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India: economic growth causes water crisis

The economic growth triggered by reforms is believed to have lifted 271 million people out of poverty. A closer look reveals its fruits as inedible

In the 1990s, India began to reform its economy in a market-free way in order to accelerate growth. That this made the Indian IT boom possible, for example, is one of many myths.

But a recent study by the United Nations now confirms that the reformers have taken the right path: between 2006 and 2016, 271 million people in India were lifted out of poverty, it says. The extensive list of indicators for the progress achieved also includes access to clean drinking water, which has risen to 93.8 percent for all of India.

However, this success story is clearly challenged by the fact that much of the country suffers from a lack of drinking water. In Chennai, a city of 10 million people, the state cannot even meet half of the population's water needs.

Among the 21 Indian cities that will in all probability run out of groundwater in the next year is the capital Delhi with its 18.6 million inhabitants (2012), whereby Delhi has now merged with its uncontrolled suburbs, so that even approx .40 million people must be spoken to.

However, it is not only the increasing number of inhabitants in the capital that has led to a sharp increase in the amount of pumped up groundwater, but also the transformation of the metropolis' main river, the Yamunas, into a contaminated sewer that cannot be used to obtain drinking water.

Gini coefficient in India: highest level in Asia

The fact that the population is rising so rapidly in major Indian cities has less to do with the stagnating population growth in the foreseeable future than with the rural exodus. The benefits generated by economic growth are not only distributed unfairly among the inhabitants of India from a socio-economic point of view - the Gini coefficient, a measure of the income and wealth distribution of individual countries, has climbed to the highest level in Asia.

Even the US has now overtaken India in terms of income inequality. Rather, the contrast between urban and rural areas is just as important, because the big cities get the greatest part of the "growth". In July of this year, the Indian government had to admit that not even one in five of the 180 million households in rural India have running water in their homes.

While the heat in Delhi exacerbates the drinking water problems, the greater Mumbai (formerly Bombay) area with its 80 million inhabitants was already under water during the first monsoon rain. There were house collapses and short circuits that caused at least 18 deaths.

The floods in Mumbai are the result of a combination of natural and man-made causes. "The predominantly human-made climate change makes everything worse," said environmental journalist Nidhi Jamwal from Mumbai Telepolis. Then she explains that the metropolis was partly built on former islands and that many residential areas are below sea level: "During the southwest monsoons between June and September, 2,100 mm of precipitation falls on Mumbai, which leads to flooding in the lower areas . "

Nidhi Jamwal describes how climate change has concentrated rain on even fewer days: "This year the monsoon came 15 days too late, but on July 1st, according to the measuring station in the Santa Cruz district, 375.2 mm of rain fell on the metropolis within 24 hours After two more days, almost half of the usual rainfall during the entire monsoon period was reached. "

Climate scientists predict that this trend will intensify in the next few years. "In addition, Mumbai still does not have a functioning sewage system, something that citizens' organizations have been pointing out for ages. And that rainwater can no longer seep into the earth because of the dense development. Mumbai's outskirts, like parts of the wetlands, are also built up Water run off there. "

Nidhi Jamwal also refers to the built-up banks of the four rivers of the metropolis and concludes: "As long as the role of the rivers in the floods is not taken into account, it will get worse."

While Mumbai was under water, the 308-meter-wide Ratnagiri Dam broke with the first rain about 100 kilometers away, killing at least 19 people and many more are missing.

In Chennai, the water is now transported expensively by train from the neighboring state of Kerala. As in Mumbai, the real estate boom compacted the soil and at the same time large parts of the wetlands and lakes were destroyed (wetlands, natural and man-made lakes overlap and cannot be completely separated from one another).

Although the groundwater stocks have long since ceased to fully regenerate, their use has been increased further. And not just in Chennai. As a study by the Ministry of Water shows, the groundwater level in the entire country fell by an average of 61 percent between 2007 and 201.

The natural groundwater reservoirs in the densely populated areas of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, West Uttar Phradesh and Rajasthan lose 32 cubic kilometers of water every year. The number of deep wells has spilled from 1.44 million to 2.61 million. The study by the Ministry of Water also found that the water table in the underdeveloped east of the country has only decreased minimally.

Overwhelming

In the capital of West Bengal in Kolkata, some high-ranking civil servants admitted privately that the pace of "progress" was simply overrun. This can be seen, for example, in the number of vehicles registered. It took India almost 60 years (1951 - 2008) to distribute 105 million registered cars. The same number was added in the years 2009-2015. In May 2018, an average of 73,632 vehicles were sold in India every day.

