Water, droughts, and floods on the Indian subcontinent:
The naturalecologies solution.
R.Ashok Kumar, B.E.,M.E., Negentropist, Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal,299,Tardeo Road, Nana Chowk,Mumbai-400007. Tel: 022-23872061. e-mail:email@example.com
Copyright © 2014 Ramaswami Ashok Kumar
The conventional approach and its fallacy
MS Menon,in his piece "Raining down on a good idea"(Indian Express August 16,2004) sets forth the conventional way of handling the issues regarding droughts and floods. Like all the rest who have written on the problem of water availability in India created by men in the first place, he specialises in the neglect of biology, the central problem of our times. Modern civilisation, created by specialists will, in the words of the prophet Mahatma Gandhi destroy itself given sufficient time. What is required today is the utter selfless cooperation of the Menons and his ilk with the biologists who are ecologists, who have 'despecialised their vision'. The arm-chair theorists and the pseudo-environmentalists occupy almost all the positions of policy making, the media and the commercial enterprises -they had in the past and are doing so today- and are assuring destruction. They have debunked the Sardar Sarovar report commissioned by the World Bank and are now seeing the overtopping of the Sardar Sarovar dam. They have remained silent and smiling when forests after forests, the true temples of all time India- were destroyed-when dam after dam remained incomplete-and went to the next dam to mint money. Go speak to the sages-they will tell you the truth.
Shri MS Menon commits a demonstrable error in reasoning when he states: 'The Indian land mass receives an average annual precipitation of 4,000 billion cubic metres (BCM), 75 per cent of it in the three-month monsoon period. But the available resource is only about 1,950 BCM, the rest being lost to immediate evaporation and soil moisture. However, due to topographical and geological constraints, the utilisable quantum of water is estimated as only about 1,100 BCM (700 BCM from surface flows and 400 BCM from groundwater). Understandably, even this is not uniformly distributed within the country as the rainfall varies from 11,000 mm in the North-East to 100 mm in the western regions.'
First, he has his data incorrect-in the West we also have 11000mm to 5000 mm adjacent to the rain shadows! Second, his audit is a typical dam builder's flaw because he ignores the contribution of trees in forests. From fundamental physiological principles of plants it can be shown that when India is reforested to 20 kg/sq.m dry biomass density on a third of its area throughout its area, it transpires 1000 Sardar Sarovars live storage(SSLS) or 5800 billion cubic meters (BCM) out of a rainfall of 84 cm annual rains(June to September)on its area of 3.286 million square kilometers or 2761 BCM (500 SSLS).This is so because of the characteristic of the trees acting as giant pumps-rain machines- in using the water again and again through transpiration. This property of the trees enables automatic river-interlinking through the medium of equitable groundwater recharging via the atmospheric network of transpiration enabled by the sun and the osmotic property of the roots(a multiple of the gravitational pull on the groundwaters). That’s why once you destroy the forests, you resort to the harsh measure of the dam. The Menons and his tribe of specialists who think of river interlinking only as a set of artificial canal/dam schemes are doomed to fail. Only if they cooperate with a set of -subcontinent wide and even beyond -people's cooperatives, where living is on the basis of income from the multiple products of the forests, will the floods and droughts be sufficiently buffered. The engineers and the policy makers must stop this reckless neglect of harnessing the ecological, living properties of nature. There is nothing more tragic than ignorance in action. 'There is no pure reason for the non-harmonised/Nor for the non-harmonised is there concentration/For one without concentration there is no peace/And for the unpeaceful how can there be happiness?'-The Gita. Don’t you see how mercilessly they are watching the people being driven out of their lands like rats when the Sardar Sarovar dam overtopped(design basis accident?). And how the Chinese and our executives are anxiously awaiting the Goedelian outcome of the Pareechi 'dam' proceedings? What if all the glaciers melt at an extraordinary pace as is almost the case now? And how the Tunga-Bhadra and the Hirakud dams have had their capacity drastically reduced by siltation? Or when the dams run dry because of no rains? Yes Mahatma Gandhi, given enough time modern civilisation will destroy itself. Unless they....
