April 25, 2022

Good morning. In today’s either/view, we debate whether the Telangana government’s act of doing away with the protection of areas surrounding two reservoirs in Hyderabad has any merit. We also look at the UN award for an e-proposal system bestowed on Meghalaya, among other news.


đź“° FEATURE STORY

Government Order 111: Telangana’s Water Troubles

This story goes back to 1908. Hyderabad witnessed one of the worst floods it has ever seen. Several died, many lost their homes and cattle, and devastation was everywhere. The Nizam of Hyderabad, at the time, was determined to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself. Thus, he built 2 reservoirs to control water levels before entering the city. And made sure that pollution of that water was at a minimum too.

Cut to today, the K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR)-led government has called that decree redundant and has done away with Government Order 111 completely. According to him, the water in those reservoirs only covers 1% of Hyderabad’s water demand and, at this point, is just hindering progress in the region. Instead of prohibiting projects within a 10 km radius, the government will use other measures to protect the water sources.

Obviously, the shock, awe and protests were quick to follow after such an announcement, but the government still seems to be headstrong on this matter.

Context

After the ruin caused by the Musi river’s overflowing, the twin reservoirs – Osmansagar and Himayatsagar – were built in 1920 and 1927, respectively. Till the early 2000s, the water from these structures even served as the primary source of drinking water in Hyderabad. Several activists and environmentalists believe that the city’s success was only possible because of the reservoirs.

Pre-independence, the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Mahboob Ali Khan, had issued a firman, or a royal decree, that protected the surroundings of the reservoirs. It basically banned all construction and other activities that would pollute or block the flow of water in the catchment areas of the lochs. A catchment is where rainwater collects and drains naturally.

In 1996, the N Chandrababu Naidu-led government of the then united Andhra Pradesh followed the decree with Government Order (GO) 111. This prohibits “industries, major hotels, residential colonies or other establishments that generate pollution in the catchment of Himayatsagar and Osmansagar, up to 10 km from the full tank level (FTL) of the lakes.” The FTL is the most amount of water a reservoir can hold.

Over the next 26 years, Hyderabad grew as a city. The increased population and evolution of space resulted in changing sources of drinking water and several calls to scrap GO 111. In fact, the two and a half decades saw several encroachments come up in the 10 km radius, with cases regarding this pending in the court system and the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

This brings us to last Wednesday, 20 April 2022. The government of Telangana issued GO 69 to replace GO 111. The new order opens the catchment area up to development projects but will only permit them if the water remains unharmed. According to officials, other efforts to improve water quality will also be taken up.

VIEW: Prohibits progress

The Osmansagar and Himayatsagar catchments had around 1.32 lakh acres of land that GO 111 kept from getting used for various plans and projects. As easy as it would be to completely lambast the decision of revoking the order, the figures simply say otherwise. The 1.32 lakh acres had already been subject to various encroachments, and there are 84 villages located in it that have, for a long time, been kept out of developmental projects. Of course, this doesn’t call for the desolation of the environment. And the state government seems to understand that.

GO 69, which has been issued to replace that of 111, clearly goes over the various initiatives the government has to take to ensure the water quality does not drop. Its primary focus will be installing decentralised Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) in different locations. Diversion channels will then be constructed to carry the treated water away from the reservoirs to ensure it does not enter the lakes. The new GO also calls for the upkeep of the quality of groundwater and reducing surface run-off, agricultural waste and other pollutants from coming into contact with the lakes’ water.

Finally, we come to CM KCR’s comments about the city of Hyderabad not depending on the two lakes anymore. According to officials, the city’s current drinking water requirement is over 600 million gallons per day. This mostly gets drawn from the Krishna river. When GO 111 was issued, the two reservoirs were responsible for 27.59% of the city’s drinking water. Now, the water taken from Himayatsagar and Osmansagar only covers 1.25%. Clearly, they are no longer the lifeline they used to be in the past. This isn’t the first time the need to scrap GO 111 has come up, and if not removed now, it would have come up again.

As of now, the new GO will only allow construction if the water stays unaffected. And the people of the 84 villages will now witness mass concretisation. Thus, making their spaces more tangible in the eyes of the government.

COUNTERVIEW: Crying shame

First of all, simply saying that Hyderabad has grown out of its two pools of drinking water doesn’t really show us a complete picture. While most of the city’s drinking water is pulled from the Krishna and Godavari rivers, times are getting tough. The availability of water is increasingly tightening, and man-made structures for water storage are drying up. In 2019, the Singur and Manjira reservoirs had a severe shortage of water. Guess what the local bodies tapped into instead to ride out that paucity? The Himayatsagar and Osmansagar reservoirs.

In 2000, the Supreme Court even upheld GO 111 based on the “precautionary principle”. In 1999, a company had set up a plant in Shamshabad within 10 km of the water bodies. When their pollution control board didn’t allow the company to operate its factory there, the latter approached the apex court. The court did not hesitate to lay out the law, stating that just one polluting industry was enough to render all the water of the reservoirs unfit for consumption. Since then, this is the judgement the courts refer to when similar cases are heard.

