Saturday, September 20, 2014


West Bengal has a very good groundwater potential. The reason of such affluence is due to her geographical location, high rainfall, and geological setting. But in recent times groundwater development in some districts in this state has been increased to such an extent that in some areas conditions of near overexploitation has developed. The condition, though not severe yet, has inspired hydro-geologists to think for conservation and sustainable development of groundwater. It has become necessary to assess the state of art and to find ways to augment the resource. Groundwater is not an isolated resource. It is a phenomenon within the hydrological cycle. So depending on the hydro-geological condition, water level condition, and stage of development proper measure for control of groundwater exploitation should be undertaken.
Now groundwater in West Bengal has now become a precious commodity. New industries are coming up in west Bengal, who will also be more dependants on groundwater. So the Act is a very timely intervention of the Government in proper management and conservation of the precious natural resource. It has become a great task of the implementing agency to carry on with it. 
Initially the groundwater Act 2005 was extensive and covered all types of structures that exploit groundwater through mechanical pumping devices. But recent changes have spared the farmers from obtaining permit. So the Act is now being implemented upon industries that are willing to use groundwater for their production or other uses in the industrial areas.
Some significant changes are made to the procedures for obtaining permit, though the main protocols, like submission of application, depositing permit/ application fees, and the authority who will receive the permit have not been changed.
There are two authorities:
1) the District Level Authority or the DLA, where the District Majistrate of the respective district is the chairman and the Geologist in charge of the district level offices of State Water Investigation Directorate (SWID) is the member secretary and the key technical person. The DLA has 10 to 12 maembers from the line departments and the Zilla Parishad who will initially examine the application.
2) The State level authority (SLA) gives the final vetting of the application. The Superintending Geologist of SWID is the member secretary and the Director SWID is the chairman of the SLA. There are other members of the Expert Committee from departments like, PHED, CGWB, Agriculture, Irrigation, Minor Irrigation etc.
The basic procedures for obtaining the permit are:
1.       Apply in plain paper to the DLA and collect requisite number of application forms from the DLA. The format of the form is available at
2.       Fill up the form (it is a bit complicated) collect all required documents and information and get treasury challan form (TR 7). You can download the form here
3.       Fill up the treasury challan and visit the geologist of your district (where the industry will come up). 4 copies of TR form will be required for each application.
4.       The Geologist (the member secretary of the SLA) will sign on your TR form.
5.       You will then have to deposit the application fee (Rs. 500) to the State Bank of India branch of the district. The Bank will return 2 copies of the TR form.
6.       You now come back to the DLA office and submit the Application form along with the TR form and the relevant documents.
7.       The member secretary will examine the form, your water requirement, visit the location of the propose tubewell, prepare a note on the hydrogeological condition of the site, the merit of the application and place it to the DLA meeting.
8.       DLA if satisfied forward the application to the SLA with their recommendation.
9.       Your Case will be discussed in the SLA meeitng and a high power committee will examine your case. If they are satisfied they will vet the case and instruct the DLA to issue the permit.
10.    The DLA will issue a letter of information to the applicant. The applicant will again submit Rs. 1000 as permit fee to the bank. Come back to the geologist and receive the permit.
 The documents required: (not limited to)
1.       The application form duly filled in.
2.       DPR of your Industrial Project + proof of ownership of land
3.       The mouza map of the area showing the location of the proposed tube well.
4.       Your detailed break up of water use.
5.       You detailed plan about how you are going the get the required water, the quantity and source
6.       Your water conservation plan
7.       Your rainwater harvesting plan
8.       Details of water harvesting structures ( no groundwater recharge in industrial area is allowed by the West Bengal Pollution Control Board)
9.       Location of the RWH ponds will have to be shown in the mouza map and also in the proposed layout plan.
10.    A declaration in plain paper that you will maintain the RWH ponds as long as the plant will be there.
11.    You will have to keep the existing ponds in your plant, but if you wish to fill it you will have to take necessary arrangements fos alternative pond excavation and conversion of the pond land.
12.    Your CSR activities related to groundwater conservation and augmentation.
13.    A hydro-geological feasibility report of your proposed plant area (buffer zone) to support your demand.
14.    Impact analysis of the whole operation of groundwater extraction.