Harness the concentration of nature
Buffering the effects of droughts and floods can only come about by harnessing the concentration of nature. Not by fragmenting it into pieces of resources unsustainable and giving them temporary virtual values for sale in the market, neglecting our living communities-including men, women and the remarkable power of animals available at 1000 megawatts per square kilometer of power flow for kindly use. The dams constructed for electricity only like the Bodhghat and Koyna deforest the forest floor of 1000 MW/sq.km power flow to produce electricity at most at 7-10 MW per sq.km; Wind-farms instead of forests do even worse at 0.6 to 1 MW per sq.km land use.
The forests use the soil on which they stand, use the solar energy which drenches them and the rain falling on them and create winds. The contraptions of man use the water only or the wind only by destroying it or the sun's rays only to produce only one useful output, wasting all the other inputs: diluting the power of nature and contributing to human misery, fertile lands wasted in a subcontinent where every piece of land is priceless.
The Consequences of Artificial Fragmentation of Nature
The specialists neatly divided the solution-the forests into several problems-dams, borewells, silting up of the rivers, canals and reservoirs, by rampant deforestation and poaching, floods, droughts, displacement and homelessness and undesirable effects on sustainable living in harmony with the life giving nature. The arm-chair theorists are those who are merrily paving away our rich soils into wastelands -the so-called quadrilateral, without ever winking to see an ecologically sustainable coastline transport system of barges and shipping using even sails and a little fossil and nature- friendly(full of marshes and mangroves!) ports. The specialists must come to terms- yea- become ecology literate- sustainability literate, must use the present dams to create forests, so ultimately but quickly, the walls will give way-yea- the Chinese are not excluded from this cooperative effort nor the institutions like the IMF and the World Bank but with their primitive industrial hardwired mindset thrown overboard- and continually metamorphose like the institutionalised innovators that USA represents... What are you talking Menon? River Inter-linking ? Yes but the method to be adopted must definitely not be that recommended by you and the other ecologically/sustainability illiterate specialists- but must spring forth from the concept of -people's cooperatives oriented- ecologically compatible reforestation- self regenerating- producing income from its products and not displacing people but certainly reducing the number of indiscriminately built matchboxes and multiple highways which reduce the life breath of life-soil, air , water and forests to unbreathable concrete and the litter of enormous number of automobiles and ramshackle lorries working at ten percent efficiency-burning ninety percent of the resources into flames and greenhouses.
Reverdure is the trumpet call for survival
I call on the journalists of courage and the so called engineers and scientists to look beyond their noses into the fundamental physiological principles of plants- rain machines and allow them to be reproduced automatically-and allow the automatic intrinsic control of atmospheric equitable distribution of rainfall by vegetation with the help of Surya... but the hard work is the effective, farsighted teaming up of people into well-knit units of co-operation and the build up once again of sufficient density of diverse vegetation in the form of forests up to a level which can assure wholesome living for a long time to come. We have no time to start but now...
An example of Reforestation Vs a Dam
Assume that we are in a context where the whole of the subcontinent is optimally reforested so that automatic recharging of groundwaters is assured so that groundwater levels are controlled by forests.
AN ENERGY AUDIT OF THE BODGHAT DAM
The dam project clearly brings out , in the engineer's own language, how unacceptable the project is. The dam impounds water and generates 107 megawatts of energy-capacity according to the plan. To do this it would submerge or has already has, 14000 hectares (ha) of the most fertile land, including 6000 ha of forests. Standard calculations using the universal energy equivalent of transpiration from trees show that the forest around Bodhghat generates an energy (-capacity)equivalent of 18300 MW besides providing water, fertile soil and fresh air.(The dam is thus 171 times a net consumer of power/energy. After it silts up, you create another contraption at another fertile location, displacing people). We are committing cultural ethnocide when we destroy the very balance of nature and its immense genetic variability. Far from being useful to the people, the Bodhghat dam project buries rich land and in effect deprives the people of an immense source of power.