Bringing up the development argument, the residents of the 84 villages within the 10 km radius of the reservoirs have their reasons to disagree with it. According to Rachamalla Siddeshwar, former sarpanch of Shamshabad gram panchayat, the government has taken up construction work in the region despite the GO. So, technically, there should have been no stalling of development for the villagers. Yet, the infrastructural progress in those communities remains little to none. If the government was really interested in lifting them up, they would have done it already. This removal of GO 111 is simply for revenue.

According to experts, the case is very simple. The real estate sector wants to capitalise on the land available as it has been trying to do this for a while now. In 2016, the RangaReddy Collector informed the NGT about the 12,500 illegal constructions that have come up in the prohibited area. The government, in all of this, was silent. While other arguments might make sense, it’s the real estate lobby that really exerted pressure on the government for this. And the Opposition in the state believes it too.

What’s your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)

a) The Telangana government’s removal of Government Order 111 will help the people of Hyderabad.

b) The Telangana government’s removal of Government Order 111 will hurt the people of Hyderabad.


🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS

For the Right:

Backstory: The Mob-Making Media Machine

For the Left:

Elon Musk is Right About ‘Woke Mind Virus’. The Left Co-Opted and Corrupted Wokeness


🏴 STATE OF THE STATES

Zero waste (Punjab) – The Batala municipal corporation (BMC) is the first civic body in the state to implement a zero-waste management policy. It involves converting domestic waste into organic compost used by farmers to improve soil health and productivity. The composting was done through natural processes using bio cultures that generate bacteria that convert it into compost.

Why it matters: The 50 wards of the BMC generate 20 tonnes of waste every day. Initially, the policy began in 15 wards since the sanitation park was being constructed. Previously, the landfills in the city had been filled with garbage, but that has since changed. Since the project began in August 2021, more than 1,100 tonnes of waste have been diverted from landfill sites.

Climate-smart agriculture (Kerala) – The state will soon begin trials for climate-smart agriculture, starting with coffee. It’s an integrated approach that focuses on increasing productivity, enhancing resilience, and reduced emissions. It will be expanded to other crops later, according to industries minister P Rajeeve. Netherlands-based NL is helping out with the project.

Why it matters: Climate-smart agriculture is something that many see as a way to help combat climate change and help achieve India’s climate goals. In India, agriculture contributes approximately 73% of the country’s methane emissions. The production and cultivation of many crops like paddy and rice result in relatively high carbon emissions. Part of climate-smart agriculture will also involve rethinking power and fertiliser subsidies.

Solar mini-grids (Jharkhand) – In the state’s Gumla district, several women have started small-scale rural enterprises using solar energy. Through self-help groups, they’ve started using mustard processing machines, flour mills, and other small enterprises. Since the village is connected to the central grid, it experiences an erratic power supply. They have to rely on solar power instead. Villagers have to pay â‚ą100-200 per month to recharge it for their usage. It has helped the women to work at a time of their convenience.

Why it matters: Gumla district is one of the most backward districts in the state. About 69% of its population is tribal. Solar energy was introduced to this district in 2015 by the NGO Milinda and the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA). In 44 villages, solar mini-grids between 20 kW-40 kW capacity were installed. A study by the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW) stated access to decentralised renewable energy in rural areas could help in improving economic activities.

Early polls possibility (Gujarat) – Amid visits by senior BJP leaders to the state, there’s speculation that Gujarat could see early elections. The BJP could call for early polls as the tenure of the current Assembly ends next year. Among those who visited are Prime Minister Modi, Union ministers Bhupender Yadav and Anurag Thakur. BJP national president JP Nadda is expected to visit on April 26.

Why it matters: The BJP could push for early elections to catch the opposition on the back foot. One analyst said the number of high-profile BJP leaders visiting the state in quick succession could be a sign. Another analyst said the possibility of early polls is slim as Modi is unlikely to declare early elections in the state that’s important to him personally. Earlier this month, Gujarat BJP Chief CR Patil said the current government will finish its tenure.

UN award for e-proposal system (Meghalaya) – The state’s e-proposal system has won a UN award at the World Summit on the Information Society Forum (WSIS) Prizes, 2022. Meghalaya was among the top 360 projects selected. Out of these, the UN chose the top 5 in 18 categories and awarded them as champion projects. The e-proposal system was selected as the Champion Project in the category of “the role of governments and all stakeholders in the promotion of ICTs for development.”

Why it matters: In February, Chief Minister Conrad Sangma inaugurated the e-proposal system. Its objective is to ensure the delivery mechanism improves at the grassroots level to reduce time and increase efficiency in sanctioning projects. It automates sanctions and approvals of all government departments in the state and provides government services to citizens and other stakeholders.


🔢 KEY NUMBER

â‚ą21,000 crores – The amount the government is likely to get by selling a 3.5% stake in LIC through its upcoming IPO. Earlier, the government announced the sale would be 5%, but was cut due to market volatility.