Excreta Matters Newsletter

Editorial: Bill versus Draft

But the Uttarakhand government looks singularly inept given its leaden-footed response to the floods. How well will it handle the more onerous and decidedly less glamorous task of rehabilitating people? These are its own citizens who have lost farmland, houses, animals, loved ones, been maimed…. Providing relief is an immediate measure, rehabilitation is a long haul. Is there a plan? From all the reports so far, the short answer is no.

The easy way out is to monetize the loss and pay people a few lakhs for their loss. This merely buys an immediate high but as anybody who has dealt with government rehabilitation programmes knows, getting this compensation is a long, heart wrenching process. It is also a convenient fig leaf for the government’s incompetence in providing material rehabilitation. The real danger in this approach are the real estate hawks will swoop in and rebuild houses using compensation money in a slip-shod way – remember Uttarakhand is also prone to earthquakes. Apart from oiling the real estate mafia’s wheels, people unaccustomed to sudden wealth may end up squandering it on consumer goods. In fact, this seems to be one of the main outcomes of the rehabilitation after the Uttarkashi (1991) and Chamoli (2004) earthquakes.

India has a few examples where rehabilitation work has been systematic and sustained. Following the Tsunami of 2004 and the Bhuj earthquake of 2002, several agencies including the state governments undertook rehabilitation programmes that saw affected populations back on their feet. Can Uttarakhand use lessons from both in its admittedly unique situation? What are these lessons?

One is that reconstruction is not a piecemeal activity. It means getting the different government to work together to provide housing, water supply, sanitation, power, credit, roads, animal husbandry, health and education. In this laundry list of activities, there are immediate, medium and long-term priorities. Immediate priorities are housing, water, food, sanitation, health and power. Medium-term needs are education, animal husbandry, roads and credit while long-term needs include health-related aspects such as counselling, and rebuilding livelihoods.

After the Tsunami, the Tamil Nadu Government and the World Bank started a project (that concluded last year) to build multi-hazard resistant housing, restore farm land, strengthen animal husbandry infrastructure, restore and strengthen public infrastructure like roads,water supply, bridges, schools, health centres, etc., and conduct scientific studies to understand coastal ecology.

The last kind of study to understand Himalayan ecology is significant since the already-fragile Himalayan ecosystem has been subject to enormous stresses of dam building, hotel and housing construction and road building. This is on top of more than a century of systematically replacing natural forests with commercial ones comprised mostly of pine species, a process that has made the brittle slopes even more so. The cumulative impact of these activities has not been assessed. Religious tourism added a human dimension to the incident.

After the 1991 Uttarkashi earthquake, building codes were changed so people made safer houses. This year’s incident shows they flattered to deceive as raging torrents washed away these ‘safer’ houses as they were situated along the rivers, or in some cases on stilts made on the river. If there are zoning regulations in Uttarakhand, they are observed only in the breach. Reconstruction has to follow recommendations of the River Regulation Zone and other guidelines developed after the earthquake.

There are established protocols for providing water and sanitation in the aftermath of a natural disaster to prevent outbreaks of disease. The State Government needs to follow these in the short and medium terms while rebuilding water supply systems and installing sanitation. In a sense this is an opportunity to start afresh and provide affected villages better facilities.

In all flood prone areas, there are designated safe buildings; these are usually schools that are stocked with emergency supplies. Uttarakhand has plenty of schools but the buildings need to be upgraded so they are flood and landslide resistant. For the latter, the only solution is siting the building out of the way of landslides and developing a natural forest on fragile slopes to reduce their likelihood. Emergency drills can familiarise villagers with the location of the safe building, the shortest route to it and the supplies available. This has also to fit into the reconstruction and rehabilitation phase.

Medical attention is another immediate and medium-term imperative. Physical injuries need immediate attention while mental trauma will require medium or even long-term attention; unfortunately our disaster rehabilitation programmes pay little attention to this aspect.