Thursday, July 3, 2014


Ground water quality of the State of West Bengal is assessed for the last three decades by various institutions including State Water Investigation Directorate. The parameters determined include pH, specific conductance, dissolved major ions (pass through 0.45 mm pore size membrane filter) like Ca++, Mg++, Na+, HCO3-, CO3- -, Cl-, SO4- - . Minor ions like iron, arsenic and fluoride are also included to ascertain the quality of ground water for drinking purpose. Partial analysis of water quality parameter reveals that the quality of groundwater in the State can be grouped into three classes (i) low chloride and high bicarbonate type, (ii) chloride – bicarbonate type, (iii) sodium or magnesium – calcium – chloride type with variable bicarbonate. Since historical past the State of West Bengal is considered as one of richest states in respect of ground water storage . The quality problem in ground water, extracted from shallow depth aquifers (< 100 m. bgl.) has been high level of total iron content in major part of riverine plains. Besides, the coastal aquifers of prograding Ganga – Brahmaputra delta front are infested with both connate and cyclic salinity. These two problems are of perpetual nature. While the first problem i.e. high iron content is usually mitigated by individual capacity, the issue of development and management of the second one i.e. salinity in ground water is under concern of the Government. But after eighties the Government Departments and researchers dealing with ground water are challenged with new facets of problems due to toxicity in groundwater by contamination of arsenic and fluoride.  Out of 341 blocks of the State, ground water in almost all the Blocks are suitable for agriculture except 59 Blocks of coastal region. But for safe drinking water purposes the scenario is complex as a consequence of toxic ion contamination by mainly Arsenic and Fluoride. The problems of Arsenic toxicity in ground water have been detected, mostly in the top and middle aquifers, from 81 blocks of the State. Presence of fluoride in ground water has been detected in the hard rock (basalt and granite) terrain of Birbhum district in 4 blocks only.  Arsenic contamination has also been found in scattered locations of South Kolkata. In the State of West Bengal severe effects of Arsenic toxicity are found in 26 blocks and that for fluoride is 1. Causes of the high level of Arsenic and Fluoride contamination are thought to be geogenic. However, the detailed geochemistry of such occurrences is under study. The Chromium contamination (~3mg/lit) is detected at Raghabpur in Purulia –I block. The source of chromium contamination is under investigation. Groundwater in and around industrial areas of Howrah and Burdwan are prone to contamination by industrial effluents.

 The multidimensional facets of groundwater problems prevailing in the state made it open for SWID to extend its scope of work in all the major user sectors. Significant database in respect of groundwater quality is generated and periodical updating of the same is a continuous process for the SWID within its available resources. Investigations are in progress throughout the state for updating the arsenic and fluoride spread maps. Such a centrally assisted Project for study of arsenic spread was taken up under Rajib Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission in the year 2003. Central assistance may help to take up new projects with the said objective. The Ministry of Water Resources, GOI, has provided financial assistance to SWID to study dilution of Arsenic in ground water by artificial recharge. Another centrally funded R&D project of special nature has been completed in collaboration with B.C.K.V.V., Kalyani and NBSS & LUP, wherein the effect of use of arsenical water for irrigation on selected agro-produces has been studied in parts of North 24 Parganas. Central assistance is needed to continue the study in other areas as well. The mechanism of salinisation in parts of the coastal tracts by isotope techniques was studied jointly with BARC. The study may be continued if fund is made available. Detail research on tube wells sealing methodology is essential for development of groundwater in coastal saline region. Intensive study on aquifer geometry of coastal area may be envisaged by other methodologies like resitivity survey, tracer study, fresh-sea water interface geochemistry and exploratory drilling.