WE are repeating the folly in the fertile Nimad plains on the banks of the Narmada by building the Maheshwar dam which the people and aware scientists reject as modern fundamentalism.
Eight years ago ,in 1992,the Independent Review-The Morse Committee Report, stunned the World Bank into withdrawing funding for the Sardar Sarovar projects. The disastrous financial consequences of large dams are irreversible as we can derive from the invincible data furnished by the independent review: Large dams constructed since independence are equivalent to a live storage capacity of 47.5 Sardar Sarovars(SSLS). Live storage capacity of 22 Sardar Sarovars -i.e., 22 SSLS have already silted up in just 50 years. The remaining large dam capacity of 25 to 26 SSLS will be silted up in another 65 years. Already the heights of many are to be raised and some have already been! Bankers and FIIs should realise that since independence the 22 SSLS silting up represents an NAV erosion of Rs100,000 Cr at current prices! Probably to make good the eroded NAV, the dam lobby would not like to foreclose the loony large dam!
THE POWER OF CONCENTRATION OF NATURE
The annual summer monsoon rainfall in India is 84 cm or 500 Sardar sarovars live storage(SSLS). The annual freshwater withdrawal is 115 SSLS. Involving everyone concerned like the tribals and other locals affected (people’s cooperatives like Amul), if we allow regeneration of forests ecologically at 20 kg per sq. meter dry biomass density and more(in hilly areas, etc) throughout India over a third of its area, then in a decade or two, we will progressively improve the utilisation of rainwaters by nature to the extent of 1000 Sarsdar Sarovars live storage. Since rainwaters are only 500 SSLS, how come we can use 1000? This is because of the magic of transpiration by the trees. The trees transpire 1000 SSLS, in successive cycles of precipitation and transpiration, utilising only two percent for their growth and production of multiple outputs -the GNP or The Gross Nature Product! Of the remaining 98%, 50% or so is transpired into the skies distributing nutritious groundwaters throughout India equitably in proportion to the density of the vegetation. The remaining is run off and evaporation. These the trees perform by acting as giant pumps working at 100 to 500 atmospheres pressure. This is enabled through the medium of natural nuclear fusion power in the sun safely 150 million kms away ! Reverdure then, is alternative, infinitely superior to the dam and its costly appurtenances. Forests regenerated will enable the people to preserve energy in cycles of use, live on income and not erode capital, have the fruitcake and eat it too. The people can innovate in the enjoyment of the use of living energy, including their own muscle power (some 100000 MW) and make the earth a better place to live for the coming generations. And not oscillate in sensex vibrations subject to human fallibility, ignorance and greed, stage-managed by a few arabpathys(an arab is a 100 crore) of globalised fancy.This is "Natural Capitalism" the Indian way. Read for example the Vedanta-the Bhagavadgita for the algorithm.
The government of India must be guided by us to divert the insane misuse of funds via artificial nuclear power of the fission type (or any other artificial nuke power) and large dams(including for their cooling) and other forms of manipulative capitalism to ecological regeneration of forests involving the people as leaders within Amul like or better cooperatives.
1.Plant Physiology Online, www.plantphys.net :a companion to Plant Physiology, Third Edition by Lincoln Taiz and Eduardo Zeiger, published by Sinauer
2. Mines,S.H.1971. The Last Days of Mankind:Ecological Survival or Extinction. Simon & Schuster,New York.
3. Ashok Kumar, R. May 1986.Modern Civilisation and Normal Civilisation: The Need for Small Self-Sufficient Communities. GANDHI MARG. pp70-92. Gandhi Peace Foundation New Delhi.
4 Tiwari, K.M.1984. Indian Forest Records(New Series). Forest Influences. Vol. 3,No.1. Measures to Control Floods in the Ganga Basin. FRI Press. Forest Research Institute and Colleges. Dehra Dun. Controller of Publications . New Delhi.
5. Ashok Kumar, R. 2004. The Power of Natural Nuclear: Trees and Wind Farms. See http://o3.indiatimes.com/thepoweroflivingenergy
The author has worked in the engineering and training departments of a premier conventional power company in India. Reverdure is his signature!