Category Archives: Water

Antibiotic and antifungal drug residues in water sources around Hyderabad


Visitors from seven countries selected news from Devinder Sharma as the top post this week. He had written about Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, believing that he is on the right track to revive UP agriculture. CHS founder Winin Pereira, who wrote about ‘breaking the cycle of debt and dependency’ might well have agreed with Sharma.

Last week we received news about a major study published in the scientific journal Infection. It found “excessively high” levels of antibiotic and antifungal drug residue in water sources in and around a major drug production hub in the Indian city of Hyderabad, as well as high levels of bacteria and fungi resistant to those drugs.

It pointed out that the presence of drug residues in the natural environment allows the microbes living there to build up resistance to the ingredients in the medicines that are supposed to kill them.

In this report the issue of industrial pollution from pharmaceutical companies was considered as it affects consumers of their medicines – a serious issue as resistance could leads to the deaths of many.

A detailed account of the every day impact on local people who are using those water sources  is given in a report by Changing Markets, an organisation with a mission to expose irresponsible corporate practices and drive change towards a more sustainable economy. The report opens by saying that a 2015 report from the Indian Government estimates that the number of contaminated waterways has more than doubled in the past five years and that half the country’s rivers are now polluted. An extract relating to the pollution of water by pharmaceutical companies in Hyderabad follows:

“The social and environmental costs of the development of Hyderabad’s bulk drug industry are plain to see in the neighbourhoods and villages surrounding the industrial areas, and have been well-documented over a period of decades.

“Inhabitants living and working in the vicinity of drug manufacturing units in Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam, and other locations have borne the brunt of this. It has affected their livelihoods in the form of livestock deaths and decreased agricultural yields and damaged their health, with reported impacts ranging from higher abortion rates to birth defects and stunted growth in children, as well as greater incidence of skin diseases.

“However, the response from both the central government and the state authorities has been woefully inadequate, not to say complicit, and over the years, irresponsible drug manufacturers have enjoyed free rein to continue pumping vast quantities of untreated or inadequately treated pharmaceutical waste into the environment”.

Read the full report here:





Update from VRI: Amarpurkashi, Uttar Pradesh – mission accomplished

vri2logoThe first entry about the International Task Force for the Rural Poor was made on this website in 2010, opening, “Australian born Jyoti and Mukat Singh set up the International Task Force for the Rural Poor [INTAF] twenty years ago after seeing that most well-intentioned policies of various governments to uplift the rural poor have either failed or proved ineffective”.

Read about their work on the VRI website.

In addition to routine activities, connected with the school, polytechnic, eye camps and sustainable farming initiatives, VRI took part in a campaign against industrial pollution in and around the village of Amarpurkashi, covered here in 2011. Mill owners had been dumping live ash on the roadside where cyclists and pedestrians walked or rode and many suffered serious burns. Tons of ash from two paper mills were deposited on the banks of the river and by national highway 93, coating buildings and plants in a black dust, harming passersby and residents. As a result of breathing such heavily polluted air, local people developed respiratory problems – in the worst affected areas, as many as 1 in 2 people suffered from asthma.

The stench of chemical effluents polluted the air of the surrounding villages and black dust from the factory chimney blew far and wide. The water table dropped dramatically as the factories used huge amounts of water and all the roadside ponds dried up. The underground water supply was also polluted, causing a rise in the number of people suffering from jaundice and villagers were forced to pay for ever-deeper borings to ensure a clean water supply.

As part of the campaign, VRI’s co-founder, Mukat Singh, and many other local people fasted, an agreement was reached with the Sub-Divisional Magistrate and decisions were made which addressed the problem.

mukat_and_jyoti_2005VRI have now decided it is time to close the volunteering scheme that had run for some 35 years and Jyoti recently visited APK to make sure that this was the right decision. She explains:

“I am glad to say that everything I saw in the project supported it.  Amarpurkashi is no longer a suitable place for volunteers, although visitors will always be welcome.“There is no longer anyone in the project who can guide and help volunteers. This has always been an important part of the scheme.  Volunteers definitely need someone, preferably a woman since most of our volunteers have been women. However, that person has to be able to speak reasonable English and be able to help volunteers with the use of toilets and bathrooms, the food and various customs around eating and so on.  There is no one now who can do that.