Sunday, June 29, 2014


After eleven years of campaigning by local people suffering from water shortages, state authorities have closed Coca-Cola's bottling plant at Mehdiganj, Uttar Pradesh as a result of people’s movement against land grab, illegal construction and indiscriminate withdrawal of water.  It is to be known whether Coca-Cola is doing such things in India. But the closure has triggered international debate on the water policy of Coca-Cola and the extent of its implementation in India. "Coca-Cola's thirst for profits in India have placed its business interests over the well-being of communities and the environment and this is not acceptable as the community of Mehdiganj has shown", said Amit Srivastava of the international campaigning group, India Resource Center.
What are the reasons behind closure of Coca-Cola plant?
In Mehdiganj near Varanasi in Uttarpradesh is mainly an agriculture belt. In 2003 Coca-Cola started its bottling plant with a temporary permit for operation with a production target of 20000 cases per day. By 2009 it has increased ts production to 36000 crates per day without any permit from the authority. Neither had they sought for any groundwater clearance from the CGWA. 1999 Mehdiganj was a safe category block as was assessed by the Central Groundwater Authority. But by 2004 it turned into a critical block in terms of groundwater resource.  The third reason is that it had built some constructions on community land which belongs to the Gramsabha. In December 2013, local authorities passed an order to evict Coca-Cola from the illegally occupied land. This followed a ruling by the The Supreme Court of India of 28th January 2011, which stated that any structures built on illegal land would have to be demolished.
Coca-Cola and zero water policy
Coca-Cola advocates for its zero water policy which means that the company will return to the Earth the water they are withdrawing. Coca-Cola has his own water policies and strictly adheres to some activities that include source water surveillance, groundwater recharge in the catchment, and ensure sustainability. It is important for water users to know that there is need to allocate financial resources for the management of the same resources. The Coca cola plant should have used money to help in the recharging of the aquifers where they were getting their ground water. The principle of use money to generate should have been applied. Also there was need to have a dual purpose borehole where by some water from another source may be by using rainwater harvesting should been directed into the borehole while at the same time it is being pumped. There should have been a case where there are time when pumping is less than recharging. There should have also been ground water monitoring so as to evaluate the dynamics of the water table for the said aquifer. It is a demonstration that big corporates like Coca Cola have to look beyond their own practices and get engaged with broader catchment level resource management. No matter what their own practices are, or the terms of their legal licence, they will lose their social licence to operate if resources become depleted. This is a very interesting story indeed, showing the need for multi-nationals like Coca Cola to increase their focus on the creation of shared or societal value rather than shareholder value. Certainly, producers of goods that are generally perceived as unhealthy and 'superfluous' will increasingly be confronted with the question of how ethical it is that they make use of scarce resources. 
Doesn't Coca-Cola adhere to the best practices in natural resource management in the developed part of the world? Then why they have given a miss in India?
Whether Coca-Cola had adhered to best practices or not is immaterial. No catchment has infinite resource. Artificial recharge is something like allocating surface runoff into groundwater storage. But total water resource of a watershed remains the same. Groundwater recharge always depletes environmental flow or other natural allocation of water. What Coca-Cola or other beverage factories do is export of water from the catchment (watershed) to the outside market. This consequently depletes the total water resource of the catchment.

If large companies that depend on scarce resources want to keep their 'license to operate', they need to consider what they can do to help reduce overall resource scarcity, beyond their own product chain or sector. Reducing its own ecological footprint is no longer enough; industry needs to also help competing users of scarce resources to become more efficient - especially when operating in poor communities where little funding is available for investments in e.g improved irrigation systems.

