India’s PM calls for water conservation push as drought hits crops

India received 24% less rainfall than the 50-year average in the week ended on June 26, data from the India Meteorological Department showed, with scant rains over central and western regions of the country. (File/AFP)
Updated 30 June 2019

India’s PM calls for water conservation push as drought hits crops

  • The monsoon season is responsible for around 70% of India’s annual rainfall
  • India received 24% less rainfall than the 50-year average in the week ended on June 26

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday pushed for greater grassroots water conservation efforts amid concerns weak monsoon rains would push millions of drought-hit people to the edge and hammer agricultural production in Asia’s third-biggest economy.
The monsoon season is responsible for around 70% of India’s annual rainfall, and is particularly important for the farm sector since more than half of the country’s arable land is rain-fed.
“Only 8% of all the rain water in India is conserved,” Modi said in his first monthly radio broadcast after winning re-election last month. “It’s now time to solve this problem.”
India received 24% less rainfall than the 50-year average in the week ended on June 26, data from the India Meteorological Department showed, with scant rains over central and western regions of the country.
The spectre of a crisis this year comes after drought in some parts of India in 2018 destroyed crops, ravaged livestock, exhausted reservoirs, leaving some cities and industries with little water.
“There is no one formula to deal with the water crisis across the country,” Modi said, adding that he had written to scores of village chiefs across the country about the need to conserve water earlier this month.
The prime minister said there was a need to create public awareness about water conservation and explore traditional water management methods, in the much the same way the “Clean India” mission to end open defecation, started in 2014, had.
However, Modi did not outline any specific measures his government would take to deal with the ongoing situation, which has already affected the sowing of summer crops and forced many communities to buy water from expensive private tankers.
Himanshu Thakkar, co-ordinator of the South Asia Network of Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), said Modi’s initiative would have limited impact without the government fixing problems like rampant groundwater usage.
A key source of water, groundwater levels in 52% of wells monitored nationwide were lower in 2018 compared to last decade’s average, the country’s water resources minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat told parliament this week.
“The government is doing nothing to regulate groundwater use,” said Thakkar of SANDRP, a non-governmental organization that advocates for better water management practices.
“It has all the knowledge and institutions, but it is doing nothing.”


Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan targeted by new rape complaint

Updated 25 August 2019

Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan targeted by new rape complaint

  • A woman in her 50s accused Ramadan of raping her along with a member of his staff
  • He has been charged in France with raping two women previously

PARIS: Tariq Ramadan, a leading Islamic scholar charged in France with raping two women, has also been accused of taking part in the gang rape of a journalist, French judicial sources said Sunday.
The sources confirmed reports on Europe 1 radio and in Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper that a woman in her 50s had accused Ramadan, 56, of raping her along with a member of his staff when she went to interview the academic at a hotel in Lyon in May 2014.
The woman, who filed a criminal complaint in May 2019, also accused Ramadan of issuing “threats or acts of intimidation” aimed at dissuading her from reporting the alleged attack to the police, the judicial sources added.
Ramadan, a married father of four whose grandfather founded Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, was a professor at Oxford University until he was forced to take leave when rape allegations surfaced at the height of the “Me Too” movement in late 2017.
He has denied charges he raped a disabled woman in 2009 and a feminist activist in 2012.
He was taken into custody in February 2018 and held for nine months before being granted bail.
Authorities in Switzerland are also investigating him after receiving a rape complaint in that country.
His lawyer, Emmanuel Marsigny, refused to comment Sunday on the latest allegations against him in France.
The woman behind the latest complaint told police that Ramadan and a male assistant repeatedly raped her in Ramadan’s room at the Sofitel hotel in Lyon.
She described the alleged attack as being of “untold violence” and claimed that when she threatened to report them to the police Ramadan replied: “You don’t know how powerful I am.”
She also claimed that Ramadan had contacted her via the Messenger app in January, two months after his release from jail, saying that he wanted to make her an “offer” of a “professional nature,” without giving details.