Rebuilding Uttarakhand needs to take a different path from that promoted by the headlong religious tourism mayhem of road and building construction. Now that the downside of ‘development’ such as the multitude of dams is evident the State Government needs to revisit its promotion of these and other projects that magnified the natural disaster. Its approach to immediate relief gives one little confidence of its ability to do so, but ignoring the message from this incident will only magnify future ones. In the meantime, Uttarakhand must start rehabilitation work in earnest before the monsoon slows it down.
Nitya Jacob, CSE
Reality Bites
Ostriches are not a patch on our Ganga Warriors
Text: Bharat Lal Seth
Art: Anirban Bora
Catchwater: Technical advice for planning and designing rainwater harvesting in your house/colony/institution/industry

Every Friday between 2-6 PM, CSE provides technical advice for designing rainwater harvesting. You can meet CSE staff members in their office at the following address:

41, Tughlakabad Institutional Area
New Delhi - 110062

If you are interested in setting up a rainwater harvesting structure, please get a prior appointment through mail (amandeep@cseindia.org / sushmita@cseindia.org) or you can call (+91-9013900696).

Please send us the filled up attached form: (Questionnaire for RWH: pdf | doc) before coming to the meeting.



Water News from CSE
Delhi witnesses record June flood
Centre seeks to expedite interlinking of rivers
Kandy gets beauty treatment
Dabur's Real trouble in Sri Lanka
River flood plains remain go zones
Stink in the leather belt
Uttarakhand'shydelprojects need urgent review
Floods in Uttarakhand explained
Flood fury: writing was on the wall
The rivers, blue and black
Water Footprint: a stumbling block?
Other News
Water Pollution
Immersion under tribunal lens

The tradition of immersing idols may soon be ripped off puja celebrations.

Govt sleeps as toxic waste poisons water in Punjab

Notwithstanding claims of the Punjab Government and the state Pollution Control Board the practice of discharging domestic waste and untreated industrial effluents into drains, rivulets and water channels continues unabated in Jalandhar and Kapurthala.

Oil spill off Mumbai worse than estimated

The oil spill on the Uran coast close to Mumbai is larger than what was estimated.

Doctors call for tests on 'mystery' pollution found in Yamuna

Pollution in Yamuna refuses to come down despite efforts by the Delhi government and various agencies.

Water Resources
Built-up area takes a heavy toll on green cover, water bodies

The built-up area in the National Capital Region, which includes residential, non-residential, landfill sites, etc., has increased by 34.6 per cent from 1999-2012.

Green tribunal pulls up govt on groundwater

Displeased with a Delhi Government report on the illegal use of groundwater, the National Green Tribunal on Wednesday asked senior officials to appear before it.

President calls for better utilisation of water

President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday called for devising a “broad over-arching” national legal framework that will pave way for essential legislation on water governance in the country.

Ground water level scenario in India (Pre Monsoon 2013)

Decline in water level more than 4 m is mostly prominent in the states of Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Andhra Pradesh.

Water Supply
India to Invest $1.8 Billion in Village Water Supplies

India, where 200,000 children four and under die yearly of diseases caused by dirty water, plans to spend 110 billion rupees ($1.8 billion) for the fiscal year ending March 2014 to improve village water.

Water level depleting, Gurgaon looks to set up its own jal board

Keeping the city’s growing water-and sewage-related problems, government authorities have suggested establishment of an agency similar to the Delhi Jal Board.

Draft Meghalaya State Water Policy 2013

The overall objective of the Meghalaya Water Policy is to “ensure that water is used efficiently, shared equitably, managed sustainably, governed transparently and contributing to improving the health

Stinking reality: Centre's data exposes states' tall claims on rural sanitation

States and the Centre often speak in different tones. But now, statistics reveal that even their “facts” differ.

Rajasthan town makes a clean job of sanitation

Churu, a town in the Thar desert populated by 1.2 lakh people, has come a long way in the last three years.

Corporations’ public toilets report rejected

Irked by the status report submitted by the three municipal corporations and NDMC on the issue of public toilets in the city, the Delhi High Court bench of Justice B D Ahmad and Justice Vibhu Bakhru on Wednesday rejected the corporations' reports.

Solid Waste

The housing and urban development (H&UD) department has formed a task force to implement the use of plastic waste for road construction.

Maintain status quo on waste management draft, says HC

A Karnataka High Court Bench has asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to maintain status quo on a draft of the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2013.


The designated garbage dumping site of the civic body at Bhanpur, which has been operational for the last 33 years, does not have clearance from pollution monitoring agency MPPCB.

Forthcoming events
Conferences / Events in India
International Summit on Water Cooperation for inclusive growth 2013
HYDRO 2013 International-18th International Conference o Hydraulics, Water Resources, Coastal and Environmental Engineering
CII Water Conclave, 2013
Political Economy of Water: A Social Work Response
International Conferences/Events
12th to 13th November 2013, London, United Kingdom
Water in Mining
International Water Week