The company is also the target of a major community campaign in Kala Dera in Rajasthan where the community is seeking closure of the bottling plant due to rapidly depleting ground water.
Most recently, Coca-Cola's plans to build a new factory in Charba in Uttarakhand were defeated almost as soon as the proposal was made public in 2013, testament to how quickly and efficiently communities can organize and network in India against problematic companies such as Coca-Cola.
Amit Srivastava promised: "We will ensure that Coca-Cola will face heightened scrutiny anywhere it plans to operate in India because the track record of the company is dismal."

Friday, June 13, 2014

El Nino 2014 and its Probable Impact

This year monsoon has reached the Kerala coast a few days later than the schedule.  This is not very unusual and may not impact the agriculture in general. But what is looming the atmosphere is more severe and may cause severe water crisis in south Asia. This is attributed to the formation of a weather Phenomenon called the El Nino, which can cause drought in South Asia, is only expected to have an impact later in the four-month rainy season.
During the first week of the monsoon there was 40% less monsoon across India.  It is also forecasted that progress of monsoon would be slower and may impact the normal agriculture of the country. Usually, the monsoon covers a great part of India by mid-June, and engulfs its entire landmass by mid-July.

 El Niño refers to a giant pool of warm water swelling in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, that sets off a chain reaction of weather events around the world, Effect of El Nino is  devastating in some part of the tropic and countries of southern hemisphere but it benefits some regions in the north. US is is to get benefit from it. India is expected to be the first to suffer, with weaker monsoon rains undermining the nation’s fragile food supply, followed by further scorching droughts in Australia and collapsing fisheries off South America.
El Niño is defined by prolonged warming in the Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures when compared with the average value. The accepted definition is a warming of at least 0.5 °C (0.9 °F) averaged over the east central tropical Pacific Ocean. Typically, this anomaly happens at irregular intervals of two to seven years, and lasts nine months to two years. The average period length is five years. When this warming occurs for only seven to nine months, it is classified as El Niño "conditions"; when it occurs for more than that period, it is classified as El Niño "episodes". Similarly, La Niña conditions and episodes are defined for cooling.
The first signs of an El Niño are:
1.      Rise in surface pressure over the Indian OceanIndonesia, and Australia
2.      Fall in air pressure over Tahiti and the rest of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean
3.      Trade winds in the south Pacific weaken or head east
4.      Warm air rises near Peru, causing rain in the northern Peruvian deserts
5.      Warm water spreads from the west Pacific and the Indian Ocean to the east Pacific. It takes the rain with it, causing extensive drought in the western Pacific and rainfall in the normally dry eastern Pacific region.

El Niño's warm rush of nutrient-poor water heated by its eastward passage in the Equatorial Current, replaces the cold, nutrient-rich surface water of the Humboldt Current. When El Niño conditions last for many months, extensive ocean warming and the reduction in easterly trade winds limits upwelling of cold nutrient-rich deep water, and its economic impact to local fishing for an international market can be serious. 

Global sea surface temperature in May 2013 and May 2014. Photograph: NASA

El Niños also typically damp down hurricane activity. But hurricane Andrew, one of the deadliest and costliest in recent history, that adversely affected Florida in 1992, which was an El Niño year.  Another big issue under El Nino is floods in countries of western Pacific. It may bring devastating floods in countries like Peru, Equador and Chile. The 1997-98 El Niño slashed the catch by 80%, as the fish migrated away from the abnormally warm waters. Luis Icochea, a fisheries expert at the National Agrarian University in Lima, warned that the event this year is developing in a similar way.

Another deadly impact of El Nino is on the social and cultural environment that needs to be understood more seriously. It has an ability to spark civil wars and local violence. During the last 50 years between 1950 and 2000, about 20% civil wars occurred in the El Nino cycle, probably due to the loss of crops, jobs and the psychological effects of hotter weather.   Hsiang told the Guardian that, based on historical data, a Pacific warming of 0.8C is associated with a rise in the annual risk of conflict of 15%. It is certainly a developing situation that we should keep track of and it would be excellent to have policy-makers and the public aware of the potential risk.