“It is also essential that there is something for a volunteer to get involved in while they are in the project.  However, the success of the project means that there is nothing now that a volunteer can do.  The project is fully staffed with local people.  Volunteers have always had difficulties because of the language barrier and significant differences in the way things are done in India”.

She ended by saying that the scheme was closed at exactly the right time and adds that “Fortunately, there are many new projects to be found on the internet where volunteers from abroad can be recruited for specific roles”.

We wish Jyoti and Mukat a peaceful and rewarding retirement.




Tigers and Tribals in India

Sharad Vats asks: “Who needs more conservation; Tiger or the Tribes of India? “

He explains that the government is trying to protect an endangered species and is considering the relocation of some tribal villages to give the tiger a safe area in which to live.


In April it was reported that for the first time in this century, the global tiger population in the wild has grown to 3,890 in April 2016 from 3,200 in 2010 – an increase of almost 22%.

Baigas have been the biggest conservators of the forest for centuries

The tribes in question are the Baigas (below), who – like the tigers – have lived for centuries in the forested districts of Mandla and Balaghat, which house Kanha National Park. Baigas practice shifting cultivation, which the government feels drives deforestation. But Sharad thinks that it is the development strategy of the nation which leads to deforestation. He explains that during his recent visit to the area via Nagpur he saw expansion of National Highway 7 cutting few thousand trees and asserts that this expansion of roads network, and small Tehsils like Baihar, Paraswada, Birsa is accounting for more deforestation than are the tribals.


In 2005, Sunita Narain, appointed chair of a Tiger Task Force reviewing the management of tiger reserves in the country, pointed out: “the British stripped the forests of Ratnagiri in coastal Maharashtra to make ships and railway lines and independent India sold its forests for a pittance to the pulp and paper industry. This was the extractive phase. Sharad adds: “Mining is destroying forests at a much faster rate than tribals could destroy in 200 years – but they would not do so. Their wants and desires are few, dependent on the forest for their livelihood and so seeing the need to preserve them”.

The Forest Act 2006 was passed following massive national demonstrations involving hundreds of thousands of people. Sharad singles out Ekta Parishad which organized some of those walks and demonstrations.

He continues: “But an ad hoc shifting is not a solution. One must do it scientifically, strategically, with their sanctions and without sufferance. Not easy to do, but possible for sure. Also, if a master plan is made to shift only some crucial villages and not all then it is fine. One must remember that Baigas have been the biggest conservators of the forest for centuries. Making a forest bereft of them could actually put the forest at risk, and this the administration and forest department realizes well”.

Sunita points out that these tribal lands are rich in natural resources — minerals, forests, diverse wild plant, insect & animal species – and are the source of water that irrigates farms, that villagers and city-dwellers drink. Her recommendation is that policies to build green, enterprising futures from the use of forests – which provide fish, firewood, fodder, building materials and raw material for industry – are needed.

Sharad Vats ends, “For me Tiger and Tribes are both integral to each other. None can be sent to another planet to survive, they must co-exist”.

And Sunita says that “the answer, untested across the world, lies in our abilities to use the environment so that forests and people can coexist”.




Rising heat and drought: ‘Three Generations left?’

The Straits Times reports that Asia’s top rice producers are suffering from a drought that threatens to cut output and boost prices of a staple for half the world’s population. A heatwave is sweeping top rice exporter India, while the second supplier Thailand is facing a second year of drought. Swathes of farmland in Vietnam, the third-biggest supplier, are also parched as irrigation fed by the Mekong river runs dry.

vietnamese 4farmer drought stricken rice crop

In another article we read that a small town of 60,000 people in western Odisha’s Bolangir district, Titlagarh is reeling under a blistering heatwave. The mercury touched 48.5 degrees Celsius on Sunday, the highest April temperature ever recorded in the state. This has triggered a water crisis in the town with long queues, frayed tempers and fights near supply taps and tankers. A junior engineer of the public health department was roughed up recently over a water tanker turning up late.

