Roughly 350 farmers have died in Tamil Nadu in recent months, according to unofficial estimates. In the past 20 years, more than 300,000 indebted farmers in India have committed suicide – many due to family debts, reported The Hindu newspaper.

Years of scanty and inadequate rainfall have led to the drying up of water reservoirs and village water bodies in southern India, especially the grain-growing regions of Tamil Nadu which is facing its worse drought in 140 years.

The once-mighty 800km Cauvery River, a major lifeline in southern India on which millions of farmers depend, has turned into dust tracts in several sections before it trickles down to the Bay of Bengal.

Dense forests once helped to retain water on the hill slopes, enabling slow percolation into the streams that feed the river. But widespread deforestation along the Cauvery Basin has led to soil erosion and a reduction in rainfall.

Scientist and environmentalist Dr Vandana Shiva pointed out that the region gets only four months of rain during the monsoons, during which in ideal circumstances, the water would be naturally stored in the humus and earth of the forests.

“But if you don’t store it, the rain comes, causes a flood, and you have a drought,” she said.

“The second reason is that there is an over extraction (of water) beyond the capacity of the river. That extraction is leaving the river dry.”

Also read: How World Bank’s Economic Chakravyuh Is Trapping Indian Farmers

Dr Shiva also blames the government’s ambitious scheme that aims to link Indian rivers by a network of reservoirs and canals, with dams diverting the flow from areas with a water surplus.

She said: “There’s this assumption that you can have bigger and bigger cities and you can divert water from hundreds and thousands of miles away.

To take all the rivers in India and divert them to the cities and industrial areas – all rivers will die.

Critics argue that damming the rivers will cause coastal erosion, deforestation and the displacement of people, and exacerbate the impact of climate change.

Dr Singh pointed out that the introduction of centralised irrigation systems and large dams have led to serious soil erosion. while the over-extraction of underground aquifers depleted the water table.

“There was no more water to be drawn from under the ground, and the water at the top flowed away with the soil, causing erosion and silting,” he said. “All the small rivers are dying.”

Bauxite mining has also wreaked havoc and contributed to a collapse of groundwater levels.

Environmental activist Mr Piyush Manush said that the rampant extraction of bauxite – from which aluminium is produced – from the Servarayan Hills has led to an environmental disaster.

Also read: The Rs 1.4 Trillion Plan To Destroy India’s Agriculture

Bauxite absorbs rainwater and slowly releases water into the streams. But the extraction of bauxite has left the hills bare and arid. “If the hill is undisturbed, the bauxite and other minerals inside act as a sponge to absorb water and release it slowly.

“Now, if you chop the hill for bauxite, the hill gets hardened with exposure to sunlight. And once it hardens, it loses that sponge effect,” he said.

In April, distressed and angry drought-hit farmers from Tamil Nadu took to the streets of Indian capital New Delihi to protest, demanding farm loan waivers. A few state governments have conceded, agreeing to waive their loans amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars.

The districts of Thanjavur, Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam will transform into deserts. All the crops will be destroyed.

Excerpts from a special investigation by Desmond Ng and Tamal Mukherjee for Channel News Asia, originally published as “As a river dies: India could be facing its ‘greatest human catastrophe’ ever” on 25 July 2017.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. There must be rapid introduction of wide-spread Harinam Samkirtan to please the Lord and the demigods who provide life’s necessities. Thus good weather and rain will prevail in spite of demon leader’s attempts to reduce and damage the population. Harinam samkirtan for the age is the Maha Mantra introduced 500 years ago by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and made popular all over the word by His Divine Grace Srila AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada. That mantra is Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.

  2. The River Kaveri is in reality the Lifeline of the western ghats which act as the Lung and in fact quite responsible for the monsoons in South India. Its a matter of fact that the Forests of the western Ghats which cover almost 6 States have been reduced to such an extent that they could no longer be called Forests in terms of Tree cover, As a matter of fact the MOEF is yet to come to a conclusion as to what is a Forest . The follow para will give one an idea of this predicament:
    In fact, MoEF has told the National Green Tribunal (NGT) it needs two more months to finalize the parameters for classifying an area as a forest—because, it said, several state governments are yet to respond to its request.

    “MoEF officials requesting anonymity said the ministry has nearly cracked the definition, which is in line with the diverse conditions across the country, but is fine-tuning it in consultation with the states because once finalized, it is bound to have far-reaching implications.

    “India is a diverse country and conditions across India are different. The ministry has broadly identified three categories under which forests across the country would be defined,” the officials said.

    Currently, the definition of forests is an unresolved issue. Understood in the dictionary sense of the word, it often leads to varying interpretations.”

    The real fact is today the Forest cover is so thin because the ancient flora and fauna have disappeared altogether.This despite the fact that with the latest GPS and other advances in technology it is possible to monitor very single Tree and Crop to perfection . Yet despite having the best officers in the Forest Department and the Top IFS Cadres, yet we find that the destruction of Forests has never been so rampant in the past decade than ever before.ALL IN THE NAME OF DEVELOPMENT.

    Committees after committees have submitted reports but its known fact that the Ministry does not think in terms of protecting the Forests and hence the delay in even defining what a Forest is ! This is really absurd.

    Coming to the River Kaveri if one were to analyse the recent or past history many many campaigns have been launched to create awareness and warn the people in the cities that the Kaveri is indeed drying and the need to protect the Forests which help the case of timely monsoon, In fact Plantations like Arabica Coffee actually need Tree cover and indirectly protect the forests. Also Crops like Paddy also protect the Flora and Fauna and in fact Growers of these two and other similar crops should be given incentives for growing them and acting as PES ( Protecting The EcoSystem) ,

    All the fore going is well know to the powers that matter , yet today we not only see a great reduction in Arabica Coffee (Rep[laced by Robusta Coffee) and almost the total disappearance of Paddy crop from the Malnad & Kodagu regions.
    Unless drastic measures are taken on a war footing it is just a matter of time that the River Kaveri will be the future Desert Kaveri and this reality may happen within even a decade. The next generation will indeed curse our inaction as the time to act is almost drawing to an end and we have reached the LAST chapter of the River Kaveri.

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