In order to somehow keep the growing traffic going, so-called overflys stamped out of the ground, even when the high streets of the city lead over the balconies of the residents. If such overflys then collapse, which happens more often in Kolkata, the remains often simply stay there.

There are laws against noise terror, but the state fails to control compliance. The same applies to air pollution: A current study with data collected over a period of six months comes to the conclusion that a third of all traffic police in Delhi suffer from serious health problems due to their daily work in the exhaust fumes of the meanwhile ten million motorized vehicles.

There are laws that prohibit the discharge of sewage into rivers, but the state does not comply with the controls, or does not want to control, for the same reasons that Indian civil servants do not want to read their names in the newspaper when they hear of Talking too much.

Because from the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee - they are all crying out for more economic growth.

To achieve this, India is relying on even more massively contaminating cheap industries, from the leather tanneries in Kolkata and Chennai to the textile industry in the rest of the country to the pharmaceutical industry in Hyderabad. And they all channel their chemically contaminated wastewater into the nearest river.

There are solutions

Solutions to India's drinking water problems have been in the drawer for 20 years. As early as the 1980s, the environmental journalist Dr. Anil Agarwal that the rural population uses canals to store rainwater.

In the mid-1990s, artificial lakes and ponds were created in many Indian states, but there was no well thought-out system to store the water longer than until the next monsoon. Before his death in 2002, Anil Agarwal left behind not only a plan for dealing with the water problems, but also the environmental magazine Down to Earth, in which numerous scientists have been pointing out solutions in this regard for 27 years. Except for a few flagship projects, none of this was implemented.

On the contrary, India's farmers have all but stopped collecting rainwater and are instead pumping out the groundwater. The fact that most of the Indian states subsidize the electricity for the pumps or even provide it free of charge for election-populist reasons encourages waste. Likewise, the cultivation of rice in unsuitable regions. Outdated and leaky irrigation systems also contribute to wasted water.

The big agricultural corporations

In the foreseeable future, the large agricultural groups will take over the Indian market, because today's economic framework conditions are tailored to them. Only the "big ones" can afford "digital agriculture".

The serious consequences this has for India are shown in the extensive study Group Atlas 2017, which was carried out in a cooperation between Heinrich Boell- and Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, of Federation for Environment and Nature Conservation Germany, Oxfam Germany, Germanwatch and Le Monde diplomatique was worked out. Instead of sustainable, organic agriculture from and for the region, there is mass unemployment among small farmers and the massive concentration of land ownership and the use of the chemical club.

In "Down to Earth " published calculations show that Chennai could also supply its population with sufficient water with the help of rainwater, even if the rain only falls in a short period of the year.

It is not due to the ingenuity of the human mind that nothing for the better in Chennai will change in the near future. Whether, for example, desalination plants are the solution is controversial. There are already two plants that produce drinking water from seawater, and two more are under construction.

But the construction of the Nemmeli plant 40 kilometers from Chennai is an example of how political clients and private plant operators manage to damage the environment, pollute drinking water sources on site and keep the population in front, even with projects that are not negative from the outset Bumping head.

Warnings

What is certain is that the politically responsible learn nothing from the crisis. There should be further economic growth through a further port in the north of Chennai, built and operated by a private company. It's already approved. Environmental experts warn that the project is destroying parts of the remaining wetlands, promoting flooding in the rainy season and could also destroy the livelihoods of up to 30,000 fishermen.

The Congress Party, i.e. those who led India on today's economic path and held it until 2014, has also risen on the train of port critics.

The high house, the book by Roger Willemsen, who is difficult to replace, also indirectly explains Indian politics when the author portrays the SPD as it plays both the opposition and the government role within a year. A "social, liberal people's party" in Germany and one in India, each of which continues to rely on the "tried and tested" economic system despite overwhelming evidence that it will lead to ecological decline.

It is undisputed that economic growth in Southeast Asia lifted hundreds of millions of people out of great poverty. "But," said human rights activist Hasan Mehedi last year, referring to the economic boom that has been going on in Bangladesh for 25 years, "the price for this growth is the destruction of our livelihoods."

300 kilometers to the west in Kolkata, the Bengali activist and journalist Sushovan Dhar comes to a similar conclusion: "Every day, another piece of the wetlands in Kolkata is being destroyed out of commercial greed and for more economic growth. The result is in Chennai before everyone's eyes. "

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