The town gets its water from the Tel river but that is hardly adequate – as the town sits on a rocky bed, groundwater is difficult to draw. Saroj Mishra, a resident of Titlagarh said that the groundwater level has been falling over the years.

In an article on the popular Hindi news site ABP Live Devinder Sharma adds:

“It has now become even more obvious than before that the world we are living in has changed profoundly in the last five years. Every passing year is turning out to be hotter than the previous. It is just the middle of April but vast tracts of India are reeling under scorching heat with temperatures zipping past the 40 degrees mark. In 13 States, April temperature is higher by 8 degrees from the average . . .

taps in droughtThe relatively well-off in the cities, towns and suburbs have the facility to switch on an air-conditioner or an air-cooler but imagine the plight of majority population who have no other option but to survive under shade, be it at home or under the tree”.

“This will only intensify, as the season warms up. This is just the beginning of the summer months. In the next three months, before the monsoons set in, the heat wave is going to deadly. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted that the summer months this year will be warmer than normal . . . I don’t know why the IMD uses the word ‘warmer’ to describe sweltering heat conditions but shooting mercury has already taken a death toll of 130. If this is ‘warmer’ by IMD definition, I shudder to think what it would mean if it were to use the word ‘hotter’ instead?

“Last year, 1,500 deaths from heat wave were reported from Andhra Pradesh alone.

heatwave india 2015”If you thought January was unusually warm this year, let it be known that February was still warmer. Globally, February 2016 was the hottest month known based on the long-term averages drawn. NASA had used the word ‘shocker’ to describe the unprecedented warming it measured for the month of February and warned of a ‘climate emergency’. The average global temperatures in February were higher by 1.35 degree C. In India too, February was unusually warm this year with average temperature hike fluctuating between 1.5 degree and 2 degree.

”But March has now turned to be the hottest. As per the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) March has ‘smashed’ all previous records. Data compiled by Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) shows that the March temperature was higher by 1.07 degree, based on an average since 1891. Data released by NASA also shows that March temperatures has beaten the past 100-years record.

”We are now in mid-April and I can already feel the average temperatures creeping up.

“While we can survive, my thoughts go out to the 700 million people reeling under two consecutive years of drought. With wells almost dry and walking on a parched land they will now have to confront an unkindly hot sun. Some reports say wells have dried to a level in Marathwada not seen in past 100 years. Another report tells us that 133 rivers have dried in Jharkhand”.

And in a later article he itemises damaging development projects focuses on “the absence of environmental protection in the model of economic growth that is being overzealously pursued” adding, “I have never understood why policy makers should not be insisting on integrating environment with economic growth.”

Next week, there will be some news of positive measures to address or alleviate the water shortage in India.



Lakshadweep: planning to meet needs without depleting resources


In 2012 we referred to the work of Dr Ritu Dewan and Michelle Chawlawho valued the seclusion and charm of the Lakshadweep islands, describing the philosophy of responsible and sustainable tourism which had ‘retained its magic’. Its primary concern is to maintain the ‘eco-balance’ and to preserve the state of ‘relative indigenous purity’.

The Lakshadweep archipelago, off the Indian coast of Kerala, is a group of 10 inhabited islands, 17 uninhabited coral islands, attached islets, 4 newly formed islets and 5 submerged reefs. 93% of he inhabitants are Muslims, most belonging to scheduled tribes – a designation given to communities with ‘primitive traits, distinctive culture, geographical isolation and shyness in contact with the community at large’.

lakshadweep fishermanThey catch and process tuna fish, grow coconuts and produce yarn fibre and coir matting products from coconut fibre.

