest democracy. Bolsonaro has a mandate, having beaten his rival in the run-off, Fernando Haddad of the left-wing Workers' Party (PT), with 55% of the vote. A record number of people abstained. Bolsonaro, a former army captain, was elected by voters, to cure the triple plague of corruption, rising crime, and an economic slump. Voters are prepared to go along with his radical right-wing. Bolsonaro programme which is a mix of economic liberalism and social conservatism. The financial markets cheered his victory in the hope that he will slash spending, especially on pensions, simplify taxes, privatise state firms, and eliminate red tape. Such reforms are needed to avert a debt crisis, and raise Brazil's growth potential. Bolsonaro has taken office on 01 January 2019. His enthusiasm for privatisation does not extend to Petrobas, the state controlled oil company, nor to electricity generation. Early in Bolsonaro's term, fights over public workers' salaries and the minimum wage, to which much government spending is linked, are raging. The reformist Party of Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB), which advocated free-market reform and social responsibility, is almost extinct.

Vol. 51, No.27, Jan 6 - 12, 2019