There is little  economic inequality in Lakshadweep, the poverty index is low and the islands are virtually crime-free.

Only five islands are visited by tourists and foreign nationals are not permitted to visit four of the islands. Foreign tourists are only allowed to come to Bangaram, an uninhabited island, where consumption of alcohol is permitted. They fly from Kochi to Agatti, the nearest island to Bangaram which has an airport.

In 1967, the Administrator passed the Laccadive, Minicoy and Amindivi Islands (Restriction on Entry and Residence) Rules; every person who is not a native of these islands has to obtain a permit before entering these islands.

Since the water supply and general ‘carrying capacity’ of these tiny islands has to be kept in mind, any activities related with tourism has to be carried out with great care. The necessity of preventing environmental imbalance is stressed and sea based tourism is undertaken to ensure that land resources are not over taxed.

lakshadweep boats and steamerDay tourists are brought by ship and board them from the islands before nightfall. Numbers booked are based on the carrying capacity of the islands and shortage of essential items including drinking water. Visitors are warned that picking up coral is illegal.

The effects of the tsunami of December 2004 were felt all along the coast of Kerala. But the impact was not uniform throughout, certain areas were exposed and adjacent areas were left unscathed. The waves, after a free run until reaching the southern tip of Sri Lanka, got diffracted and turned towards the north to enter the Lakshadweep Sea but the coral reefs of were undamaged.

Latest news found: in January, the shipping minister advocated the building of inland waterways for cheap and clean transport as the islanders depend on shipping services for most of their needs. He said that the government would give that priority to this and plans to manufacture light-weight craft, hovercraft and catamarans.

rex harris barge

Many would like to see quiet, clean waterway passenger and freight transport developed in their own regions. Here is a link to news of an admirable pilot project which has converted a diesel barge to hydrogen fuel which emits only water vapour. The cylinders replace the ballast which is needed on such vessels. The story of the Ross Barlow (above) is told on a sister site:


Why did USA and EU countries fail to support work on a draft UN declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas?

unhcr header

(Geneva, October 5, 2015) On the afternoon of October 1st 2015, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted by majority a resolution where it decides that the open-ended intergovernmental working group, with the mandate to negotiate, finalize and submit to the Human Rights Council a draft United Nations declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas, shall continue the process for the next two years.

The resolution was presented by the governments of Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba and South Africa. It was sponsored among others by Switzerland, Brazil, Eritrea and Argentina, in a joint effort from all regions to support this decisive step. In the final vote, only the US government voted against it. Governments of Europe have abstained from voting and have continued with the same bloc-voting position as in June 2014, in the vote on resolution 26/26.

In total, 31 countries voted in favor, 15 abstained, and only one voted against:

In favor (31): Algeria, Botswana, Congo, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Bangladesh, China, India,Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Vietnam, Argentina,Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, El Salvador, Paraguay, Venezuela, Russia / Votes abstention (15): France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, United Kingdom, Macedonia, Montenegro, Latvia, Estonia, Albania, Mexico, Qatar, Japan, Korea / negative Feedback(1): United States.

la via campesina header

La Via Campesina, FIAN and CETIM, have helped to position – for the first time within a UN mechanism – a project intended to fill the gaps in human rights legislation of the rural population and rural fishing communities, nomadic peoples, pastoralists, rural workers, landless, rural women and indigenous peoples. A model of peasant agriculture in both the North and the Global South, based on agroecology and equal relations between peasants, is advocated.

The current draft statement submitted by the government of Bolivia in Geneva in February 2015 during the last working group, advocates a universal charter containing a set of rights in order to improve the conditions of those who live in rural areas and produce 80% of the food in the world.

Appreciation is due to the Governments of Bolivia, South Africa, Cuba and Ecuador for their continuous efforts within the Human Rights Council to carry out this initiative emanating from the peasant movement, highlighting an example of good governance, dialogue and involvement of farmers’ organizations, civil society and governments.